ASK MR. TITO - Cody Rhodes in AEW, XFL, Rhea Ripley and Tattoos, Donald Trump Effect on WWE, John Cena, and More

ASK MR. TITO – Cody Rhodes in AEW, XFL, Rhea Ripley and Tattoos, Donald Trump Effect on WWE, John Cena, and More

Follow Mr. Tito on Twitter by going to the following link: @titowrestling

Welcome back to the EXCELLENCE IN COLUMN WRITING that is presented to you exclusively by WrestlingHeadlines.com, a LordsofPain.net company. The questions are flooding this poor Retirement Home of mine, as the nurses are getting pissed at me for how much mail that I’m receiving lately. Hey, I want to remain retired, but who else will write pro wrestling columns when I’m gone?

On to your questions and then my “Last Word” rant…

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What did you think about this week’s AEW performance from Cody Rhodes?

I have nothing but positive things to say about Cody Rhodes as a wrestling performer. Since he left the WWE, he has found himself both as a character and as an in-ring worker. It’s all about environment for wrestling and sometimes, simply switching teams matters. That or letting the previous workplace’s neglect of your character and abilities serve as fuel to proving them wrong…

Cody’s stuff is CLEARLY the best thing on AEW, as it proves to me that most of his Creative Ideas are kept for himself and doesn’t appear like they used for others. The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega seem to have more control over the rest of the roster and creative than Cody. I wish that Cody would be the ONLY Executive Vice President that is an active wrestler.

Now, for that Moonsault… How are you going to follow that? I remember about 20 years ago on WCW Thunder, Chris Benoit did a diving headbutt from the top of the cage. That show was actually seen by MORE people than what watched AEW Dynamite and by the next show, WCW Nitro, it didn’t matter. What grew the WCW and WWE during the late 1990’s was a bunch of dudes, Kevin Nash/Scott Hall/Hulk Hogan and Rock/Austin/Vince, holding microphones and talking. When both promotions, WCW during 1997-1998 and WWE during late 1998 to 1999 especially, started going over the top on things, they had to meet fan expectations or burn fans out. Steve Austin comes out in a beer truck and sprays the ring… Drives in a monster truck… Then dumps cement in Vince’s convertible. For WCW, we had NWO beatdown after beatdown and many “shocking” heel turns. By 1998, WCW fans had enough… By late 1999, the WWE audience had peaked and it was only matter of time during 2000 that things were to slide. Keep feeding your fans sugar, they’ll get burned out.

That has been my entire criticism of AEW… Nothing but high spots throughout their own show without any attempts to try basic psychology or to save energy by having wrestlers cut promos instead of having match after match.

Arn Anderson is backstage at AEW events… He had the best criticism of WCW Nitro in that they were burning through their best match-ups nightly on television that by 1998, there were no special match-ups remaining. AEW is doing the same exact thing but having more high risk spots on their show to give their fans an even shorter sugar high that won’t last long-term. They need to talk to Arn…

Cody’s great but he’s taking tons of high risks out there… We need his mind and body in tact for this promotion to survive. Because lord knows the great “6 Star” man, Kenny Omega, isn’t drawing.

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What do you think of the return of the XFL?

I don’t think much about it. It’s a pipedream of Vince McMahon‘s that will ultimately hurt pro wrestlers working for the WWE. Don’t believe me? Ask wrestlers during 2001-2002 what happened to their pay once the XFL failed and folded during 2001. Vince can create his stupid little Alpha company and insist that he’s “spending his money” all that he wants, but when Vince wants to make his money back, he can lean on good ol’ WWE. Simply put, to recoup his losses on the XFL, he just has to act as CEO/President and Chairman of the Board to significantly cut WWE costs. When WWE costs are cut and that causes sustained or wider profits, shares of WWE stock goes up. Therefore, Vince can easily recoup his XFL losses by screwing everyone who works for the WWE (i.e. wrestlers).

For Football, I only like the National Football League because it has the best athletic and coaching talent in the world. Additionally, it has the best system with the hard salary cap and non-guaranteed money for the most part. Other forms of Football, such as high school, college, or Arena leagues do nothing for me. I only like football when it is played at its highest level with the best talent and with great coaching strategies in place. I especially don’t like College Football because I believe the NCAA cartel is dirty and bigger colleges can simply out-recruit other schools for players.

XFL has players and coaches who can’t make the NFL… So why would I watch?

And why would I want to support a Vince McMahon endeavor that hurts the WWE and its wrestlers?

Pass… Viewership and attendance are already down during the 2nd week. Unless the XFL somehow forms a deal with the NFL to become a developmental league, this experiment won’t last more than 2-3 years before Vince gets tired of losing money.

Football during the late Winter and throughout the Spring doesn’t make sense anyway. Never has and it never will.

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Why didn’t you review NXT Takeover Portland? What are your thoughts on that show?

Because I no longer do show reviews… Too busy and doing reviews burned me out. I did watch the end of Finn Balor’s match live and the entire Bianca Belair vs. Rhea Ripley match. I enjoyed the ladies match, very much… I tuned in later to watch the rest during the last days of my WWE Network’s cancellation fumes… It was one hell of a show. Several match of the year candidates on that show, for sure.

Probably an “A” graded show.

BUT… What did that show do for NXT on Wednesday nights? Still below 800,000 viewers and still in 2nd place.

Why is that?

Sigh… See my Cody Rhodes question above. NXT has high impact matches that deliver lots of action but often, little psychology. Problem with hiring smaller wrestlers is that they overcompensate with their size by doing extra spots. When you have NOBODY policing that stuff backstage, everybody does a ridiculous amount of high spots during a match and it becomes “normal” to wrestling fans. That’s not what you want as a wrestling company. Use in-ring psychology to sell working on an arm, leg, or other body part while taunting or uplifting the fans throughout that process. Then, in a big moment, you could hit a high spot to transition into the ending.

NXT’s trainers are NOT teaching psychology and they are also forcing scripts on their wrestlers as well instead of teaching more natural ways to cut promos.

Thus, it’s not going to draw on the USA Networks for 2 hours on Wednesday Nights no matter how awesome the Takeover shows are.

I seriously feel like I’m teaching “Wrestling 101” here and that nobody else understands. 20 years ago when I began writing as Mr. Tito, we had 6-7 million fans, per night, watching wrestling while 10,000 more were in the stands watching it in attendance. Now, we have just above 2 million for the WWE and barely 900,000 for AEW with 5,000 or less fans watching it in attendance. The main thing that has changed has been the working styles inside the ring with too much of a WCW Cruiserweight and an ECW influence on using smaller wrestlers, less psychology, and more high spots. Gee, why are ratings and attendance down?

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How has the WWE benefited from Donald Trump as President?

First of all, WWE will always receive favorable treatment as a Corporation due to Vince McMahon’s long-term friendship with Donald Trump. Who is in the WWE Hall of Fame again? President Trump is… In addition, Linda McMahon not only worked for Trump’s initial Cabinet but she is now running his 2020 re-election campaign. With that in place, if there was ever a legal, criminal, or anti-trust claim against the WWE, Trump’s Justice Department might ease up on them or even ignore it.

I also believe that Trump being in the White House has helped the WWE’s dealings with Saudi Arabia. WWE wrestlers are well protected over there, even if their airplanes can’t get off the ground for one trip… If you’ll recall, there was a ton of political pressure on the WWE a few years ago with that investigative reporter and yet, the WWE still held the event as planned despite the calls from politicians to pull out. Trump likely had Vince’s back in that matter and advised to carry on with the show.

There are two obvious areas where the WWE might benefit, much like other corporations:

(1) Corporate Tax Cut from 35% effective rate for most to 21%. That is more Net Income that the WWE has use to reinvest in the company, pay wrestler, etc. Those television deals are HUGE, especially by signing them after the 2018 tax cuts were put in place. Just to give you an example, the WWE’s Net Income during 2019 was $94.7 Million with $17.6 Million paid in taxes for a 22.8% effective tax rate that equals $77.1 Million after taxes paid. However, if we insert the old 35% effective tax rate from the past, that same math equates to $61.6 Million in remaining income after taxes paid, a $15.5 Million difference!

(2) Deregulation. The chances of wrestlers ever forming a Labor Union or at least an effective one would be minimal. Furthermore, several work safety regulations have been rolled back. Though that last point might be more about people working in mines or plants, it could apply to the wrestling workplace too due to its injury risk. But again, wrestling isn’t unionized.

But I’ll tell you an area that could have hurt the WWE… The China tariffs. Tariffs are taxes on imported goods and the United States outsources much of its manufacturing needs to China and then imports those produce goods into our country. Most WWE merchandise, especially the toys, are manufactured somewhere in China. Thus, if you’ve gone into a Target or Walmart recently and wondered why WWE toys have gone up in price… The higher prices COULD have a “Law of Demand” effect on the sales of WWE merchandise.

I would expect the McMahons to cash-in more favors with Trump during his potential 2nd Term, especially if Linda McMahon is a successful campaign manager. If she can help Trump win a 2nd term, the Secretary of Commerce cabinet position is likely to be hers.

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Should WWE move their big Pay Per View events to another company’s streaming service?

Depends on the streaming service. If it is on Amazon Prime, then “yes”. That said, I doubt that Amazon wants to dish out a ton of money for WWE Pay Per Views. If on NBC’s Peacock or the joke called “ESPN+” that doesn’t air the professional leagues that you want to see, then no. I bet that Vince will move WWE Pay Per Views for the United States onto one of those networks for a quick buck to goose WWE Stock prices to help him gain more cash to throw at his XFL venture even if it harms his unique WWE Network.

THAT SAID – WWE Network has peaked in subscribers… Eventually, the costs are going to eat into your 1.5 million or so subscribers. Vince would have to raise his price beyond $9.99.

That, or he could keep the WWE Network at $9.99 for archived shows and give Amazon, Peacock, ESPN+, or somehow exclusive rights to WWE Pay Per View shows. I’ll be honest, for the brief times that I’ve had the WWE Network in the past year and a half, I watched more older stuff than newer shows. Where else could I binge watch WCW Nitro or older WWE RAW shows with good quality? Older Pay Per Views? Only the WWE Network. Thus, $9.99 is still a damn good deal to watch archived content whenever you like and you could just wait a week or two to see a Pay Per View that just happened.

I would still rather want to have Wrestlemania, Royal Rumble, and SummerSlam air on FOX or NBC if I were the WWE. Putting a wrestling event on Network Television for 120 million homes maximum to potentially see is where I’d go… But for all I know, FOX might be low-balling the WWE on more television after paying $200 million per year to air Smackdown on Friday Nights.

If Network Television isn’t an option for the big WWE Pay Per Views, then FINE, go put them on a streaming service for a quick buck because the WWE Network has peaked. However, if WWE Network Television is a reasonable financial option, then go with that. Make Wrestlemania, SummerSlam, and/or Royal Rumble big sporting events for everyone. The Rumble is perfect because it’s a 1 week break from the NFL Playoffs while nothing of importance airs during April for Wrestlemania and August for SummerSlam.

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What are your thoughts on the WWE requesting that NXT’s Rhea Ripley not get upper body tattoos?

Long-time wrestling fans should remember my stance on tattoos and wrestlers if they read my old 2011 “Blog is Tito” column about tattoos & wrestlers. Specifically, I was critical of how inked up Rey Mysterio was becoming and I argued that the WWE should have some say in what wrestlers put on their bodies. After all, if the WWE can dictate how your physique looks to determine a push, why not tattoos too? WWE controls haircuts already, so why not body ink as well?

You could suggest that the wrestlers can do whatever they want with their bodies… That is true, but the WWE owns their likeness when the wrestlers are employed with the WWE. If wrestlers want to make money off of any merchandise or video games that the WWE produces with their likeness, then the WWE should have some say. After all, it’s hard to sell a toy of a wrestler if he doesn’t look like the current version of the wrestler. Hence why WWE regulations against haircuts or changes in physiques.

You can give me the Undertaker but then I can ask you how Kevin Owens is doing with all of those tattoos on his arms?

This is a workplace thing… I can’t wear shorts or a t-short to my workplace. Company policy. Has to be full suit and ties. When I used to work at a restaurant through college, no earrings were allowed. Most schools have dress codes, don’t they?

In the case of WWE, they are using a wrestler’s likeness to sell their product, toys, and image. If the wrestlers can just randomly change their image at their own choosing, then what control does the WWE have over their product?

Rhea Ripley looks BADASS without any tattoos. When she’s good and retired after earning several million with the WWE, then she can ink herself up as much as she pleases. But if she wants to make WWE money, then she needs to play by the WWE’s rules.

*****

And now, my final rant…

THE LAST WORD

I watched two wrestling shows this week that affirmed what I have believed for years. The first show was Episode 2 of the WWE Network Ruthless Aggression show that was centered around John Cena and his rise to fame after the Attitude Era fizzled and stars like Rock/Austin/Lesnar left the company. Secondly, I tried to watch WWE Smackdown last night… Ugh… It made me realize how much John Cena is missed on WWE programming. “Stars” (notice my quotations) like Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, and Bray Wyatt in a silly mask just aren’t cutting. Hence why WWE Smackdown can only draw 2.5 million viewers at best out of a possible 120 million households who can see the show.

Since my 2010 comeback, I’ve been pounding the table on how GREAT John Cena is as a WWE superstar and top draw. If you read my columns from 2005-2006, I was a hater of his main event run from the time he moved to RAW during mid-2005… I liked him as a midcarder and thought he worked better on Smackdown rather than RAW. When he moved to RAW during mid-2005, the show completely centered around him and Smackdown completely lost its identity… Then, I attended a WWE Houseshow during late 2006 with front row seats and was amazed (also annoyed) at how many kids rushed the railing to greet their favorite. That arena was sold out, too, for a houseshow. It was then that I realized that WWE “had something here” and I began to appreciate him. When I returned as Mr. Tito during 2010, he was one of the big superstars still around from the 2000s whereas others had started to step back from a full-time schedule or were gone.

Let’s just put out all of the FACTS for everyone to behold…

– RAW through 2014 had over 4 million viewers with between 400,000 to 500,000 delayed DVR viewings. 2014 was the last Main Event John Cena feud.
– RAW through early 2020 has just over 2 million viewers with less than 400,000 delayed DVR viewings.
– It wasn’t until mid-2018 that Roman Reigns began to finally outsell John Cena on Merchandise… Yet since 2018, WWE merchandise sales are declining.
– WWE attendance is down by several thousand per show since 2014 and is now in the process of cancelling houseshows.
– WWE used to give out refunds for live events where John Cena could not appear due to injury.

I also performed a statistical test using WWE’s ratings data versus timeframes when wrestlers were WWE Champion… Statistics showed that when John Cena was champion, he drew additional viewers to RAW. In fact, RAW’s viewership declined from mid-2000 through mid-2005 until John Cena arrived and kept growing through mid-2007 until the Benoit killings. John Cena was champion during 2009 to rebound numbers and ditto for 2011, 2013, and 2014 when he was WWE Champion again. The Sheamus, Miz, and the Alberto Del Rio experiments proved to be failures but John Cena was always there to the rescue.

And then at SummerSlam 2014, WWE officially killed off John Cena as a Main Eventer by having Brock Lesnar squash him. 2015 had Cena as the United States Champion and he’s been part-time ever since. AWFUL Wrestlemania matches and moments since, too.

WWE truly pissed away several prime years of John Cena in order to try and launch the Roman Reigns push. 5 years later, viewership numbers have been cut in HALF and live events have lost thousands per show.

Facts speak for themselves…

The beauty about John Cena is that you either really liked him or you had some sort of opinion on him. Either way, as a wrestling fan, John Cena was somehow on your mind. When many of the adult fans were booing John Cena, many were trying to advise Vince McMahon to turn Cena into a HEEL… Vince never waivered. He was smart and probably looked at the surging merchandise sales and stable houseshow attendance as evidence.

Right now, you’re seeing a very similar situation in the music industry. Billie Eilish is having a very successful year after the launch of her first studio album. “Bad Guy” was the smash hit of 2019, she was tops in record sales for 2019, she won 5 Grammy awards along with her brother/co-writer/producer Finneas who won several Grammys himself, sang at the Oscars, and now Billie has the main song for the next James Bond film “No Time to Die”. She did all of that while being 17-18 years old… Holy cow. If you look at her audience for live shows, it mostly consists of younger girls, teenage girls, younger women, and her music actually pulls in black women as well. That fanbase is VERY loyal… Yet, outside of that fanbase, there’s some hate and dislike… If you look at the comments section of any YouTube video or social media post, it gets very nasty. Billie just said that she recently stopped looking at the Comments section because of how hateful the comments have become.

POINT BEING… Whether you like John Cena or Billie Eilish or dislike them, you CARE ENOUGH to spend time to present your opinion on them.

Compare that to Roman Reigns. He doesn’t have the strong positive fanbase that John Cena once had, not even close. The loyalty just isn’t there as seen by the obvious Viewership and Attendance losses. But the polarizing factor isn’t there as well. The fans who HATE Roman Reigns just turn the television off… That didn’t happen with John Cena. He kept RAW drawing between 4-5 million viewers for years and kept attendance stable for any shows that he was Main Eventing.

Why?

Because we helped make John Cena.

As Episode 2 of the WWE Ruthless Aggression series explains, 2002 was NOT a good year for John Cena. After that initial great match with Kurt Angle, he struggled to find himself without much of a character. Then, he found the Thuganomics character during late 2002 and it grew like wildfire throughout 2003. Cena found himself and we were there to root on this new character and watch him grow as a midcarder during 2003, become US Champion during 2004, and then become World Champion during 2004. Believe it or not, Billie Eilish wasn’t an overnight success in the music industry. She has been releasing singles for a few years before her 2019 smash album came out. Thus, she was growing a loyal fanbase for about 3-4 years before 2019 arrived and so did the “Bad Guy”.

Fans didn’t help make Roman Reigns. He was the muscle as part of the Shield and then suddenly during 2014, he was pushed immediately to the top of the WWE card with back-to-back WWE Title shots on Pay Per Views. After getting injured following that, he somehow wins the Slammy Award for “Wrestler of the Year” and then wins the 2015 Royal Rumble. Fans rejected this push and yet Vince McMahon didn’t stop… All the while, Roman was reading scripted lines while giving no personal background of himself to somehow connect or relate to fans. He was a test tube WWE baby and everybody saw through his act… WWE tried to make Roman the top guy whereas wrestling fans helped sell that John Cena was their guy. There is your difference.

NUMBERS DON’T LIE… Look at everything since SummerSlam 2014 when Lesnar squashed Cena… Viewership, DOWN. Attendance, DOWN. Merchandise sales, DOWN. Houseshows are getting cancelled.

And here we are again for Wrestlemania 36… Drew McIntyre is the latest guy attempting to be “made” by defeating Brock Lesnar. Can somehow tell me how well Roman Reigns is drawing since he beat Lesnar? Can somehow tell me how well Seth Rollins is drawing since he beat Lesnar TWICE last year? Sorry Drew, but you don’t have the personality or the charisma of a John Cena.

John Cena was “the guy” from 2005 through 2014 and technically speaking, the Merchandise numbers suggest through early 2018. Only Hulk Hogan has a longer tenure as the #1 guy in comparison. And besides Hulk Hogan, only Steve Austin can boast higher yearly merchandise sales than Cena. After 2009, Cena lacked dance partners like Hogan, Austin, or the Rock had in their primes. Cena was often tasked to “make” his opponents, as he did for CM Punk during 2011, Daniel Bryan during 2013, and later AJ Styles during 2016.

If you were to ask me today…

Top WWE Performers of Wrestlemania Era (since 1985):
1) Hulk Hogan
2) Steve Austin
3) John Cena
4) The Rock
5) The Undertaker

If you want to argue the Rock above Cena, consider that Rocky always had Steve Austin as an opponent and when tasked to be “the guy” during 2000 when Steve Austin was injured, business declined.

To quote the great 80s hairband Cinderella… “Don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”.

The Internet Wrestling Community should be ASHAMED for the amount of hatred they threw at John Cena. What did you want him to be? Steve Austin? There is only one Steve Austin and even he began to disappoint by 2002.

You also have to consider ENVIRONMENT for John Cena. The late 2000s saw the WWE place the PG rating on their shows and become more family friendly following the Benoit incidents of 2007. Yet, who was there to be the face of the WWE through those tougher times? John Cena. Who was always willing to put over wrestlers? John Cena. Who always delivered in big matches? John Cena.

Easily, one of the best pro wrestlers to walk to Earth.

Yet, many of you STILL take him for granted.

When you complain about the WWE today, pause for a second and wonder why… Could the WWE be missing something that you didn’t appreciate when it was there?

I think so and with Viewership/Attendance/Merchandise FACTS in place, I know so.

John Cena is great and if I were the WWE, I’d try one last run… Don’t half-ass his Wrestlemania 36 appearance with some midcarder. Give him a big star to feud with and see if he’ll do one last big WWE run through SummerSlam.

Hell, I have the perfect match-up for Wrestlemania 36 or SummerSlam 2020… John Cena vs. Steve Austin. I bet that Steve would do that match in a heartbeat.

I really like Elias, but he shouldn’t be Cena’s opponent at Wrestlemania 36. Cena deserves another Main Eventer closer to his star power for the big show. If WWE continues to waste John Cena at Wrestlemania, it’s major opportunities lost.

And if WWE doesn’t show any love to Cena during 2020, then John should leave permanently and see what All Elite Wrestling has to offer. Cody vs. Cena? MJF vs. Cena? Omega vs. Cena? I would be cool with that… Jericho and Cena had many great matches. Why not?

If WWE doesn’t want to appreciate John Cena then he should stick it to them. What Cena doesn’t realize is that the WWE needed him more than Cena needed them, with time.

So just chill… Until the next episode!

I recently appeared on the Tommy McDougall Podcast which you can listen to by CLICKING HERE.

LordsofPain.net’s YouTube Channel

Play my Super Mario Maker 2 courses on the Nintendo Switch:

Die Hard (themed after the Bruce Willis Film): 2YH-48W-HMG
Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time Wrong Warp: 2RX-QCV-N9G
Super Link Bros: HBD-H5C-QRF
Santa Bowser Came Early: GL8-F48-3XG
Super Wrestling Bros: 0H6-9HT-S5G
WWE Royal Rumble: SDH-JC2-HFG
WWE Elimination Chamber: P3B-5DJ-91G
WCW World War 3: BT4-W1Y-HRG
Extreme Championship Wrestling: 42J-4GT-W3G

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