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The Absolutely Insane AEW Discourse Surrounding El Hijo Del Vikingo's Debut Against Kenny Omega
TLDR: The IWC Remains Insane
Last week All Elite Wrestling, the bold challenger brand bringing the fight to WWE in a way no one has managed since Ted Turner himself roamed the halls of the CNN Center, announced an exciting match for this Wednesday’s Dynamite.
Kenny Omega, former AEW champion and widely acknowledged Wrestling God, will take on Mexican sensation El Hijo del Vikingo, the latest in a long line of guys who do lots of flips in their matches.
(I mean, I’m talking hella flips.)
For normal people who like professional wrestling, this seemed like a pretty cool thing. Fans who have seen Vikingo’s act and dig that style were rightly pumped for his national television debut. Those unfamiliar with Vikingo, but untainted by internet brain worms, were keen to see what the fuss was all about.
It promised to be a nifty little bit of business, a match long-promised dating back to Omega’s reign as the AAA Mega champion but never delivered on.
For Vikingo, there’s no better introduction to the American scene than a bout with Omega, one that guarantees wrestling tastemakers will be paying close attention. For Omega, it’s a way back into the singles picture after months as part of a trios team with the Young Bucks. For the fans, it’s something different with an intriguing new talent.
It’s a bout that just works on many levels. Vikingo gets the Omega rub, Omega gets a hot match with a new opponent, fans get a fun 20 minutes on a cold Wednesday night—there are no losers.
Except, of course, the most aggressively negative and pedantic members of the internet wrestling community. Rather than accepting something fun had popped unexpectedly onto our collective radars, the pundits (professional and otherwise) looked for ways to fit the match into their corrosive world view: everything is BAD ACTUALLY™.
“Who is Vikingo?” they asked, apparently unable as a class to operate a Google search engine.
“Why,” they continued, “should anyone care?” Why didn’t Tony Khan (the final boss for a certain kind of pro wrestling fan) run a series of highlight packages or squash matches establishing Vikingo as a character before running this match?
Doesn’t he know that, without the promotional techniques of the previous century, the match WON’T DRAW THE CASUAL FANS, BRO?
Here’s the thing about the insistent focus on AEW’s television ratings, the weekly hand-wringing about the state of the promotion—it’s all bullshit. Every single post, every last tweet, every podcast and YouTube yella-a-thon, complete and total bullshit.
Here’s what we know about AEW’s television ratings: there is almost no meaningful fluctuation.
Starting in April 2021 when WWE waved the white flag and moved their competing show to Tuesday nights, AEW has seen remarkably consistent television ratings.
Don’t believe me? Look at the data.
On nights where AEW Dynamite ran at its regular time, the show drew 960,000 viewers in 2022 compared to 941,000 in 2021. In the coveted 18-49 demographic, those numbers were a 0.34 and a 0.36 respectively.
Focusing intently on this rating every week is definitionally tilting at windmills. Nothing changes. Between 850,000 and a million people will watch, dictated mostly by whether other sports or cultural events are competing for attention. But it makes for good “content” anyway, leading to maddening, endless debates about attracting the casual fan or how long AEW can last with its current audience. It’s how we end up with pundits arguing for days about a match designed as nothing but a fun bit of filler at the beginning of a pay-per-view cycle.
There have been three things in AEW history that genuinely drawn a larger television audience than is typical: the promotion’s debut on TNT, NXT moving to Tuesdays and the debut of CM Punk. None of them managed to hold those extra eyeballs. It’s a promotion that has, in its current iteration, established a predictable audience. The fans who like AEW have remained steady, as have their devoted collection of obsessed haters.
Running weeks of old-school WWE promo packages for Vikingo wouldn’t change that. Neither would having him come in and beat a series of lesser foes to build a match with Omega while also revealing all his tricks and surprises before the big bout. If you’ve seen Vikingo, you’re already really keen on this match. If you haven’t, you’re in for a pleasant surprise in what can be a fairly predictable and rote form of entertainment.
Broadcasting a number of Vikingo matches in AEW prior to a bout with Omega, in my opinion, actually risks making the bout less special. Assuming, of course, a wrestler working regularly for a promotion in another country is even available for a long push. An Omega match is likely the best possible way to debut him, the most capable and exciting opponent up front to help the luchador come in all-guns blazing, the risk of implosion and botch-a-mania as limited as it can be for a wrestler with his style. You don't necessarily have to build to a Kenny Omega match. Instead, the Kenny Omega match builds the opponent for whatever comes next.
You could argue in good faith that there are ways for AEW to expand its audience. Traditionally, charismatic, larger-than-life stars are what works (see also, Hulk Hogan, Dusty Rhodes, Jim Londos, The Rock, John Cena) not fast-paced matches and moves. But that’s an issue much bigger than promotional strategies surrounding Vikingo-Omega (and, strangely, not one often tackled as wrestling continues to hemorrhage television viewers).
Ultimately, this is a fun action match in a promotion built on them. If you like AEW and wrestlers like the Young Bucks, the Martin brothers and Rey Fenix, Vikingo is going to be right up your alley. There will be dozens of matches like Vikingo-Omega this year in AEW—and that’s by design. It’s what the promotion promises its viewers and something it almost always delivers.
Vikingo versus Omega, by its very existence, is AEW meeting its promotional obligation to the fans. This match is one of many, feeding the insatiable desire for high-energy spotfests. It’s why the fans showed up and why they’ve stayed. It is, in fact, business as usual.
And, based on the continued support from Warner Media, business is good.