Vince McMahon 'Seems Tired' & Kevin Steen's ROH Return: The Cultaholic Time Capsule - November 2011
Ten years is a long time in professional wrestling. Hell, eighteen months is a long time when you stop and look at the freakishly-long list of roster cuts WWE has made since April of last year. Forget building an entire organization out of the "exodees" - you could build two, minimum.
That's what's interesting about lookbacks like these - the scope and shape of the industry can drastically change at a moment's notice, and yet, to look back at an arbitrary point like this is to find curious parallels to the modern state of the biz.
Paradoxes are fascinating like that.
But back to the original point, ten years is indeed a long time in the world of wrestling. And yet, to gaze upon tidbits of the past is to find more familiarity than you were perhaps expecting.
For this look at mid-November 2011, I hearkened back to a Wrestling Observer from ten years ago, and picked out a few news items that caught my eye. With a hindsighted glance, what say we take a look at the wrestling business that was?
1. Tickets for WWE WrestleMania 28 in Miami go on sale, with about 40,000 sold in the first weekend. The $6.3 million in sales are an all-time company record for the time
This was hardly surprising, given the lure of The Rock battling John Cena, in a match that had been announced seven months prior to the on-sale date.
WWE will ultimately report an attendance in excess of 78,000 people, as well as a gate of $8.9 million. As for pay-per-view, the 1.22 million buys are an all-time WWE record, surpassing WrestleMania 23 from five years earlier.
2. At their quarterly investors call, WWE reports healthy and profitable business, but metrics indicate a slow decline in popularity
Dave Meltzer's report on the situation includes the following quote: "...the company is financially healthy, and will remain so for some time to come under these circumstances due to fixed revenue streams, most notably, television rights fees." So really, nothing's changed all that much.
Of course, in 2011, an investors call coming up on the calendar wasn't yet code for, "A dozen or so releases are coming."
Meltzer does note that the only potential stumbling block is if the forthcoming WWE Network were to fail. Seeing what Peacock paid to acquire the service in 2021, it most certainly did not fail.
3. The November 7, 2011 edition of Monday Night Raw is seen by approximately four million viewers, with an 18-49 demo rating somewhere in the neighbourhood of a 1.8
For comparison's sake, the November 1, 2021 broadcast of Raw averaged 1,689,000 viewers and a .47 demo rating. Even with all factors considered, that's quite a ten year decline.
Really puts any WWE vs. AEW ratings arguments in perspective, no? Especially when both promotions are still usually topping the nights they're on, in spite of lower viewership numbers for wrestling in general (especially compared to 2011).
Also, anyone who wants to use football as the sole excuse for Raw's recent viewership slide, note that the 2011 Raw went up against an Eagles-Bears game that averaged 12.3 million viewers. The Giants-Chiefs game that aired against the 2021 Raw averaged 12 million viewers. Similar competition, with one program seeing a sharper decline over time.
4. Kevin Steen continues a blurred-line angle with ROH management, appearing at the promotion's November 5 tapings with an ultimatum: reinstate me within three weeks, or else
Steen ultimately got a match with Steve Corino at that year's Final Battle, which he won, thus officially earning his spot back within Ring of Honor. In six months time, Steen became the ROH champion, defeating Davey Richards at Border Wars in Toronto.
5. Bobby Roode's TNA title win airs on Spike. In the match, Roode betrays champion and friend James Storm with a beer bottle to the face en route to victory
The heel turn and title win send Roode on (almost inarguably) the best run of his career, as he holds the title for 256 days. As of 2021, nobody else has held the Impact Wrestling World title for as long as Roode did.
6. AJ Styles sustains a serious ankle injury at a TNA house show, putting his title match with Roode at the Turning Point pay-per-view in jeopardy
Styles incurred the injury after being thrown outside the ring during a match with Gunner (Jaxson Ryker). Though he could miss upwards of a month of action, Styles is back in the ring for the title match nine days later, and works a near-20 minute bout against Roode.
No doubt, Styles is a respected workhorse and all-around valuable commodity that had propped up TNA for a decade with his incredible performances and unyielding reliability. And so, two years after this, TNA lowballed Styles during contract negotiations, offering him a pay cut that reportedly exceeded 60 percent of what he was already making. Needless to say, Styles walked.
7. Reports indicate that Vince McMahon "hasn't been himself", and seems to be fatiguing faster than usual. This has had an interesting effect on WWE's two main shows
From WON: "The description is Vince is usually pretty much himself on Mondays, where he takes apart Raw and the Raw show is nothing like the show the writers present to him because of all the late changes he makes. But when it comes to Tuesday, after the gruelling Monday, he seems tired and just rubber stamps almost everything Ed Koskey (head Smackdown writer) puts in front of him. So Smackdown’s final product is very similar to how it’s written, with all the key matches and almost all segments in place. That’s why Smackdown seems to make more sense week-to-week."
Maybe this is why some fans have such a greater affinity for PG-era SmackDown?
8. Adrian "Lionheart" McCallum wrestles the only WWE match of his career, losing a dark match to Justin Gabriel at a SmackDown taping in Liverpool
For the match, McCallum wrestled under the name Matthew Kaye (likely a rib on Matt Striker, for whom Matthew Kaye is his actual name). Though McCallum is from Ayr, Scotland, he was billed as being from Manchester, to ensure that the Liverpool crowd would boo him.
9. Lance Archer and Minoru Suzuki win NJPW's annual World Tag League at Tokyo's Korakuen Hall
Archer and Suzuki defeated Shinsuke Nakamura and Toru Yano in the semis before going on to beat Karl Anderson and Giant Bernard (Albert/A-Train/Matt Bloom) in the overall final. The only loss Archer and Suzuki suffered in the group stage was to Anderson and Bernard.
Also of note from the tournament was the duo of Yuji Nagata and King (Bad Luck) Fale. Pre-Bullet Club NJPW feels so weird.
10. Former Horseman and former NWA World champion Barry Windham is on the mend from an apparent heart attack at his ranch in Florida
The then 51-year-old apparently also sustained injuries in a fall related to the attack, and wound up in intensive care at a Florida hospital. Windham would make enough of a recovery to appear at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony the following March, along with his fellow Horsemen allies.
11. Evan Bourne is suspended for 30 days for violation of WWE's Wellness Policy
The substance was allegedly "spice", a synthetic form of marijuana. Bourne's suspension was subject to further controversy, as he apparently used the substance at a party with other WWE talents, one whom (unnamed in this report) also tested positive, but was only fined instead of suspended. It called into question a possible double standard, with wrestlers higher up on the card getting a slap on the wrist for similar offenses.
12. Songwriter Anthony Dash sues WWE and Floyd Mayweather Jr over the use of Mayweather's theme song at WrestleMania 24, claiming similarity to one of his own compositions
For those who may have wondered why WrestleMania 24 would sometimes disappear from the WWE Network's on-demand library, this would be why.
13. UFC competitor Matt Riddle signs to fight Luis Ramos at UFC 141 on December 30
The fight ends up not taking place, canceled at the last minute due to Riddle suffering from an illness. Riddle won't fight again until the following February, where he defeats Henry Martinez via split decision.
The December 30 event happens to be the one in which Brock Lesnar lost to Alastair Overeem, spurring Lesnar to announce his retirement from MMA. Three months later, the "Beast" was back in WWE.
14. The Great Khali announces he's opening a wrestling school in India
Select students produced by the school include Kavita Devi (former Mae Young Classic competitor) and current SmackDown star Shanky. Also coming out of Khali's school was Sukhwinder Singh, a 7'2 former basketball player that recently signed with AEW (under the name Satnam Singh).
15. A WWE Superstars bout pitting Daniel Bryan against William Regal gains fame for the production crew cutting off Regal's music to play his 1998 "Man's Man" theme song
Few things in wrestling are more charming than seeing Regal struggle to keep a straight face before finally giving in to the silliness as he's welcomed into the show in Liverpool, England.
The clip can be seen below: