Roman Reigns Talks AEW; The Rock Not Appearing at WWE Survivor Series; AEW Contracts

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVOctober 15, 2021

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 30: In this image released on November 08, WWE Star Roman Reigns poses ahead of the MTV EMA's 2020 on October 30, 2020 in Orlando, United States. The MTV EMA's aired on November 08, 2020. (Photo by WWE, INC./(c) WWE, INC. via Getty Images)

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Reigns Doesn't View AEW as Competition

The battle between WWE and AEW is perhaps the hottest story in pro wrestling currently, but arguably the biggest star in the business has a different perspective.

In an interview with Mike DeStefano of Complex, WWE universal champion Roman Reigns was asked if he views AEW as competition for WWE, to which he responded:

"So me, I don't see the real competition [with AEW] because I think their fanbase legitimately is a hardcore fan base. So there's like a ceiling and a built-in ground to that viewership. [The WWE is] trying to connect with everyone. We're trying to connect with the mainstream. We're trying to pull in the casual fan. We're trying to engage the new viewer, while also servicing our hardcore fan base and give them compelling stories to fulfill them as well.

"I don't know if I've said it before, but I've said it before, when the audience is probably the biggest character in your show, that's strange to me. You'll hear it all the time, the reviews and the comparisons. I think because they are the new kids on the block, they're the cool kids in town I guess because of how premature and how novel it kind of still is, I think they're still being babied by these hardcore wrestling fans. Which is fine. That's great. I don't think anybody's going to ever, especially from a performance standpoint say, 'Oh no, there's more opportunities out there? That sucks.' So it's not a bad thing. It's a great thing for professional wrestling. It's just a weird argument because there's so much bias and there's so much, 'I'm on this side and I'm not gonna open my mind to the other side.' And it goes both ways."

As Reigns alluded to, AEW undoubtedly has a loyal and rabid fanbase, but that hasn't necessarily translated into AEW truly challenging WWE from a television ratings perspective.

AEW Dynamite did consistently post better viewership and ratings in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic than NXT when they were both on Wednesday nights, but Raw and SmackDown remain well ahead.

SmackDown's Friday show oftentimes doubles Dynamite's viewership and Raw's Monday show has maintained a strong lead as well, although Dynamite did best Raw in the demo on a couple of occasions.

Meanwhile, AEW Rampage's viewership has dropped off significantly since topping 1 million for CM Punk's debut, as it set a new low last week with just 502,000 viewers.

Reigns also suggested that he doesn't concern himself with AEW since he believes he is the best all-around performer in wrestling:

"As far as competition, not to me. There might be some other people on our roster who maybe think they need to dig deep and get better as a performer and what they do out there at the art form, but there's nobody in the whole world, any other promotion, in WWE…I'm better at this art form than everybody else. And I stand on that. That's the totality of it. I'm not just talking about, 'Oh, his spots are so good and he counters real well.' That stuff don't mean anything to me. When you tally it all up, nobody touches me in this business."

It is difficult to argue too much with The Tribal Chief's assessment given what he has accomplished since returning from a hiatus in August 2020.

Reigns turned heel upon his return and has gone on to turn in the best performances of his career, both in the ring and from a character perspective. He has also now been in possession of the Universal Championship for well over a year.

Reigns has consistently been the best thing on WWE programming and carries himself as a massive star, so having him in the fold is a significant factor that gives WWE the edge over other promotions.

The Rock Reportedly Not Appearing at Survivor Series

While there had been rumors about Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson appearing at WWE Survivor Series next month, those plans have reportedly fallen through.

According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Subhojeet Mukherjee of Ringside News), The Rock has other commitments that will make appearing at Survivor Series impossible.

Specifically, The Rock will be in Australia for filming of the second season of his sitcom Young Rock. Meltzer noted that COVID-19 regulations, including the need to quarantine, will preclude anyone involved with the show from going back and forth between the United States and Australia during that timeframe.

Survivor Series is set for Nov. 21 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. It would have marked the 25-year anniversary of The Rock's WWE debut, as he had his first official WWE match at Survivor Series 1996 under the name Rocky Maivia.

It was originally reported by Andrew Zarian of the Mat Men Pro Wrestling Podcast in July that The Rock was planned for Survivor Series. The belief at that time was that it could be the precursor to a match against Reigns at WrestleMania 38 in Dallas next year.

If The Rock does not appear at Survivor Series, it calls into question whether a match with Reigns will happen at WrestleMania in April.

It seems inevitable that the dream match will eventually come to pass since Reigns and The Rock are real-life cousins, but it is possible WrestleMania 39 in Inglewood, California, could be a more realistic target.

Key AEW Contracts Reportedly Expiring Soon

AEW is coming up on the three-year mark since it was officially founded, and that reportedly means some significant contracts are reaching their conclusions.

Although he did not specify precisely who has contracts that are set to expire, Meltzer (h/t Michael Perry of Ringside News) reported that "a lot of key deals" will be up in either 2022 or 2023.

Meltzer's report came on the heels of Scorpio Sky recently saying he signed a five-year extension with AEW.

Britt Baker, the reigning AEW women's world champion, is another top performer who reportedly signed a new contract with the company recently as well.

In terms of performers who have been with AEW since at or near the start of the company, some of the bigger names include Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks and Chris Jericho.

Of that group, Jericho is likely the only one with even a slight chance of leaving since he is 50 years of age and the others are executive vice presidents.

Some of the younger, up-and-coming talents who have been with AEW the entire time include MJF, Darby Allin, Jungle Boy and Sammy Guevara.

Signing any of AEW's top stars would be a major coup for WWE or any other wrestling company, but there is no indication that any top talent plan to leave as of now.

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