McGuire’s Mondays: Drink in this Broken Skull Session, baby

By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)

I know it’s sacrilegious. I know I’m not supposed to say this out loud. I know some might read this sentence and immediately navigate their way to other portions of the World Wide Internet.

But I’ve never really bought into Chris Jericho.

I understand his place in wrestling history. I also recognize all that he’s accomplished, and truth be told, I fully accept why he’s so lauded for his career’s work. He can be really funny. He’s held a bunch of titles. AEW wouldn’t be where it is today if that company didn’t land him. But for me?

Eh. I don’t know.

Still, when the quick teaser about him appearing on “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions made the rounds …

MANAGED EXPECTATIONS

… It was really the only thing I was looking forward to when it came to this year’s WrestleMania weekend.

And it wasn’t for the shock value of seeing WWE’s biggest rival’s biggest star appear on a WWE show. Nor was it because I thought any type of news would be broken with the interview (Austin has become a very solid interviewer, but let’s not kid ourselves thinking these talk shows are supposed to be anything other than fluffy bro conversations between bros).

I just wanted to see Chris Irvine be Chris Irvine. No gimmicks, no insulting promos, no real obvious agenda. Just a guy that so many people have so much affection for talking about his career in the professional wrestling business. I know he has a podcast and books and a band, so it’s not like he doesn’t have the opportunity to do that a lot, but rarely has he been interviewed for such an extended period of time on such a large stage. No, the random YouTube sit-downs don’t count.

Plus, him and Austin are friends. So I came for the rapport and stayed for the Grey Goose.

Now, did I, in fact, get all of that?

THINGS I LEARNED

Yes. Though to be fair, Jericho sure does like to talk and of all the Broken Skull Sessions, this one felt the most like Austin struggled to get a word in at times. Dude just threw out a sentence or two and for the next 12 minutes, Jericho would take the wheel.

Which was fine. Because if nothing else, it opened the door for me (and presumably other viewers) to learn a thing or two. What were those things?

Well, I didn’t know that Jericho went to college, and for some reason, that continues to stick with me a day after watching the thing. I also learned that he kept what amounts to a diary of all his matches, which has since turned into a book that he was happy to sell on Austin’s show. Then there was the story about how Paul Heyman once called him in the morning to see if he could make a spot in Philly for ECW that night. The issue, of course, was getting from Calgary to Philadelphia in time, which was impossible, and the inability to do so ostensibly locked him out of ECW for a year.

I also found it mildly fascinating that he hedged his bets by saying AEW is not competition to WWE … but then later on said something to the effect of “AEW vs. WWE is real.” I also got a pretty strong vibe that Vince McMahon wasn’t all that happy when Jericho went on excursion to New Japan, and initially told Vince that it’d only be for one match … only to stay for more than one match (oh, so that’s why we got Undertaker vs. Rusev at one of those Saudi shows?!).

So, yeah. There were fun things to be had, if you paid attention, cared and weren’t burned out on all the wrestling content that exploded into the universe over the weekend. And yet through all of it, I can’t shake one simple question.

LOOKING FOR MEANING

Why?

Why did Austin and Jericho do this? A career retrospective for a guy who’s been on top at another company for the last two years. The cynic in me says that Jericho simply wanted to sell some books, create a little bit of buzz around AEW during WrestleMania season (releasing this on the day of the actual event is odd on so many levels), and in some ways, go into business for himself.

Jericho and Austin, on the other hand, went to great pains as the episode wrapped up to stress that it wasn’t about companies, and instead, it was about their love for professional wrestling. Austin says Jericho has one of the best careers that the business has ever seen (which is a platitude he uses quite often with a good portion of his guests, funnily enough), and so to him, it made sense to have him on the show.

What’s the truth, though? As is the case with everything else, it’s probably a combination of all those things. I have no doubt that Austin has the utmost respect for Jericho, and likewise, I have no doubt that Jericho would take whatever opportunity he could get to step into a spotlight and sell things. Nobody’s at fault for any of it. It’s just sort of what it is.

But it still doesn’t necessarily answer the larger “why” question. It doesn’t sound like Jericho is retiring any time soon. He’s also not poised to go into WWE’s Fall of Fame next week, and everything he said throughout the episode indicates that he’s having a fun time being the locker room leader in AEW, mentoring younger wrestlers and conversing with Orange Cassidy about if he sold too long during their feud last summer.

I only ask this for one reason and that reason is this: You mean to tell me there aren’t current WWE superstars who could benefit more than Chris Jericho could and did from appearing on a show like that? There’s nobody in house, especially on WrestleMania weekend, that would have made sense?

The WWE PR machine has been booking Bianca Belair on everything from the six o’clock news to SportsCenter to HGTV’s Property Brothers for the last month, all but giving away the finish to her match with Sasha Banks that closed out night one — and Austin couldn’t have her on his show? On a weekend like this, a weekend that’s so historic and means so much to so many people?

How about Bobby Lashley, the second-most dominant force in the company right now? Speaking of the most dominant force, wouldn’t it be fun to learn something about Roman Reigns that we didn’t previously know? Hell, what about Finn Balor, Karion Kross or Adam Cole? Charlotte wasn’t doing anything this weekend, so maybe it could have done her well to appear on a show like this.

It all makes very little sense to me. Because you know what?

TRUE COMPETITION?

No matter how many IPAs Austin drinks and no matter how many times people act like the Berlin Wall is coming down when they “see a picture of the AEW title on WWE programming,” very few people are going to change their minds about perceiving the AEW/WWE thing as a war. Which, to be fair, is good for business, even if Jericho and Austin spent the last 10 minutes of the show aching for a hug from one another, reminding everyone that companies don’t matter, waxing poetic about their craft.

It all led me back to something I read a week or two ago. It came from CM Punk, who essentially said that Vince McMahon allowing this to happen only means that he doesn’t view AEW as competition. Punk was right. Watching this episode confirmed that. Don’t get me wrong. Tony Khan seems to have all the money in the world and by all accounts, he’s doing a pretty great job running AEW, landing a television deal and creating a work environment that so many say is the best they’ve been in when it comes to the wrestling business.

But WWE isn’t even a wrestling promotion anymore. It’s a conglomerate. It’s the type of business that sells things for $1 billion at a time, sends people to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, and has its employees land guest spots on “Punky Brewster” while a very recent previous world champion works on his reality television series. If Vince McMahon never steps foot in an arena, stadium or ThunderDome for the rest of his life, he will eventually die (probably at age 291) knowing he crushed his competition long ago and he will rest easy.

So, when Triple H made his comment at the Hall of Fame ceremony a couple years ago, implying that Vince will probably one day buy AEW anyway and crush it, he wasn’t lying. Or, well, that’s if Vince ever wants it, which, you have to think, is fairly doubtful, right? That’s no knock on AEW, of course. It’s just that this guy is almost 80 years old and his empire has grown to enormous proportions. Plus, he knows that the competition is good for everybody involved, and while all the true-believers can wave the flag that AEW stomped NXT’s head into the ground for almost two years, I don’t think Vince McMahon is losing much sleep over it.

But I digress. It’s the biggest flex someone like Vince McMahon could possibly provide at this point in his life — to allow another company’s superstar appear on his programming. He has bigger fish to fry, other mountains to climb … insert whatever cliche you want here. In the end, the fans win, not just because something akin to a cross-promotional thing happened, but also because it opens the door, in theory at least, for potential surprises down the road. Sure, they could all be daydreams, but they now feel .00001 percent more possible.

As for me?

EVOLUTION IS A GOOD THING

I’ll be honest: I came away from the Broken Skull Session liking Chris Jericho just a little bit more than I previously did. Chris Jericho definitely loves himself some Chris Jericho, but I can live with that. He earned it. He might be a little too precious sometimes about his story, his legacy and his art, but he’s not the only one in the wrestling business who’s come across like that, and he’ll be far from the last.

Was the episode a success? I keep coming across social media posts praising all two hours and seven minutes of it, and that makes sense. I don’t think it would be fair to label it a disappointment because it was pretty much everything it needed to be, and realistically, everything most people would expect it to be.

If there was an unintended consequence that felt like somewhat of an Easter egg hidden within the episode, it’s that for all the media AEW wrestlers do, and for all the web series and podcasts employees of that company produce, this felt like one of the few true glimpses into some aspects of that company’s origin from a perspective that we don’t hear often. Sure, Jericho has his own podcast, and he’s not shy when it comes to making appearances elsewhere, but the way he gels with Austin feels a little more honest and a little more revealing than the way we see and hear him in other settings.

Does this mean Christian Cage will be on an upcoming Broken Skull episode? Probably not. But, if nothing else, it does mean the professional wrestling business sure isn’t what it used to be as walls keep crumbling down and doors once forbidden are now open. The future for the business might be bright, or it might not be bright, depending on who you listen to and what you believe. But at least — and perhaps more importantly — it sure does look more interesting than it has in a bit.

And that’s the only bottom line that matters.


Readers Comments (20)

  1. “Tony Khan seems to have all the money in the world and by all accounts, he’s doing a pretty great job running AEW”

    They’ve lost half their TV viewership, the shows are completely disjointed clusterfucks, female viewership is tanking, and TNT recently stepped in to issue an edict against the never ending surprise appearances. Even Meltzer has started being honest about the massive flaws in that dumpster fired of a company.

    The only “accounts” that think Khan is doing a good job are the dirt sheet writers that like low level indy wrestling and the people getting huge paychecks from a money mark.

    • Indy wrestling is pretty dope. I got see Claudio castignoli(?) V. Alex Shelley, and not mention Jushin thunder f’n Lyger wrestle southern Ontario.
      Bad writing is bad writing, and both companies pay the price their aim.
      Mr. P. was either given an essay to write, or felt compelled write such meandering points to encourage a civil online discourse.

  2. I wrote an essay on how pro wrestling changed my life. This was twwlvw ywars ago, and it worked wonders…
    You write well, and I’ll sit toilet read it, but you must be paid by the word, no?
    It still reads like the manic scribbling of a madman, tho equipped ready use the language of “deeeeergh”
    Credit to ya, man. Due far I am concerned.

  3. Good article. With Nxt and aew on separate nights, it’s better for wrestling fans. There shouldn’t be a war. Wrestling needs to bring in new fans. But, yeah, why was Jericho on Austin’s show? That’s a very big important question.

    • AEW needs the exposure, that’s why.

      1.5 million people for the debut of Dynamite. It’s settled into about 650-750k per week unless they hotshot a few big matches or have a celebrity like Shaq on the show and they get bumped up to around 900k.

      On top of the overall decline, there’s the fact that their female viewership took a big hit after the Thunder Rosa and Britt Baker hardcore match. Those female viewers haven’t come back.

      I don’t think they’re in trouble with TNT at this point, but it seems pretty clear that they’re desperate to get noticed and are doing everything from mentioning WWE in interviews to actually having Jericho on a WWE affiliated show.

    • JERICHO WAS ON AUSTIN’S STUPID PODCAST because vince does not see aew as a threat to wwe and vince wanted to get new subscribers to peacock on mania weekend.

      JERICHO is a 50 year old has been in 2021 . He was in wwe for nearly 20 years so he has equity among wwe fans.

  4. If AEW is absolutely no threat, then why did NXT run away to Tuesday nights?

    • That’s been debunked so many times that it’s barely worth a response. The move is being made because NBC is going to shut down the NBS Sports Network while keeping a smaller part of the NHL schedule than they’ve aired in recent years (the bulk is moving to ESPN). NBC is moving their remaining sports programming to other channels and USA is most likely going to have hockey on Wednesday nights starting next fall (Wednesday has been the primary night for national broadcasts for NBCSN during the week). Because hockey is coming to USA network on Wednesday, the NETWORK moved NXT to Tuesday. It wasn’t a WWE decision.

      • Everything you wrote is accurate. The only question I have is why they made the move now. NBC Sports Network is around through the end of the year and they haven’t officially announced a new agreement between the NHL and NBC (unless I’ve missed something). I’m not suggesting that WWE pushed for this. We know they wanted to stay on Wednesdays to stunt AEW’s growth. But it is interesting that NBC made the switch seven months early.

        • I’m guessing it’s to get people used to it before summer, especially a summer where vacation/travel is going to be somewhat possible again? It could also be that they told WWE the move would need to happen in the fall and WWE decided that AEW isn’t a threat and agreed to go ahead and do it after Wrestlemania since that’s when a lot of WWE changes happen.

          There isn’t an announcement from NBC yet, but the ESPN announcement did say that part of the package is staying with NBC. ESPN has NBA on Wednesday and Friday, and their NHL coverage is expected to be Tuesday/Thursday with NBC keeping the Wednesday night national broadcast and putting it on USA.

          That could change, but it feels like something where they knew the move was almost certain for the fall and just went ahead and pulled the trigger at a time when WWE fans are conditioned to expect changes.

        • Actually, NBC made this move now because NBC may want to air some nhl playoff games on usa on wednesdays in addition to the nbc sports network.

          It is not official that NBC UNIVERSAL is staying in business with the NHL for the secondary tv package.

    • WWE did not run away to tueday nights. usa netowrk needs the wednesday night slot for the upcoming NHL plyoff games.

      The fact is that nxt was not growing its numbers going up against aew.

      IF usa is willing to air nxt on tuedays and pay wwe for rights to air the show, then wwe would be foolish to oppose usa and fight to stay on wednesday nights just to fight aew.

  5. You suck and have no clue about wrestling. I hate you cant wait till ur fired so we can read someone’s thoughts that actually know something about wrestling. You are the biggest mark ive ever saw

  6. I think, unfortunately, it’s true that WWE no longer sees AEW as a threat and they are probably right. What I don’t get is why some so-called wrestling fans, including posters on this site, seem to be so pleased about that. WWE has been phoning it in for years and is completely content to turn out utter dross knowing that it has got rich enough for it not to matter. If only WWE put the effort into their own product that they do into making sure nobody can challenge them, we would probably get some excellent wrestling shows. If AEW did become a genuine competitor (which they won’t), we would probably all get better wrestling to watch. Why some people are so gleeful about AEW not being able to challenge WWE is baffling to me.

    • I don’t think most people are pleased that AEW isn’t a threat. I, for one, am pissed about the wasted opportunity.

      We were sold a bill of goods that said it would be a sports based presentation where wins and losses matter. Instead, we got really bad indy wrestling garbage combined with all the worst aspects of WWE comedy writing and a big budget.

      We’ve gotten arcade gamer Miro instead of ass kicker Rusev. We’ve gotten 2 years of Adam Page as a drunken doofus instead of one of the best young babyfaces to come along in years. We’ve gotten the Young Bucks wrestling the exact same no-selling gymnastics spotfest “match” 125 times. We’ve gotten 2 years of the god awful Dark Order. We’ve gotten Kenny’s fetish with teeny, tiny Japanese women dressed like schoolgirls instead of pushes for grown women who can actually work.

      This was the chance for a modernized take on classic wrestling to bring back the millions of fans that don’t want the majority of the WWE product, and instead we just got a more unprofessional version of WWE with a little of the dying days of WCW and the worst years of TNA added to the mix.

      We’ve got a billionaire funding it and a big national cable channel showing it, and instead of good characters and logical booking we’ve got 80% of the matches with a jumpstart before the bell or interference during/after the match, 90% of interviews getting interrupted, 10 different factions of wrestlers that are mostly interchangeable nobodies, and so many bad indy wrestlers with no idea what they’re doing being featured because they’re friends with one of the EVPs.

      It’s a shame that it’s been so wasted since there’s likely not going to be another opportunity like this for a while.

      With all that said, if Tony Khan would put his ego aside (I can hear Jaguars and Fulham fans laughing hysterically at that) and hire a real booker, they could probably get things growing in 6 months or less. There’s enough good talent on that roster, and enough good talent that hasn’t made it to WWE or AEW yet, that a good booker with a long term plan could make chicken salad out of the mess they have at the moment.

      • A lot of the criticisms you list there are absolutely valid. You know what though? It’s still more enjoyable to watch than WWE. For all its faults, there is an enthusiasm there that is infectious after years of WWE actively mocking its viewers for wanting a better product. There is enough good stuff there to make the weekly show a lot less of a slog than the WWE shows on the whole. Maybe if they would just let JR run the show, although I guess he might not want the headache…

        • I really don’t like either one right now. With that said, the stuff with Roman Reigns has been the most consistently good wrestling TV for the last 6-8 months.

          AEW just doesn’t do it for me since every single week feels exactly the same. I’m tired of every match being competitive. I’m tired of superkick parties. I’m tired of referees not enforcing any rules. Etc., etc., etc.

          With WWE, you’ll occasionally find something really good still. With AEW, it’s so rare that any one match or segment is actually good that I feel like I’m wearing out the FF button on my remote when watching the DVR of it.

          If I were put in charge of AEW right now there would be a few obvious fixes implemented:

          1. No jumpstarts before matches, interference during matches, or attacks after matches for at least 6-8 weeks.
          2. No interruptions during interviews during that same timeframe.
          3. No gimmick matches of any kind for at least 6 months after the Blood & Guts match.
          4. Pick 4-6 guys who are going to be pushed into the World title picture and have them win decisively every week for 2 months while getting their finisher over and being given a short interview segment with bullet points to keep them focused.
          5. Do the same with tag teams and women.
          6. Referees actually do their jobs so heels cheating means something, especially in tag matches.
          7. Nobody kicks out of another finisher until 2022 at the earliest. It’s not special if it happens every show.

    • It is baffling to you because you are a low class idiot. AEW IS a joke. tony con man is a 40 year old man child who sleeps in wrestling pajamas and has dave meltzer’s picture on his nightstand and the wrestling observer newsletter under his pillow.

      • Go to bed Chris, the adults are talking.

        • “Chris” is constantly ranting about AEW and Tony Khan. Then here he’s expressing a great deal of knowledge about Tony Khan’s bedroom and sleeping habits. Perhaps Chris is Tony Khan’s jilted lover?

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