Despite how WWE adamantly denies it, everyone knows Monday Night Raw is the A-show, SmackDown is the B-show, NXT ranks third, and everything else follows suit.
But while NXT UK, 205 Live and some of the random offshoots such as Fight Like a Girl and Mixed Match Challenge get thrown in the “other” category, one show that is easily the absolute bottom of the barrel is Main Event.
There’s no question to it. Main Event is so inconsequential most people don’t even know it is even still running. And yet, it is, each and every week on Hulu.
If you look at AEW, their flagship is Dynamite, with their subordinate programming now being AEW Dark and this temporary Deadly Draw tournament.
But while WWE Main Event is a colossal failure on every front, AEW Dark—a show mostly revolving around jobbers and on YouTube, rather than Hulu—is actually quite successful.
Why is that? How can AEW get so much more mileage out of their “meh, here are some extra matches” show than WWE with all its resources behind it?
Let’s break down how All Elite Wrestling has found a better way to do this type of show in 10 different aspects.
1. AEW Actually Likes It
The absolute biggest reason Dark is better than Main Event is because AEW actually seems to want to see it succeed and is taking steps in allowing that to happen.
WWE acts like Main Event doesn’t even exist. If you don’t believe me, check their own page on their own website that lists the current shows.
You can see SummerSlam, Raw, SmackDown, NXT, NXT UK (that hasn’t run in months), 205 Live, and even Total Bellas, The Big Show Show and Fight Like a Girl. Hell, they still have a section for Extreme Rules. But no Main Event.
Why is that? It’s not as if Main Event is a show like WWE Ahora that’s only the Spanish version of WWE Now. It’s a show with actual wrestling matches where the 24/7 Championship has changed hands in the past.
Unless you’re going out of your way to look into this kind of stuff, you wouldn’t have a clue WWE had a show on Hulu. They never mention it on any of the other shows. There’s no commentary on Raw that says “Here’s a clip from Main Event where you’ll see blah blah” or “Those two will clash in a match together this week on Main Event on Hulu.”
Meanwhile, on Dynamite, they’ll address Dark and promote things there. Obviously, it doesn’t take priority over advertising the next episode of Dynamite (nor should it) but it’s still acknowledged.
All those promos airing for Scorpio Sky’s TNT Championship match to come, where he says he’s the king of AEW Dark? Yeah, that helps. You don’t see WWE ever having someone say “I’m killing it with a 20 match winning streak on Main Event” or something. Instead, they get made fun of and told they’re part of the catering crew.
I’m convinced WWE is only doing the bare minimum to meet their requirements for their agreement with Hulu. They record two matches (sometimes only one) per week ahead of time, because it’s easier, featuring talent they wouldn’t rather use on Raw, fill it with a lot of recap footage to pad the hour, send it off to Hulu and hope nobody actually watches it or only treats it as bonus material and not anything worth getting annoyed over if it sucks.
Dark, though, is something AEW has been expanding on. They seem to want it to become standard viewing material for their fans and are giving people more of a reason to tune in, rather than less.
2. A Perception of Value
Main Event has been around since October 2012. Yeah. That long. It coincided with WWE Superstars from 2009 as one show would be the bonus material for Raw and the other would be for SmackDown. A simple enough concept, right?
Very, very quickly, fans realized how worthless both shows were.
The first episode of Superstars saw The Undertaker against Matt Hardy, Christian vs Finlay in a No. 1 contender’s match and Cody Rhodes against Shane McMahon. Pretty worthwhile card, right? The first episode of Main Event had CM Punk against Sheamus in a Champion vs Champion match and a first-round match for a tournament to crown No. 1 contenders for the tag team titles.
Soon after, the shows were the home of only the jobber and lower midcard talent. You wouldn’t see champions on it or main event stars. You’d see Los Matadores, Hornswoggle, Titus O’Neil, The Ascension, Heath Slater, Curt Hawkins and folks like that.
After a while, you knew no big names would appear, no interesting angles would go down, no belts would even be defended let alone change hands, nothing would be treated as canon because they could just ignore it on the next episode of Raw and it would ultimately be a waste of your hour unless the matches were decent. Since they featured some of the lesser talent, even that was a risk.
With Dark, every episode—especially since things have ramped up in the past few months—features some noteworthy talent. Yes, they’re mostly beating up jobbers, but even that isn’t true all the time.
Brian Cage has defended the FTW Championship. You see FTR, Jurassic Express, Best Friends, The Young Bucks and more in action. Even AEW world champion Jon Moxley fought on Dark in May.
If you told me Ortiz and Santana of The Inner Circle were fighting SCU and Private Party in a triple threat on Dynamite, I’d believe it, but that was on the July 16th edition of Dark.
Want to know what happened on the episodes of Main Event that took place prior (July 15) and following (July 22) that edition of Dark?
Shayna Baszler squashed Jessi Kamea one night, then Bianca Belair squashed Jessi the next. Riddick Moss beat Humberto Carrillo both nights. Literally the same match twice and then almost the same match twice as well, and I doubt anyone’s tuning in to see Moss vs Carrillo, for example.
Perception is key. If something is popular, it becomes more popular because people think “there must be a reason why everyone likes that. I’ll check it out” and they’re more likely to like it. Or, at the very least, if they think everyone else likes it, they might convince themselves or pretend they like it so they can fit in. But if something is viewed as awful, it’s increasingly harder as time goes on to convince people that it’s worth a damn investing in.
Since WWE puts such little effort into Main Event, it’s clear the company producing the show doesn’t even think it’s got value to it. Why should any viewers think anything else?
3. YouTube is Better than Hulu…for This
I’m not a Hulu subscriber. Chances are, you aren’t, either. But we both can jump right on YouTube any time we want and check out anything we want that isn’t behind the paywall (ie, most content is available).
That allows a much wider potential audience to be able to watch your show. With it being free and easily accessible, it grants casuals a chance to tune in. You’re not getting casuals checking out Hulu for WWE content, that’s for sure.
Outside of the die hards that will do anything WWE-related, the people watching WWE on Hulu are doing so because they’re already subscribed for another reason and they think this is a better use of their time. They can’t justify watching all 3 hours of Raw, so they’ll see the highlights shorter version on Hulu because hey, screw it. You get to save time, catch up on the must-know information, skip some awful stuff and it’s just a bonus benefit when you aren’t watching The Handmaid’s Tale (never seen it, but heard it’s great) or reruns of other shows.
Being on Hulu and having the name Main Event makes it seem like WWE should treat this like a bigger deal, but if you were casually flipping through and decided to give pro wrestling a chance and this was what you saw, you’d think it was garbage. This is their main event material? Yikes.
But with AEW, it’s on YouTube, which is low-commitment. You can even hit “watch later” and get around to it another time. Or, you can take part in the live discussion when its airing and have some fun in the chat. But you know with the name Dark that you’re getting dark matches, which aren’t supposed to be as magnanimous as the main product.
If you’re browsing lots of wrestling stuff, you’ll likely get Dark in your suggestions for YouTube. I doubt there would be that much of a preference on Hulu to skew you in that direction. If you watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine (great show), you’re more likely to get cop stuff like The Wire or The Shield or comedy shows like Seinfeld and Atlanta (both great shows) recommended to you.
One fails to live up to its hype and is among a sea of completely unrelated content that you’d have to pay another whole subscription to see. The other exceeds it and makes better use of its platform that is free for everyone and can earn AEW revenue in ads as well as super chats.
4. No Oversaturation
If you watch just the in-ring content from WWE (meaning, you skip the WWE Network specials, the YouTube videos, interviews, The Bump, etc), you normally have 10 hours per week. On a pay-per-view week, there’s even more.
That’s a lot to digest and if you’re looking for shows to cut out that feel unnecessary, you’re going to trim NXT UK, 205 Live and Main Event. Nobody’s skipping Raw, SmackDown and NXT if they can get rid of those 3 hours instead.
It’s overkill. But AEW doesn’t have the oversaturation problem (yet) because there’s just 2 hours of Dynamite and whatever they do for Dark. Now that they have the Deadly Draw tournament, that’s an extra 45 minutes or so each week, so we’re talking 5 max so far. HALF of what WWE offers.
Even if you count Being the Elite, it’s offset by just one night’s worth of Raw Talk or fallout videos, WWE Now, etc.
WWE fans look at Main Event as a weak link worthy of being sacrificed. AEW fans look at Dark as the answer to the problem of “give me more” if they haven’t gotten their fix yet that week.
5. More Than 2 Matches
In all its years, Main Event has remained pretty rigid in its structure of 2 matches per week. Normally, it’s one for the men and one women’s division match or just two men’s matches, depending on the circumstances.
Sometimes, it’s not even 2, but just one and even more filler. Hell, there have even been episodes that have been ZERO matches, for whatever reason. It’s easier to get away with some “best of the year” clip shows and not have to record some more matches, right?
With Dark, you used to get just one or two matches per week, but it’s grown considerably more in recent months.
These days, it seems the average is 8-10 or so. The show’s packed from start to finish with wrestling, as opposed to recap footage, so you’re getting a lot of action for your time, while WWE puts the bare minimum on the show to make it not just another edition of Afterburn, This Week in WWE, Wal3ooha, Sunday Dhamaal, Experience, Bottom Line, etc.
What would you rather watch: 10 matches or 2 matches and the same stuff you saw the previous night/week on another show?
6. More Story Time for Smaller Feuds
Since AEW uses Dark as its secondary show, this is where some smaller storylines play out. WWE doesn’t bother with that at all with Main Event.
If you’re watching Dark, you’ll see the tag team of The Initiative, aka Brandon Cutler and Peter Avalon. They’ve both lost every match they’ve been in and eventually developed a rivalry about who is worse. That turned into a tag team. They’re still losing, but it’s progressing.
WWE’s idea of doing something with Main Event is to have Natalya against Sarah Logan in what I think turned out to something like a Best of Damn Near 20 Matches situation. There was no real story, nor goal in mind. They just kept having matches and WWE kept saying that it was a passionate rivalry because it was going on so long.
Quality and quantity aren’t the same by default. Just because two people keep having matches together doesn’t make it a deep feud or an interesting story. It just means its long. If that were the case, all the longest movies ever would all be Best Picture winners because everyone would definitively agree longer just means it has to be good.
Dark offers AEW a chance to push supplemental material. They let people rack up wins so their records look better for the rankings each week and they can justify getting title opportunities. The Nightmare Family has largely been existing on Dark because if the QT Marshall, Allie, Brandi and Dustin Rhodes drama would be playing out on Dynamite, people would likely complain. But here, it’s happening and it’s not offensive, so they get to tell that story without rubbing the core audience the wrong way.
7. Bringing in Talent
Speaking of smaller stories, this applies to the talent, too.
Having more matches means more wrestlers have to be hired to fill those roles. Otherwise, AEW would have burned out all their possible matches by now with such a small roster.
But by having Dark be a supplemental show, they can get away with having local talent, jobbers, or lesser known performers. Then, while they’re watching these men and women wrestle, they get a better idea of whether or not they’d be interested in signing them.
While they might not be officially on a contract yet, you can pretty much see which ones they like by how often they come back. Griff Garrison isn’t going to go from wrestling once a week on Dark and showing up on BTE to just fading away to nothing. Brian Pillman Jr is actively trying to get out of his MLW contract so he can sign with AEW and has been wrestling on Dark in the meantime.
Main Event never really uses outside talent. Instead, its matches are made up of the wrestlers already signed to WWE, but lower on the totem pole. It’s a show made up of people WWE sees little value in, but doesn’t want to fire, rather than people WWE sees value in, but hasn’t had the means to hire yet.
Dark has been a means for AEW to grow, while Main Event has no signs of replenishing any part of WWE’s roster.
8. It’s Acts as a Training Show
AEW doesn’t have its own Performance Center. Those younger talent, no-name jobbers, local enhancement folk and even the true members of the roster that are just not supreme veterans need more time in the ring.
Dark offers them the opportunity to get more reps in, essentially. You can see a big difference between some of the wrestlers from their original appearances when AEW was just doing special events versus where they are now, even if they’ve only really wrestled on Dark and not Dynamite.
The more matches they have, the more of a chance they learn what they need to do and become better wrestlers.
Main Event isn’t used for that. It should be given a different name and focus on some of the lesser talent in NXT with the Performance Center. For my money, they already own the Stomping Grounds name, so they should go with that. When the pandemic is over, they can stop recording Main Event before Raw and replace it with a “WWE Stomping Grounds” show that they film once per week at the Performance Center featuring NXT talent beating non-signed jobbers.
For instance, the aforementioned Jessi Kamea. It does her no real good to get squashed two weeks in a row on a show no one watches and if anyone does, she’s nothing to them in comparison to Baszler and Belair. But she’s been in NXT for years and has wrestled in the Mae Young Classic. She should be something worth investing in, right? Why not have her beat a local no-name so she looks like she’s going somewhere and when she gets put on NXT for real, she’s established herself some more?
Leon Ruff was signed recently. Why not have him beat someone on Main Event that isn’t signed? What harm does it cause?
Drew Gulak grew as a performer because he was on 205 Live. It gave him the platform to become a SmackDown star. Main Event could be used for something like that, just like Dark is used to propel people into Dynamite. Instead, it’s just the bottom of the barrel on Raw filling in time.
9. Talent is Hungry, Not Complacent
Those young stars on Dark are willing to put in the effort to try to impress people. They want to earn jobs with AEW or, at the very least, make a bigger name for themselves so they can make more money on the indies and increase their value.
What benefit does WWE offer to people wrestling on Main Event? Nothing.
People like Cedric Alexander even joke about it being a dead zone where they wrestle in a vacuum, essentially. The matches mean nothing and if you’re placed there, it means WWE doesn’t think you’re worth taking up time on Raw, so you’re already in a bad spot. You’re not going to win Vince McMahon over by having a killer match on Main Event as he’s not watching it, so why bother trying?
Phone it in on Main Event and what’s the consequence? WWE doesn’t see it or care, the fans don’t know the show exists or they purposely don’t watch it, so other than stinking up the joint for the fans in attendance, you’re not causing any harm. But if you’re on AEW Dark, you’ve got goals in mind you’re looking to achieve by either being signed to the company or boosting your credibility, and your win-loss record does get affected by these matches.
10. It’s Still New
AEW Dark isn’t even one full year old yet. It debuted in October, so we’re still several weeks away from its anniversary.
There’s no negative stigma on it that hasn’t been able to be washed away. You might not watch Dark right now, but with the amount of matches they’ve been adding lately, you’re likely more aware of it than ever before.
Guaranteed, you don’t have any reason to watch Main Event and more than you ever did, and you also have 8 years worth of knowing it’s not going to get any better, so there’s less of a reason for you to give it a shot that maybe things have changed.
Down the line, Dark might fall victim to some of the problems that happened to Main Event. However, there’s an even greater likelihood Dark is doing so well that it becomes a true second show equivalent to Dynamite and graduates upward, instead.
That’s certainly not happening for Main Event. If anything, there’s more of a chance Main Event ceases to exist once the current contract between WWE and Hulu runs out and Disney shifts its strategies with Disney+, Hulu and its other assets. Now if it were to be folded into ESPN+ or something, we might see WWE put some actual work into Main Event.
Until then, Dark is the far superior show and it isn’t even close.
How do you feel about AEW Dark and WWE Main Event? Keep the discussion going in the comments below!