Mainstream reporter privately claims WWE pitched them on writing an AEW/Domino's Pizza story

Same playbook as always.

Nick Gage takes a pizza cutter to the forehead of Chris Jericho during the now-infamous main event of the July 28, 2021 episode of AEW Dynamite on TNT. (Photo credit: AEW)

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On Thursday evening, Front Office Sports posted a story by Michael McCarthy asserting that Domino’s Pizza was considering pulling ads from AEW Dynamite over Nick Gage’s use of a pizza cutter as a weapon on Chris Jericho coinciding with a Domino’s ad as the show switched to picture-in-picture mode. (An industry insider stressed to Babyface v. Heel that the timing of the Domino’s commercial was a coincidence, as well as that no other advertisers have reached out to discuss concerns with AEW content.) This helped blow up an already viral story, albeit one that had been mostly laughed off as an amusing coincidence, in part because the Front Office Sports article itself had some curious red flags:

  • The second sub-headline claimed that Domino’s was “threatening to pull ads from AEW telecasts on TNT” even though their quote from a Domino’s spokesperson contained the much milder assertion that they “are assessing our advertising presence on [Dynamite] going forward.”

  • That statement from Domino’s begins with “We share the concerns expressed about this incident and the content of this TV-14 rated program” even though the article does not lay out any examples of anyone having concerns about it before Front Office Sports reached out to them. (An email sent to Domino’s on Thursday night asking for clarification on the wording of their statement has been left unanswered.)

  • The original version of the article ended with the unsourced claim that “[AEW’s] bloody matches have turned off some fans and critics, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” something that is not supported by the available business metrics, like Nielsen ratings.

  • A stealth edit to the article—as in a change made without an update notice—added the following immediately below the original ending: “Wednesday’s broadcast drew in 1.108 million viewers, the fourth-most in AEW history and the third week in a row that averaged more than a million viewers.” This is something that more or less contradicts the previous paragraph.



In general, the whole thing just felt strange, especially when you factor in WWE’s past attempts to brand AEW (and previously WCW) as excessively violent, their long history of of planting stories, and the like. On Friday, Dave Meltzer strongly implied in the newest Wrestling Observer Newsletter (subscribers-only link) that WWE had planted the story, with Rich Kraetsch and Joe Lanza’s Voices of Wrestling Twitter account outright saying that WWE had tried to do so. (A spokesperson for WarnerMedia, asked Friday afternoon about the larger controversy and simmering rumors about WWE involvement, respectfully declined comment.)

There does appear to be something to this: According to a screenshot shared with Babyface v. Heel, a reporter from a mainstream publication, in reaching out about the story, explicitly said that WWE had contacted them about writing a article on the Domino’s/AEW situation. (As a condition of being able to get the screenshot in the first place, I did agree to withhold identifying information about the reporter who sent the message, who does not specialize in professional wrestling coverage.) This comes in spite of the usual insistence on Thursday’s WWE investor call that AEW is not their competition, using the company’s default line that everything is their competition.

WWE and AEW did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on this; Michael McCarthy has similarly not yet responded to to a request for comment sent via Twitter direct message. (This article will be updated if any of them get back to me, though I’m not holding my breath on McCarthy doing so after how he responded the last time I reached out to him.)

According to Brandon Thurston/Wrestlenomics, the Gage-Jericho match was the second-most watched quarter hour of this past Wednesday’s edition of Dynamite. Per the Nielsen ratings data, the segment averaged 1,179,000 viewers aged two years or older, with 633,000 of them being in the key adults aged 18-49 demographic. AEW’s return to touring has stimulated their viewership in a big way, with the last three weeks posting numbers not seen since Dynamite’s first few weeks in October 2019.


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