As I mentioned in an earlier article (in which MJF whipped Cody Rhodes with a leather belt), the AEW federation continues to dominate WWE NXT in their current Wednesday night ratings war. I attributed AEW’s success to their sleazier, more adult-oriented content. However, during the 2/12/20 episode of AEW, I realized another reason for their success: their use of the classic Suffering Young Heartthrob.
On the February 12th episode, the sadistic promoters fed their Dickhead Heel — MJF — a juicy slice of jobber meat known as “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry, who is shredded, long-haired, and more gorgeous than a Von Erich. MJF proceeded to bully the fuck out of the hunky kid in (and out of) the ring and everybody loved it. T
Here is how Chris Jericho explained in a recent interview the fan appeal (and the ratings boost) that comes from including this kid in the show:
We have a lot of young guys like Jungle Boy, MJF, both of those guys are 23 years old. That appeals to a different demographic. My daughters are 12, don’t like wrestling – but they like Jungle Boy. They love Riverdale, they love Luke Perry, they like Jack Perry. They like the fact that there’s a young guy, good looking guy, but they’re almost in the same age group – or at least they can have a crush on a 23-year-old kid.
This makes good sense. I can confess that the Young Heartthrobs around my own age are what drew me to pro wrestling years ago…
So AEW is wisely offering something for everyone to enjoy. We get the sleazy antics of a smarmy Heel (such as MJF arrogantly bouncing his meaty pectorals to draw the attention of fans like me) and we get a lean, long-haired young Hero with celebrity connections and fantastic abs for the tween girls to scream for (who also draws the attention of fans like me.)
This strategy worked well decades ago when every wrestling federation had some young Heartthrobs to suffer epic punishments at the hands of the veteran Heels and to entice the younger generation to tune in and turn on. WWE has abandoned this strategy and its certainly hurting them on Wednesday nights at least.
Another guaranteed ratings boost by AEW by the way are the tight trunks that they pack MJF’s over-sized lower body into each week. My goodness!
Knowing that the younger fan base (AKA Jungle Boy’s stalkers) are addicted to Social Media, MJF posted the following bathroom selfie prior to this match, I suppose to intimidate Jungle Boy and get his fans all worked up:
Jungle Boy then fought back with a bathroom selfie of his own, proving that he certainly doesn’t have the chest of a “small child.” I’m sure the heartthrob’s hard abs alone inspired thousands of his followers to tune in to AEW Wednesday and skip watching WWE NXT…
So my advice to WWE is to get some more Young Heartthrobs on the roster. Dress them in loincloths or tight trunks — not full bodysuits like so many WWE competitors. Have them grow their hair long and curly, then have someone yank that mane relentlessly. Let your Heels be as sleazy as they want to be — wrestling fans old and young get off on it, I promise you.
And when the Heartthrob’s suffering is not quite devastating enough, send another big Heel in the ring to continue the punishment. It’s a simple formula really: the more the Heartthrob suffers, the higher the ratings.