I remember feeling around 2000 that the whole thing was an exercise in deliberate esotericism, rather than about making something useful and then trying to get people to use it; with the strange terms - synopses, apocalypses, and later Rakudo, Rakudo Star, and so on. Some years ago I recall reading that the main Perl 6 implementation at the time was being worked on part-time by one person, and that seemed like amazing evidence that the project was doomed (1). What project has one person working on it part-time years after its start and ends up succeeding? (Feel free to take my feelings about this with a grain of salt, since I only used Perl on one project, way back around 1997, and never much cared for it.)
The history is more complex than that. There had been at least two serious attempts at Perl 6 implementations based on Parrot when Pugs arrived, but Audrey approached implementation from a completely different direction. Instead of building bottom up, she started with the parser and tried to implement things as driven by the desire to turn the specifications into tests that parsed and then passed.
Pugs ended up succeeding in the sense that it produced that test suite, but it didn't succeed in that it relied on Audrey's presence--it never attracted a sufficient developer base to maintain it when she wasn't available.
Rakudo isn't anywhere near complete now, almost seven years later, and I believe Pugs passes no more than 30% of Rakudo's test suite.
It might be fair to say that the goalposts have moved in the intervening time, however.