All Elite Wrestling (AEW) - What Is It And Why It Matters To Wrestling
May 9, 2019 | By: multiPOPtural - Tim Howell
AEW: What is it and Why It Matters to Wrestling
Anyone who has ever watched professional wrestling is familiar with the (then still WWF’s) Attitude Era. Maybe not by that name, but most people know Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, the NWO and Sting. This time period was the heyday for professional wrestling, and made it a mainstream entertainment platform. The reason it became so popular during that time is due in large part to the two biggest wrestling companies at the time, WCW and WWF wagging what is now referred to as the “Monday Night War”. Both promotions had TV shows airing at the same time on Monday nights, competing for viewers. Since WWF bought WCW in 2003, there has not been very much competition for Vince McMahon, and it shows in the product. There have been other wrestling promotions on TV, but nothing ever came close to touching WWE.
In recent years, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) has grown in popularity. Being able to reach the US market through streaming and a small cable company, AXS TV, they have been able to turn their stars into global sensations. Most notably of these are the Young Bucks (a tag team made up of brother Nick and Matt Jackson) and Kenny Omega, who many say is the best wrestler in the world. Despite multiple rumored attempts, WWE has never been able to sign these stars, due mostly to lack of creative control for the performers. In 2015, Cody Rhodes, son of the legendary Dusty Rhodes, left WWE and joined NJPW. Along with the Young Bucks and Omega, Rhodes put on the largest independent wrestling show since the old territory days. They sold out the WHATEVER arena in Chicago in minutes and the event was shown on PPV, with “All In”. A true accomplishment with no single promotion to coordinate the event.
After the success of “All In”, Tony Khan, son of Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars approached the wrestlers and asked if they “really wanted to change the world.” Out of that conversation, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) was born. Since the official launch of AEW on January 1, rumors have flooded the internet of who was joining AEW and who was leaving WWE. AEW has signed several independent wrestlers (“Hangman” Adam Page, Pac aka Neville, Joey Janela, Brian Pillman, Jr. and Leva Bates to name a few) and is looking to bring in talent from countries that do not typically export wrestlers, like China. The company will host its first official event on May 25, called “Double or Nothing”, in Las Vegas. This event sold out the MGM Grand Garden Arena in 4 minutes, with pre-sale tickets selling out almost immediately.
Many have speculated that AEW is the second biggest wrestling company in the world right now, and they haven’t even rang their first bell. With such excitement around the company, WWE is certainly paying attention. WWE’s television ratings since Wrestlemania have been a hot topic lately, as they are historically low. The company usually sees a significant dip in viewers during the summer, but this dip has hit earlier, which means ratings may fall even further. WWE is moving its SmackDown Live show to Fox this fall, so it’s expected that they will be pulling out all the stops to make that brand more successful than ever. As was the case with the Monday Night War, WWE seems to thrive off of competition. They have been number #1 for so long, there is no need for them to push the boundaries or get too innovative. AEW has called themselves, “an alternative to WWE, not competition”, but in the eyes and wallets of the fans, that’s exactly what they are.
AEW is expected to get a weekly TV deal in place later this year as well, making them an even bigger potential threat to WWE. WWE is going to have to make some changes to their programming in order to compete and keep fans interested. But just like in the late 90s, WWE will likely find a way to top their competition, they certainly have the financial backing to do it. But there has never been a promotion with the excitement and approach to the business like AEW, so the question becomes, is there room at the top for 2 companies? It is going to be interesting to see what kind of impact AEW really makes, and how WWE responds. Sometimes, the most exciting fights don’t even take place in a ring.
Story by Tim Howell - Pro Wrestling Aficionado of multiPOPtural (Pro Wrestling Podcast Division of multiPOPtural coming soon!)