I will preface everything you are about to read with this caveat, this article is coming from me, from the fan perspective as I have been a wrestling fan since I was knee high. As a true fan of wrestling, I like to focus on the in-ring wrestling more than backstage vignettes, long promos and short feuds. Matches should tell a story and keep the fan/viewer’s attention from bell to bell.
Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) have basically cornered the wrestling market. McMahon has found a way to get rid of competition through the years. He even managed to buy fellow rivals Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). The two organizations were viewed as rivals and when both companies hit financial problems, McMahon swooped in and basically bought the competition.
There have been other companies along the way that have been able to stick around, but they are not viewed as threats to WWE. Ring of Honor (ROH) and TNA (Total Non-Stop Action)/Impact Wrestling are companies that have been around and have produced some great wrestling talent, but neither is viewed as competition.
There’s a new threat now.
WWE is no longer the only show in town, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) has burst on the scene. The company formed by Cody Rhodes (son of Dusty Rhodes), Nick & Matt Jackson better known as the Young Bucks (multi-time tag champs around the world). However, when the idea of AEW was first thrown out there, it faced serious skepticism from fans.
Cody and the Bucks decided to plunge into the wrestling business when they put on their first show on September 1, 2018 in Chicago titled, “All In.” The PPV event included performers from different organizations to include, ROH, New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), Impact Wrestling, Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide (AAA), and the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). Wrestlers that performed included Rey Mysterio, Kazuchika Okada, Marty Scurll, Nick Aldis (NWA World Heavyweight Champ), Jay Lethal (ROH Champ), IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega, Pentagon Black, Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, Scorpio Sky, Moose, Punishment Martinez, Colt Cabana and The Briscoe Brothers (Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe).
The event sold out 30 minutes after tickets went on sale and the total attendance for the show was 11,263, the maximum amount that the fire department would allow. This was monumental for an upstart wrestling promotion.
Cody and the Bucks finished out their contracts with ROH and formerly created AEW, which is based in Jacksonville, Florida. The company secured a major investment from Jacksonville Jaguars co-owner Tony Khan, who also serves as President of the company. To compete with WWE, a company needs to have a financial situation that can promote events, secure arenas, and pay the talent.
AEW became a serious threat to WWE when they secured a major TV deal with TNT/TBS. They will not have a show on Monday night to compete with Raw or Friday to compete with SmackDown when it moves to FOX. It is being said that AEW is looking to air its show on Tuesday nights- which is when the blue brand currently airs.
AEW also allows its talent to wrestle outside of their organization, meaning talent can operate as contractors. Many WWE wrestlers would love to wrestle for ROH, NJPW or TNA while also being able to star in WWE. AEW performers can make more money by doing special appearances in other organizations while building their brand and they are also promoting AEW to other fanbases around the country and world.
Can they compete with WWE?
This is the fan in me coming out now.
AEW can compete with the WWE if they focus their product around the in-ring wrestling. Although wrestling is a form of entertainment, it should focus around wrestling. WWE’s Monday Night Raw is three hours long, but at least an hour is based on talking (promos, backstage interviews, wrestler created talk shows). Basically, after commercial breaks, we are lucky if we get one and half hours of actual in-ring wrestling.
For the last time, the fan in me thinks AEW should eye WWE NXT as its primary competition, not Raw or SmackDown. Both of WWE’s main roster shows are entertainment based, that happen to incorporate wrestling. NXT is a WRESTLING show. The show centers around the in-ring ability of the talent, while building solid storylines. As long as AEW is viewed as a wrestling organization, the fans will always come back for more.
In the infamous words of Dustin Rhodes, “Vince better watch his ass,” or AEW will swoop in and steal some viewers from him. It’s evident – AEW is a threat to WWE, and will continue to be.
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The Scrap’s Lee Brown is a 22-year Air Force Vet, fan of all sports – especially UFC, NFL & NBA, and cohost of Lee N Keys Real Talk Podcast. You can follow Lee on Twitter (@Levanstian757) and Instagram (@Va121Lee).