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Everything is about to change in the professional wrestling world. In fact, change already began at the start of the year with the announcement of All Elite Wrestling. With indie stalwarts The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega at the helm and the multi-generational Cody Rhodes beside them, AEW set out to change not just the world but the entire universe.
What does AEW mean for professional wrestling, though? If their own words are to be believed, AEW will offer fair and competitive pay for wrestlers regardless of gender, a policy of inclusion without discrimination based on race, gender, religion or other factors, and the first true hint of competition to WWE since the collapse of World Championship Wrestling.
One thing AEW hasn’t done is make any claim that they want to destroy WWE. For now, unlike the Monday Night War which saw WCW and then-WWF attempt to quite literally put one another out of business on a weekly basis, AEW seems poised to provide true competition rather than becoming the next professional wrestling monopoly.
Why, then, are some fans so enraged at the idea of another wrestling company finding success? I know that you should never read the comments on basically anything on the internet, but every now and then I’ll scroll through Twitter replies to check the temperature of a tweet’s content. More often than not, when AEW or someone related to them (or even fans) tweet something positive about All Elite, WWE fans come out in droves to downplay or ridicule the information and the person who tweeted it.
If you’re a WWE lifer, I get it. I’m 35, and since I was born I was WWE through and through. Being born in ’83, I was right on the precipice of the WWF’s meteoric rise and I was part of a family who already watched wrestling. There was no escaping the gravitational pull of the WWF.
When King Kong Bundy broke Hulk Hogan’s ribs leading to WrestleMania 2, my brother was emotionally crushed. When Andre The Giant and Ted DiBiase stole the World Title from Hogan thanks to a pair of twin referees, I burst into tears and was inconsolable for a full week. I likely wouldn’t be watching and writing about wrestling today, or at least not with the same passion, had it not been for those formative early years.
Even still, as I grew up I was excited to learn that there was more wrestling outside of the bubble in which I was living. Living in central New York, we didn’t have a cable package that carried TBS, so southern wrestling on television was a mystery to me. We really didn’t have many options for seeing wrestling on TV outside of WWF. In fact, I don’t think I had a direct connection to WCW until Nitro launched on TNT.
Every now and then, I would catch some random non-WWF wrestling here and there. ESPN ran the Global Wrestling Federation and if I was at my grandparents’ house after school, I could sometimes see an episode. Any random wrestling videotape for rent or sale around us was a chance to simply watch wrestling, whether it was WWF, NWA, AWA, or anything else. Literally anything as long as it was wrestling.
What I couldn’t find on television or tape I’d devour in Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler, Inside Wrestling or whatever other magazines popped up on the newsstands at our grocery stores. After I was done with a magazine, I’d cut out the photos, paste them onto the pages of a spiral notebook, and write my own stories about the wrestlers. All I ever wanted to do was be watching, writing about, reading about, or otherwise thinking about wrestling.
Each chance to watch or read about more wrestling was a gift. Never did I consume something outside of WWF that made me wish the company would fail. Sure, not everything was as good as WWF growing up – a lot of the random wrestling I saw looked cheap and didn’t pack the same punch as the programming WWF pumped out. Still, though, it was still wrestling and that was enough for me.
The threat of competition
As a growing youth with wild ideas, I saw the writing on the wall and stopped being a Hulkamaniac kind of early. I was lucky enough to see Royal Rumble 1992 in person and it was the way Hogan acted like a gigantic baby at the end of the Rumble match when he pulled Sid Justice over the top rope which first planted seeds of doubt.
It was capped off the next year when he would (in my eyes) steal the spotlight from Bret Hart at Wrestlemania IX. Hart had just lost the World Title to Yokozuna under dubious circumstances and he should have had a rematch at some point, but Hogan swooped in and demanded an impromptu match which saw him claim the prize.
Of course, we all know now that Hogan is a racist dirtbag who doesn’t deserve the time of day from anybody, but those revelations were far from coming out and my emotions were based purely on the bad actions of the character I saw on TV. But I digress.
Not too long after all of this, WCW and WWF grew to new levels while threatening to put one another in the ground. I didn’t buy into the hype of “us versus them” even though I had always grown up watching WWF. WCW came along and presented something new that I didn’t even know I wanted, despite their primal need to hire Hogan and all of his useless friends.
While WCW and WWF had their war, ECW appeared like an angel from above delivering to me even more styles of wrestling that I never knew I wanted until it was right there in front of me. Lucha Libre? Hardcore? Wrestlers who smoked, drank, swore on TV and, quite frankly, terrified me? Everyone in ECW seemed so incredibly real to the point that everything else started to feel so watered down to me by comparison.
Still, I never wanted WCW or the WWF to go out of business. They still offered me things I enjoyed and wrestlers I loved, but ECW quickly took first place.
What is it, then, about even the idea of another promotion starting up that sends some fans into a blind rage seeking any opportunity they can to tear down anything challenging the status quo? A number of tweets from a user, shared by @MeltzerSaidWhat, illustrate the bizarre rage that filled a fan who felt spurned after The Undertaker was announced for Starrcast II:
"If it's to celebrate wrestling, why are WWE not involved?"
— Meltzer Said What? (@MeltzerSaidWhat) February 15, 2019
This is ridiculous, but it isn’t unique. I understand if The Bucks, Cody, and Omega aren’t your cup of tea. Plenty of wrestlers don’t do it for me. To be filled with so much resentment, though, to wish for Cody to sign with WWE just to be jobbed out is so mind-boggling and petty to me.
While those tweets may be on another level completely, you’ll easily find people tweeting, blogging, or commenting similar sentiments all over the internet. AEW has the gall to try and shake up the industry, and they should be ridiculed for it?
I’ll say this now Cody and AEW might have destroyed my love of wrestling I don’t want a rival company I just want one major company!
– Twitter user @thetruth2021
How someone can claim that more wrestling could destroy their love of wrestling just doesn’t compute for me. If you’ve eaten cheese pizza all of your life because the pizza place in your town only offers plain cheese pizza, does a second business opening who serves only pepperoni pizza somehow affect how you enjoy and eat cheese pizza? All this metaphor does is make me hungry and bewildered at the prospect of that idea being even remotely true for anybody.
Can AEW attract WWE fans?
The video above is so perplexing to me and the person spouting off contradicts themselves in the very first minute. There’s just so much insanely wrong with what they’re saying in the first minute alone that I had to pause it and collect my thoughts. (I only made it through another 45 seconds before I had to give up)
They begin by ranting that “casual fans” don’t know who any of the wrestlers on the AEW roster actually are. They’ve hired a bunch of nobodies who can’t draw a dime, and with the wrestlers “writing the stories” they’ve solidified themselves as “WCW v2.”
Regardless of how you feel about AEW or how annoying ticket resellers are, the promotion sold out Double Or Nothing in under 5 minutes. The claim that these wrestlers can’t draw a dime already holds no weight. As far as not knowing who any of the wrestlers on the roster are… maybe you’re not the intended launch audience for AEW, or you simply need to be open to new people and experiences?
For people who share the same point of view and rush to be the first to brilliantly comment “Who?! lol” every time a new person is signed to AEW, let me ask you this – did you know Roman Reigns before he stepped foot in a WWE ring? John Cena? Triple H?
How many of the wrestlers you love and watch every week did you know before they debuted in WWE? Because you didn’t know them, did you write them and the company off completely or did you give the wrestlers, the promotion, and yourself time to grow, build, and learn?
I don’t even know where to begin about the complaint of wrestlers writing their own stories. I’ll say it matter of factly – WWE’s writing sucks real, real hard and they miss far more often than they hit. I don’t doubt that the writers on staff are actually talented, but when everything is run through the filter of Vince McMahon it comes out a garbled mess. Any alternative to that train wreck of a writing process should be seen as an improvement or, at the very least, a chance to see wrestling in a different way.
On the flip side, what if AEW had just hurried to sign any ex-WWE wrestlers they could find? What if they broke out the pocketbook and snatched up people who had already had their run at the top of WWE? I’m pretty sure you’d get the same people complaining about that, too – that AEW is nothing but WCW v2 signing up the old, washed-up guys who could no longer draw in WWE.
How can they possibly win with diehard WWE fans?
Cautiously optimistic about the future of wrestling
I want to get one thing out of the way real quick – I don’t consider myself an AEW, Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, or Cody Rhodes fanboy. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Bullet Club or Elite t-shirt. They’re gaudy and embarrassing to look at, as are the approximately 45,000 Bullet Club parody shirts.
I don’t love every Bucks match. They can get a little samey for me, but they’re never outright bad.
I grew sour on Omega toward the end of his NJPW run, but I still appreciated him for his extraordinary skill and ability to make me feel emotions that I don’t always feel while watching wrestling.
I don’t know that Cody has ever had a truly great match. His bout with Nick Aldis at All In was the end of a great story, but the match itself was too long and overbooked. Also, I fuckin’ loved Stardust. Sorry!
I’m not a blind supporter of AEW or its various Executive Vice Presidents, but I’m damn sure a supporter of wrestling and these four have proven that they have the minds and skills to tell great stories in and out of the ring.
AEW has demonstrated a number of things to me so far:
- They’re willing to rely on some known names to casuals like Chris Jericho and Cody Rhodes and names known by diehards like The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega
- They’re willing to give shots to younger, unknown-to-many wrestlers like Sonny Kiss, The Lucha Bros, Sammy Guevara, Nyla Rose, and Kylie Rae
- They’re willing to try to present something different from what is seen week in and week out from WWE
- They’re willing to try to shut down the sickening prevalence of homophobia, transphobia, and general bigotry and discrimination seen in fans and promoters alike for decades (time will tell how much effort they put into this, but I’m cautiously optimistic)
- They’re willing to take chances, learn, and grow
If you’re not willing to give a company a shot who simply wants to give the fans who want it a new wrestling experience, why are you even a fan of wrestling in the first place? What draws you to professional wrestling if not the opportunity to see something, or someone, new and experience different styles of wrestling from all over the world? And if you don’t care about AEW, how does their existence affect your enjoyment of WWE programming?
If you’re afraid they’re going to sign your favorites and leave holes in the WWE Universe, good! WWE has been without serious competition since they purchased WCW and they’ve been able to coast on doing the absolute bare minimum in regards to innovative storytelling or giving the fans what they actually want.
Competition has never been a bad thing. It fuels everybody to work smarter and harder to produce the absolute best possible product. If you already love WWE and won’t be watching AEW, then you’ll likely be able to reap the benefits of AEW by seeing more engaging WWE shows every week.
If you’re someone who wants to watch as much wrestling as possible, AEW is a chance to see something fresh that has been missing from the US wrestling landscape for far too long. With their rumored TV deals with, reportedly, big networks, All Elite Wrestling could be the first true number two promotion this country has seen in ages.
As I said, I get it if you’re WWE through and through. I was for a long time, too. Unfortunately, I felt burned by the company too many times to continue giving them my time or my money. Doing deals with Saudi Arabia and welcoming the racist Hulk Hogan back into the fold were the final nails in the coffin for me.
I no longer support WWE, but I continue to keep up with them in the hopes that they can change and become better. I won’t support them financially again until they come to their senses and no longer accept large sums of cash from Saudi Arabia and stop doing business with bigots (so, I’m not holding my breath).
That said, I still don’t want them to go out of business. I want them to be better. Better for themselves, for their current fans, and for the fans who have lapsed and written them off. Because when they do better and their competition does better, it simply means better things for the fans and the wrestlers.
Try to open your mind and give something new a chance rather than hating it only because it is new, untested, and unknown. And if you still don’t want to support wrestling in all forms, that’s fine – just don’t be a dick about it.