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AEW: The Road so Far

AEW

If you haven’t been living under a rock, then you know that All Elite Wrestling is real, it is happening, it is now. Cody and The Young Bucks set the internet wrestling world a buzz with their New Year’s Eve revelation that they would be starting AEW. Now, along with the Khan family, AEW is two press conferences in so let’s look at the road so far.

I am looking forward to AEW. A successful AEW is good for professional wrestling, the wrestlers, and the wrestling fans. That is unquestionable. However, if you are a mark and think that they are going to march right up to WWE and stand side by side then you have another thing coming.

I want to get one thing out of the way, AEW is not competition for the WWE in terms of a business. The WWE is currently bullet proof. There is nothing anyone can do about that. Could that change down the road in 10 to 20 years? Yes. I don’t think people could have imagined a world without the Barnum and Bailey circus but here we are. Should they be extremely successful, which remains to be seen, they could chip away at WWE. It took Eric Bischoff and WCW almost 3 years to shake WWE but at the time WWE was already in bad shape. Do not kid yourself, WWE is not in bad shape. Low television ratings do not matter if the cash is still flowing.

AEW is not in competition for WWE’s talent. Not yet. Before your head explodes, let me explain. AEW could sign guys like The Revival, Doph Ziggler, Zack Ryder, even Dean Ambrose and will not make a difference. The WWE could lose all those guys and not bat an eye. That is not a knock against Ambrose, he is a highly valuable wrestler, it is just a testament to the depth of performers the WWE has. If AEW were to grab, an A.J. Stlyes, a Daniel Bryan, a Roman Reigns, someone who is a clear top guy for WWE, then we could say AEW is in competition for WWE’s talent. Until then, they can sign up all the unhappy mid card guys they want. WWE has a line of wrestlers 3 miles long waiting to take their place.

The Bucks and Cody are not in competition for WWE fans. The WWE has a set base of fans that have shown over the last 50 years that no matter how low the lows get, they will stick with WWE. Fans of WWE are different than hardcore fans of wrestling. They watch WWE because that is what they do. Like many of your local sports team fans, fans like that may not know the general manager’s name, or who the team drafted in the seventh round, but they support the team no matter what. You know that fan. You might even be that fan.

The casual fan in professional wrestling is pretty much gone. That is why WWE’s ratings are so low. WWE’s uninspired storytelling has run them all off. The good news is, should AEW be successful and WWE get forced to change, the battle for the casual fan could return. Right now, no one in wrestling is getting significant numbers of casual fans.

The only fans that AEW are in competition for are the hardcore internet wrestling fans. You know the ones who come to sites like this and bash the writers but have never been paid a dime for their opinion. You know that fan, you might be that fan. That fan loves professional wrestling in a way that drives them to be critical of everything professional wrestling related. The hardcore internet fan is a dangerous fan. That fan will turn on AEW the moment Cody becomes a 3-time AEW world champion. “They are only pushing their boys” is what that fan will write angrily on twitter and reddit. Of course, I say that half joking. All hardcore internet wrestling fans are not like that.

I will readily admit that things could change very quickly should AEW land on a major network like TBS or TNT. The competition for fans will be drastically different with a major network advertising campaign behind them. The only question will be, is Chris Jericho a big enough and recognizable name to make non-internet wrestling fans dip over to see AEW? Frankly, no one else on the roster is. Including Kenny Omega.

Chris Jericho AEWJericho signing with AEW is not like Hulk Hogan signing with WCW even though Jericho has made that comparison. Back then, Hogan was professional wrestling in the mainstream. If you didn’t grow up in that era you really can’t understand. Jericho is a star. One of the greatest of all time. He is not the equivalent of Hogan in the early to mid-90’s. A better comparison would be if they signed John Cena. I say John Cena because The Rock is obviously a bigger mainstream star than Hogan ever was. Cena has dipped in to entertainment outside of WWE and is recognizable enough to pull the channel flipper over to another show.

Where AEW is in competition with WWE is for young indie talent. AEW has shown that they are looking to sign indie stars that are likely on WWE’s radar as well. As AEW grows, hopefully it offers an alternate path for up & coming wrestlers to take. In that case, it will be interesting to see where indie talent chooses to go. ROH, Impact, and NJPW are also in competition for that talent.

On to the press conferences.

For me, both were underwhelming but only because I had unrealistic expectations. Don’t ask me to explain that. The crowd in the first one was small considering there were about eight thousand wrestling fans across the street attending Smackdown. It was an example of how WWE fans are not hardcore internet wrestling fans. The crowd sound did not come through well. As much as I like Conrad Thompson the podcast host, Conrad the press conference host was not that great in either conference. How many times can you say, “so fans, are you excited for……?” I have no clue who the other guy from the second one was.

The second press conference did a solid job of setting up Double or Nothing. The reveal of Kenny Omega was blah. No one thought Omega was going to WWE, so when he was announced it was like oh, okay. It was also not a shocker that Omega would face Jericho at Double or Nothing. That is not a bad thing though. It is the biggest match AEW can make at this point. I enjoyed the Hangman Page and Pac interactions. I also appreciate the fact that Hangman has given a direct reason for him being in AEW, to be world champion. WWE forgets that in the world of professional wrestling, the wrestlers are supposed to be fighting to be world champion.

I was shocked at the ratio of newly signed wrestlers that I had no idea who they were. I consider myself a big wrestling fan, but then again, I guess I could have overestimated my fandom.

For me, AEW is a welcome addition. I hope they are successful. The thing that will hold them back is not television, not talent, and not finance. WWE has all of those and is losing viewers regularly. The thing that will hold them back is creative. Have you heard of a scenario where a veteran wrestler or anyone in the wrestling business has said, “the boys having the book is a good thing?” Active competitors with the power to direct the creative of a company never works out. AEW could be the exception. Probably not.

Creative in general is what WWE lacks. AEW could be full of top talent but if the creative isn’t good it will not matter.

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