Wrestling fans. You. Yes you! You won!
There was an idea. In September 2018 a group of wrestlers got together to see if they could become something more, something bigger than themselves. What they discovered that night was yes, they could and yes, they should. Months of speculation began as to what this new federation founded by Cody and Brandi Rhodes, Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega would be. We found out in January 2019. AEW – All Elite Wrestling – was born and announced to hold their first Pay Per View event in May of the same year. Double or Nothing. I, along with my best friend Jesse, attended the event in Las Vegas and let me tell you that was one crazy night! You could feel it in the air something was happening in the wrestling world that hasn’t happened in quite a while. Wrestling was about to get better and for all the right reasons and you could just see it on the faces of everyone in the arena.
WWE started to take notice of AEW but not in the way you’d think at first. They had Sami Zayn toss the AEW name out in a promo, HHH calling Billy Gunn’s new employee “piss ant” and then WWE did what WWE likes to do, be the heel. They had the “Too Sweet” hand gesture trademarked and had AEW talent stopped from using it. Thats how they’ve been for the better part of 19 years at that point but what they did behind the scenes was different – they cared just enough to sign talent. Anyone who was making a name for themselves outside of the company was getting a look and signed by WWE almost on the spot. WWE was expanding rapidly as well with NXT UK and the talks of NXT Japan and also in the India markets. WWE was either preparing for war or just taking away toys so no one else could play with them.
AEW on the flip side didn’t do anything like that – they didn’t sign talent by going out and finding everyone they could. Something was different. Talent came to them. AEW selected 2 big gets right off the bat – Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley. Those 2 put AEW in the mainstream rather quickly and then they made Jericho their inaugural World Champion. I saw that as a marketing move at first but then I started to realize they were playing the long game. Jericho was using his status as a wrestling legend to bring up a lot of people rather quickly and I think, overall years later looking back on it, it 100% worked. Names only wrestling fans have heard of were now being talked about by more and more people.
WWE vs AEW: Wednesday Night Wars. It was anything but that. Was it really a war? Who cared enough to call it that? I mean sure it sounded cool and it was very WWF vs WCW at first but then after about 6 weeks the war was really between creative minds doing creative things. NXT was knocking it out of the park with storyline after storyline. The matches were top notch and the talent they had was something to behold. Hunter and Shawn ran a tight ship and it showed. Adam Cole Vs Keith Lee was 5 star in my opinion. The woman’s division was perfect, it was and is still the best women’s division in wrestling today(I’ll gladly argue that point with anyone). WWE’s counter to AEW was produce better everything, not just better than AEW, but better then anything they themselves could do. They achieved that.
AEW wasn’t stealing talent – they had talent coming to them and in the droves. People were letting their contracts expire or asking to be released so they could go work for AEW and the product was better for it. You could say its just “WWE Lite” but its anything but that. People were given creative freedom and AEW let them see what they could do with it. Miro being a Best Man ironically maybe wasn’t the best but he found his footing and went on a run like nothing before minus a tank. AEW not only had talent coming to them they had ex-WWE game devs coming to them, toy companies (Jazwares), and other investors. They were seen on a level that maybe even they couldn’t foresee or at least not within the first 3 years. But here we are.
WWE vs AEW can be summed up pretty easily. We wrestling fans win. Each company pushes the other to be better to earn those clicks, views, sales, and eyeballs. The matches that each company is putting on are nothing short of AJ Styles. Phenomenal. People like to poke at the flaws each company has and they like to pick sides, favoring one over the other. There’s criticism that could be leveled at each but do we really want to do that? When the bell rings the characters and the match psychologically is really all that should matter to us, right? We are at a time when wrestling is hitting a stride not seen since 1997-2002. Let’s not worry about whose wrestling where right now and instead worry about how do we make time to watch it all!
Honestly when WWE are releasing 131 talent since 2020 amongst other cuts to personal in other departments only to sight budget cuts while saying they are having record profits. I think i would rather give AEW my time than continue to watch WWE stagnate more and more before somebody talks Vince into selling the company.