After a long time, a war is brewing in the pro-wrestling industry. There is no denying the fact that the boom-period in the world of sports entertainment was when Ted Turner-backed WCW was breathing down the neck of Vince McMahon owned WWE during the ‘Monday Night Wars’ from the mid 90’s to the early 2000s.
The two companies were fighting on a weekly basis with their flagship shows Monday Night Nitro and Monday Night Raw for the ratings wars. For years, Nitro was beating out RAW on the basis of the edgier product which they presented while WWE was still languishing due to the cartoonish product of the 80s which they were still presenting.
This forced WWE to usher in the ‘Attitude Era’ and promote new young stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and Chris Jericho, which meant that they eventually triumphed with WWE putting WCW out of business in 2001.
The pro-wrestling product has never been the same again, largely owing to the fact that WWE has never faced the same amount of competition which it faced from WCW. Other companies like TNA and ROH tried but WWE has largely established a monopoly when it comes to the sports entertainment business in the American and global markets.
This all could change very soon though with the entry of Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham FC owner Shahid Khan in the wrasslin’ business.
What is AEW?
All Elite Wrestling, better known around the world as AEW, is the latest promotion to try its hand out in the sports entertainment business. But unlike other companies, they are ready to invest and invest big when it comes to starting a wrestling promotion.
The company has Shahid Khan and his son Tony Khan as its lead investors and they have a reputation of being big sports maniacs. They already own two major sporting franchises, the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL and Fulham Football Club in the Premier League. Khan was also recently in the news for his audacious bid to buy out the Wembley Stadium in London, widely known as the ‘Home of Football’.
From all the noises they have made, it seems that they are pretty serious when it comes to the formation of a company which will eventually compete with WWE down the line. It is rumoured that they will be initially making an investment of over a $100m in AEW in order to acquire some of the biggest names in the business.
In an interview with Wrestlezone, Shahid said, “I am the lead investor, a supporter and a backer of All Elite Wrestling, and I anticipate great things today and into the future for AEW and everyone who has worked passionately on this week’s launch. I know AEW will be welcomed by wrestling fans here in the US and throughout the world who are ready for something new and authentic. AEW will work hard to deliver on that promise. As important, I am the father – the proud father – of Tony Khan, who will serve in a leadership role at AEW during the 2019 launch and in the years ahead.”
He also promised that he would be bringing some of the best talents in the world to his wrestling promotion, adding, “Tony will assemble a great team to take AEW over the top, for the benefit of everyone who loves the wrestling industry, while continuing to serve in his current capacities with the Jaguars and Fulham. AEW will launch with a roster of the top wrestlers in the world. While they’ll clash in what will be some of the most intense and fast-paced contests ever sanctioned in the squared circle, they’ll also share a common goal: to make this the true golden age, to make this the greatest time ever to be a wrestling fan.”
A superstar roster to bank upon
The Khan’s already seem to be delivering on the promise to assemble a roster of some of the biggest names on the independent circuit. Cody Rhodes and his wife Brandi Rhodes were the first big acquisition of the company and they will also act as business partners.
Cody, who after leaving the WWE has established himself as one of the hottest talents in the world, will act as the Executive Vice President of the company. He has been joined in a similar role by arguably the most in-demand tag-team in the world, The Young Bucks. The brothers, Matt and Nick Jackson will also serve as Executive Vice President’s, while Cody’s wife Brandi will act as the Chief Brand Officer.
They have also roped in former WWE talent Neville going by the name of PAC these days. Some young emerging independent talents like Hangman Page, Joey Janela and Britt Baker have also pledged their allegiance to the promotion.
But biggest coup for the promotion so far has been a bonafide legend of the business and one of the biggest names in WWE history, Chris Jericho. Y2J is one of the mainstream stars in the wrestling business and one of the greatest of all-times with a sure shot place in the Hall of Fame in the future. Jericho signing up with the company instead of going back to the WWE is perhaps its biggest statement of intent.
More is yet to come though, as there is heavy speculation going around that perhaps the best wrestler and the hottest free agent in the world today, New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Kenny Omega will soon sign up with the company. A host of talent currently contracted with the WWE too could join up with AEW when their contract expires due to the greater creative freedom which they are currently promising to their talents.
The future of the business
Though it may still take a number of years before any promotion can stand toe-to-toe with the WWE when it comes to being the global market leader, things aren’t looking so rosy for the Connecticut-based company. Ratings for both RAW and Smackdown have been at an all-time low, indicating that fans of the pro-wrestling might be clamoring for something different.
The most consistent product which the WWE has been putting out has been NXT, which has been critically praised for concentrating more on the sporting and athletic elements of the business with consistent storytelling, instead of the entertainment aspect which the main roster shows concentrate on.
With a billionaire now standing up and putting in some serious money in starting up a rival promotion, the WWE may soon have some serious competition on its hands.
And that can only be a good thing for the wrestling fans as more competition will inevitably lead to a better product from all the promotions involved. Pro-wrestling has never been so stacked when it comes to pure in-ring talent as it is right now across the globe.
The more the number of options these competitors have to showcase their talents, the more the chances of pro-wrestling being revived again when it comes to cracking the mainstream market, which it so consistently did in the 80s and the 90s.