For a while there, it was tough being a wrestling fan, especially if you happened to watch seven hours of WWE content a week. After decades of dominating traditional professional wrestling, World Wrestling Entertainment has stopped making professional wrestling fun. It got so bad that choosing to skip WWE exit could be seen as an act of self-care. Whether it’s due to poorly scripted dialogue during promos or confusing booking decisions that lead to a majority of matches ending in disqualification, distraction, or the dreaded roll-up pin finish, WWE is a chore to watch out for.
Fortunately, All Elite Wrestling has changed the world of wrestling for the better.
Since its debut in October 2019, AEW has been a much needed boost to pro wrestling. Tony Khan, AEW President and CEO, alongside Professional Wrestlers and Executive Vice Presidents Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, Matt and Nick Jackson, and Brand Director Brandi Rhodes brought back the fun and passion in professional wrestling.
The key to AEW’s success is to simply do everything that WWE doesn’t: run innovative weekly matches, work long-term storytelling in programs (with rewards), and pay attention to what fans want to see.
Wrestling fans who tune in to watch any of AEW’s programs on TNT or YouTube are sure to see the sporting exploits of professional wrestling and organic, entertaining stories throughout their shows. New wrestlers like Orange Cassidy, Britt Baker, and Jungle Boy naturally overtook AEW fans because they were allowed to explore their characters and show off their skills in the ring.
G / O Media may earn a commission
Meanwhile, WWE continues to rest on its laurels. The once dominant force in professional wrestling has found space to develop their new talents through NXT, but whatever long-term bookings and prowess the talent displays there, they’re almost always mismanaged once they make their debut on the WWE Main List.
Instead of devoting its energy to developing the talent at its disposal, WWE has focused on bringing back its older talents for an increase in ratings, which comes at the cost of underutilizing the talent. new talent occupying its roster. AEW, on the other hand, made a point of only presenting the older wrestling stars as a way to elevate today’s wrestlers. AEW bringing legends like Tully Blanchard, Jake the Snake Roberts and Sting back to TV to handle exciting young stars like FTR, Lance Archer and Darby Allin, effectively announcing their arrival as talented new wrestlers, has been a masterclass on how whose older talents can be skillfully used.
The meme of WWE wrestlers who have been mismanaged by WWE and are considering jumping ship for AEW, popularized by WrestlingTalking‘s Ollie Davis, has come true. Wrestlers who got the “we wish them well in their future endeavors” treatment from WWE via Twitter posts announcing their exit, or who have just been ruthlessly fired, have found new refuge in AEW. Former WWE Superstars like Malakai Black, Andrade El Idolo, and Christian Cage have found a new home on AEW and thrived.
AEW has shown that WWE is no longer the number one destination for wrestling talent. Don’t take my word for it: WWE Hall of Fame member Mick Foley said it himself in a Facebook post where he explained why AEW is a problem for WWE.
As further proof of how AEW has changed the world of pro wrestling, CM Punk, arguably one of the most important figures in the wrestling world who fans weren’t sure they would return to after being fired from WWE seven years ago (on her wedding day no less) decided it was time to lace up her boots and step back into the ring with AEW.
Aside from the star-studded talent who currently occupies AEW’s roster, what has made the company even more exciting is its collaboration with other wrestling promotions. Jean Olivier pointed out that wrestlers are independent contractors, not employees, but for some reason WWE treats them like full-time employees with no health insurance who can’t work anywhere else. The insider’s term for this restriction is “the forbidden door”.
WWE has gone so far as to pretend that other promotions don’t exist. Meanwhile, AEW’s approach causes some fans to refer to “the invisible door” because the organization seems to ignore this trend so completely, which has always been bad for wrestling. By featuring wrestlers from other promotions like Impact, New Japan Pro Wrestling, National Wrestling Alliance and Tokyo Joshi Pro in their lineup, AEW has made wrestling a collaborative space.
Although WWE CEO Vince McMahon has repeatedly stated that WWE does not view AEW as competition, AEW has proven otherwise with its notes. Vince even went up to joke on give wrestlers they release to AEW. Khan, the madman, almost as if to say “bet” in response, echoed McMahon on his bragging, revealing that former WWE wrestlers Ruby Soho, Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson had joined AEW during the All out à la carte event.
Thanks to AEW, wrestling is exciting and fresh again. You never know who will show up and what crazy story will unfold. Ultimately, AEW’s success does not diminish the greatness that WWE wrestlers possess. Wrestling is for everyone, and each promotion has their own unique wrestling style for fans to enjoy. There are still too many talent on WWE’s roster that deserve a main event push. But the truth is, I hope more of these greats will be able to make the leap to AEW, because in WWE their talents that should illuminate wrestling right now are wasted, but at AEW they would be reaffirmed as the faces of an exciting new era for sport.
AEW’s leadership has shown that they respect their talent and their fans’ time, and I hope that one day WWE recognizes them not only as a competition but as an inspiration, take a few pages from the AEW playbook and will elevate the way it also contributes to the wonderful world of pro wrestling.