All Elite Wrestling

All industries hit a point where they have to evolve or die. Professional Wrestling isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but it’s hard to look at All Elite Wrestling (AEW) and not see them as an answer to that need for evolution. The new franchise has exploded since its announcement earlier in the year, and they haven’t done it on their own. Fans who had since grown out of the sport have found themselves coming back in droves to check out the new promotion. Related to that, but perhaps more important: it’s also bringing in a fresh wave of fans who’ve been disinterested in the sport previously. 

There are quite a few factors that have led to AEW’s early success, but here’s a quick look at a few that have stood out.

It’s Listening to its Fans

This seems like a no-brainer, but if you’ve watched certain other wrestling promotions lately, you might have heard some snarky chants from annoyed fans. Some industry leaders like to say they’re in it for those fans and then build their stories to the preference of their chairman and their chairman alone. Others like, say, AEW, have set up an informal weekly feedback session where fans can interact, share what they loved, and what they’d like to be done differently. 

And Taking Care of its Wrestlers 

Folks like to say that wrestling’s fake, but what they really mean to say is that wrestling is scripted. Those outcomes might be predetermined, but you throw yourself off a twenty-foot ladder onto a blanket of tacks and tell me whether or not you still think it’s fake. These athletes are putting their bodies on the line every single match and the fact of the matter is that not everyone comes out the other side of their careers in good health. 

Something else to bear in mind is that the majority of the time that professional wrestlers travel, they often do so via car. The lower the billing an athlete receives, the more often they spend schlepping themselves and their gear across country on four wheels. Anyone who’s been on a road trip longer than six hours knows just how exhausting that can be on your body. Now imagine doing it all the time. 

All of the above is still true for AEW. Much of what’s outlined is simply the nature of the business. The performers decide which risks they’re willing to take in-ring, and they recognize the rest as just part of the business. What AEW doesn’t expect its wrestlers to do is all of the above several times a week all year ‘round, and it has nothing to do with the promotion just starting off.

Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, The Jackson Brothers and Adam Page have all been a part of this business for some time. All of them have experienced the overwork outlined above, and none of them want to be that kind of franchise. Putting their wrestlers’ well-being ahead of chasing dollars is huge, and I sincerely hope more big players follow suit as the company fights to help a beloved (but frankly outdated) industry evolve. 

It’s Also Putting Those Wrestlers First

One of my biggest pet peeves as a wrestling fan is watching leaders in the industry who now control the stories of their respective promotions giving themselves top billing every chance they get and winning matches they don’t need to win. Triple H might be the future for the WWE, but not one single person is coming back to watch a PPV because he’s headlining. Similarly, literally no one needs the career boost of “Best In The World” less than Shane McMahon. Meanwhile they’ve got insane talent on all three of their rosters being constantly overlooked.

Since their first PPV, the leaders of AEW have repeatedly thrown themselves in as openers or even into mid-card matches. They’ve not just lost occasionally in random matches, either. The Young Bucks were straight up eliminated in the first round of their inaugural Tag Team Championship just last week. You know why? Because The Young Bucks don’t need that win. They didn’t just “let” Private Party beat them, either. They told a compelling story through one hell of a match and showed that other talent deserves to be showcased. Groundbreaking! 

They’re Committed to Diversity

It’s not wrong to say that most of the wrestling industry is pretty diverse at first glance. Most promotions do pretty well for themselves on that front. Unfortunately, having a diverse locker room doesn’t always translate to everyone being given equal opportunities. Kofi Kingston became the first black WWE World Champion just this year (note: The Rock is half black, but has always identified as Samoan in the industry). This year. 2019. WWE ain’t a new company. 

Meanwhile, AEW’s first Women’s Championship was fought between Riho and Nyla Rose. Riho’s Japanese while Nyla Rose is the first openly transgender wrestler signed to a major promotion. And that match wasn’t a one-off. The leadership behind AEW has followed through repeatedly on their promise to build a more inclusive and welcoming franchise. 

As of Right Now, Their Matches Are Superior

Let me first be clear that this is not a shot on the talent of WWE or any other wrestling promotion. WWE is filled with incredible performers. It’s just unfortunate that those performers aren’t being allowed to showcase their skills. Some exceptions can be made for NXT and 205 Live but, by and large, much of the talent on their roster is underused.

A wrestling match should tell a story. If it’s a new wrestler, it should be used as an opportunity to engage the viewer in a way that’s going to make them want to learn more about said wrestler. If it’s an old favorite, it should keep the viewer engaged and excited for more even though they know the entire set of moves they’re about to see. The creative teams behind professional wrestling are no joke, and AEW is an incredible example of what they can do if they’re not shoehorned into one man’s perspective of a “good match”. 

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

Every wrestling franchise, whether domestic or international, brings something to the table. The leadership behind AEW looked at those respective things and thought “what if we combine them all into one?” The results speak for themselves. Time limits keeping fans on their toes? Let’s do it! Referees actually enforcing the rules we’ve set forward? Absolutely! Showcasing wrestlers of all shapes and sizes with a unique set of storylines? Clearly you want that! 

Signing WWE darlings Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley (formerly Dean Ambrose) right from the jump clearly didn’t hurt their early success either. 

Cody Rhodes grew up in this industry. He knows the WWE like the back of his hand. Meanwhile The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, and Hangman Page have travelled the world with New Japan and several other promotions. The wealth of industry knowledge between the five in insurmountable, and each move they’ve made since the announcement of AEW has been carefully calculated. 

Only time will tell if AEW has the legs to remain a major competitor in ways that other franchises have failed, but competition is such a good thing! Ethical indiscretions have more viewership related consequences when there’s another franchise to turn to, and it gets harder to ignore your fans when someone else who will happily gobble up those ratings is giving viewers what they want. 

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