This whole new rivalry between WWE and All Elite Wrestling has become super intense now that AEW has had their first PPV this past Saturday called Double or Nothing. Last year, there was months of speculation of a new wrestling company last year after the “secret meeting”.
This included The Elite, Chris Jericho, Jim Ross, Barry Bloom and the billionaire Khan family that intrigued many wrestling fans. Thankfully wrestling fans were privy to the unveiling of AEW on January 8th, 2019 after being founded on New Years of this year.
The press conference included the executives of the company wrestlers from the meetings and newly signed talent. With a surprise Chris Jericho appearance to confirm his signing to the company, AEW officially rocked the wrestling world.
With the deals of PPV’s, a weekly program for tv, and signed talent from wrestlers to road agents, this has caused nothing but normal animosity between the two companies. This is something that has made me very happy because I can finally experience what I missed, a WWE vs WCW equivalent feud.
To give you my history as a wrestling fan, I have to preface that this is of a person becoming a wrestling fan after the Monday Night Wars era. I’ve been one since I was 5 years old watching WWF Smackdown in 2002 with my mom and grandma.
The sad thing is WCW was recently out of business and I grew up not experiencing any of the past beloved era. Getting the leftovers from the failed Invasion angle and no other major league promotion, I was the first generation of wrestling fans that didn’t live through the ‘90s wrestling boom. It wasn’t until my friends and I in the middle of our elementary years found out about TNA Wrestling.
Watching Others Then The Regular WWE Programming
We started to get more immersed into other promotions in the U.S. by loving new wrestlers such as AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, etc. So many great things were happening in the company, with the X division being the cruiserweight equivalent of WCW’s in the ‘90s. A six sided ring and different presentation.
The tag team scene with such as The Motor City Machine Guns and Beer Money Inc and a good amount of older wrestlers delivering great programs with the younger talent. Sting, Kurt Angle, Scott Steiner, Booker T, and Team 3D were examples of great older talent not making the product bland by switching up the styles.
Also, the women's division with the Beautiful People and Awesome Kong proved more entertaining than anything WWE was doing with the women honestly retrospectively. Especially looking back at the degrading bra and panties matches in the mid-2000s. These were the factors that gravitated me to TNA Wrestling.
But my friends and I were in the minority at lunch tables where kids would only talk about Raw and Smackdown wrestlers. Around this time, WWE was still highly successful (I mean pop culture wise). They had in the mid-2000s John Cena, Triple H, Batista, HBK, Undertaker, Edge, their marquee draws, still drawing 4.0 ratings and 300K PPV buys monthly.
As a kid, it became clear to me that the popular wrestling company in the U.S. was and only was WWE. Being someone that likes to talk about or like things against the popular crowd, it sucked that there wasn’t a big community locally that liked other wrestling companies.
Trial and Error
As middle school came along, my friends were still buying WWE PPV’s, while TNA was still leagues below WWE, but were presenting a great product with people like Samoa Joe and AJ Styles as their main guys. In 2010, I remember being an excited 13-year-old about Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff’s acquisition to TNA.
Then snatching up Jeff Hardy, who was the hottest free agent in pro wrestling after his classic feud with CM Punk in the fall of 2009. Then the move to Monday nights from Thursday nights signaled that TNA could be competition to WWE. I thought they would finally get the major recognition they’ll deserve. But then I grew up quickly.
The news of them going to Monday night and going back to Thursday due to losing people and not keeping the same amount of viewers. Signing and overusing older wrestlers from the WWF/WCW/ECW days where they rehashed there old beefs was painfully obvious to see. They took the top spots of my favorite (hope they were your favorite as well) talents and became WCW 2.0. Then reports of people like Jim Cornette and Dutch Mantell, the people that booked TNA Wrestling from 2006–2009 (Best Period) were pushed out.
Decisions made by the president Dixie Carter (whom Jeff Jarrett needed to fund the company) in favor of keeping Vince Russo as the main head of creative instead of sharing responsibilities like he had to with them during that time period. The man is known for his crash course TV style that helped the WWF but delivered the final blow to WCW.
Seeing the marginalization of my favorite wrestlers in the Fortune stable vs Immortal with Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair leading the stables reflected how leaning to the old times failed TNA. Numerous duds for TNA Wrestling such as the Victory Road 2011 debacle, using Hulk Hogan to wrestle to pop ratings and PPV buys in 2011 spelled the quick end of the proclamation of becoming the “number one wrestling company in the world” Dixie said in late 2009.
More of the Same
Though the WWE from the late 2000s to early 2010s were still getting big numbers and profiting well off TV revenue, and merchandising deals, it seemed no matter what TNA did, WWE hardly cared and it showed. WWE was becoming more and more stagnant due to no real threat and no worries of disgruntled stars going to make a big impact elsewhere.
More legends retiring, but less made as they were leaving and fewer programs to get the future fans hyped for. Yes, they had great programs I hold dear to my heart of my early adolescence such as CM Punk vs John Cena and Randy Orton vs Christian, but those were rare in 2011.
For a few years from 2010 to 2012, the two programs Raw and Smackdown were becoming stale to me because they weren’t different anymore. The stage designs went from shattered side hangings and the descending fist to just plain titantrons on both shows. Also, a lot of ideas for the programs were either uninspired or from the past, that seemed outdated.
Without any hint of threats, the need to make production changes, or stylistic changes and make stars to build the brand, became secondary. Their main priority appears to them building their brand by deals such as the Saudi Arabia PPV’s, and it shows nowadays as they squeeze in time on their tight PPV schedule to promote the matches on short notice with no real buildup.
Becoming Less of a Fan by Every Year
Seeing how WWE had profited from its biggest PPV with Wrestlemania 28 with The Rock vs John Cena in 2012 with no other company coming close to its success from that one PPV financially, saddened me. It showed me that we’ll never be in a time like the romanticized Attitude era. So much fan anticipation and even DVD’s made promoting the match. It showed with a buyrate of 1.3 million.
But in the late ‘90s, WCW could sell 700K PPV’s as there highest of the year (i.e. Starrcade ’97) and the WWF could sell 740K (WM 14) under four months later. Both companies could eat, and even ECW had a good TV deal. Now, unless it was a big money match, what could draw back the lapsed wrestling fans I hear so much about? WWE was the only company that had that ability to get big PPV buys every few times because of that, but you can see the declining PPV buys annually.
Something needed to change, the product became even more and more the same with over-reliance on older stars as TNA Wrestling later became famous for. The early 2010’s, wrestling was becoming really stale to me and it only continued.
Final Nail in the Coffin
Then more uninteresting angles such as the ACES and Eights angle and Brooke Hogan sadly overshadowed the good moments of 2012 where Impact was very exciting and seemed to recover with its niche audience. Good angles like Sting pretending to be like the Joker and people like Bobby Roode being a good champion were relatively short due to bad ideas. Having AJ Styles do a CM Punk anti-establishment gimmick in late 2013 while WWE was barely producing new exciting ideas was sad enough.
Then TNA decided to use the Daniel Bryan angle that happened at Wrestlemania 30 by having Eric Young win the heavyweight title three months. Great wrestler and one of my favorites when watching TNA Wrestling, but the whole creative/booking process showed the company was out of ideas. Stars such as AJ Styles left to go and made a bigger name in NJPW and Kazarian and Christopher Daniels went to ROH after wasting time in TNA.
Hulk Hogan returned to WWE after embarrassing Dixie Carter for the final time in time for Wrestlemania 30, Eric Bischoff left, Vince Russo was secretly working for them which hurt the company instead because of lack of real direction. Spike realized this and announced on July 27th, 2014 they wouldn’t renew then after 2014 was finished around the time all their core was leaving.
Dixie Carter hemorrhaging money from her dad’s company (Panda Energy) after bad mistakes of allowing the wrong people to have executive power was too much. By 2016, now only owns 5% with no input. TNA now known as Impact Wrestling hopped around unknown networks since 2014 and now stream on a game site called Twitch. It was sad for me to see the one company that I thought that had a chance to become a threat to WWE failed miserably.
It appeared to be the end of a second big promotion rivaling WWE because people didn’t want to invest in wrestling. Ask Billy Corgan, he found out how tough that was firsthand due to the higher up people involved in the business. ROH has tried expanding for years but doesn’t get the major backing necessary to get mainstream exposure. American Wrestling has had a hard time since the collapse of WCW to get a second promotion to rival WWE or present a healthy alternative.
Since the WWE Network’s arrival in 2014, I’ve felt WWE has stayed even more complacent as they now have a fail-safe home if they don’t have a TV deal secured in the future. Only Daniel Bryan since 2012 has really been WWE’s organic star.
During this time I ventured out to learn more about the newest pro wrestling stars in NJPW and in ROH and was quite happy to. Learning about Prince Devitt, The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, and Tama Tonga and broadened my perspective on wrestling.
But the main theme of this article is my feelings on pro wrestling in the States. Seeing the thing you grow up with not be as good as it once was or was to others is and will always be deflating.
It honestly has been hard to watch wrestling because of the abundance of WWE stale product, but thankfully listening to the Solomonster Sounds Off keeps me engaged. Yes, you’ll read and think that you can watch other promotions like you previously mentioned.
But having two great promotions in the States made a lot of U.S. fans very excited led to over 12 million wrestling fans between WWF and WCW. But having a monopoly in the States has led to creative ruts in WWE and has made wrestling less “cool” and a disturbing drop in the audience viewership. We all know the less excited a big group of people are, the less you like a product because all the fun energy is gone.
Which is probably why the Attitude Era during the Monday Night Wars was so loved. People felt like they could come together and enjoy the product and live vicariously through people and love the matches even if their favorites didn’t win.
With the AEW’s fast approaching, this hopefully gives WWE a kick in the a** to present new ideas, break away from its usual aesthetics. AEW is putting pro wrestling back on TNT this fall, which last had WCW Nitro back in 2001, a top network for ratings. If both products do well, then we win as wrestling fans.
If AEW is run well unlike its spiritual predecessor WCW, instead of 5 years of great competition, we get 15 years of competition or many more. Or another place that’s prospering and is in its own lane, but can be as successful as WWE, and pro wrestling can be a hot commodity again.
I don’t want the future generations to grow up like me and others my age and wish they were apart of such a cool era, I want them to enjoy successful wrestling in the States for years to come.