First they went all in. And, by all objective, measures, they won. Then they did their best James Holzhauer impression and really pushed their chips in for Double or Nothing. With three big shows (including a fifteen minute sellout) in the next few months, a TV contract with TNT that starts this year, and former WWE workhorse Dean Ambrose in tow, AEW is set to answer the most important question in professional wrestling: where do we go from here?
Like most things, there’s an easy answer and one that’s a little less straight forward. The easy one, of course, is that the company focuses on next month’s Fyter Fest. With a card that already contains one of several dream matches that include the once and former Jon Moxley (Ambrose’s new sobriquet) and a slew of talent that made Double or Nothing shine, the event should go more smoothly than the disaster from which AEW based this shows’s portmanteau. Being free to watch on Bleacher Report, it should bring in a lot of eyes. From there, they’ve got two big events later in the summer. All of that, of course, will be followed by the aforementioned TV deal.
None of that information is really all that revelatory. If you just watch the presser they did the week leading up to Double or Nothing, Cody Rhodes et. al stated as much. They also committed to basically being an antithesis of the WWE – a brand that focuses more on wrestling and less on scripted promos; generally trying to appeal to a smaller subsection of “hardcore” wrestling fans, which serves as a serious juxtaposition to the WWE mega-brand that tries to generate appeal across all ages and demographics.
That’s the easy answer. The difficult answer is a little more difficult to sift out, largely because of that last sentence. The WWE, much to the chagrin of all internet wrestling fans, isn’t folding any time soon. Not with their recent nine figure TV deals and billion riyal Saudi super showdowns. But those types of deals tend to slow companies down. Worried about appeasing investors is one of the big downfalls of any major company, and the dub is now totally beholden to many people who have no idea how the wrestling industry works. Nobody in their right mind would want to see Goldberg actually wrestle the Undertaker in 2019, but when you’re a literal prince you get what you want regardless of how little sense it makes. Having two separate brands but having as many superstars on whichever shows is pretty dumb, unless you’re a television network who doesn’t like Roman Reigns. The name War Raiders might be a great fit for a tag team, but when you’re trying to promote a family product your hands are tied with what verbiage you can use.
History is littered with companies who were the biggest and best for a time, but who were eventually buried alive by smaller, more nimble competitors. Google was not the first search engine. Amazon didn’t invent online shopping. Hell, even the WWF used to be a small, regional territory before it became the behemoth it is now. Though the WWE and it’s otherworldly six billion dollar market cap are on top of the game now, there’s no guarantee that’s what the future will bring.W e’ve seen that status threatened before and this is as good a chance the worm has had to turn in a long time.
That’s the challenge that AEW is going to face moving forward. Things are definitely easy now: the fans are hungry for a foil to the WWE, expectations for revenue and profit are low, and there are no investors other than Tony Kahn to which the upstart company is currently working to please. As time moves forward, those things will change, and we’ll see whether or not this gamble is going to pay off. No one can argue that they’re not off to a great start, but WCW was red hot for a while and eventually flamed out before being gobbled up by the WWE. ECW suffered the same fate. TNA, though it still exists with a different name, never really got off the ground.
AEW could try to exist in a nice, small bubble like Ring of Honor or New Japan Pro Wrestling, but that doesn’t seem to be their plan. Whether or not you like it, you have to respect the moves they’re making. And, since we’re talking about betting, mine is that they’re not done yet. All Out could be a cute play on words, but my guess is that this is where they truly push their chips in the middle. Their TV deal is slated to kick off this fall, and they’re going to need to generate some major buzz before that happens. There’s a cult of personality available that can do that for him, and he lives just down the road from the Sears Centre. If his static hits on August 31st, the odds on this bet are really going to change.