In general, professional wrestling can be many things. AEW, WWE, New Japan, Impact, ROH, DDT, AAA, MLW –> they all have uniquely different styles, even with some sharing talent between each other.
There is no “right” way to do wrestling. Different styles exist, and you like what you like.
But let’s take a look at the major two global promotions (AEW/WWE). When you examine the differences between the two, they are staggering, and it puts a larger perspective on the endless amount of avoidable tribalism that exists in the fan bases. Extreme wrestling tribalism is utterly useless, serves no purpose, and just makes all of us look bad.
With that being said, let’s dig into this further and point out ten differences between AEW and WWE that many fans should consider before (to put it bluntly) making stupid comments on social media.
-This one goes without saying. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this, but you’re just going to get more bell-to-bell wrestling with AEW. In WWE, you’re going to get a lot of “sports entertainment”. There’s no wrong or right way to enjoy your wrestling; but it’s important to know what you’re getting with either product. I don’t expect 20-minute opening promos on Dynamite, and nobody should expect 20-minute bangers on Raw. It’s just not in the recipes.
WWE: Weekly Branded Rosters (you’re likely to see the same superstars every week)
AEW: Rotating Roster (you won’t see the same wrestlers every week)
-With WWE brands, you usually have stars specific to Raw, Smackdown and NXT. In AEW, a roster of 100 is simply too much for 3 weekly hours of television (a problem that needs to be addressed soon). So talent rotates. You may miss your favorite wrestler one week, but rest assured, they’ll likely be back the next. If anything, they may appear on AEW Dark or Elevation for a week or two.
For some, this is refreshing to see new talent rotated in and out; but for others, they may want to see their favorite stars literally every week. Either way, a difference is notable here.
WWE: House Shows/Live Events
AEW: No House Shows/Most talent allowed to take independent bookings
-On May 21st, Malakai Black, Ethan Page, and Danhausen will be performing at an ACW show in Wisconsin. This is fairly common. Instead of house shows, Khan lets a chunk of his talent take independent bookings to remain in-ring ready, and in my opinion, give back to the overall wrestling community. It’s great to see larger-than-life wrestlers appearing here and there at smaller shows.
You’ll rarely, if ever, see WWE talent end up at local Indies shows on occasion, likely due to contractual restrictions and a rigorous touring schedule.
WWE: Short-term Storylines
AEW: Long-term Storylines
-WWE will often blow through feuds, though not all the time. Heel-turns tend to come quickly, and plot devices move fast. AEW, on the other hand, likes the slow-burn. Sometimes this works out well (Page/Omega, MJF/Wardlow), and sometimes, we’re waiting, and waiting, and waiting…(Julia Hart will turn heel one day, right?) – Again, this is just two different styles of storytelling. You get to decide which one floats your boat. There are positives and negatives to both.
WWE: Publicly Traded (keep those shareholders happy!)
AEW: Privately Owned (keep the network happy!)
-Self explanatory. Vince McMahon wants to cast the widest net to catch the largest audience. On the other hand, Tony Khan understands that his product will appeal to a large enough fanbase to keep the networks happy with TV ratings, as well as solid ticket sales — but no board or shareholders to ultimately answer to. It makes a difference when it comes to certain levels of creative freedom between the two.
Fans should come to expect a more corporate product with WWE compared to AEW. That doesn’t mean it’s worse off, but may appeal more to the casual viewer.
WWE: Demographic: Kids to Adults
AEW: Demographic: Teens to Adults
-WWE will appeal to a larger demographic with flashy graphics, more cartoonish characters, and a slower-pace of wrestling. This is generally a PG product with how it’s written and presented. AEW will give you higher workrates, some blood and guts, swearing, and generally less pomp and flash. And yes, some cartoonish gimmicks, but Love That Danhausen — However, it’s not really a PG product, and carries the TV14 label.
Edgier doesn’t always mean better, but being overly polished and sanitized isn’t great either. There are pluses and minuses with both. Luckily, nobody can tell you what to like — pick what floats your boat.
WWE: Casual Fans
AEW: Hardcore Fans
-A lot of WWE fans don’t care about New Japan, Stardom, or even Impact Wrestling. They just care about their own universe. That’s cool; but a lot of AEW fans are smart to the industry and follow various independent and overseas promotions beyond AEW. Again, there’s no wrong way to watch wrestling here, but some fans simply have long sought beyond the WWE universe, and are educated to other industry names and promotions.
Nobody has to do this. You can choose to remain within one universe, or explore others — but it’s a difference that should be noted with how AEW and WWE is presented to their fan bases.
WWE: Monthly PLEs
AEW: Quarterly PPVs
-With the exception of Forbidden Door, AEW only runs larger events four time a year. This makes for longer title reigns and higher stakes matches. WWE, on the other hand, has the room to play with more matches and shorter title reigns with more PLEs. To be honest, I would prefer AEW to go to six (and stay there) events per year, but I may be in the minority.
This does affect how the product is booked and written on both ends, and it’s a difference worth noting.
WWE: No Talent Exchanges
AEW: Talent Exchanges
-It’s not uncommon to see AEW stars pop up in other promotions. Sammy Guevara and Tay Conti recently captured the AAA World Mixed Tag Team Championships at Triplemania. Moxley makes appearances in New Japan here and there, and Impact, NWA, NJPW, DDT, and AEW have all exchanged talent many times over the years. DDT’s Konosuke Takeshita recently appeared on Dynamite against AEW World Champion “Hangman” Adam Page.
WWE doesn’t do this, but it points to a larger narrative that AEW is willing to embrace the existence of other wrestling promotions around the world. McMahon and his shareholders likely just don’t want to take the risk of cross-promoting to protect their talent and brand, and that’s perfectly okay.
WWE: Wrestlers are WWE Intellectual Properties
AEW: Wrestlers have Creative Control Over Their Characters
-As we have seen with dozens of name changes and gimmick changes, WWE likes to brand their talent as an exclusive WWE property. AEW, on the other hand, gives their talent the creative freedom to form their own gimmicks and characters.
Predictably, some may see a problem with this. Either you should have an experienced hand “look over” your character to help form it better, or perhaps you should have the freedom to do what you want with it. This is totally left up to preference, but this is a major difference in how talent is handled and assessed between the two promotions.
Wrestling Tribalism is Stupid
Did I miss any? Clearly, these are two very different companies. So why would a fan of WWE comment negatively on an AEW news item, or page, when the company simply isn’t for them? This goes both ways as well for many anti-WWE fans.
That’s like getting mad at Star Wars fans for liking Star Wars when you like Star Trek. Or if you have some weird beef or rivalry with one or the other. Yeah, they’re both sci-fi, but philosophically much different entertainment products. It’s a complete waste of time and energy to be negative about one or the other. And yes, there is a difference between straight trolling and constructive criticism.
If this is still you, as the great Michael Jordan once said: Stop it, get some help. These are two very different companies for two different fan bases. So let’s be civil towards each other and start acting like adults, eh?