What's Next For All Elite Wrestling? Submitted by Justin Watry on 06/05/2019 at 10:46 PM
May 25th, 2019.
An ordinary Saturday night for most of the world but for wrestling fans, it was the beginning of a new era. A new era that has lots of promise and lots of hype but also a new era that is not guaranteed to last very long. While I have been 'all in' on All Elite Wrestling since their promotion was arrived, things finally became real in Las Vegas over Memorial Day Weekend. We finally saw a product. Not just any product but a product with buzz, excitement, and one heck of a lunatic fringe leading the charge. Now that the dust (ha!) has somewhat settled from the Double Or Nothing pay-per-view, let's take a look at where things stand...
How was the Double Or Nothing PPV on Saturday? - Truth be told, I was watching my Milwaukee Bucks collapse in the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs. I had attended Game 5 two days before and with that loss, it was only inevitable what was next: their elimination. A devastating blow for Wisconsin sports fans all over the state. Still, I kept an eye on Twitter. It didn't matter I had to wake up Sunday morning at 6am for work. Who cares? I had a Bucks playoff game to watch and the upstart AEW ready to take over the wrestling world. While my opinion on the actual quality of the show is useless. Again, I didn't see it. Those who did see it had nothing but good things to say, including The 411 Foresight Wrestling Podcast's very own Steve Madsen. He said it was killer. I believe him and will discuss more later this week on the podcast. Luckily, we had already run down the card LAST WEEK for your listening pleasure.
Wait, you actually previewed All Elite Wrestling? - Yes, indeed. Not only that, but my worthless opinion pegged Cody, Chris Jericho, and Hangman Page as winners. Not bad, huh?
Okay, enough! Any thoughts on the show even if you didn't see it? - I have a ton of thoughts. Most will be talked about on the podcast in a few days, but here are some quick hits:
I liked the Awesome Kong surprise. Very cool. Hopefully just as a special attraction and not a regular roster member though.
I dug the Hangman Page thing. With the 'de-Pac-le' leading into the event canceling his big match, there had to be a Plan B. Well, that was great. Not sure if this counts as inside information, but he is their star in the making. Not Kenny Omega. Not Cody. Not even Jon Moxley. AEW is for Page going forward. Again, listen to the podcast.
I loved the post-match scene with Cody and Dustin. Again, didn't see it. All reports say it was great, but I am just talking about the respectful hug and brotherly tag team partnership after a bloody bout. Super cool writing there. Kudos.
I was a big fan of Chris Jericho over Kenny Omega. Yeah, I called it...but that was the right move. The two are now tied up and can battle once more, but most importantly - the biggest legend name in the company is Jericho. Even if he does tend to over rate himself (mainstream sports announcer mispronouncing his name on primetime TNT had to suck), it is the truth. AEW and TNT will want him center stage leading into the Fall. Omega will always be beloved and cheered by their diehard audience, so no harm was done there.
Last but not least, I enjoyed seeing Jon Moxley back. All you that told me him leaving was a 'work' can apologize below. Since January, I was told by someone I trust he was GONE and wrote about it multiple times throughout the past four months. Not debating. Not wavering. Not thinking about it. Nope. He was gone and hitting the road, the road to All Elite Wrestling. Obviously a big crowd reaction for him debuting and a major spark to the company that needed something massive to end the pay-per-view.
Is this just another AEW lovefest column? Tell us something you disliked... - Well, again, I did not see the actual PPV. However, yes, there were a few minor things I could complain about:
The Elite crew coming out on the Buy In pre-show felt like an ego stroke. With the company pretty much named after them, they will have to tone that down a bit.
Mike Tyson was backstage. Personally, I didn't care. However, where are all the cries about AEW having a past felon backstage, just as another company has done numerous times? You bash others for cheering that behavior on. Well? Don't be hypocrites.
The cheap shots worked for this ONE pay-per-view, but I still find it petty and second rate. Cody mocking the King of Kings Throne entrance? Fine. Seemed like sour grapes. Inflating the attendance? Okay, let's wait a year when they have to run weekly events and go back to this joke. There were more in the leadup; I get it...I just sense it will turn me off in a few months if it continues. Focus on YOUR product.
Then there was the 'old' veteran beating the younger current star in his prime, while an invading highly paid big star took out everyone to end the pay-per-view. If this happened in Impact, you know the complaints would be running rampant. All the "LOLTNA" memes would follow. It happened in AEW and nothing.
Admittedly small things but may add up over time. We shall see. Mostly a positive show by reading the results. When I actually get around to watching, I can say more about the quality and matches.
Alright, alright. What did we all learn about AEW after Saturday night? - Honestly, nothing. That may be a boring answer, but we already knew they had a stacked roster. We already knew they were capable of attracting big free agents due to their bankroll, friends and TNT primetime slot. We already knew they had great wrestling action. We already knew Jim Ross would be on commentary. We already knew the fans would be rabid and HOT. We already knew the story of All Elite Wrestling taking on the establishment. Nothing from Saturday night was 'new' or anything we didn't already know.
Really? Then when do we learn something Mr. Know It All Jerk? - Good question invisible narrator. We won't learn anything until the Fall. Running a one off super show in a major city with a weekend host of conventions is obviously going to sell out and do amazing business. Exactly why a show like WrestleMania can draw 80,000 fans and get fans from all over the world to attend but get nowhere near that on a consistent basis. It's special. It's rare. It is a once per year kinda deal. Now do it once a month. Or every two months. Or whatever. You will notice a drop in attendance, a drop in buzz, a drop in anticipation, a drop in surprises, a drop in match quality, a drop in star power, a drop in business overall. AEW has done a masterful job in hyping up their one big pay-per-view each year. That is a far cry from being a weekly touring brand for a two hour weekly show. A far cry. That will be determined come October and then moving forward. Until then, it will be a few more 'one off' buzz worthy super shows, with each getting less and less hype.
Bottom line: What is next for AEW after Double Or Nothing? - My plan when writing this column was to ask around the industry and post the best replies from multiple independent wrestlers. However, AJ Kirsch provided such a perfect reply after the AEW on TNT announcement was made public that I didn't even bother with anybody else. He summed it all up perfectly.
"WWE is still the top of the mountain. But the most exciting part of today's announcement is that WWE is no longer alone on this mountain.
AEW staking their claim on TNT is monumental for sports-entertainment, professional wrestling, however you choose to address the performance art. This isn't just some punk promotion populated by aging athletes with fading name recognition on a network no one's heard of. This feels different, different enough that I and many others both in and around the business are very, very excited. Speaking for myself, I'm far more excited about wrestling as a whole - as a business and as an art - than I have been in a long, long time. With WWE SmackDown LIVE moving to Fox and AEW coming to TNT, it feels like a seismic shift is on the horizon. Though I think it's too early to tell which direction that shift will go, a shift is coming. That, in itself, is something I'm not sure I'd ever see again since WWE purchased its competition in 2001.
I sincerely doubt anyone will ever replace WWE as the top brand in professional wrestling. I think it would take an unprecedented catastrophic meltdown creatively and internally for that to happen. It will be indescribably refreshing as a fan to have an alternative that can compare with WWE as far as presentation and (hopefully) production value. And as someone who works in professional wrestling, it's also a breath of fresh air to feel like WWE is no longer the only place to go if you want to make a comfortable living in professional wrestling in the United States.
I'm extremely curious to see if the groundswell of support for AEW by a very vocal, albeit tiny-by-comparison-to-WWE fan base continues as more and more events start coming down the pike. Each event has felt unique and special thus far with detailed, deliberate builds, and it's up to AEW to make sure that bloom doesn't come off the rose by the time they're on TNT. The support for AEW on social media has been nothing short of titanic. Retweets and hastags and buying shirts is all great to build buzz. But will that willingness from the fans still be there when it's time to drop $49.99 on a pay-pre-view event when WWE offers something like 10,000 hours and every single PPV event for under ten bucks a month? The pressure's really on AEW to make their fans feel like they got the most out every cent.
But, again - just the fact that someone else is now climbing up that mountain, someone that clearly has the attention of the folks on the summit, is one giant step in the right direction.
I became a devoted fan in March, 1996 just a few months before the birth of the nWo, just a few months before "Austin 3:16" was born. That was an extremely exciting time for wrestling. But I truly believe, within the next year, I'll find myself saying "there has never been a more exciting time for wrestling."
Well said. Thank you sir. Regardless of what is next, the wrestling world will be watching. Time to be elite. Be, be elite.