Of all the facepalms I could make, the last few weeks deserve an Andre the Giant sized slap. When the narratives of wrestling fans are built and believed solely on lies, it makes all of us look bad. The amount of garbage that gullible people will believe these days is downright frightening.
The internet is just a miserable place, isn’t it?
Now there are narratives on both sides of the coin when given both major wrestling promotions-
No, you know what? There really isn’t. Because many online wrestling fans can’t seem to think outside of a hive mindset, the trend has narrowed the focus of fans ire into one company. It is far from the 50/50 “equal trolling on both sides” environment we were in circa 2020-21.
While obnoxiously boastful at first, many AEW fans have quieted down online. We know the product is in a rebounding stage, and that certain areas of the company need delicate work. We aren’t naive to this, but choose to stay loyal to the company, offer good faith criticism, and root for their success.
But what has tipped the scales in the current pro wrestling internet zeitgeist is the return of something we’ve seen nearly two decades ago:
The bandwagon trend of lambasting the No.2 wrestling company.
It’s TNA circa 2006-08 all over again. When the discourse was fairly toxic on wrestling forums (though not nearly as bad as it is now) and select entitled WWE fans would look down at TNA fans and offer little insight and constructive criticism in favor of constant bullying and trolling.
On a Personal Note
My personal opinion? I believe this sect of fans simply shifted from complaining/trolling about WWE to TNA, back to WWE and then to AEW. I believe a large portion of jaded and disingenuous WWE fans pre-2020 simply wanted AEW to be a better version of WWE, and to not actually form their own identity or style. Once it was clear that AEW wasn’t going that route, and the WWE product became hot, everyone started to pile on the ‘AEW Hate’ bandwagon.
Now granted, and this is the part most will conveniently forget, not all WWE fans are like this. There are really cool WWE fans that either quietly respect the differences in product and don’t watch (or troll), or understand that AEW is an alternative and will view it through such a lens. Or actually enjoy both.
As for me? I’m just an AEW fan speaking truth. I very rarely watch WWE at all, and will sort of check-in from a distance. I have my own personal criticisms of the product as well. Mainly that the overproduced and sanitized presentation of the product takes away from the suspension of disbelief in a product centered around a “fight”. It’s family-friendly, and very kid-friendly, and that’s just not my scene. If you like it, cool. But it’s not really for me at this point in my life.
But speaking of narratives…
There exists a group of low-grade false narratives that need to be locked into portable toilets and set on fire. One of which has been spoken of recently, and that can be debunked with simple statistics.
The disingenuous notion that AEW is “TNA 2.0”.
What a brave and thought-provoking take! A take no doubt regurgitated from the depths of the IWC’s darkest basements. Note of digression: Why do AEW fans get looped into being low-income “basement dwellers” when studies show that AEW fans actually have the highest median income compared to WWE?
According to a Wrestlenomics report, the majority of college-educated viewers, and those with higher median incomes, tune into AEW over WWE.
“Despite good viewership, FOX dropped WWE Smackdown because high level advertisers are not interested in buying ad space on wrestling shows due to low income and education levels among the viewership.”
Hmm…but we’re the basement dwellers living with our parents, according to many bad faith trolls…
It’s too bad this terrible reactionary take that ‘AEW is TNA 2.0′ is wrong on all levels, which can be disproven with a simple set of facts. Who actually believes this? Bad faith wrestling fans, and unfortunately, they’re growing in size…
Let’s take a look at TNA’s roster from 2005-2008, which many find to be TNA’s nostalgic heyday. When we look at the rosters, we find that anywhere from 35-50% of the roster makeup is of former WWE talents. This trend largely continues, even through the 2010s.
As for AEW, that number drops to around 25% or less. That’s right, nearly 3/4s of the entire roster are “original”/non-WWE AEW talents.
Facts are oblivious to narratives.
But what about title-holders? They have to be pushing ex-WWE talents, right? Well let’s look at TNA from 2002-2017 and their world champions. Jeff Jarrett, Sting, Kurt Angle, Ron Killings, Ken Shamrock, Bully Ray, Jeff Hardy. Rob Van Dam, Bobby Lashley, etc. Original TNA talent, right? Original talents like Samoa Joe and A.J. Styles as champions were few and far between in this era.
Out of 21 reigns in the NWA World Championship era of TNA (2002-07) only 4 were “original” talents. When re-branded into the TNA/Impact World Championship from 2007-2017, not even a quarter of championship reigns were held by “original” TNA talents. They were mostly imported from Stamford.
As for AEW, in their entire title history, not even 40% have been former WWE talents. Out of 10 current title holders, only 4 are “ex-WWE”. Three of which have been long since repackaged.
So to circle back: Unlike TNA, AEW has nearly three-fourths of their roster as original/non-WWE talent, and this reflects in their title history, unlike TNA. But I know the next argument:
“But they’re pushing all ex-WWE talents!”
A Look Back at Main Events
You’ll notice a trend when you revisit monthly PPV main events for TNA in their history. They were largely headlined by Kurt Angle, Jeff Jarrett, Sting, and Christian Cage. At least until around 2009-10 when they shifted to A.J. Styles, Rob Van Dam, Jeff Hardy, and Mr. Anderson as headliners.
As for AEW, with the exception of Jericho and Moxley for the first 2 years, it’s been a healthy mix of original talent and established veterans. In fact out of the top 10 AEW wrestlers to appear on PPVs the most, only Jericho and Moxley make up “ex” WWE talent on that list.
In fact, even the large majority of AEW Dynamite main events in 2023 were statistically headlined by original/non-WWE talent. This information is not hard to find…
But one main event with Adam Copeland and Christian Cage and suddenly AEW is becoming TNA 2.0? This sounds like the rantings of complete marks with reactionary takes who can’t be bothered to actually watch the product to begin with in order to stay desperately relevant in the IWC.
AEW is doing nothing different than what WWE has done at times. You don’t think WWE has featured old hands in their main events on occasion? Copleland/Edge was literally headlining shows for WWE earlier this year.
Oh, but it’s okay when they do it, right?
Regular viewers know that the Continental Classic has been taking up most of the shows lately, as well as the clear push of Swerve Strickland. Again, for those who actually watch the program instead of coming up with half-baked reactionary takes, this isn’t news. And to hammer this point home, the large majority of all matches on all shows (Dynamite/Collision/Rampage) are made up of mostly original talents. All you have to do is actually watch — or at the least — do a basic level of research. These weekly cards aren’t hard to find…
To make such a statement otherwise is just downright dishonest.
Tony Khan is Not Dixie Carter
Sure, TNA drew well over a million viewers, and even over 2 million once in their day. But we all know that’s a different time when it comes to TV ratings. Anyone with half-a-brain understands that people are watching television much differently than they were 15 years ago.
In fact, while TNA was getting outwatched by nearly four times as many WWE viewers, TNA failed to maintain the top cable spot for their designated night even once throughout their tenure on SpikeTV (if I’m not mistaken).
AEW Dynamite has regularly hit the #1 spot on cable television for their night, and usually hovers in the top 3-5 consistently. Again, folks are watching TV differently now.
Aside from that, they are on a major network in TBS/TNT. While SpikeTV drew decent numbers in their day, the network pales in comparison to the reach that Warner Brothers/Discovery has. And aside from that, we know that Dixie Carter simply did not have the deep pockets that Tony Khan does.
Hell, TNA never really even made money given their primetime spot. AEW, on the other hand, has been taking in a hundreds of millions for this year, growing their revenue by 67% compared to 2022. While recent reports from Wrestlenomics have AEW losing money overall this year, if you understand how business works, this isn’t an issue.
Solidifying your market with a focus on cash flow over accounting losses is very common in larger businesses that become extremely successful in the future. Growing revenue year-over-year is what you want as a business, regardless.
Sorry, marks. AEW is actually still growing, even if misleading and dishonest pictures of hard cam shots on social media try to tell you otherwise. (I’ll wait for the inevitable comments from armchair “experts” that ticket sales are down year-over-year, so AEW must be failing, when ticket sales make up a small portion of overall revenue)
And let’s be honest, TNA never broke records and nearly filled Wembley Stadium.
Only a disingenuous and uneducated wrestling fan truly believes that AEW is just another version of TNA. When you break it down in tl;dr terms:
-AEW’s roster is mostly all original talent.
-AEW draws in good TV ratings and delivers the top cable TV spot (or close to) consistently for their night (unlike TNA).
-They have an A+ roster when it comes to talent; arguably better than WWE’s even.
-AEW continues to grow, tour, and does good numbers with PPVs (All In/Wembley, Double or Nothing, etc.) – TNA never really packed larger arenas.
-Most AEW main events/weekly matches feature their young, original stars.
Most importantly, they have always favored a heavy in-ring focus over sports entertainment. With the exception of the X-Division, TNA never really hammered on this notion. TNA was called ‘WWE-Lite’ so many years for a reason.
Narratives are fine, until they fall apart when they’re based on complete fabrications. It’s sort of like the conspiracy nuts who still believe the 2020 Election was stolen. It may have sounded sexy at first to the right people – but then once the facts started to drip, and the 60+ court cases of fraud were dismissed due to a lack of evidence to begin with – it totally fell apart.
And now most who still believe this are tin-foil hat-wearing kooks.
Believing in these false narratives when direct evidence points to the contrary is an example of stunted growth. It’s an inability to evolve. Above all, though, it’s just really low-effort.
But these narratives can be reckless, and end up hurting pro wrestling as a whole. AEW is not TNA, or WCW, or New Japan. They are simply AEW.
Author’s note: I was actually planning on stopping this. However, a change of heart, and the fact that people can’t seem to keep my name out of their mouth leads me here. Again. Hell, Tito has retired how many times? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Meh. Just have fun with it…I don’t owe anyone here anything.