I don’t see the real competition [with AEW] because I think their fan base legitimately is a hardcore fan base. So there’s like a ceiling and a built-in ground to that viewership. [The WWE is] trying to connect with everyone. We’re trying to connect with the mainstream. We’re trying to pull in the casual fan. – Roman Reigns
“Roman Reigns lost in the key demographic to Ruby Soho, and Ruby Soho sucks so I don’t know what to tell you. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not me shitting on Roman Reigns. I think Roman Reigns is a hell of a performer, he really is. – Maxwell Jacob Friedman
So let’s get something out of the way. All Elite Wrestling IS competition. Just not in the way one would think. By mere definition, a business competitor is as follows:
“one selling or buying goods or services in the same market as another”
That’s it. It’s really that simple. Two wrestling companies with deep pockets and major TV deals means they are (without question) competing in the same market for viewership.
But this isn’t the same as it was during the Monday Night Wars, as there is a difference this time around. There are two different strategies employed that compete for fans in the same market — professional wrestling (or sports entertainment for you casuals).
But first, a quick rundown of times WWE has directly, or indirectly acknowledged their “competition”:
- NXT moves to Wednesday nights for…reasons…(then moves back to Tuesdays after failing to beat AEW in the ratings on a weekly basis).
- Sami Zayn mentions AEW on an episode of Monday Night Raw.
- Triple H refers to AEW as a “pissant” company during the 2019 Hall of Fame Ceremony.
- HBK mentions Billy Gunn as being “All In” moments later.
- During a 2020 investor call McMahon mentions that WWE won’t be going back to “Blood and Guts”.
- WWE offered Bryan Danielson the opportunity to work in Japan to keep him away from AEW.
- After AEW’s first Double or Nothing PPV, WWE sent an email to its subscribers informing them about a special episode of WWE Untold titled “The Failed Relaunch of WCW”
- After being out-sold in the NY market in October, WWE advertises Roman Reigns for Raw.
- (optional POV) – The barrage of celebrities and old-timers brought back for ratings boosters.
It doesn’t mean you have to like them, but to dismiss AEW as NOT competition, is simply lying to yourself. But let’s dive into what the Tribal Chief said in his quote for further context:
Again, let’s keep this simple:
World Wrestling Entertainment markets their product to kids and families. It’s something parents can take their children to. It’s safe, non-threatening, and the color of blood will always be in shades of black and white. As Reigns stated, the goal is to connect with the mainstream, and cast the widest net possible.
If you are a fan of WWE, please know two things:
- You are essentially watching Twilight and Mortal Instruments, when From Dusk Till Dawn and 30 Days of Night are out there. WWE shows are made for kids and young teens.
- It’s also okay to like kids shows. You do you.
But here’s the strategy:
AEW IS leaning on their hardcore fan base, like Reigns stated. The difference is that:
- AEW will likely keep their younger fans through the years. (I’ve seen so many kids in crowds dressed as Orange Cassidy or Darby Allin).
- They are using their hardcore base to slowly expand to the mainstream. (see: Punk, Danielson, Cole)
- They are building their stars of tomorrow (MJF, Allin, Guevara, Baker, Statlander, Garcia, Adam Page, Jade Cargill, Jamie Hayter, Tay Conti, Pillman Jr., The Acclaimed, etc…)
Hence, the initial 3-year TNT deal before the Jan. 2022 move to TBS (a bigger network than TNT ratings wise). This is why AEW continues to outsell WWE at a faster pace in bigger markets like Chicago and New York. As of now, November’s Full Gear is selling tickets faster than Survivor Series – one of WWE’s Big 4.
More Ratings Discussion
Yeah, let’s go there…
While folks can downplay the 18-49 demo ratings all they want, the truth is that this group is what advertisers want. These are viewers more likely to have disposable income that advertisers care to market to. This is made especially true since the same demographic are cutting the cord and moving to streaming services at higher rates than ever, so this makes the group still watching cable TV extremely valuable.
But I have also mentioned this before that ratings really do not matter when it comes to the quality and context of the products. Your enjoyment of WWE or AEW shouldn’t be based off of ratings.
For me, AEW’s continued victories in the 18-49 demographic just ensures that they’ll be around for a long time and continue to land future TV deals. That’s not just a win for me as an AEW fan, but a win-win for the wrestling industry.
The Hater’s Ball
Still, many WWE fans refuse to see AEW as a competition. It’s as if they want AEW to fail. Why would anyone WANT AEW to fail (sans Vince)? Why is the idea of having competition upset you so much?
Are you so simple-minded that you have to have your wrestling given to you by a large conglomerate to be told what to like and who to cheer for? Does it irk you that there’s a party that everyone is at, that you were invited to, but don’t want to go?
Can you not see that acknowledging competition makes BOTH products better? There will never be another Monday Night War again due to logistics, but suffice it to say, both companies brought their A-game when they knew they had to compete with one another.
It’s not hard to see the companies for who they are, what they are trying to accomplish, and just wish success for both. Yes, it CAN be that easy.
In summary, AEW is competition. Read above. Deal with it. This is how I conclude this piece. Have a great weekend!