‘Paid for by Tony Khan’
WWE versus AEW. It’s not a stretch to say that large chunks of these fan bases are divided…But why?
A reader last week made a wonderful comment from my last article regarding World Wrestling Entertainment as a kids-based content-factory:
“You could be a fan of Iron Maiden and not like metal, that doesn’t make you a metal head.”
This statement is 100% on point. My wife has gone to many metal concerts with me over the years, and may even enjoy a few songs from an artist here and there — but she’s not remotely a metalhead.
What has traditionally defined what professional wrestling since the days of the Gold Dust Trio circa 1920s is much different than what it is now. From across the globe, different infusions of wrestling have been enjoyed by millions of fans through the decades. Lucha Libre, Strong-Style, Catch Wrestling, Death Match, etc. — the list goes on.
The question I pose is thus:
Can you say you’re a fan of video games if you’ve only played Super Mario Bros.?
Can you consider yourself a fan of Mexican food if you’ve only eaten at Taco Bell (which isn’t really Mexican at all)? Do you consider yourself a football fan if you only watch the Super Bowl, and not the regular season, nor college? In the same light, do you consider yourself a pro wrestling fan if you only watch one promotion?
I know what you’re thinking…
Perhaps you don’t have the time to watch multiple promotions and just stick with what you know. Or maybe you don’t know how to watch other promotions from around the country (or have cable television).
But the point remains…
If you ONLY watch WWE, are you a fan of pro wrestling, or a just fan of WWE?
History in the Making
You could say that the WWE fanbase’s negativity towards AEW comes from a place of disliking the sometimes outspoken AEW fanbase. I think this goes both ways. However, let’s look at three simple points:
- WWE has had a monopoly over the industry for nearly two decades before AEW’s arrival.
- Many WWE fans have historically treated TNA, ROH, and other smaller promotions with condescension.
- The ‘WWE-Style’ is a small portion of what professional wrestling actually is.
The ‘WWE-Style’ — Slower paced, more dramatic and colorful, very formulaic. In fact, Al Snow listed his own ‘Seven Deadly Steps’ of a WWE match. Snow’s 7 steps are paraphrased below, taken from a Reddit post:
Babyface shine – The face of the match looks good by doing a few moves to the heel.
Heat spot – Heel cuts the face off with some big impressive moves. Snow says the problem is that the heel will do a good-looking move and the face will oversell, thus shifting the crowd to side with the heel.
Extensive Heel Beatdown – Snow implies that a lot of the time it kills the match because of the constant selling, leading to…
The Hope Spot -It looks like the face will bounce back and the heel cuts him off. Again, the heel cuts the face off one more time.
The Double Down – Where both guys will take a hit and sell for a long time.
The Comeback – The face fights back against a heel that will stop defending himself.
The Finish/False Finishes – This is the first time that either guy will try to win the match. After ten minutes, only now will you see a pinfall attempt that has a chance to end the match.
While elements of this list exist within every wrestling style, when you see this list, combined with the traditional slow-moving, over-dramatic, made-for-TV style of WWE, you really can’t unsee it.
This leads to bigger problems over literal decades of wrestling fandom…
Summer of Punk 2.0
When guys like CM Punk and Bryan Danielson came to prominence in WWE, it truly was a ‘voice of the voiceless’ scenario at the time. In his infamous ‘pipebomb’ promo, Punk was speaking to a lot of fans like myself — fans who were tired of the formula and knew that more (and better) wrestling existed outside of the WWE universe.
But the problem lies in the fact that little alternatives truly existed. Yes, Impact (early TNA days), Ring of Honor, PWG, and New Japan gave fans like us a fix, but usually without easy access and a ‘big match’ feel (sans NJPW). Impact’s quality after Hogan and Bischoff showed up sent it into an unwatchable shit-show, and Ring of Honor kept losing talent left and right…
We often wondered, “what if we could just have the Indies-influenced, melting pot of wrestling styles in WWE?” — a reality that would simply never come to fruition.
…and then Vince started to raid the Indies… Tyler Black, Jon Moxley, Tommy End, Gargano & Ciampa, A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe, Drew McIntyre (2.0), Matt Riddle, Ricochet, and a plethora of names not mentioned here.
Suddenly, guys coming from promotions that many WWE diehards would shit on because they didn’t have the payroll that Vince McMahon had, were showing up on WWE television.
…and they did mostly absolutely nothing with the large majority of them…(sans a few sporadic examples)
And enter Tony Khan. A fan like me…but who happens to be a billionaire. He prefers the melting pot of strong-style, lucha, catch, death match, and everything in-between on the Indies. Once Cody Rhodes and the Bucks proved that the fanbase was out there that craved this shit after All In 2018, AEW was soon born.
We finally have it. A promotion to call our own. Watching WWE just isn’t the same, and for me, just looks more and more like a watered-down kids product.
And that cements the ultimate difference:
‘WWE-Only’ fans are not fans of professional wrestling, they are JUST fans of WWE. AEW fans ARE fans of professional wrestling in all forms and promotions — big and small.
This is why we know names like Orange Cassidy, Adam Page, Kenny Omega, Eddie Kingston, Darby Allin, MJF, and many other before they even arrived in AEW. We’re the diehards of professional wrestling, and we welcome the crossovers from any and every promotion possible.
But much like 15-20 years ago, we are again getting shit on when the promotion is UNDOUBTEDLY making waves in the industry. But where is it coming from?
Usually, the WWE-Only fans. The fans who don’t care to look beyond the WWE universe, or care to know anyone in the Indies scene. These same fans won’t likely even give AEW a chance because of the narrative already created in their heads:
“WWE is well-known, profitable, branded, comfortable, and it’s what I know. Therefore, everything else sucks.”
That’s not a wrestling fan, that’s a WWE fan.
I write this in hopes to end the debates and general animosity between fandoms. It DOES go both ways, and there’s no reason to bitch about WWE on social media when you KNOW who they are and what they do.
Much in the same way, there’s no reason why WWE fans need to throw shade at AEW simply for existing beyond their narrow scope of what they think pro wrestling is, or should be. They aren’t watching (or even keeping up with) MLW, NWA, ROH, Impact, Shimmer, GCW, New Japan, Dragon Gate, Stardom, NOAH, AAA, etc…
The fan bases are divided, because one portion loves World Wrestling Entertainment, and the other loves PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING. Let’s not get it confused, and just be honest with ourselves…