Author’s note: Top 5 Wrestling forever. I get it; I have more pseudonym changes like the Big Show had heel turns. As someone who just values his privacy, I never quite landed on a great pen name through far too many than I can count. My writing style hasn’t changed, however. So for the readers that recognize my style and can respect my privacy — thank you.
This is a question I’m not sure many have dug into. Many anti-AEW accounts exists on social media for the sole purpose of trolling the product (as if they have nothing else better to do) You likely know who they are, and they all have one thing in common. They heavily scrutinize All Elite Wrestling to giant shitposting levels.
And before you say it: Yes, I know it goes both ways. I have complained far too long about tribalism in the wrestling fandom. However, it truly seems like more flak is given to AEW than WWE.
Why is that?
Is it me, or does AEW specifically seem to be constantly under a microscope? Hell, some fans even gave Saraya shit for her return promo — and she even apologized for being a little rusty on the mic. But girl, it’s been five years — you don’t need to apologize to anyone.
Yet many in the IWC went after her.
And this goes for any botch, any spot-fest, any wrestler that maybe isn’t being booked correctly in the eyes of some, or even down to the eclectic quirks of Tony Khan.
So let’s explore this together. Why exactly is AEW so hyper-scrutinized?
LOL Cena Wins
Remember this? I surely do. It was a time where the IWC went after WWE heavily. During the year’s of Cena’s domination (even over the Nexus) I was one of those who just absolutely hated everything WWE was doing at this time.
This is one example, but I want to fairly point out that fans have given WWE their fair share of hyper-criticism over the last two decades. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much competition from 2002-2019. Sure, TNA had some bright spots, but you could hardly compare the two.
In my honest opinion, the downward WWE trajectory started in 2003, and as I latched on to Ring of Honor, Dragon Gate, TNA, and Shimmer – I was one of those who made almost everything WWE did an easy target. I admittedly trolled WWE to no end in these days.
So is it fair of me to think AEW is being put under a biased microscope far too much when many like myself did the same for well over 10 years?
Let’s keep exploring…
Dave Meltzer Sucks
I actually don’t think he sucks, and generally respect him as a long-time journalist and wrestling historian (even though I can admit he’s providing more opinion than news these days…).
But isn’t that one reason given for this hyper-scrutiny? Many who simply do not like Meltzer, Alvarez, and their clear (at least very cordial) friendship with The Young Bucks as proof of bias towards AEW. And perhaps they’re right.
It’s not like Dave is giving 5-star ratings to many WWE matches, right? Well, not so fast. He did give the Halloween Havoc main event between Bron Breakker, Ilja Dragunov, and JD McDonagh 4.75 stars.
But if you keep digging, you’ll find that many WWE stars have had many matches rated at least four stars or over since the early 2000s. Kurt Angle has had 53, Edge has had 22, Shawn Michaels 31, and even John Cena has had 18 matches rated four stars or above.
And he has given 11 WWE matches five-star ratings since 2010. To be fair, AEW has had 12 since its inception.
But the point is that it’s not like Meltzer purposely downgrades everything WWE does, and loves everything AEW does. Even if he has a little bias (and everyone has at least a little), it’s not a bad as one would think.
Yet some fans blame him for some kind of weird divide in the fandoms, and the anti-AEW sentiment is a response to that. I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that at all, as it’s not really based in any truth. Meltzer may have a hard-on for the AEW/New Japan style, but it’s not a single reason for AEW to be put under a critical microscope.
But let’s keep moving with this…
Tony Khan is an Easy Target
It’s a tired trope.
Tony Khan’s idiosyncrasies can lead to some internet fans to throw shade at him. He truly can come off as a wide-eyed wrestling nerd, and some probably think of him as a coked out, easily duped mark for The Elite.
But ya’ll realize that not only is that extremely kid-brained, but probably not rooted in truth at all, right? At the end of the day, Khan has to answer to network executives while helping run multiple billion-dollar franchises.
I like Tony Khan. Yes, he’s a wrestling nerd that also happens to be a billionaire. No, he probably doesn’t have the same deep knowledge of the craft as a Paul Levesque, Paul Heyman, or even Jim Cornette.
But instead of tearing him down, why not root for the guy to get better? Everyone makes disasterous booking decisions. Hell, Vince McMahon had many booking blunders before stepping down. So I’d like to think that TK is learning from those around him, and while he’s had some misses, he’s also had some major hits as well.
If we’re being honest, I don’t see much of a difference in booking quality when we compare Levesque and Khan. There are some hits, some misses, and some mediocrity in between on both brands. We should note that both products present themselves much differently from each other, and context should be taken into consideration. AEW is presented as more of a pure wrestling product than WWE’s sports entertainment. There is crossover in both manners, but clear directions one way or the other.
But is this a sole reason for AEW to be hyper-scrutinized? Simply because the booker-man is young, nerdy, and is still learning on the job?
If so, it’s a pretty dumb reason. But I don’t think it’s that either…
Vince’s Conditioning Paradox (Part 1)
“WWE has conditioned their fans to reject everything they give them.” – Lance Storm (2015)
There was a point where McMahon decided to force whatever he wanted on WWE fans without listening to much, if any, feedback. We can all reminisce in the Rock/Roman Reigns moment at 2015’s Royal Rumble.
From ending the Summer of Punk in 2011 and Batista’s ill-received 2014 Royal Rumble win, to 2019’s Heck in a Cell ending in a DQ and Goldberg’s squash of Bray Wyatt the following year — there have been plenty of questionable decisions over the decade that seemed to spit in the faces of wrestling fans.
For many years, it seemed like McMahon would book angles in spite of his own viewers. For more times than I can count on my two hands, clear fan-favorites did not go over, NXT call-ups with high potential were buried on the main roster, and don’t you DARE get yourself over, Rusev!
There is a reason why so many talents ended up in AEW, regardless of how they’re being used now. Because for many years, your spot in WWE was rather inconsistent if your name wasn’t Roman Reigns, John Cena, Charlotte Flair, or Goldberg. Otherwise, you either remained in catering, B-shows, bad storylines, or possibly even released in efforts to create a “profitable” business quarter.
So loyal WWE fans, at least a solid portion, rejected the product. Even if they still watched, they rejected a lot of what they saw. But what else was there? Pre-2019, WWE was it.
Until they found something new to reject…
Vince’s Conditioning Paradox (Part 2)
Let’s create a scenario:
You’re a WWE fan in late 2018. You just received a public apology on Raw from the McMahon family because the product was awful (yes, this actually happened). Time passes, and nothing really changes.
You don’t really care to go anywhere else for wrestling. Perhaps you’re not an Indies fan, or don’t care for the wrestling coming out of Ring of Honor, Impact, New Japan and others. You’re jaded, but also used to the WWE style and presentation, and you just want WWE to get better.
Well this is different — but too different. It’s basically the Indies and Puroresu all rolled into one, but with high production value. The rabid Indies fans love it to the point where a legitimate TV deal is secured — but you really don’t know any of the talent aside from a few names.
The wrestling is faster and there is more of it. There is much less talking, and generally less “sports entertainment”. It doesn’t look like WWE at all.
Perhaps you’re not impressed? But AH, an opportunity!
You can now take your conditioned rejection for WWE, and apply it to AEW. In fact, you reject AEW so much that WWE starts to look formidable; even good. The loyalty grows, and these dumb wrestling journalists and Indies marks just don’t know any better.
WWE has always been there for you. It’s a safe, comfortable place. Fairly predictable, sometimes entertaining, but always safe. Wrestling personalities confirm your biases, too. Cornette, Ryback, Gilbertti, Booker T — they all find something to hate about AEW on a weekly basis.
And now you have a new target for your ire: Tony Khan, The Elite, and these “indy-riffic” AEW fans who don’t know shit about “true” wrestling, and watch a weekly outlaw mudshow.
The paradox is complete.
Now this doesn’t hold water for everyone. Please know this. There are plenty of jaded wrestling fans out there that aren’t impressed with either promotion. There are plenty of bad-faith marks in both fandoms.
But if we’re being honest about style, presentation, and booking styles — AEW and WWE are almost incomparable. I’ll bring the NFL metaphor back; some teams like to ground and pound and rely on the running game; some teams like to air it out and rely on the passing game — both ways can get you in the endzone.
But there’s a misunderstanding here, either legitimate or in ignorance. In truth, a critique of a brand should come in context of that product’s preferred style and presentation. Conditioned fans, or straight trolls simply don’t get this.
My tl;dr theory is thus:
Many WWE fans have been conditioned by past poor booking to hate and/or heavily critique the very product they watched for many years. However, when AEW came along, and they weren’t just a better version of WWE, the same fans instead turned their hate and criticism from WWE onto AEW.
When you only watch wresting one way for your entire life, you’re likely not going to want to see it in any other manner. When many fans never got into other alternatives over the last few decades, then only one acceptable style of wrestling exists (WWE).
I’ll end on the following quote:
“People fear what they don’t understand and hate what they can’t conquer.” – Andrew Smith
AEW isn’t going anywhere. They have the fan support to keep them alive well into the distant future. But the same fans who put their hate and critique into WWE for so long have had a new outlet to do so — and when you don’t understand, or simply dislike something — it’s easier to hate it, scrutinize it, and put it under the largest of microscopes.
I feel that this is the honest sentiment behind a chunk of the anti-AEW IWC trolls that have risen over the last 2 years. But what do you think? Level with me in the comments below, and thank you for reading.