“I am interested in the news that there is potentially a sales process and certainly, I think we’ve shown, when there are acquisitions and transactions, we’re capable of making the big purchases, whether my dad steps up with the (Jacksonville) Jaguars or Fulham FC in the Premier League and he’s done such a great job building up the club and putting resources into it and we’re playing football at a high level.” – Tony Khan
What if the unthinkable were to occur? The Khan family purchases WWE from Vince McMahon, who seems hell bent on destroying his own creation. What better way to give back to the wrestling community and answer to his many demons than to give up what he loves the most? Of course, we’re talking about Vince McMahon, who won’t even let his own capable daughter and son-in-law man the ship while he’s gone.
1) I personally do not want this to happen.
2) McMahon’s monopoly (2001-2019) has done long-term damage to the wrestling industry.
So what about a merger?
All of this is far-fetched, but it poses an interesting thought experiment. Would a AEW/WWE merger actually be best for business? I can argue that it actually would be — but it has to be done in a specific manner.
But before we do this; first, some football history.
Was the AFL/NFL Merger Best for Football?
It’s 1966. From humble beginnings, the American Football League has now risen into the public eye as a legitimate alternative to the National Football League after only six years of existence. This is in part to a few dynamics:
- An exciting, faster, pass-heavy style of play.
- A general “gritty” counter-culture attitude that appealed to the youth.
- The signing of big names from colleges that would have played for the NFL, otherwise (ex: Joe Namath).
The NFL was the “old guard” and the AFL was the future. The NFL was losing their own future stars to the AFL, as well as a chunk of healthy profit. The solution? Plan to merge the league into one by 1970.
However, after the NFL’s Green Bay Packers dominated the first two Super Bowls in 67′ and 68′, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle started to reconsider the entire merger. That is until Joe Namath took the New York Jets into Super Bowl III and upset the highly favored Baltimore Colts.
On January 12th, 1969, the Jets just didn’t win the Super Bowl for their fans; but the AFL as a whole. Yes, the AFL could compete with the NFL, and they were just as good. Kansas City’s Super Bowl IV win the following year cemented as such. The merger would continue, and by 1970, it was complete.
Are you seeing some parallels, here? You’d be crazy not to…
Why Would McMahon Even Do This?
Why would McMahon want to do this? A few reasons:
- WWE is extremely overvalued right now.
- They have been steadily losing fans since 2002.
- Their fan base is aging out.
To the first point, remember that Fox is set to lose over half a billion dollars on their TV deal for Smackdown. If you’re a potential buyer, you can’t have too much confidence in a product that pulls in the lowest ad rates on a major TV network such as Fox. You shouldn’t have confidence at an audience loss of well over half since 2005, and a median fan age (55 -years-old) out of the 18-49 demographic.
In addition, keep in mind that:
-Comcast posted over half a billion in losses for Peacock in 2022.
-Disney+ posted an operating loss of over $4 Billion in 2022, and $333 Million on average per fiscal quarter.
-Endeavor does not likely have the available liquid assets or net income to purchase WWE, even if desired.
-Fox wouldn’t likely buy it due to poor performance for Smackdown.
-Amazon posted a $834 Billion loss in stock and lost half of its value in 2022.
None of these companies are in a great place to make such a large purchase, unless the price of WWE (valued at nearly 8 Billion) drops to an exceedingly lower rate.
So unless he sells to the Saudi Arabia Investment Fund, which is a kind of death wish, his only option is not to sell at all — or — merge with another financially wealthy property.
Enter Tony and Shahid Khan.
A Merger Not in Name, but Spirit
A merger accomplishes a few things:
You open up the door to make more profit based on multiple shared IPs, as well as shareholder profits. If a merged company was kept public, the shareholder stock would likely skyrocket. However, much like the National Football League, an AEW/WWE merger could go private, as AEW currently is.
Both have the potential to make money from a business standpoint.
But unlike the AFL/NFL merger, you wouldn’t want AEW to become WWE. In fact, it makes more sense for WWE to become AEW in the larger corporate context. In fact, I wouldn’t want AEW’s name anywhere near WWE in any branding.
This wouldn’t become “AEW presents WWE Smackdown”. But perhaps at the end of WWE programming, as the show fades to black at the bottom of the screen, you might see something along the lines of:
‘Ⓒ AEW/WWE or Ⓒ AEWWE’ — or something of the like. Similar to AOL/Time Warner, WarnerMedia/Discovery, and others.
And that would be it.
Raw, Smackdown, Dynamite, Rampage — it’s all kept separate. But there would be advantages aside from the potential to make more money.
An AEW/WWE New Board of Directors
This is an National Wrestling Alliance board meeting from many decades ago. In similar fashion, what if both companies took the best wrestling minds from around the world to form one large board?
This is if the company goes private, in this scenario. Or, if public, they exist outside of shareholder influence.
Tony Khan and Vince McMahon would of course be on this board. However, add in Paul Heyman, Paul Levesque, William Regal, Takaaki Kidani (New Japan owner), Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, (more on these later), David Sahadi (Impact Wrestling), and yes, even Jim Cornette.
This board serves as a way to share ideas, form strategies for the future, and carve out an entirely new way to do professional wrestling. It could also become a way to vote on, and name, an actual world champion, much like how it was done back then.
Yes, there would also be a world champion that would be competed over from talents of both companies. More on this later as well.
This is the start. A meeting of the great wrestling minds to do what is best for both sets of fan bases, and companies. Through this would come even more changes for the better…
A Wrestling Workers Union
Shadowing the NFL and the NFLPA (players’ association), the merger would give wrestlers the opportunity to create a wrestling union.
Cody Rhodes and Kenny Omega have been long advocates of wanting what is best for the fans, and for wrestling talents. Other names in the industry that come to mind would be Xavier Woods, Seth Rollins, and Jon Moxley. Smart veterans that can advocate for the business and their promotion as a whole.
With an established wrestling union that advocates for wrestlers’ rights, the opportunities are endless. This could lead to safer working environments, less dates on the road, paid vacations, adequate and equal pay, and a larger share of PPVs/PLEs and merchandise.
As well as provided guaranteed healthcare.
Gone would be the phrase “Independent contractor”. These would be employees like any of us with guaranteed benefits and rights. Without the talent, there would be no show. It’s as simple as that, and a historic wrestling workers union would cement as such.
Potential Supercards and Crossovers
While both products would be kept separate, one can’t help to share talent on occasion. Doing an entire “re-draft” for wrestlers to split up into different promotions is an awful idea. However, cross-promoted shows, and the occasional WWE or AEW talent appearing on another show?
Most wrestling fans are smart. You can’t tell me that if Britt Baker made an appearance on a random Raw or Smackdown to confront Becky Lynch that the place wouldn’t literally explode. If The Usos popped into a Dynamite to confront The Acclaimed, the roof would become unhinged.
And isn’t what this is all about in the end? Making the fans happy?
The new board of directors would exist to make sure this is done properly, and without overkill. You don’t want talent to jump across the pond so often that everything blends together. However, if done carefully, this would simply be best for the fans, and best for the business.
This also creates opportunity for Supercards.
And this is why representatives from New Japan and Impact are on this board. We can also include some of the larger Indies promotions, as well as Stardom and New Japan. There must be a limit, but as such, the results could be limitless.
This board also votes for a true separate World Champion that would hold such a prestigious title until the next Supercard, and only be defended on Supercards. Both promotions would still keep their world championships. However, the promise of a supercard is a bit awe-inspiring.
This is Roman Reigns vs. MJF, Seth Rollins vs. “Hangman” Adam Page, or Jamie Hayter vs. Charlotte Flair. Book your own. It all works here. A true “Forbidden Door” that is only opened once or twice a year.
Again, we’re talking fan engagement, and fan happiness. This is all that matters at the end of the day — assuming both companies are kept separate, and booked in the same philosophy their fans are accustomed to.
This Might Eliminate Toxic Wrestling Fans
Think about it.
All this banter back and forth about McMahon and Khan, booking philosophies, wrestling styles, TV ratings, etc. It all wouldn’t matter anymore, would it?
One could rip on Tony Khan all they want; but he now works with Vince McMahon. You could make fun of WWE’s “casual” booking approach all you want; but MJF is going to appear on Raw next week. You can call what The Elite do as “flippy floppy” B.S., until they have a 5-star match with The Bloodline where the styles are complimented and shared. “Big beefy men slapping meat” becomes less boring when its Brock Lesnar vs. Wardlow.
See where I’m going with this? Perhaps fans could start embracing the differences in talent and booking styles between promotions instead of mindlessly bashing them since it would all be under one umbrella. Sure, some fun competition between brands is one thing, but I can’t help but think that the majority of toxicity would greatly decrease if a merger took place.
As a historic example, this did happen with the AFL/NFL merger. Even though the league was merged, a sentiment of superiority still would exist for quite some time on the NFL’s end — but it didn’t really matter anymore. They were one league.
Would it really matter if AEW/WWE were simply one larger company with separate brands?
This is Best for Business
Would both brands lose what made them special in this entire process? Perhaps. AEW is no longer a cemented #2 promotion, but part of the larger combined wrestling landscape with WWE.
One could argue that competition is best for business. It’s what ultimately drives both companies to be at their peak form. But why does that have to be the catalyst? Can the best wrestling minds simply come together to put out a great wresting product for the sake of the industry, and for the sake of their loyal fans?
From my perspective, there exists more positives in a wrestling merger than negative. If all companies retain creative control for their brands, and share talent when applicable according to a larger board of directors; why couldn’t this work?
Egos would have to be set aside, yes. Of course, this would never be that easy. But think of the possibilities. Hell, this may even bring together both sets of fans, and they may even watch each other’s shows. Wouldn’t that be a victory in its own right?
This is all admittedly a pipe dream of sorts, but between a toxic wrestling fandom and professional wrestling in slight creative slump (depending on who you ask), what a way to put it back on the map, right?