What is AEW?
If I told you one of the most exciting television programs of the year is a wrestling show, you might think I’m lying. The truth is, AEW Dynamite is just that— a bloody, brutal and exciting two hours of television with scene after scene of balls-to-the-wall action. No frills and all thrills, AEW (All Elite Wrestling) is more than just another wrestling league, and for the first time in a long time, WWE finally has some competition.
To say AEW’s Wednesday night program titled Dynamite is just another wrestling show doesn’t do the program justice; it’s so much more than that. The high flying action and breakneck fight sequences featured on Dynamite move at such a ferocious pace, you’ll swear the action was sped up. The punches, kicks, suplexes, body slams, dropkicks, and high flying moonsaults are so fast and well-executed, you won’t want to blink. The fact of the matter is, AEW features some of the best wrestlers and wrestling the world has ever seen and even if you’re not a wrestling fan, you’ll get a kick out of watching the action unfold on the screen.
DX Invades WCW Nitro
Monday Night Wars
Some of you have likely never heard of AEW but you’ve most likely heard of the WWE. Ever since its CEO Vince McMahon purchased WCW in 2001 (which included its video library, some wrestler contracts, and selected intellectual property) the WWE (formerly WWF) has dominated the professional wrestling landscape no thanks to ending the run of Monday Nitro, WCW’s flagship program and rival to WWF’s Monday Night Raw that aired at the same time on the same night.
For the unfamiliar, for nearly two years between 1996 and 1998, World Championship Wrestling was at the top of their game thanks to many of McMahon’s biggest stars such as Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Macho Man Randy Savage jumping ship to WCW. During that time WCW produced some of the most exciting matches and best wrestling storylines including what is arguably the biggest storyline in wrestling history, an angle known as the New World Order. If you were a wrestling fan at the time, the Monday Night Wars was most certainly must-see TV.
The Monday Night Wars was about more than just ratings— it was part of a larger overall personal and professional battle between WWF owner Vince McMahon and WCW-owner Ted Turner. The rivalry between the companies escalated throughout the 1990s to include the use of cutthroat tactics and the revolt of several high-profile employees of both companies. Hogan and company joined WCW while stars like Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, and Eddie Guerrero headed to WWE. During that time, the suspense was heating up week after week with fans eagerly guessing what shocking revelation would unfold next. I fondly remember my friends and I gathered in front of the television every Monday night, flipping back and forth between channels to see which show had the best storylines and who had the best wrestling matches. It was the time when the Montreal “Screwjob” sent Brett the Hitman Hart to WCW and Stone Cold Steve Austin was driving a Coors Light truck into arenas and drenching his rivals with beer. And who doesn’t remember when D-Generation X invaded Nitro? If one were to write a list of the 50 greatest moments in the history of professional wrestling, chances are most of what you’d find on that list would have taken place during the WCW/WWE feud.
It’s no secret that when it comes to the world of professional wrestling, most wrestling fans derive as much pleasure watching people talk about wrestling as they do watching wrestling itself, analyzing the industry gossip and news about creative differences, hirings, firings, and the real-life rivalries and tragedies. For decades, pro wrestling has had its share of drama, both inside and outside of the ring but never to the degree of what transpired during the Monday Night Wars era. And at times, following the drama that unfolded behind the scenes felt necessary since both Nitro and Monday Night Raw would often cross-reference each other.
Unfortunately, that all ended on Monday, March 26, 2001, when Vince McMahon entered the Nitro arena and announced he was now the owner of WCW. To add salt to the wound, McMahon simulcast his announcement both in Cleveland, where Raw was occurring and during the WCW telecast in Panama City, Florida. To put into perspective just how huge of a deal this was, it would be the equivalent of Iron Man appearing in the next Avengers movie, turning to the camera, breaking the fourth wall and announcing that Marvel now owns all D.C. property. It was a huge deal and the world of professional wrestling has never been the same since.
Wednesday Night Wars
The downfall of WCW is a long, complicated tale, written about ad nauseam and often told one-sidedly in various WWE documentaries released over the years but if you’re wondering how it connects to AEW, the answer is simple…
When AEW Dynamite premiered last month on TNT, it marked the first time in 18 years there was a legit competitor to McMahon’s empire. Not only is AEW going head-to-head with the wrestling behemoth’s live NXT show on Wednesday nights, but the upstart pro wrestling company’s weekly show Dynamite has beaten WWE’s NXT each and every week in the ratings, averaging well over a million viewers with a fanbase growing by the day. And with both shows airing at the same time on the same day, fans have dubbed this new wave of competition, the Wednesday Night Wars — a return to the aforementioned Monday Night Wars when WWE feuded with WCW for ratings and global supremacy. And much like the good ‘old days, the rivalry is heating up with wrestlers from both companies repeatedly taking jabs at each other during interviews and calling each other out on social media. With AEW gaining momentum, the landscape of professional wrestling is certainly chainging and some would argue for the better.
Funded by the billionaire businessman Tony Khan, All Elite Wrestling was launched last fall with the help of executive vice president Cody Rhodes, his wife, and chief brand officer Brandi and co-EVPs the Young Bucks, a.k.a. the greatest tag team in the world. On New Year’s Day, they officially announced their formation and ever since the AEW has been defying expectations. After making history in 2018 by becoming the first independent wrestling show to sell over 10,000 tickets in North America, the pre-sale tickets for the Las Vegas’ Double or Nothing pay-per-view sold out in record time. The success didn’t end there with every future show being a commercial success and the company gaining widespread media attention across the globe. As it stands, AEW has so done what no other wrestling promotion has been able to do in decades thanks to the all-star roster, enthusiastic fanbase and incredibly entertaining style of wrestling that most people aren’t used to seeing.
Why is AEW Such a Success?
There’s a long list of reasons as to why AEW is one of the best shows on television and at the top of that list of reasons is the league’s dedication and passion to the art of wrestling. The action in AEW is so relentless, I sometimes wonder if the wrestlers asked for stunt doubles. Week after week the incredibly talented roster of athletes perform dazzling stunts that sometimes have me rewind my PVR to see it done again. Only six episodes in, the newfound professional wrestling promotion has not disappointed viewers with their adrenaline-fuelled spectacle of flying fists, whirling kicks and daredevil antics that have left fans shouting for more. Thanks to the combination of experienced professionals and various fighting styles, every episode of Dynamite has found new ways to energize the crowd.
If you’re a fan of the high-flying precision of Mexico’s Lucha libre style of wrestling, you’re going to love AEW. If you prefer the anything-goes attitude of the American backyard wrestling scene, you’ll be happy to learn AEW has that too. If like me, you’re interested in seeing more of Japan’s hard-hitting strong style (Puroresu), it’s worth noting it’s also fearued in AEW. And if you’re a casual wrestling fan who grew up watching the likes of the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels or The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, you should know that AEW also has the spectacle and showmanship of the WWE.
Watch Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley go at it with barbed wire weapons and I promise you’ll be gripping on to the armrests of your chair. Watch any of the jaw-dropping tag team matches and you’ll be inviting your friends over for the next pay-per-view event. Overall, the wrestling of AEW has lived up to the hype and even includes the sort of hardcore matches you would see back in the days on ECW. Hell, even its Tuesday YouTube show AEW Dark has consistently produced at least one match that rivals anything WWE does—see the Joey Janela vs. Kenny Omega unsanctioned match as just one example.
Over the years, WWE has done everything in their power to scrub the word “wrestling” from their glossary. Prior to WrestleMania 36, the company went so far as to request that local officials refer to their talent as WWE Superstars and NOT as professional wrestlers— and their company as WWE and not World Wrestling Entertainment. They even asked that the press use the term Sports Entertainment to describe the brand and went so far as insisting on using the word “title” and not “belt” or a “strap.” As David Shoemaker once wrote, “I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that they’re pulling the wrestling out of the product so cavalierly. It’s like Coca-Cola changing its name to “Coke” and messing with the recipe.”
Unlike the WWE which puts wrestling on the backseat and produces shows that consist mostly of just men and women yelling at each other, AEW actually puts the wrestling front and center. The league even brought back the time limit knowing that even if it isn’t the most satisfactory way to end a match, it does still create the feel of real competition. And unlike the WWE in where it doesn’t matter who wins or loses; All Elite has made it a point to specify that wins and losses matter and that the ranking of their talent roster will help determine who will get a title shot. The wins-losses-draws are even listed next to the names of each wrestler as they make their entrances and if every win and loss matters, that means every match matters, keeping fans in suspense each and every week. AEW isn’t just trying to be different, it wants to be better and in doing so, feels closer to a professional sport than any other form of pro wrestling.
AEW Signals Professional Wrestling is Alive and Well
The glory of Monday Night Wars may be long and gone but Wednesday Night Wars is just getting started. It’s an amazing time to be a wrestling fan as AEW looks to bring back many of the fans who stopped watching wrestling over the past 18 years. If you are one of those fans, I strongly encourage you to check out AEW. Make no mistake about it, AEW is changing the landscape of the wrestling world and Wednesday Night Dynamite is an electrifyingly kinetic and insanely frenetic spectacle stacked with a level of athleticism at which the WWE stars of yesteryear would marvel. It sure did leave me feeling black-and-blue and breathless.
As I said, there are plenty of reasons to take interest in AEW; the star-studded roster itself is worthy of its own article— but all in all, it’s the wrestling that takes center stage and makes a show like Dynamite the rawest and most intense wrestling spectacle we’ve seen on broadcast television in years. AEW is an unstoppable wrecking ball and signals professional wrestling is alive and well.
- Ricky D