Opinion: AEW will create a new wrestling audience
All Elite Wrestling is almost upon us.
The fledgeling company's first pay per view event, Double or Nothing is set to take place on May 25, 2019. From there, it appears the sky is quite possibly the limit for Cody Rhodes and company.
It was announced on May 8, 2019 that in the United Kingdom, Double or Nothing will be broadcast on ITV Box Office; a channel that every single household with a television in the UK has access to, approximately five times the reach that WWE has in the region. That is very significant.
It is being widely reported now, that AEW is set to air a weekly television show this fall, on TNT, one of the top networks in the United States. Make no mistake, AEW is no independent league, it is a company that has the potential to do great things and potentially usurp WWE as the most watched wrestling company in the world.
With WWE's audience figures at historically low levels, one may think there are not enough wrestling fans around in 2019 to facilitate two major US-based companies.
However, there is no reason to suggest that AEW's audience could be largely independent of WWE's fan-base.
Cody's promo on his brother, Dustin which aired on social media demonstrated this is the company's goal. In the said video, he stated this was not a battle between brother and brother, but his attempts at killing the last remnants of the "Attitude Era" that in his mind the current wrestling scene, namely WWE are still far too reliant on.
For a period which is so celebrated on WWE television with stars from that famed 1997-2001 run brought out for each and every WrestleMania for the past decade, it is jarring to see a current wrestler speak about it in opposing terms.
However, perhaps Cody is attuned to the current wrestling fan. A wrestling fan that was not even born during the Monday Night Wars, who is less inclined to watch the T & A, non-finishes and general chaos of "Attitude" and wonders why their parents or aunts and uncles rave on about it so much.
There are obvious comparisons with WCW Monday Nitro when that show launched in September 1995 and created a brand new wrestling audience. WCW offered something different from WWE, namely a more realistic product, with technical wrestling at the forefront and an unpredictable TV show, due to it being live each week, something the pre-taped, cartoonish and outdated WWE could not compete with, until it, ironically embraced "Attitude" in late 1997.
WWE and Vince McMahon are well aware of the threat, highlighted by the fact that they are refusing wrestler releases of name talent and are offering stars who are not featured mammoth long term contracts to remain on WWE. See the £500,000 downsides offered to The Revival, who have largely been portrayed as a joke on WWE television.
AEW may not be stacked with star names at present, but they have a varied roster and perhaps the biggest star in wrestling right now in Kenny Omega. A wrestler in his prime who regularly wrestles five-star matches (or according to some wrestling journalists, seven-star matches).
With a roster full of young, hungry talent and possibly former WWE stars such as Dean Ambrose (Jon Moxley) and CM Punk to come, with points to prove. AEW has the talent that young wrestling fans in the key 18-34 demographic, people to relate to.
The "Attitude Era" worked so well as it had Stone Cold Steve Austin, a regular blue-collar guy, who each week stood up to and outsmarted his tyrannical boss, in a way most working men and women could only dream about.
AEW seem keen to embrace all types of wrestling and most importantly attract a wide array of fans.
Whilst WWE are driving fans away with 50/50 booking, juvenile humor and lacklustre storytelling, AEW are moving wrestling forward. Perhaps, just perhaps, they could push wrestling into another, long overdue boom period.
What a bright future that could be.