Grinds my Gears: AEW isn't WWE, WCW, or WWF, it's ECW
The creation of All Elite Wrestling has had the wrestling world talking, the fact that they have a financial backer with a bank account to match or even outnumber the arsenal of Vince McMahon and the WWE. Already fans are debating the comparison between the fledgling promotion and the biggest wrestling promotion in the world. WWE fans point out to the fact that All Elite's sole show was co-produced with Ring of Honor, and that they haven't been required to maintain televised product and a series of shows to prove that all in wasn't a stroke of luck. While fans of the up and coming wrestling promotion have rightly pointed out the dissatisfaction that many wrestling fans feel towards WWE, and long for the days of the Monday Night Wars when WCW and the then WWF would push each other to be the best wrestling promotion at the time.
Both sides have a fair point, but are the comparisons between All Elite Wrestling and WWE fair, or is there a better analogy to put down?
The Main Point
WWE fans and their backers do have a point in saying that the guys behind All Elite haven't had to maintain a steady source of shows, and that when Cody and others in the Elite weren't able to attract large numbers to the regular Ring of Honor TV show because many fans weren't interested in much of the product even when it included the Young Bucks and Cody.
So how much better will the All Elite Crew have away from the confines of Ring of Honor, the Sinclair Broadcast group and running events on a more regular basis? That remains to be seen, however, they sold out All In without much issue, and their first main PPV Double or Nothing also sold out within minutes. Their rallies and announcements have been well attended public affairs with fans around the world buying the merchandise that All Elite have been selling.
At the end of the day, all of this means nothing without seeing the promotion working a regular schedule over the course of a longer stretch of time will anyone know anything of whether we have a case of Monday Night War 2.0 (or 3.0 if you include the TNA disaster 2009/2010). However, All Elite has the support and adoration of a large, passionate group of fans that will seemingly follow them to the ends of the earth if it came to it.
However, this isn't the WWE product. The WWE, or WWF, has rarely if ever been solely fan serving and less so in today's corporate partner era regardless of what Authority figures will say on a scripted TV program to get a few more people watching and t-shirts sold. At the end of the day, the aptest comparison for All Elite is the Philadelphia based ECW promotion run during the 90s by Paul Heyman and to a lesser extent Tod Gordon.
ECW wasn't the biggest player in the game, and unlike All Elite Wrestling, their backer wasn't someone with the war chest of the Khan family. However, their fans were loud and vocal and many. They had a cult following that didn't serve corporate overlords nor were they family friendly and hitting target demographics for advertisers. They were the wrestling promotion embodiment of what fans wanted, especially hardcore wrestling fans. So too is All Elite Wrestling, a promotion run on what some wrestling fans have been calling for, especially recently.
Unfortunately, ECW ended due to financial issues, which are unlikely to effect All Elite as long as they have access to the Khan money. So All Elite is perhaps more sustainable long term than Paul Heyman's basement promotion was, but if it can have half the impact on the wrestling world that ECW had, then All Elite Wrestling will be a force to reckon with and that is a great thing.
While ECW could never attract the mainstream audience that WWE reached, nor would they ever due to the nature of their show, it remains to be seen as to whether All Elite can break out of the bubble of their more hardcore fans without alienating that same fan base. This isn't a knock on the promotion, and as a wrestling fan, I hope they don't alienate their fan base to serve the mainstream wrestling audience, because we already have the WWE for that. The comparison to ECW isn't an insult, despite what some in the wrestling industry and some fans may take it to be.
If All Elite Wrestling can position itself as an ECW-like promotion and maintain themselves that way in the eyes of their fans, the impact on the wrestling world will be 10 times what it would be if they attempted to copy and paste the tactics that have made Vince McMahon and the WWE successful.