I may technically be called a WWE fangirl but that’s only because it was the majority of the professional wrestling I saw growing up. As I started watching and enjoying “sports entertainment” during the tail end of the ’90s, I still managed to watch my fair share of WCW shows, mostly because a cable channel would air Monday Nitro late on the weekend, when I was allowed to stay up as late as I could stay awake. I do have some vague memories of watching Goldberg squash jobbers and the nWo wrecking havok. I even saw the infamous Fingerpoke of Doom but I didn’t understand its significance as I was still extremely young then.
Of course, this was around the time when WCW was losing the Monday Night Wars to WWE because of stunts like this. Eventually, the WCW was bought out by its rival and the WWE became the most dominant force in the world of professional wrestling. Although I am technically a WWE fangirl, that doesn’t mean I don’t crave variety. This is why I’m actually glad All Elite Wrestling came about. It may have seemed unthinkable that any company, especially an upstart like All Elite Wrestling with only a handful of big names like Chris Jericho, Cody Rhodes and Kenny Omega, could put a dent in WWE’s decades long dominance but they did. AEW has managed to become a decent alternative to WWE’s programming and, at times, it does seem to have the better stories and matches.
While things may generally be looking up for All Elite Wrestling as it has amassed a solid fanbase, especially from the more hardcore professional wrestling connoisseur, it does look like AEW is making a lot of the same mistakes WCW made in the past and it does worry me quite a bit. Now, I’m not entirely fluent on what caused WCW’s downfall but there are some shocking similarities with what’s happening at AEW and what happened in WCW.
One thing that’s hard to ignore in AEW right now is the huge influx of former WWE stars. That’s not necessarily bad. It’s really great to see guys like Bryan Danielson (the former Daniel Bryan) and Jox Moxley (the former Dean Ambrose) back in the ring and doing all of the insane things they were capable of doing but the WWE had to rein them in. It was also great to see Miro (the former Rusev) return to being a brutal and intimidating wrestler (although I do miss the entire Rusev Day bit) and wrestlers like the severely underutilized Keith Lee in an AEW ring or any other ring for that matter. It’s also amazing how they managed to get CM Punk back in the ring. For a while, it really looked like CM Punk was out of professional wrestling for good. Somehow, AEW managed to reignite the spark that the WWE supposedly snuffed out. That’s really awesome for longtime WWE wrestling fans such as myself.
This, unfortunately, does have a downside.
It’s really fantastic to see all these WWE fan favorites but this does kind of detract from their homegrown stars. Now, I’m not saying the AEW originals are not getting their dues. “Hangman” Adam Page has been a great AEW World Champion from what I’ve gathered. The Jurassic Express earned their AEW Tag Team titles by proving how capable they are in the ring and with the fans. Sammy Guevara has been great ever since he started in AEW. Darby Allin is a joy to watch in the ring while he performs all those death defying stunts. Of course, I can’t forget about MJF, probably the best heel professional wrestler in AEW or any promotion. However, besides probably MJF and Sammy Guevara, a lot of the original AEW stars are not really making strong waves with the more casual fanbase. What’s really drawing the fans in are the acquisitions of former WWE stars like CM Punk and Bryan Danielson.
Since it’s the former WWE guys attracting viewers, a lot of AEW’s homegrown midcard is not getting enough time on the big name shows like AEW Dynamite and AEW Rampage. They do get pushed onto their free show, AEW Dark… sometimes. I did a quick scan of the latest Dark and even that is slowing being invaded my the former WWE stars as it had Keith Lee and Toni Storm have matches. It’s not like I don’t want to see them. However, what about the lesser known AEW originals like Brian Cage, Sonny Kiss and Penelope Ford? I’m not entirely sure if they’re in other promotions and that’s why they haven’t been showcased on AEW recently but, if their on the roster, shouldn’t AEW also promote them? It actually feels like AEW’s roster is a little too bloated because there are probably some wrestlers who are contracted with the company I don’t know because I never get to see them.
While we’re on the topic of hiring former WWE guys and girls, I would believe some of the bigger named acts like CM Punk command big bucks. I get the owner of AEW is a millionaire or a billionaire but you could say the same thing about Ted Turner, the guy who owned WCW back in the day. He also had money to burn, which made it possible to poach guys like Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Bret Hart and a cacophony of other WWE stars. All of that can be a strain on a company’s finances but, at the same time, may become an alienating factor for loyal AEW guys.
You can look at a guy like Cody Rhodes, a professional wrestler who I would never have thought of returning to the WWE as he did become a bigger name after leaving the company. However, he did as he made his dramatic return during Wrestlemania. Guess what was one of the reasons why he came back? You guessed it: more money. Considering Cody Rhodes was a part of All Elite Wrestling since its conception and the billionaire was unwilling to make it worth his time or decrease his workload by making him just a full-fledged wrestler, it still feels strange to see him back in the WWE after all this time.
I also don’t get to watch a whole lot of AEW over here in the Philippines because, well, the only way to do it legally is to pay for a subscription to FiteTV. It does seem like the best way to watch it everywhere in the world because streaming is the way to go these days. However, I’m just not sure it’s worth spending $7 US a month. The WWE Network works out well for me because it does have other things to watch over there like vintage matches when they were still known as the WWF and even backstage events and documentaries where the Superstars break kayfabe and talk about how what happens behind the curtain. AEW doesn’t have that deep library of content yet to make it feel like it’s worth my hard earned money. Call me cheap but that’s just how I feel.
I do think it’s too early for anyone to call AEW going down the dark path of WCW. They seem to be in a healthy spot right now but I would think that’s how the bigwigs at WCW felt when they kept on inflating their roster with WWE stars. It’s a simple fix as all they have to do is restrain themselves from getting more people, even how enticing the prospect of snatching a person seems to be. They can also try to make their YouTube easier to navigate as trying to watch the latest episode of AEW Dark is messy. I do hope AEW chugs along but I’m just afraid for how long they can keep it up until they realize they can’t anymore.
What are your thoughts on AEW and how long can they keep going? Let me know in the comments section below!