Depending on where you are in the world, you were either going to bed or perhaps in the various stages of nursing a New Year’s hangover when the worst kept secret in wrestling broke.
The announcement of All Elite Wrestling.
For those who’ve been under a rock, AEW is a new promotion that’s backed by the Khan family (known better in sporting circles for their ownership of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL, and Fulham FC, presently in the English Premier League). Literally as of today, all we have is a promotion name and perhaps a few wrestlers under contract, with Cody (Rhodes) perhaps being the first name who’s put pen to paper. In the coming days, weeks and months, expect a flurry of names to follow. Given their involvement with All In and the whole Being The Elite vlog, the Young Bucks would be a lock to follow, as perhaps the likes of Kenny Omega, Marty Scurll, Hangman Page and Flip Gordon (as and when their contracts permit). The thing is, while the launch of a new promotion is a good thing (especially one with a multi-billionaire wrestling fan as an owner), the one big question is this: are the Khans and those behind AEW willing to wait?
Fans have bemoaned WWE’s inability or unwilling to “make new stars” for a while now; which is concerning given the platform WWE has. Hours of TV every week, across regular broadcast platforms and “new media”, and yet there’s no new face they’ve created that has “moved the needle” as they say. So, what are the odds of a new company, unknown to all but hardcore Internet-based fans, being able to do this?
Well, in the case of ALL IN, we saw how that oft-derided section of fans, “the Bullet Club fans” helped sell out a 10,000-seater arena near Chicago for a show that was pretty good, especially given it was supposedly a first-time effort run by a bunch of wrestlers. However, the real question was, and always has been, “does it have legs”? Rather than taking baby steps of a second show, then perhaps a third, we’re straight in with the announcement of a promotion… a promotion that appears to be looking to sign people to contracts and make a solid go of things.
Even with the Khan’s billions, signing folks to proper contracts (and according to some speculation, making them employees rather than independent contractors) means that unless they want to bleed money, AEW won’t be able to be a promotion that runs just regular, monthly shows; they’ll need to go from scratch to being at the very least, on the same level as Impact. AEW’s very presence has made the wrestling world jittery. ROH has suddenly started going after new talents (spurred by The Elite leaving the promotion), while WWE’s latest sweep of the indy scene has drained the pool further… and even though the work New Japan’s done to make stars out of Juice Robinson and Cody has proven that WWE’s failings don’t leave too long a stink on a wrestler, there’s a difference between proving yourself as a part of a promotion that is about to hits its 47th anniversary, and one that’s on day one.
The landscape is massively different from when this last happened, with the formation of TNA in 2002. The indy scene has gotten healthier and there are plenty of wrestlers who have been able to make a living off of it… but if you were worried that WWE’s hoovering up of the scene was going to be damaging, then what is the retaliatory (presumably exclusive) contracts from ROH and AEW going to do? While you could easily say that the US indys weren’t exactly that deep to begin with, the question has never been about talent. The talent is there; it’s just whether any kind of exclusivity allows a scene (and the people within) to continue to develop – especially since we’ll now have five promotions in the US that operate nationally (WWE, Impact, ROH, MLW and now AEW).
Add in other indys that have big plans for 2019, such as AAW looking to expand to new towns and Beyond Wrestling’s announcement of a new two-hour show every week from April, in addition to the plethora of promotions trying to run over WrestleMania weekend, and we’re in for an interesting few months at the very least.
…then it all begins again when AEW actually announces, then starts to run shows!