By Shane Thomas (Patreon Subscriber)
You know what the best thing was about All In? It wasn’t Cody following in his father’s footsteps by winning the NWA World’s Heavyweight title. It wasn’t seeing Pentagon sharing the ring with Kenny Omega. It wasn’t even the ‘dick druids.’ It was simply the fact that it worked.
As a show, it was an unmitigated success. It was ambitious, it reached for the stars, it had the audacity to elbow its way into an increasingly crowded wrestling world. It made wrestling fans happy. Without All In, there’s no All Elite Wrestling. And without AEW, we wouldn’t have what could be remembered as the most compelling wrestling story of this era. Because – sometimes by design – it’s often hard to talk about Cody and the Young Bucks without mentioning WWE in some form. The more popular they’ve become, the more profound their impact on the wrestling scene, we’ve sat by – usually entertained – with a question rattling around in the back of our brains.
“Surely this will come to an end soon? How far can they go before WWE steps in and squashes this”?
The notion that wrestlers in the West can’t only survive, but thrive outside the WWE system goes against everything the business has conditioned us to believe, with the fall of WCW being the ultimate cautionary tale. At times, it feels as if The Elite has fashioned themselves as wrestling’s version of Robin Hood and the Merry Men. Taking from the global corporation and giving back to the fans. AEW’s brand is largely, “wrestling for the people”. Beyond being a wrestling company, AEW feels like wrestling’s biggest outlaws attempting their biggest heist yet. Yet, we should be wary of thinking that armed with Shad and Tony Khan’s money, AEW will get into an arms race with WWE.
One minor factor some aren’t considering is that the Khans’ not only have the Jacksonville Jaguars to worry about, but also the soccer team, Fulham. Fulham are in serious danger of being relegated from the English Premier League, and if their fans get word that the Khans’ aren’t focusing their energies on the team, because they’re busy with some wrestling thing? Well, that could bring hugely critical headlines from the British press that the Khans’ will want to avoid. The British media knows little and cares less about wrestling.
In 2010, Paul Heyman said of Vince McMahon, “WWE has 90-95% market share. They’re not going to give up 1% market share to anybody. You have to take from Vince McMahon.” When you think of the notion of AEW taking even a tiny piece of that market share, as well as WWE’s potential reaction: well, that’s more compelling than any kayfabe story that can currently be told.
However, AEW is less about hurting WWE’s profit margin, and more about a new (maybe even better) way to do wrestling. That’s what they mean by ‘changing the world.’ Creating something that sticks, and lasts for generations. A lot of the talk around AEW isn’t about the company in and of itself, but how the company will do in a world largely controlled by WWE. If WWE didn’t exist, maybe the conversation about AEW would be a lot more even-tempered?
So while I hope that AEW is full of top quality wrestling, with interesting stories, there’s no story more interesting than whether they can prove that there’s room for alternatives from the establishment. Let’s be clear, this isn’t about being direct competition for WWE, or trying to put them out of business.
The story here isn’t a Highlander-style, “there can be only one”. The story is, “can there be more than one”?