AEW’s upcoming debut on the TNT Network is the talk of the pro wrestling world and with good reason. Tony Khan’s company is set to make a major impact with weekly programming, featuring a heavy emphasis on wins and losses, as well as the promise of old school wrestling.
Not to be outdone on any level, WWE is moving NXT to the AEW Wednesday night time slot two full weeks before Khan and company go live for the first time. Many fans see this as shots being fired between both promotions and there’s likely much more to come. But the real fireworks are happening between fans of both AEW and WWE. Simply put, it’s getting a bit ridiculous.
The AEW faithful believes that Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks are the best thing happening in the industry today. The trio, along with Kenny Omega, has established a loyal fanbase that is willing to follow them anywhere. The big events have sold out and thus far, the same is true for their live TV.
These fans wanted something more than what Vince McMahon and WWE was giving them and now they have it. AEW is poised to become real competition to WWE, which is something that hasn’t happened since WCW shut down in 2001. For nearly 20 years, WWE was on top and no one was able to touch them. But that’s all changed now.
Who can fault AEW’s fans for wanting something new? A lack of competition bred complacency in WWE and everyone knew it. In fact, it was painfully obvious. Weak storylines, hollow characters and nonsensical angles were the norm in WWE and while the hardcore fans rolled with the punches, many more decided it was all too much.
The casual fans left in droves after the end of The Attitude Era. Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and Mankind all retired. Triple H’s corporate role became fully realized over the past several years and The Undertaker has been a shadow of his former self. The excitement and intensity that once existed in WWE was washed away because of many factors, which include the company’s PG rating, as well as a lack of top stars.
Fans accused WWE of talking down to them and more often than not, insulting their intelligence. It seemed that The McMahon Family cared so much about money, that the foundation of fans who made them wealthy to begin with, were rendered irrelevant. No one within WWE seemed to care about anyone’s opinion unless that opinion came from a McMahon.
How could fans not embrace something different? Anything different is good, especially when it comes to a business like pro wrestling, which can often get incredibly repetitive. WWE dumbed down its own product and did it so often that it actually set the table for a company like AEW to come in and have a seat. Why wouldn’t fans be excited about this?
But the WWE faithful has been here before. They watched WCW come in white-hot and take the industry by the throat. The nWo, Hollywood Hogan, Goldberg and Sting, all became household names and established WCW as the No.1 company in the industry. No one was bigger and WWE couldn’t keep up.
However, that run did not last long. WWE outlived its greatest competition of all time and Vince McMahon’s company prospered as a result. WWE fans backed a winner and over the years that followed, it was obvious that their decision to stay, or come onboard, was a good one. WWE is a veteran at this cat-and-mouse game that WCW perfected and that AEW seems to be playing now. The fact is that no company besides WWE can play that game any better.
AEW is still an unproven entity and WWE fans know that. It’s extremely hard for them to back AEW or to support it in any way, because that company seems so focused on WWE. Why doesn’t Rhodes and his crew worry more about what their company is doing, rather than what The McMahon family is doing? Why does this even have to be a war?
But the fans that are currently making this personal will ultimately be the first casualties in this war. The cockiness of many AEW fans is out of control and the arrogance of many WWE fans is just too much to bear. One side believes that unless it came from The McMahon Family, then it’s not legit, while the other side believes it’s not legit because it came from The McMahon Family.
AEW fans can find no fault with their favorite company, though that company hasn’t really done much to earn such unwavering loyalty as of yet. WWE fans can find little to no fault with their beloved company despite years of mediocrity and silly booking proving otherwise. WWE fans don’t want to hear any criticism and the same is true of AEW fans.
The knee-jerk reaction of attacking AEW fans is matched only by the knee-jerk reaction of attacking WWE fans. AEW fans are accused of just wanting to hate everything and WWE fans are accused of obsessing over their favorite company. Unless it’s WWE, it’s lousy. Unless it’s AEW, it’s not relevant. Has either side ever stopped to think that they’re more alike than they realize?
The idea of AEW began as an alternative pro wrestling company, a new creation that would approach the business in a different, yet familiar, way. AEW was supposed to be a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale environment. But somewhere along the way, the AEW movement became more about hating The McMahons than it did about breaking new ground in the industry.
WWE is supposed to be the industry leader, with fans who respect their history and are anxious to make more. But for some reason, WWE fans can’t understand the desire that AEW has to change the game. Instead, AEW fans are viewed as brainwashed loyalists, who ironically enough, see WWE fans in the exact same light.
It’s a complicated situation that’s only growing more confusing as time goes on. What happened to pro wrestling fans wanting to see more companies for the pro wrestlers to ply their craft? More places to work means more money is flowing, which means more overall success for the industry as a whole. Why can’t that be the focus, instead of the nonsense that’s currently playing out between AEW and WWE fans? Will it ever end, or is it just getting started? Only time will tell but for now, the war continues.