AEW and NXT are preparing to do battle on the national television stage. Pro wrestling fans are heavily anticipating this upcoming war and with good reason. This single event has brought more excitement, more publicity and more hope, to the industry than anything in recent memory.
The hope is that finally, a legitimate contender can rise to oppose Vince McMahon’s WWE. Tony Khan’s company openly admits that it does not have the history behind it, nor does it have the firmly entrenched mainstream audience that follows the product throughout the world. But that does not mean AEW will not make an immediate impact on the business.
It’s a dream come true for many fans, there is no doubt about it. For years, the pro wrestling industry has essentially been monopolized by WWE. Of course, other companies such as Ring of Honor, New Japan and Impact Wrestling have operated during this time, but they were not considered to be mainstream material for the casual audience.
Viewers had to know where to find those companies and more importantly, they had to care enough to know. So when another promotion that’s built from the ground up with real money, using real stars, signs with a major cable network, then even the casual fans take notice.
Indeed, people who have perhaps never watched wrestling before have seen AEW’s advertisements on TV. They know the company is new, just as they know it’s promising to deliver something different. AEW seems to be starting off well but it has an uphill battle ahead and everyone in the company surely understands that.
The stigma attached to southern pro wrestling has followed the Turner networks for years. TBS and TNT once featured the NWA as well as WCW of course and both companies were wildly successful during their respective eras. But both have had somewhat of a negative connotation attached because of location. WWE was the company “up north” and they were entertaining an extremely diverse crowd. At least, that was the prevailing notion at one time.
But Cody Rhodes and company didn’t run from the roots of Dusty and Ric Flair. In fact, AEW embraced that era and the company now openly celebrates those days. This is a good thing for the business, as oftentimes, younger fans only get a glimpse of the Territory Era through the WWE Network. The McMahons promote their product over all others as the best of all time and that’s just the way it is.
However the times are changing and now AEW is on the eve of perhaps becoming a profitable player in the pro wrestling pantheon. But if anyone believed that WWE would simply allow that to happen without a response, then they obviously thought wrong. This is where NXT comes into play.
What began as WWE’s developmental brand has now morphed into something much larger. NXT has become a viable showcase for promoting tomorrow’s stars today. Making the journey to the main roster of Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live is perhaps not as important as it once was. NXT is now a destination, not a starting point.
This is the newly transformed brand that WWE is bringing in direct opposition to AEW. It could even be said that if NXT did not exist, most of the talents involved would perhaps be on AEW’s payroll right now. This means that both companies desire similar stars and that’s understandable. After all, veterans who are past their primes cannot build a promotion for the future. That construction is up to the contractors with more daylight ahead of them than behind them.
Shots have been fired from both sides of course and that’s to be expected. WWE has taken subtle jabs at AEW on TV. Kenny Omega took blatantly obvious shots at NXT online. Each company is keenly aware of the other’s efforts to undermine and none of this has surprised longtime fans at all. Those fans have witnessed these types of wars before and they’ve seen much worse.
But how bad will this get? Could AEW’s ratings tank on week two, leading the company to try something drastic? While no one expects Tony Khan to be lowered into the ring on a Harley Davidson and challenge Vince McMahon to a match, there is some expectation that things could go south very quickly.
If that happens, then how will WWE respond? Will the company shore up its efforts to destroy AEW and improve its own product in the process? What happens if AEW doesn’t hit a rut in the ratings and actually builds a massive audience that rivals WWE over the next year?
The truth is that anything can happen in this new war and that’s what fans are hoping for. No one can predict what will go down but it’s clear that WWE is in this for the long haul. Whether or not the same can be said for AEW remains to be seen. Ether way, this should become some highly captivating television and the audience will surely be the winners in the end.