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Mishal: Is AEW Truly Well Booked?

Mishal explores a few of the finer points to assess how well AEW has been booked thus far.

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All Elite Wrestling AEW

A brief summary

If there’s one guarantee, one thing in the entertainment that will always be prevalent for as long as any form of it exists, it’s the desire of fans to always portray their own personal preferences as the absolute, bonafide best thing out there for the world to see. It’s a trend that’s followed popular culture for as long as we can remember, the idea of being a part of something that’s ‘the best’ is always a reaffirming feeling to many, the content you consume is held in higher regard, more eyes are constantly on it & your opinions are likely to be taken more seriously when opposing the competition.

Wrestling is certainly no stranger to this, in fact, I’d argue wrestling fans engage in this more than almost any other fanbase out there. Sure, quarrels between other fanbases can be intense, such as Marvel & DC, Star Wars & Star Trek, The UK Office & US Office, basically any political system across the planet, wrestling fans though, we can display loyalty on an entirely different level. As hard as times may get in any industry, you won’t find many fans as loyal as those who follow professional wrestling, their dedication can be almost surreal.

From the days of the Monday Night Wars, the early days of the ‘Ruthless Aggression’ era in the early to mid-2000s, the rise of TNA, ROH or NJPW or as we’re all witnessing right now, the astonishing success of All Elite Wrestling, otherwise known as AEW.

AEW couldn’t have come at a better time, at least initially. Professional wrestling was (and to some degree, still is) seeing its biggest boom in years across the globe, not only was the WWE thriving and breaking financial records year upon year, the indie scene of the business had never looked hotter. NJPW in particular was injecting the wresting world with a product almost nobody can match today, shifting the conversation around the community as we know it, making it clear that WWE wasn’t the only brand in demand anymore. Rather than monopolize an industry, a new wave had arrived on the scene that wasn’t to be ignored. AEW capitalized on this to introduce what is arguably the biggest competitor the company has had since the days of WCW, a company run by those who were rejected by the WWE’s selective system who wanted wrestlers to create art in an environment unlike any other.

This wasn’t another TNA mind you, this felt different to anything that came before it. In its first year alone AEW has achieved incredible feats in the short span of time that it’s existed, from attendance records that have blown past industry expectations, a solid TV deal to air their programming, hoarding a plethora of overlooked talent & presenting the exact product that their competition doesn’t offer, something with far more grit to it than we’re used to seeing.

And for the most part, what we’ve gotten has been met with critical acclaim. Being fairly new to the product and only just catching up on what each show has to offer I’m probably a bit late to the party when it comes to talking about AEW, but I thought now more than ever would be a good time to take a dive into seeing if AEW truly is as well booked as it’s made out to be. Various online journalists, pundits & their rabid fanbase on platforms like Twitter have ranted endlessly about the product, so what better time to see where things really stand a little over a year after they came into existence?

Variety Like No Other

Right off the bat, AEW offers a product that virtually no other company in the industry does. I mean this as my biggest compliment towards their company in every regard, there isn’t a single one out there that has the variety for fans as they do.

From the high-flying style of Lucha Libre, to a more physical style that resembles the brawling style of British Wrestling, the insane physicality of Japanese wrestling, the hardcore tendencies that put places like CZW on the map, arguably the best use of comedic wrestling on the planet or more old school, classic storytelling we’ve seen from the days of Dusty Rhodes in the NWA (courtesy of his own son). AEW has something for everyone, and I mean everyone. While brands like NXT have a special place in my heart, their style always resembles a slight extension of WWE’s signature, more formulaic style, whereas AEW clearly has something aimed at catering to every class of fan watching their product. Rather than forcing you to buy into their take on wrestling, their programming is clearly more about giving the fan the most diverse experience possible & always leaving them with a little bit more to come back to.

Star Power

Depending on your stance on this topic, you’ll likely agree or disagree with this take. It’s become quite the meme to consistent bombard WWE’s comment sections with slander due to their use of older, less frequently used talent, particularly within the main event picture that I’ve always believed should focus on the future when necessary. It does seem like a double standard is in play when it comes to AEW, who are no strangers to this concept as the product stands.

Granted the company is using the likes of Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, Brodie Lee, Cody, Dustin Rhodes & Shawn Spears within the boundaries of giving them new gimmicks that are heavily influenced by their own personalities, the principle does still stand that they are restricting newer talent from pushing upwards to new positions. Even with a plethora of new, fresh talent below the company is heavily hinging on ex-WWE talent to move their product forward. In terms of business practice, this makes perfect sense to anyone. Utilize established talent in the meantime for the sake of ratings, while building up the newer talent to a level that they can replace what’s been established, a strategy I’d argue AEW executes better than WWE on many fronts.

At times watching ex-WWE talent invade the screen can feel a bit reminiscent of TNA’s darker days (especially with some of the horrendous cheap shots they’ve taken to the product in the past), but for the most part the established talent isn’t often booked to sabotage newer talent or gimmicks, something I could write multiple articles about in regards to their main competition. And while this practice isn’t likely to be permanent due to the company’s ethic of making way for a new generation, at times the stars can feel like they overstay their time on screen.

Pay-Per-Views

There’s no way around it, AEW’s presentation in regards to their bigger shows have always drawn a bigger feel than most WWE shows not named WrestleMania. Most of this could be attributed to the layout of their product, the lower number of big shows across the calendar year, giving away a good number of more high-calibre matches on free TV & probably being smart enough to see how over-saturating your product with events can damage the product.

With the global situation as it stands, a lot of these criticisms are leveled more at the past booking of WWE, not the current product itself.

Glancing at their most recent string of shows, each one has an incredible feel to them, displaying every significant member of their product & giving each one a solid spotlight to shine under without neglecting the booking of their characters. The big matches feel big, but so does every other match in the bargain. AEW never portrays any of their matches as ‘lesser’ than others, it’s all part of their presentation in making the whole card feel like necessary viewing & not just the ones with the biggest names carrying them. If there’s one thing I can say AEW almost excels at, it’s presenting well thought out cards that aren’t just wise in regards to business decisions, but giving the fans what they want in the process.

The Best Promos In The Game

My favourite aspect of AEW programming, without question, is their openness when it comes to letting wrestlers be themselves, for better or for worse. WWE for so long has forced their talent into material that just doesn’t do the characters, or the talent themselves justice. Much of what they’re forced to spout doesn’t sound genuine, funny or simply fails to catch on with fans in the way they predict it will. A lot of this boils down to lazy writing but it’s a deeper-rooted issue that lies in the company’s constant need for control over every aspect of its programming.

AEW has thrived on this mistake. While not all of their promo work has been as fantastic as its top tier work, every talent feels like themselves, not a single one feels uncomfortable & the audience is far more receptive as a whole due to the creative freedoms given to everyone involved. Talents such as MJF, Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley & more importantly, Cody have brought out a side to their talents previously unseen before, crafting characters that aren’t just phenomenal to listen to but have turned everything they’re involved with into pure gold.

If AEW has shown the wrestling business one thing, it’s how much quality stems out of trusting the talents you hire to deliver on their promise to entertain those in the audience, and I can’t think of anyone who’s happier with this than a masterful storyteller like Cody himself.

The Women’s Division

I decided not to divide this article into the traditional ‘positive’ & ‘negative’ categories, but as it stands my actual issues with the product generally start here, with the first major one being the women of AEW. With women’s wrestling coming such heavy lengths since the start of the 2000s my expectations for AEW’s women were obviously high, considering what a resounding success WWE’s revamped take on the division has been since the 2014 ‘revolution’ took place with their call-ups of Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch & Sasha Banks.

That being said, this is the one section of AEW programming that’s completely dropped the ball for the most part. Not to say there isn’t talent in it, because there’s an abundance of it, just not utilized well enough to have the impact of its competition.  Talent such as Britt Baker, Nyla Rose, Awesome Kong, Bea Priestley & Hikaru Shida all possess the ability to standout amongst the main roster scene, but just seem shoved into the background for the most part week in & week out. It doesn’t help that a good chunk of their storylines have done little to forward the division, namely the ‘Nightmare Collective’ lead by Brandi Rhodes, who in my opinion, is amongst the weakest female talents active under any company banner & flew by so quickly almost nobody talks about it to this day.

As women gain more & more opportunities across the globe with time moving on, this is a key area the company needs to enhance. Most of the present talent is either too weak, too underdeveloped or doesn’t receive the substantial attention needed to truly create ‘stars’ to represent them. As solid as the main event scene may look at the moment, neglecting a division that has become a central function of the North American business model for professional wrestling (especially WWE) seems like a costly mistake they need to fix sooner rather than later.

An Overcrowded Battlefield

Is it just me, or is there almost too much happening at times in AEW?

Nothing about this is necessarily a nudge at eventful programming, but the spacing out & planning of the companies shows at times seems to cram too many ideas into one place, a decision that can be quite jarring. For myself personally it’s the equivalent of throwing every conceivable idea at the wall and seeing what sticks the best at that very moment.

Understandably the company wants to jump into action as quickly as possible considering how much competition it has around the world, at times it just seems a lot of their creative ideas lose steam almost too quickly at times. Whether that be the latest debuts of both Matt Hardy or Brodie Lee, which granted were affected due to COVID-19, the failure to establish certain stables such as The Dark Order, The Librarian Gimmick which nobody cared for in the slightest or the previously mentioned ‘Nightmare Collective’. I love a product that is always changing, always adapting, but AEW at times rushes into things too quickly for its own good, leaving little room for anything to breathe. Generally, that kind of pacing to a product is humongous positive, in this case it’s made me want a little bit less if anything, since certain aspects of the show lose steam so quickly despite an incredible amount of potential in the long-run.

The saying always goes ‘’quality over quantity’’, and that’s incredibly relevant when watching their shows a lot of the time.

The ‘Ranking System’

When it comes to the ‘ranking system’ introduced in the brands early days, I don’t have much to say about it because it’s been seemingly abandoned altogether just a matter of weeks into the official launch of AEW Dynamite.

Clearly the company placed this system at the forefront to give off that more ‘sports-centric’ feel they had originally discussed prior to launching the brand on national television, but has had next to no impact on what’s been occurring since then. AEW tends to refer to it when it’s appropriate within the context of on-going storylines but is something that’s constantly overlooked in favour of pushing newer talent that needs more airtime. Which isn’t a bad decision at all mind you, just one that conflicts with something I thought would be a central element of how they decide who gains championship matches rather than Russian roulette.

Nothing about this is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it’s just a complete waste of time that really has no baring on how anything flows from week to week. I like the idea of keeping track of win-loss records amongst talent, having it serve no purpose is something I heavily question since it seems like a tiny nudge at their opposition’s views on wins & losses that have been well documented.

And finally, Orange Cassidy…

I just couldn’t pass up a chance to drool over just how excellent the Orange Cassidy character is. Cassidy is a treasure to the wrestling world, he’s not only the most over wrestler on TV right now, he possesses one of the most unique gimmicks ever conceived on a grand stage in the business. Every angle or match the man is involved in may not be a ‘mat classic’ by any stretch, but it’s a strong bet that it’ll garner the biggest reactions on any given evening regardless of what’s before of after it. Cassidy is a charisma magnet, and considering he’s a wrestler who quite literally puts no effort into what he does in the ring, he has the audience more invested in him than practically anyone else around him at this moment in time. His match against PAC in particular is one of the most surreal spectacles you can witness in the past year of wrestling & is something everybody needs to check out.

Orange Cassidy will likely never be AEW Champion (although, never say never when it comes to professional wrestling), but he’s the gift that keeps on giving every time he comes on screen & whatever he’s a part of next, I’ll be the first to scream when he comes out to that squared circle.

Analysis – Is AEW well booked?

To answer this question simply would do it a disservice, hence my walking through the main sections of the programming I felt were important to analyse when answering such a question. AEW is a product that isn’t without its flaws, and at times it does feel like fans of the product hold a ludicrous double standard when held against its competition, but the hype behind the product is something I generally support.

It’s a unique breath of fresh air to have a wrestling product of this scope & size exist on a weekly basis opposing WWE programming, but one that needs work in areas I mentioned just prior to this. In terms of variety, characters, presentation & their aim as a company, it’s something every wrestling fan should vocally support rather than rally against for the sake of argument, but that isn’t the world we live in these days.

Most of us need to keep in mind that AEW is in its very first year of operations, and this time will be ideal for them to test the waters, make mistakes, course correct & see what works best in regards to what they want to accomplish in the long-term. Nothing about what they do will be perfect as long as they’re around, the important thing is that they build on the blunders they currently have as we speak rather than patiently wait around & fall behind.

AEW’s future is as bright as anything right now, and while they aren’t perfect in the slightest, what they’re offering fans right now is something special that demands attention.


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Opinion

Greg DeMarco’s 2024 WWE Royal Rumble Reaction

It’s the Royal Rumble! A favorite of many fans, the Rumble kicks off the Road To WrestleMania. Greg DeMarco is here with his live reactions to the event!

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WWE Royal Rumble 2024 Results

It’s the Royal Rumble! A favorite of many fans, the Rumble kicks off the Road To WrestleMania. Greg DeMarco is here with his live reactions to the event!

The WWE Royal Rumble is upon us, and while the Men’s Royal Rumble Match isn’t for the World Heavyweight Championship like I suggested, it’s still the most anticipated event of the year.

Why? The Unknown.

That’s right–in this age of the internet (usually incorrectly) telling us everything it possibly can about what is going to happen in the world of wrestling, the Royal Rumble stands out because despite what we’re told (or, more importantly, what we choose to listen to), the event is always full of fun and surprises.


Check out Steven Mitchell’s 2024 WWE Royal Rumble Results & Review!


Women’s Royal Rumble Match

  • They really are driving home the “main event WrestleMania” point this year–strengthens my thought that women will main event Night 1. Triple H would catch a ton of heat if he keeps women out for the third straight year.
  • NAOMI! Good to see her back, and the emotional response she had.
  • Love Michael Cole calling out Naomi’s time in TNA, and recognizing her as a former Knockouts Champion.
  • Entering #3 doesn’t bode well for Bayley. I honestly don’t think she is gonna win.
  • JORDYNNE GRACE! I saw the reports earlier today. This is a much bigger deal than Mickie James, because Mickie was a returning legend.
  • “TNA HAS A WEAPON!” So glad to have Pat McAfee on the call.
  • Honestly, Jordynne Grace belongs in WWE.

  • Asuka comes in, and they sell the surprise of Bayley. STORYTELLING, people!
  • Something tells me when we get Kairi Sane in there, The Kabuki Warriors will eliminate Bayley.
  • Ivy Nile enters, and I immediately want to see her go toe-to-toe with Jordynne Grace.
  • What if they pulled some crazy sh*t and had Jordynne Grace win???
  • Just step through the ropes next time, Bianca.
  • When I first saw the C4 clock, I thought I would get tired of it But I am already used to it.
  • Here’s Kairi Sane, time to set the plan into motion!
  • This crowd does not appear to like Tegan Nox.
  • Welp, there goes my idea o Asuka and Kairi eliminating Bayley.
  • That was a hell of a way for Jordynne Grace to go out.

  • I think Michael Cole secretly loves to call a Meteora.
  • There’s a reason Maxxine Dupri doesn’t wrestle much.
  • That tandem Code Red was very Young Buckish. And that’s not a compliment.
  • Hair,…gear…this might be the messiest Royal Rumble yet.
  • Ah, here comes the winner, Becky Lynch (I am calling Becky eliminates Bayley to win her second Royal Rumble).
  • LOVE the scoreboard of time in the Rumble for selected wrestlers.

  • R-TRUTH?!?! (Funny story, it was Truth’s spot that Nia Jax took in 2019.)
  • If you push Mia Yim, she’ll take it further than you could imagine.
  • “How is everybody the most athletic person on Earth?” – Pat McAfee
  • Surprising that Roxanne Perez, at #27, is the first NXT entrant. I don’t think we’ll be seeing Tiffany Stratton of Blair Davenport since we only have 3 more to come.
  • Amazing reaction for Jade Cargill. Give her time, she’s definitely going to be a huge star.
  • JUST GIVE HER TIME.
  • Seriously, Nia Jax had to help Jade eliminate her–A LOT.

  • Greg Was Wrong: It is indeed Tiffy Time in the Royal Rumble.
  • Back to Jade–she is insanely over.
  • I know it won’t be, but this should be Tiffany Stratton’s official main roster call-up.
  • Liv Morgan returns at #30, and good for Liv. She nearly went wire-to-wire last year.
  • Liv Morgan: “Thank you!” Pat McAfee: “No problem.”
  • Tiffany Stratton eliminating Roxanne Perez is, to me, an invitation for a match with them on Raw this Monday.
  • Still love the scoreboard as Naomi passes an hour.
  • The camera is catching a lot of in-ring communications right now.
  • And Jade Cargill eliminates my pick to win. Bye Becky.
  • Jade Cargill in the final three of the Royal Rumble (with Liv Morgan and Bayley) is huge for her.
  • Hell of a debut for Jade Cargill.
  • And a huge win for Bayley.

Winner of the 2024 Women’s Royal Rumble Match: Bayley (eliminating Liv Morgan to win)

Fatal 4-Way Match for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship: Randy Orton vs AJ Styles vs. LA Knight vs. Roman Reigns (champion, with Paul Heyman)

  • Glad to see AJ Styles got his tights back. Pants AJ Styles (but still with the football gloves) was not working. Not just bring the beard back to your face Allen–the think beard also ain’t working.

  • Pat McAfee campaigning for Roman Reigns to be given at least a 26% chance is amazing.
  • Say what you want about LA Knight, he’s a damn star and totally belongs in this match.
  • Roman completely sandbagged Randy on the table drop. I don’t think it was on purpose, but he definitely didn’t jump.
  • Roman Reigns is very much like Gunther in that he does the simple things SO WELL, like a jumping clothesline. That’s how you do it.
  • Yes, I compared Roman Reigns to Gunther. Don’t @ me, I’m right.

  • RKO City, Bitch.
  • Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand here’s Solo! (At some point, Solo will get tired of saving Roman’s ass.)
  • Solo ’bout to go through that barricade.
  • Solo indeed went through that barricade.

  • Yes, we had the Solo interference mid-match, but honestly in the end Roman won that clean.

Winner, #ANDSTILL your Undisputed WWE Universal Champion: Roman Reigns

WWE United States Championship: Kevin Owens vs. Logan Paul (champion)

  • Kevin Owens wearing Zubaz shorts in the Performance Center fight makes me very happy.
  • Logan Paul talking about a full time run, and now he’s putting on size.
  • Logan’s headband didn’t list very long.
  • I honestly hate it when modern-day wrestlers bust out a crotch chop.
  • If you were watching the Royal Rumble and didn’t know who Logan Paul was, you’d just assume he was a pro wrestler. That says everything you need to know about how good he is at this.
  • ANOTHER crotch chop. Now we’re at 2 too many.

  • Cue the “Better Buckshot Than Hangman” tweets. But they might be right.
  • I love the idea of a Logan Paul, Austin Theory, and Grayson Waller stable.
  • C’mon, there’s NO WAY Ryan Tran could see the knucks on Kevin Owens’ hand given his placement. It’s the little things.
  • Finish here tells me we’ll see KO vs. Logan Paul again. I’d guess on TV, if not in Australia.

Winner by disqualification, #ANDSTILL WWE United States Champion: Logan Paul

Men’s Royal Rumble Match

  • Jey Uso coming at #1 was expected thanks to the internet reports. But I still think Jimmy should be #1 and Jey #2, for the reaction shots on Jimmy.
  • Grayson Waller talking himself to the ring is perfect.
  • “No Yeet!” Grayson is a brilliant performer. I’d make a Roddy Piper comparison here, but y’all would get at mad at me.
  • Good to have Andrade back in WWE. Great reaction for him when the mask came off.

  • SmackDown superstar Carmelo Hayes! I really really really hope Trick is also in this match, just for the chants.
  • Melo pointed to the sign, C’mon, man.
  • Do you send Andrade to Smackdown, or do you send him to Raw and let him do his own thing?
  • Oh goody, Karrion Kross is here. Yay.
  • (Yes, that’s sarcasm you read.)
  • Dominik Mysterio is so good. Give him time, he’s going to be a huge star.

  • The Royal Rumble was a great place for the Apple Spot.
  • Here comes Bob Lashley–please just eliminate Karrion Kross.
  • Lashley wearing the WrestleMania white gear more than 2 months early.
  • Austin Theory still gets his concussion effect entrance, despite it being the Rumble.
  • What if–hear me out now–Finn Balor wins the Royal Rumble to get the shot at Seth Rollins, and Priest uses his briefcase to make that match a triple threat at ‘Mania?
  • I know he didn’t, but it sure looked like Jimmy was swerving while he drives in that interaction with Gunther.
  • Kofi did tell us the Rumble Magic wasn’t happening anymore.
  • Give me Ivar vs Gunther!
  • Bron Breakker is a star. It’s inevitable.
  • Of course Omos would be in the Rumble. Good to see MVP on my TV as well.
  • “I didn’t know humans came that big!” – Pat McAfee
  • I half think Pat McAfee didn’t know he was entering the Rumble.
  • Nice moment for Bron Breakker eliminating Omos. WrestleMania match?
  • R-Truth trying to get Dominik (Tom or Nick?) Mysterio to tag him in is brilliant.
  • DOM MADE THE TAG!!!
  • “And now R-Truth is the legal man.” – thank you Michael Cole.
  • Michael Cole delivers multiple TNA references tonight, along with a Dolph Ziggler reference. God Bless Michael Cole.
  • Imagine for a second that this was CM Punk’s actual WWE return.
  • The reaction to Drew McIntyre’s entrance is a reminder that they don’t actually need him.
  • Sami Zayn enters at #30, also known as “Not The Rock.”

  • In the ring, Drew McIntyre is amazing. Just keep the microphone away from him. (And stop the damn counting!)
  • And there goes my choice for the Men’s Rumble!
  • Love having both Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins in the press boxes watching to see who wins.
  • Punk kinda looks like Chris Jericho in there. Seriously.
  • Between Punk and Cody, Cody is the right choice. I really don’t want to watch Punk right now–he needs to hit the cardio, and hard. Given Seth Rollins’ injury and Punk’s conditioning, WWE would be smart to make the World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania 40 a multi-man match.

Winner of the 2024 Men’s Royal Rumble: Cody Rhodes


Overall thoughts on the 2024 WWE Royal Rumble

For at least the second straight year, the Men’s Royal Rumble Match was kinda disappointing. Not the result–that’s fine. But the match itself. It just wasn’t nearly as exciting as the Women’s. Of the four matches, I would place it 4th in terms of enjoyment.

Great moments for both Bayley and Cody Rhodes. Logan Paul continually shows that he deserves to be considered a pro wrestler, not a celebrity who is wrestling. Pat McAfee is a joy on commentary. Jordynne Grace is a WWE Superstar, regardless of what company she is signed to. Bron Breakker is a star.CM Punk is very out of shape. Cody Rhodes is about to become THE guy, and he deserves it.

Overall I give the event a thumbs up, but they have to do something about the Men’s Royal Rumble Match moving forward.


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Opinion

WWE Raw Heads To Netflix: What Does It Mean?

Monumental news drops as WWE RAW is moving to Netflix. Is it truly a game changing move? Greg DeMarco analyzes this shift for the TV wrestling business.

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WWE Logo Metalic

Monumental news drops as WWE RAW is moving to Netflix. Is it truly a game changing move? Greg DeMarco analyzes this shift for the TV wrestling business.

Being a wee little kid in the 80s, I am “lucky enough” to remember having 3 TV channels, and my dad explaining what an 8-track is, how shocked I was when I say a laser disc for the first time, when I bought a 6 CD changer, installed my own car stereo, and all the way up to the fact that I have now been watching WWE pay-per-view/premium live events on the WWE Network and Peacock for 10 years. Hell, in the same month (February 2014) I signed up for the WWE Network, cut the cord to drop cable and got Sling TV. I have since moved onto YouTube TV which is highly recommended.

Over the last two years the NFL has put Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime, simulcast to various streaming services, and less than 2 weeks ago put a playoff game exclusively on streaming when a Wildcard Weekend showdown between the Chiefs and Dolphins was only shown on Peacock.

And now it’s fully permeated into pro wrestling.

WWE and AEW are both in the midst of a very important time on the business side, with all of their TV rights up for grabs. The first domino fell when SmackDown On FOX became SmackDown on USA Network, and soon after we learned that WWE NXT was moving to broadcast television and joining The CW (which is also rebranding, but just to CW).

The AEW suite of programming that includes Collision, Rampage, and their most successful show Dynamite is up for renewal with Warner Bros/Discovery, and Tony Khan has been optimistic about the relationship and potentially an increase in rights fees.

That brings us to Tuesday morning, and the likely groundbreaking WWE announcement that Raw is moving to Netflix, starting in January 2025. Triple H tweeted that they’re changing the game, and TKO President and COO Mark Shapiro (who knows a thing or two about shifts in media consumption) used the word “transformative” in his statement, and I really think he couldn’t be more right.

But what does it all mean?

Wrestling Remains A Strong Media Product

I have been claiming this for over a year now. As many online will cite a decline in TV viewership for both WWE and AEW, the TV product has been a strong value to networks. Even in dropping SmackDown, FOX themselves said they didn’t pump enough resources into the show, and that the advertising return wasn’t what they wanted. That doesn’t mean the product (TV value, we’re not talking about creative here) isn’t strong. It’s so strong that USA Network picked up SmackDown for $280 million per year, giving WWE an increase over the FOX deal. CW is paying $20-$25 million annually for NXT, and now Netflix is paying $500 million for RAW.

Why? Because wrestling isn’t just a strong media product, it’s consistent. And that is key.

Look at this quote from Netflix Chief Content Officer Bela Bajaria:

“Raw is the best of sports entertainment, blending great characters and storytelling with live action 52 weeks a year and we’re thrilled to be in this long-term partnership with WWE.”

Now cross reference that with a comment from CW President Dennis Miller from back when the CW/NXT deal was announced:

“We are thrilled to welcome the WWE brand into the CW Sports portfolio as they play an integral role in our mission to bring live sporting events to the network year-round.”

What do those statements have in common? The year-round, 52-week nature of wrestling programming. It’s an unbeatable value for networks. It’s cheaper than a deal with a major sports league, and it’s not finite. Wrestling joins news, talk, and sports talk as the only year-round programming available to networks. And WWE and AEW have shows that essentially always land in the Top 5 after you factor out live sports. You can’t beat it.

What Does This Mean for Netflix?

Don’t get it twisted, this is also a huge leap for Netflix. Prior to the WWE Raw deal, Netflix has only experimented with live events, streaming the live Chris Rock “Selective Outrage” special, and showing The Netflix Cup live (a golf event featuring athletes from their F1 series “Drive To Survive” and their golf series “Full Swing).

WWE is the perfect partner for Netflix as it gets into live programming. It’s sports entertainment: sports like programming (which Netflix has done) that focuses on storytelling (which Netflix has obviously done). And no one does it better than WWE. It’s essentially plug-and-play for Netflix, the perfect solution for their live programming aspirations.

The perfect solution that they were willing to pay $5 billion for.

What Does This Mean for AEW?

The biggest risk to an AEW renewal with Warner Bros Discovery was WBD picking up WWE Raw–and that risk has been eliminated by Netflix. Don’t discount that fact–Netflix did Tony Khan a huge favor by throwing $500 million per at WWE. The path is clear for AEW to remain on the Turner networks.

But at what price?

I know I usually write as if I have all the answers, but I have zero idea either way on this one. WBD no longer has any other options if it wants to keep wrestling (except for TNA, who recently expressed a desire to be on a bigger network), and AEW (at least, Dynamite) is a weekly Top 5 program for them on Wednesdays, on cable.

On the other hand, AEW doesn’t exactly have another network begging for their services. The reason WWE could get a yearly increase for Raw, SmackDown, and NXT is because it was truly a bidding war. Unless Tony Khan gets another network involved, any threat of walking away from a deal doesn’t really hold water.

So if I were a betting man (and who would ever bet on this) I would expect an announcement of a renewal for AEW and WBD relatively soon. We may not know the terms of the deal, I will take a shot in the dark and say that AEW gets a small increase (not the “nearly double” that had been reported last year).

Regardless of the increase (or not), given AEW’s recent attendance challenges, this likely renewal would have to be viewed as a win for the company.


Personally, this is simply an amazing time to be a fan. We’ve seen WWE go from one live TV show per week with Monday Night Raw, through the Monday Night Wars, the addition of SmackDown and later NXT, to being this global juggernaut that is commanding half-a-billion dollars per year for Raw. I also think this makes Raw the flagship once again. All of this comes after Vince McMahon is largely out of power, Triple H has taken over creative (and holds a pretty good success rate so far), and the company was sold to Endeavor, and merged with the UFC as a business entity under the TKO banner.

If you know me, you know I am a huge follower of the business side of the wrestling business. I often care less about WHAT wrestling companies do, but HOW they do it. I have always gravitated towards that, since middle school. And for the past near 24 months, I have been like a kid in a candy store.

The Peacock deal for the WWE Network runs out in 2026, right? The fun never stops!


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