Professional wrestling often gives images of comedic, spandex-clad muscle men, orchestrating a ‘fake fight’ – however, the reality is that it is a multi-billion dollar global industry, which has been a popular niche element of the entertainment industry.
For over fifty years, the main face of the industry has been World Wrestling Entertainment – or WWE for short – and its chairman Vince McMahon has often been hailed as a ‘genius’ for changing the industry from a regional entertainment show held in front of a few hundred people, to a global television powerhouse which is seen in over 80 countries around the world and sells out arenas five nights a week.
The company has made millionaires of its performers, who are a travelling circus, of sorts, who entertain millions of its rabid fans each week.
During the 1990s, the Ted Turner-owned World Championship Wrestling overtook McMahon’s empire in the TV ratings – dubbed the ‘Monday Night Wars’ – however, by the turn of the century, McMahon had bought out his competition, and for almost two decades the WWE has grown to a sports entertainment juggernaut with no competition.
However, as it is in life and business – without competition, there is a risk of stagnation.
And that is what has happened within the industry.
A new challenger?
Over the last few years, there has been an increased interest in wrestling companies outside of WWE. With an increase in Japanese, Mexican and British wrestling companies gaining a share of the marketplace.
However, none of them have had the financial resources and star power of the talent within the WWE.
Then came the creation of All Elite Wrestling – AEW.
Founded by Shahid Khan and his son Tony – they are the billionaire owners of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham Football Club (as well as a number of other business and media ventures).
However, they have enlisted global wrestling stars Cody Rhodes, Nick & Matt Jackson, and Kenny Omega as Executive Vice Presidents, to oversee the creative aspect of the company.
So, why are they a threat to WWE?
Many fans and employees of WWE have become disillusioned with the company, as it stale and repetitive, with little logic regarding to the on-screen characters and direction of the shows.
This became clearer when former WWE World Champion Dean Ambrose ‘jumped ship’ and drew massive attention to AEW when he turned up at AEW’s first PPV event, ‘Double or Nothing’.
In the subsequent days, he gave a detailed tirade of everything that was wrong within the WWE – from the creative process, to the nonsensical storylines, to Vince McMahon himself.
He gained a lot of attention and sparked a heated debate among fans and commentators about the future of the industry.
Since that event, AEW has signed up a ream of world-class talent to long term deals and have announced their next PPV for a few weeks’ time, ‘Fyter Fest’ where Ambrose will be making his in ring debut.
What does the future hold?
These might seem insignificant on the face of it, but the UK might be the forbearer of things to come within the industry.
WWE has had record low viewing statistics in its history, and with a move to BT, there will be even fewer viewers to their weekly product.
Match that with AEW being available of free-to-air TV each week, there could be a huge swing in fans moving from one product to another.
So, with all these stars seemingly aligning – a true heavyweight contest to decide the future of the industry is about to get underway.
Ring the bell.