All Elite Wrestling launched in 2019. Despite initial skepticism and the ravages of pandemic cancellations, AEW is demonstrating that fans, sportscasters and mobile jackpot casino sports bettors see the need for a second American professional wrestling promotion
The All Elite Wrestling promotion was founded in 2019 by lead investor Shahid Khan (father) and founder, president and CEO Tony Khan (son). The promotion’s inaugural contracted talented included Matt and Nick Jackson, Adam Page and Cody Rhodes. They became known as “The Elite” with the Jacksons and Rhodes serving as executive vice presidents and in-ring performers alongside fellow pro restler and co-founder Kenny Omega.
In October 2019 AEW produced AEW Dynamite, a two-hour weekly TV show that aired live on TNT in the U.S. AEW aimed to compete with WWE on a major level and is currently the second-largest pro wrestling promotion in the world.
AEW was founded after journalist Dave Meltzer commented that the Ring of Honor would not be able to sell 10,000 tickets for a Ring of Honor (ROH) wrestling event. Friends Matt and Nick Jackson (The Young Bucks) and Cody Rhodes decided to challenge that assertion by promoting and holding an independent pro wrestling event that featured wrestlers from the ROH and from other promotions. In the end the event, called “All In”, had the largest in-person audience for a wrestling show not affiliated with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) or the WWE since 1993 — 11,263 people came to see the show.
From there, the AEW was born. Shahid Khan invested in the launch of All Elite Wrestling and a number of top-name wrestlers left the ROH including Page, Dr. Britt Baker, Joey Janela, Scorpio Sky and Christopher Daniels. Former WWE wrestlers Chris Jerica and Pac also joined and a relationship was formed with the Oriental Wrestling Entertainment (OWE) wrestling promotion which operates out of China. Shortly afterward the Lucha Brothers, Chuck Taylor, Trent Beretta and the Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide Mexican promotion got onboard and AEW was on its way.
AEW launched on May 25 2019 with a Pay-Per-View event called Double or Nothing which was held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Two more events took place that summer, Fyter Fest in June and Fight for the Fallen in July. All Out was broadcast as a pay-per-view event in August and in September the TNT website started to broadcast a live weekly prime-time show which was produced in conjunction with WarnerMedia.
Additional events gave AEW broad coverage until March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic started to impact the promotion’s progress. Players were tested positive for COVID-19, events were cancelled and touring was banned. Only in May 2021 did the promotion relaunch with new events and broadcasts.
Today the consensus is that WWE no longer dominates professional wrestling. Aside from the entry of AEW, WWE had become a disappointment to many fans who were becoming disillusioned with matches that ended in disqualification, roll-up pin finishes and poorly scripted dialogue during promos. AEW seems to have given pro wrestling a much-needed shot in the arm to bring fun and passion back to the ring.
AEW started out by filling in where WWE was letting its fans down. They work long-term storytelling into programs, put on innovative weekly matches and, in general, pay attention to what fans want to see which include shows that feature athletic feats of professional wrestling that combine with entertaining, organic storylines. New wrestlers are encouraged to display their talents and explore their characters in the ring.
All this is successfully creating an interactive atmosphere in which AEW can build up newer talent and retain old favorites. One of athletes’ biggest frustrations with WWE has been the organization’s failure to properly manage the talent. The WWE has come in for a great deal of criticism because, instead of putting energy into building existing talent, it spends an inordinate amount of time trying to bring back old talent in order to score in the ratings. This, critics say, results in under-utilization of fresh talent.
Conversely, AEW is elevating the wrestlers of today by using them to help the younger athletes grow and develop. The veterans train and mentor the up-and-coming stars, engaging audiences the entire time as they showcase how their expertise can be used to build the next generation of wrestlers.
The AEW’s strategy seems to be paying off. A number of WWE wrestlers who were unceremoniously let go by WWE are now in the AEW stable and they are bringing their fans with them. Superstars like Andrade El Idolo, Christian Cage and Malakai Black are flourishing on AEW and viewers are taking note that WWE is no longer the only space where wrestling talent can be found.
WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley posted a Facebook message where he voiced why AEW is a problem for WWE. “The only deal I have with WWE is a Legends deal,” Foley said. “They do pay people to be consultants, and if I was being paid to be a consultant, I would say, ‘WWE, we’ve got a problem’. I’m just putting myself in the place of a top-tier Superstar who has a decision to make, and I would look at how AEW has treated their recent acquisitions and I would compare it to how WWE has treated a few of their recent, as in development, talents brought up to the main roster. And I would say, ‘I don’t know if I want to gamble to such an extent that I’m willing to have everything I’ve done watered down or made a joke of.’ If somebody is a more intriguing character in NXT than they are in WWE, and it seems almost by design, I think that’s a big, big problem.”
Wrestlers are seeing their chance to push back at WWE which has, they believe, treated them badly for many years. One source of resentment is the “forbidden door” policy which allows the WWE to treat the wrestlers, who are legally independent contractors, as employees. WWE restricts them from working elsewhere but provides them with few of the benefits that a company would be expected to offer its workers.
AEW, in contrast, not only treats its promotional space as a collaborative arena for new and old wrestlers alike but is also reaching out to foreign promotions to extend the collaboration.
All this is proving to be tremendously exciting to wrestling fans who have gained the most. WWE still has the biggest roster and the highest number of events but AEW is running a close second, creating an exciting new era for the sport of wrestling.