wrestling / Columns

What We Need To Know About All Elite Wrestling

January 4, 2019 | Posted by Steve Cook
aew all elite wrestling Tony Khan

After months of speculation & anticipation, it became official on New Year’s. Well, as official as images on Elite members’ cell phones can be. All Elite Wrestling announced its impending arrival this week, and now we sit on the edge of our seats and wait for more information.

There are three things that we need to know about before we get way too excited about this venture. Admittedly, as a longtime wrestling fan, it’s tough not to get excited about new wrestling companies with the type of resources that AEW will have at its disposal. Also, as a longtime wrestling fan, it’s tough not to get cynical when another group announces another new wrestling promotion.

I’m somewhere between excited & cynical. It’s where I spend most of my time. From where I sit, there are three things I want to know more about before making a pre-judgment one way or the other about All Elite Wrestling. See, you make the pre-judgment before the promotion debuts, then once the first show goes down you can officially make your judgment. It’s not as complicated as I make it sound.

What do I want to know?

Who’s Elite?

The most important thing for any wrestling promotion is the roster of talent. You can have all the bells & whistles & technology, but if you don’t have a ton of wrestlers that will put on a show that people want to see, you’ve got nothing.

We know AEW has Cody, the Young Bucks, Hangman Page & Brandi Rhodes. It’s not officially official as of my writing this, but it’s safe to say that Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky of SoCal Uncensored are on board. That’s a nice start, but who else is going to join them?

Kenny Omega? He’s still the IWGP Champion at this moment. Will he be after WrestleKingdom, and will that affect his future? He’s obviously tight with the forces behind AEW, but he’s also a guy that’s made a home in New Japan. Even if he loses the title, that’s no guarantee he’s going anywhere. He’s also a guy interested in what WWE might have to offer him. Kenny would be a big get for AEW, but he’s a man in high demand, even more so than the other Elite members.

All In saw the usage of talent from New Japan & Ring of Honor. ROH locking various talents up with exclusive contracts, along with BJ Whitmer leaving the company to apparently do backstage work for AEW, makes me believe that relations between ROH & AEW won’t be peachy. Maybe that changes, but ROH is definitely coming off as the jilted lover right now. They spent the last couple of years capitalizing off Cody & the Bucks’ popularity. Of course they’re mad they can’t do that anymore.

The wild card here is New Japan, who have American ambitions of their own and an already-established partnership with ROH. AEW obviously sees the value in bringing in the likes of Okada, Tanahashi & other top New Japan stars. The vast majority of Elite fans are New Japan fans. Is some form of partnership feasible right now? No. Could it be feasible by the time AEW starts running shows? Maybe not, but one never knows what the future could hold. One can certainly expect ROH to bend over even more backwards than they have in the past to keep NJPW happy.

Then you have all the indy wrestling talent (indies are deep, yo), not to mention guys working for WWE that might be looking for something different to do. Some WWE names have been mentioned, but none that would significantly move the needle.

AEW might not be able to land any names bigger than Cody. If they can put together an intriguing roster of talent that makes each other better, that should be a darn good start.

A TV deal that matters

Listen, I know that a lot of you don’t use cable or satellite to watch your pro wrestling anymore. Online streaming is a key component to any wrestling organization trying to make a go of it. One assumes that AEW’s online presence will include their content being streamed on a site similar to WWE Network or the Global Wrestling Network or Honor Club or NJPW World.

While online streaming makes television access less important than it’s ever been, it’s still vital that AEW is able to secure a solid television deal. Honestly, one of the main reasons for this is prestige. WWE signing big-money deals with USA & FOX in 2018 reminded us how far ahead they are of everybody else in the game. It also expanded their television revenue stream to the point where you wonder if certain episodes of Raw & SmackDown will be treated with more importantance than WWE’s PPV events. (Revenue is also one of those main reasons AEW needs a good TV deal.)

On the flip side, you have Impact Wrestling. They’ve spent most of their existence chasing the perfect TV deal. They’ve gone from Fox Sports Net to Spike TV to Destination America to Pop, and now they’re heading to the Pursuit Channel. This latest development has been poo-pooed by pretty much everybody, including your humble correspondent. The best deal you can get being Friday nights at 10 on a little-watched hunting channel your owner has a stake in isn’t a good look for Impact. Getting bumped to later in the night on Pop wasn’t a good look, and this is a worse night & time slot on a less-available station.

The word on the streets is that AEW doesn’t have a deal yet, but people are interested. Hopefully, they’re people we’ve heard of. WGN America aired the All In pre-show, and has been open to airing wrestling throughout its existence. To be fair, airing on WGN America on Saturdays at 8 AM hasn’t done much for Ring Warriors…but that’s still a better deal than what Impact’s rolling with into 2019. That’s just one example, who knows who AEW is actually talking to.

A TV deal with a known entity is necessary. If for no other reason than to not make people that were dumping on Impact last month look like hypocrites if they pump up AEW’s deal.

When?

We can expect answers on that at the press conference/rally next Tuesday in Jacksonville. We already know that Double or Nothing will be the sequel event to All In. While it hasn’t been officially stated, the name of the event tells me that AEW will be shooting for 20,000 fans in attendance. They got 10,000 easier than expected. Is 20 pushing it?

Maybe? I mean, even WWE doesn’t do 20,000 fans that often. A few times a year, if that. Then again, the Elite has a rabid fanbase that’s proven that they’re willing to travel. I think there are a lot of wrestling fans that prefer attending shows outside their home market. They make a whole weekend out of it, using up vacation time from work & clearing their schedule to have a good time watching what they love.

Will Double or Nothing be AEW’s first show? Or will they do some TV tapings first leading into it? Or will they build up a bunch of matches on the Being The Elite YouTube show? It seemed to work for All In.

It’s a tough balance to strike. AEW shouldn’t move too quickly. They don’t want to rush a product out there that doesn’t live up to high expectations. But they also don’t want to wait too long and lose their moment. As The New Daniel Bryan will tell you, wrestling fans are FICKLE. If AEW waits too long before doing something, we might not care when they do. Ask Lucha Underground. They had a moment much like the Elite had with All In, but waited too long to capitalize off of it.

Maybe a big show in September with a TV show rolling out for the new fall season? I’m just engaging in speculation here. It’s all we can do…and isn’t it fun to have something new to speculate about?

All Elite Wrestling is coming. The pro wrestling business is about to get a lot more interesting. Hopefully.

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All Elite Wrestling, Steve Cook