Today: Jun 16, 2024

Wrestling fans rejoice

Morgan DouglasSports Editor

On Sept. 5, a sold out Now Arena just outside Chicago was packed with professional wrestling fans chanting ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ Somewhere, Vince McMahon was screaming ‘No! No! No!’ 

For the first time in over two decades, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has actual competition in the form of All Elite Wrestling (AEW). 

AEW’s most recent pay-per-view, All Out from Sept. 5, saw the in-ring return of former WWE champion and UFC fighter CM Punk, seven years after he walked out of WWE due to frustrations with the company. 

All Out did the best buy pay-per-view buy rate in the company’s history, according to AEW President Tony Khan. 

In addition to Punk’s well-executed and exciting return match against up-and-comer Darby Allin, the show also saw the AEW debuts of several former WWE wrestlers.  

Ruby Soho (f.k.a. Ruby Riott) appeared during the women’s battle royal to bolster what has been an underwhelming women’s division to this point. 

The big fish to debut at All Out though were Adam Cole, the former face of WWE NXT, and Bryan Danielson (f.k.a. Daniel Bryan), founder of the ‘Yes Movement’, and dear to wrestling fans across the globe. 

When Danielson’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ entrance music hit, the crowd came unglued. They were throwing babies in the air. 

In one night, AEW debuted three of the top stars from WWE’s television over the past 10 plus years. It was basically the pro wrestling equivalent of LeBron James and Chris Bosh joining Dwyane Wade in Miami to play for the Heat, only AEW is based out of Jacksonville, Fl. 

Tony Khan is the son of Shahid Khan, billionaire owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Fulham Football Club of the English Premier League. They have more money than the federal government, they know business, and love sport. 

Not since the days of the mid-to-late nighties when billionaire Ted Turner backed World Championship Wrestling (WCW) has McMahon, CEO and chairman of WWE, had actual competition in terms of star power, in-ring talent, and most importantly to him, television ratings. 

AEW’s follow-up to All Out was their weekly show, Dynamite, which airs Wednesday nights. Sept. 8’s episode of Dynamite drew 1.319 million viewers, according to Showbuzz Daily, ratings went up 25.98% from the previous week. 

Near as important nowadays are the ratings in the key demographic, ages 18-49. Sept. 8’s episode of Dynamite defeated WWE’s flagship program Monday Night Raw in the key demographic for the first time in history. 

All of this is not to say WWE’s goose is cooked or anything like that. My expectations for AEW have been tempered ever since the first show they put on in May 2019, but for the first time, I can honestly and objectively say they have the momentum. 

WWE has been trimming their talent roster for years to save at the margins, and possibly gear up for a potential sale, but this is a story for another day. During the time, AEW has been Ellis Island for former WWE wrestlers. 

All those wrestlers to jump ship had not really moved the ratings needle though. But CM Punk and Bryan Danielson are major names in the world of pro wrestling, and with possibly more names to come, like Ric Flair, AEW has the chance to make a major leap forward while WWE ratings decline as they continue to run off viewers and wrestlers alike. 

WWE is on the verge of desperation trying to create new stars, and in the interim are using older guys like John Cena, Goldberg and Brock Lesnar to draw crowds and ratings. AEW is just buying up everyone else. McMahon may be a billionaire, but Khan can buy and sell him multiple times over. 

AEW is far from perfect, it should be said. In fact, it is often a poorly booked wrestling show, making little sense from week to week, in my opinion.  

Before Punk, Danielson and Cole showed up, AEW did not have anybody who could draw serious ratings or money consistently on a mainstream basis like The Rock or ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. They did not have anyone who could draw money with paper and green crayons. 

Now is another chance for AEW, and the lifelong pro wrestling fan in me hopes they do not blow it like they have with almost everything else they have done. Still, it must be said, this is an exciting time to be a fan. 

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