By Steve Ward
2018 was a defining year in what is becoming a storied career for “The American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes. The son of the late great “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and brother of Goldust saw his career skyrocket to all-time highs as he continued to wrestle for every significant promotion in the world not named WWE with Ring of Honor, New Japan, and the NWA to name a few, capturing titles, and establishing himself as a household name along the way. It’s easy to say the man who once carried the moniker Stardust has left those days far behind.
Cody and The Elite even produced what was arguably one of, if not the, best pay-per-views of the year with the hugely successful All In. Cody wasted no time ensuring his momentum would continue at its frenetic pace, barely into 2019, as he unveiled an all new wrestling promotion last week along with his Elite cohorts, The Young Bucks and Hangman Page. The promotion, appropriately coined All Elite Wrestling or AEW, announced its initial roster and it is loaded with a bevy of talent already.
Here is the roster at the time this article:
Maxwell Jacob Friedman
Billy Gunn (Producer)
B.J. Whitmer (Producer)
Aside from The Elite, other highlights of this list include the former Ring of Honor stable SoCal Uncensored (Daniels, Kazarian, & Scorpio Sky), Pac (formerly known as Neville in WWE), and the bombshell signing of the Ayatollah of Rock’n’Rolla, Chris Jericho. Additionally, the rumors have already begun to swirl with fans speculating whether this will be the promotion to sign Kenny Omega and potentially draw C.M. Punk back to the world of pro wrestling.
The next point to explore is whether this company can be a legitimate competitor to the WWE. Since the demise of ECW and WCW, no other promotion has really applied the pressure on WWE. Sure there are a lot of great promotions out there but for one reason or another, they just don’t have the complete package put together to contest for brand supremacy. TNA/Impact continues to be able to pull cable TV deals and produce pay-per-views but unfortunately it’s been a necessity for them to operate with an economical approach by proceeding with practices such as completing their TV tapings in clusters and sharing talent with other promotions, while only being able to fill venues that hold maybe a few thousand at most.
New Japan Pro Wrestling is arguably the largest promotion in the world outside of WWE but their exposure to the North American audience is limited to streaming and their major events air live when most people are sleeping.
Ring of Honor is a phenomenal promotion but unfortunately they haven’t had a national TV deal since they were dumped by Destination America and have become the WWE’s source of talent vulturing - some examples include Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson), Seth Rollins, The Undisputed Era, and War Raiders (War Machine) to name a few.
Here’s how AEW appears to set themselves apart from these promotions: 1) They have already announced their first show labeled “Double or Nothing” which will emanate from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV on May 25. 2) There are apparently several possibilities for TV deals with rumors swirling of potential suitors including the Paramount Network (formerly Spike TV), WGN America, TNT/TBS, and even DAZN. 3) They have the financial backing of multi-millionaires Shahid and Tony Khan who are the owners of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars (starting to get a sense of déjà vu??).
Now nobody should be disillusioned to think they will become an instant competitor to WWE but at least there’s a glimmer of hope - hope that a metaphorical fire will be lit under the ass of WWE to put some effort into their product. I personally find NXT to be the most entertaining and fresh programming they produce outside of an occasional episode of Smackdown. Other than those exceptions, the product has become stale with poor storytelling, mediocre promos put forth by the talent, and mismanagement of the roster.
When one explores the history of WWE, their most entertaining eras were the days when Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, and Randy Savage were regular headliners and, without question, The Attitude Era. The Attitude Era wasn’t just entertaining because of the TV-14 rating, but also because it was the only time they’ve ever been legitimately challenged by another promotion. The future looks very promising for AEW and WWE certainly took notice after the Jericho signing which was evident by their immediate movement of his profile on their website to the Alumni section.