Marketing language and branding ranges from the banal to the grinding, and if you ask me, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) has reached a bit too far by saying “Change The World.”
Yes, they’re not even the first of their affiliates to use it — as Kenny Omega threw it around during his main event run and time with Kota Ibushi as the Golden Lovers — but to apply it to a brand new promotion with grand ambitions, seems odd.
From what we heard at the Double or Nothing Rally, AEW definitely wants to shake things up. And as much as I want wrestlers to be paid more — and I do, have you seen the shit they put their bodies through? — that doesn’t exactly change the world of professional wrestling, even though it’s already led to others probably getting better offers than before.
And while paying male and female wrestlers equally is a proper overdue change (Charlotte Flair reportedly makes a fraction of what the top men in WWE make), AEW’s already facing criticism for using the phrase “equal pay” doesn’t exactly fit when individual experience (when women have historically gotten less chances) factors in.
So, here are two more ways that AEW can actually change the world of pro wrestling.
Normalize Intergender Wrestling
The last taboo in pro wrestling is going to be shattered by someone, will Cody be the one? Right now, with regards to wrestling televised in the United States, only Lucha Underground (which is more of a fantasy show than a wrestling promotion) allows men to wrestle women.
If AEW wants to be a progressive promotion, and throw around the word ‘equal,’ then why not allow women to fight men? If you allow superstars to compete against each other, regardless of gender, and show us how fantastic the promotion’s women wrestlers are, then what better way is there?
Sure, you can eventually allow your female wrestlers to headline a PPV, something it took eons for WWE to do, but if you can get to a point where all of your performers can feud with each other, you’ve taken a serious risk, one that’s bigger than simply not taking Vince McMahon’s money.
I say serious risk because there are folks who will be put off by the concept and optics of men and women engaging in physical combat. It’s the kind of thing that could draw negative mainstream attention.
But I bring this option up for a significant reason: we don’t know how many people AEW intends to sign. Unless they have a significant multiple of their current count, their women’s division might be on the small side, which makes it difficult — just look at Ring of Honor — to have a division that isn’t just a single feud.
Just look at Progress and NXT. Both darlings of the indie superfans have been guilty of only running one women’s feud at a time and having only one women’s match per PPV card. And both have significantly larger talent pools than AEW. Unless AEW plans to hire significantly more women, they’re going to be business as usual in this area.
Recognizing Unionized Wrestlers
Wrestlers getting paid more than ever? I hate to sound like South Park, but “WCW did it.” If AEW really wants to break the dynamics that have kept wrestlers at a point where they have minimal power, to change wrestling forever, there’s one very easy way.
If you allow — preferably encourage — talent to unionize and seize the means of production, then you’re actively pushing two massively seismic changes.
First of all, you’re showing the world that even though you have the structure of WWE — reportedly Tony Khan’s got a Vince role, so ultimate power still rests within the money — you’re not looking to continue the status quo.
Secondly, you’re giving wrestlers a chance to rewrite history that Vince and the union-busting Hulk Hogan set in stone.
Cody Rhodes himself has voiced similar ideas in the past, he just never said union.
Change — real, substantive change — is shocking. It’s not the surprise of a PAC or a claim of sorta-equal pay.
Change is breaking rules that people, such as Jim Ross, thought would never go unbroken.