FanPost

There is no wrestling war going on

For all the banter this week about WWE and AEW going head-to-head on Friday night, there were two key points that no one talked about—fans, bloggers, journalists, pundits, and so on:

WWE is a corporation. AEW is a privately-owned company. This key difference explains just about everything you saw on Friday night from the two companies.

It will also explain why these two companies should not be regarded as competitors, despite what talking heads and the luminaries of each promotion might say.

With their primary television offering being jettisoned to a TV network that is in fewer homes than TNT, WWE wanted to ensure that they delivered big time. The importance of doing so was enhanced by the fact that the company loses anywhere from 50-60% of their regular Smackdown viewership when the show is bumped to FS1. The company emptied the chamber with their four biggest acts—Roman Reigns, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and Brock Lesnar—all appearing on the 30-minute overlap with AEW Rampage. Based on the reaction I've seen from fans, the Banks-Lynch bout, which featured Bianca Belair on commentary, was fantastic; the Reigns-Lesnar contract signing with the constant teasing of Paul Heyman's duplicity, was an entertaining segment to close the broadcast.

AEW, on the other hand, responded to WWE because their fans were expecting it (or, at the very least, hoping for it). In lieu of going live with Rampage of an hour earlier, the company chose to do a YouTube pre-show that overlapped with the last hour of Smackdown. The pre-show package featured Minoru Suzuki battling Bryan Danielson in a riveting strong-style bout; Bobby Fish and new-AEW signee Lee Moriarty in a solid technical match; and Tay Conti working a short, but solid match against Santana Garrett.

However, what happened on the main TV broadcast said a lot more, at least to me. Rather than change the card to feature higher profile talents such as Danielson, Jon Moxley, or even Miro, Khan stuck with the card that he originally booked. CM Punk wrestled a fantastic match with Matt Sydal with no commercial interruption. Ruby Soho and Allie The Bunny performed in what was Allie's most impressive in-ring in AEW. The Inner Circle facing Men of the Year and Junior Dos Santos turned out to be a better main event than anyone expected.

In other words, aside from an addition, AEW didn't really do anything different than it already does. The company is not in a position to where they have to prove anything at this point. AEW has proven that they have cultivated a loyal, passionate fan base that can be effectively monetized. Khan's promotion delivers TV viewership that exceeds WarnerMedia's own original expectations. AEW's back was not against the wall by any means.

On the other hand, the pressure is on WWE, but not in the way that most fans think. AEW is not going to challenge WWE in terms of revenue, profitability, viewership, or market share anytime soon. However, the Stamford Outfit does have television partners that are reportedly either disappointed with viewership (FOX) or program quality (USA Network). Moreover, WWE's stock has increased 26% over the past 2 months; the company wants avoid any embarrassing headline that could negatively affect its stock price—and thus shareholder wealth.

Ultimately, that what this comes down to. The two companies are not at war. One company has to demonstrate to its numerous stakeholders that it is still the market leader; the other company can just continue to do what it does, capitalize on its opportunities, and build on its strengths.

For WWE, the pressure is on them, especially when you take into consideration shareholders. Shareholders expect the value of the shares they hold to increase; WWE officials, as financial officers, have a fiduciary duty to ensure that their decisions ultimately benefit shareholders. That means WWE will release some of your favorite performers; change aspects of their programming; and put on shows that are meant to appeal to a wider audience, IWC smarks be damned. It does matter to keep fans happy, but matters more to keep them engaged and interested. WWE is interested in fan that values personality and pomp over in-ring performance. That has been WWE's modus operandi forever.

In a way, AEW enjoys a lot more freedom being a privately-owned company. Tony Khan and company can focus on fan service thanks to focusing mostly on audiences that actually cares about pro wrestling itself. It is a narrower, but very lucrative, consumer demographic. The median AEW fan is a serious pro wrestling fan; they are more likely to have a deeper, personal connection with the performers, the promotion, and the art itself. The company wants the audience to watch because it is pro wrestling. However, this does somewhat make Reigns' point in that interview somewhat valid: AEW is for diehards and thus has a much more narrow audience than WWE. You could make the argument that one would probably have to be a fan of pro wrestling to enjoy AEW. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does create somewhat a barrier of entry.

Going forward, keep in mind each promotion's status: WWE as a publicly-traded company and AEW as a privately-owned company. It's going to shape a lot of what you see out of each company. Neither company does pro-wrestling the "wrong" way or even the "right" way. Both approaches will have their apologists and their critics. However, I criticize the notion that this is a wrestling war. It isn't. There's three similarities: there's a ring, there's wrestlers, and there's basic pro wrestling tropes. Aside from that, the companies couldn't be anymore different, catering to different audiences, and wanting to offer a completely different experience from one another.

The officials of each company aren't stupid. They're going to "respond" if their stakeholders demand it. However, they're not responding to each other; they're responding to their stakeholders.

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.