A lot happens every week in this wacky world of professional wrestling. Fair to say a lot generally happens during our 24-hour news cycle of endless memes, bullspit, and shenanigans. Amongst the noise of Triple H choosing all of the violence and Raw is Bore, AEW told us they’re headed to New York City this September.
Putting aside one’s feelings on Chris Jericho’s assessment of the situation, this is kind of a big deal. AEW, a company still in its infancy, secured a spot in the most famous city in the world, continuing the pro wrestling industry’s most important story of the last two years.
Since 2019, AEW secured a significant television deal, premiered its flagship show with another on its way for our viewing pleasure. Even in the age of broadcast companies doing whatever it takes for content, those facts say a lot about All Elite Wrestling. To his credit, Tony Khan created a legitimate alternative to WWE’s particular brand of “sports entertainment” and has it on a national stage. But, while it helps to have an insanely rich father willing to blow his money, Papa Khan’s observation about the chances of AEW succeeding was on point: none of this was guaranteed.
.@AEW is finally bringing “Dynamite” to New York City on September 22nd— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 16, 2021
“This venue [Arthur Ashe Stadium] is one we identified over two years ago as a place we wanted AEW to go,” @TonyKhan says https://t.co/wdfSmfQJGl pic.twitter.com/e5JeKGoPaW
Many a wrestling company emerged from WCW’s hollowed-out corpse, all looking to take the mantle that was buried 20 years ago. When Impact Wrestling was TNA, they were, to quote Ludacris, coming for that number one spot. And they certainly got the closest at the time. But TNA never felt like a legitimate competitor to WWE, a fact made painfully evident when they tried reigniting the Monday Night Wars.
Their opening shot fizzled on *ahem* impact, and the rest is history. Maybe there’s a universe where one or three things go differently, and this isn’t even a conversation. It shows the difficulty of the task in front of AEW because the odds were not in their favor.
And yet, here we are. AEW announced it’s stepping onto the world’s biggest stage the same week it’s featured in Forbes. Shaquille O’Neal, Snoop Dogg, and Mike Tyson successfully lent their respective juice to Dynamite, playing different roles while signaling to the world AEW is for real. If you know, you know, so Shaq and Snoop showing up isn’t a huge surprise. On the other hand, Tyson has no such responsibilities and is still a huge name in this pop-culture world of ours.
Even though the company shares the same umbrella with an NBA legend and the guy who made Doggystyle, not everyone who watches wrestling knows or even cares about such things. AEW snagged the best kind of publicity one can get—free—with highlights on SportsCenter and all the attention the Dogg receives wherever he goes. Even WWE realized that last part is sort of a big deal.
Speaking of WWE, Vince McMahon’s empire also contributed to AEW’s rise when it counter-programmed Dynamite with NXT. Maybe it was an NBCUniversal decision, perhaps it was WWE’s, or possibly it was a little of column A and column B working together. Either way, the move created a narrative that AEW could compete with a WWE product and win. I don’t think anyone is under the illusion that NXT is Raw or SmackDown in terms of ratings or name recognition, including anyone in AEW.
That said, the brevity of the “Wednesday Night War” adds to the corporate narrative and is something for people in boardrooms to brag about. More importantly, it creates momentum and opens up avenues some thought impossible a few years ago, like doing a massive event in WWE’s backyard.
There’s a reason “New York” is shorthand for WWE in wrestling circles. Wrestling fans and media types know the importance of that city in WWE history and why the company considers it “home.” While Arthur Ashe Stadium isn’t Madison Square Garden, it has its own sports history and is named after a true legend. Personally, as a former Queens resident, I’m down for any love thrown to NYC’s most thorough borough. But I digress.
As my boy Sean aptly points out, Arthur Ashe Stadium isn’t a hall or mid-size theater. Instead, it’s a massive venue that gives AEW a chance to make its own New York City history, which becomes part of its still-in-progress legacy. While some may roll their eyes at the belief that making it in New York means you can make it anywhere, that doesn’t make it untrue. It’s a dope move for wrestling fans, but it’s even more notable for the message it sends to media conglomerates. If done effectively, it tells the entire entertainment world that AEW is worth more than a bit of attention.
WCW said it was “where the big boys” played in the 1990s. We all know what happened there. Playing in front of a (hopefully) packed New York City crowd is just one more step in AEW establishing themselves as the new big boy on the block in the eyes of not just wrestling fans but those in the business community who make the blue ball spin. To quote the man in the Oval Office, this is a big fuc*ing deal.