Vince McMahon says WWE doesn’t view AEW as competition, at least the way he viewed WCW in the 1990s.
Tony Khan on the other hand not only says the two companies are competitors, but that the promise of that competition was key to his pitch of Dynamite to TNT executives. During his latest visit to Busted Open, the AEW President also talked about how the business rivalry draws in internet fans.
“It’s the dream. It’s also a lot of what I pitched to TNT. This is all a dream come true. Three years ago, I was in TNT’s office. I hadn’t signed a single wrestler. And I was telling them, ‘We can do this. We can recreate the competition in wrestling that will rise wrestling as a whole.’ And really, wrestling fans, things changed a lot when the internet came around. People learned a lot about the happenings of wrestling and how a lot of things are done. And everybody then became kind an internet expert, but in a good way. Like we should embrace it.
“So knowing that, I went to TNT and TBS, WarnerMedia, and said, ‘Hey, I really believe there’s an opportunity here to recreate the competition in wrestling that existed twenty years ago...’ People know about a lot of the happenings of wrestling, but the one thing that everyone knows is true and real is that these wrestling companies hate each other. Especially the big ones. This competition is real, free agency is real, people going back and forth, people showing up on a new show is hot and exciting and a lot of what fueled the industry in the 90s.
“That competition not existing I think led to some staleness up until a few years ago. And really we’ve seen a really exciting time around the wrestling business, and the pandemic came at a time when the momentum had really picked up. And now the fans are back, the momentum is not only back but really I think we’re on a stronger course than we’ve ever been, a real trajectory… that hasn’t happened, where another wrestling company outside of WWE has had the number one show on cable three weeks in a row since the peak of Nitro.
“And I don’t think anybody necessarily three, four years ago would’ve predicted there was going to be this kind of competition in wrestling again. But it is absolutely the best story in wrestling, in my opinion, that the industry, this sport, is coming back. And it’s coming back in different ways. It’s coming back in digital, it’s coming back on TV, it’s coming back on PPV. But the numbers are up and no one can deny that wrestling is hotter than it’s been in a long time. And I’m very, very proud of that as someone who loves wrestling.”
Not much here to argue with. While Vince & team haven’t been threatened by what AEW is doing to anywhere near the extent Ted Turner & WCW did when they almost put the then-WWF out of business, they absolutely pay attention to them as you would a competitor. Otherwise, NXT never goes to Wednesdays, McMahon doesn’t make his “blood & guts” comment, etc, etc.
And as someone who runs a pro wrestling website, I can attest to the fact internet fans like this sort of thing. Does that get AEW much bigger than it already is, let alone big enough to break out of our little niche corner of the web to anywhere near the level of cultural relevance it would need to reach to threaten WWE?
We’ll find out over the next few months.