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WWE is telling me to go watch AEW

Things haven’t been going so well for WWE lately. Their ratings for Raw and SmackDown have fallen to all-time low levels, this year’s Superstar Shakeup has been a giant dud thus far, and plenty of stars are unhappy with how WWE is using them. The latter issue may be the most alarming one of all, as it has led to the departure of former WWE champion Dean Ambrose, as well as Sasha Banks and Luke Harper currently sitting on the sidelines because WWE won’t release them. There’s also the Revival’s humiliation tour, the Lio Rush situation, the ongoing Saudi Arabia deal, and Lars Sullivan’s bigoted remarks from years ago gaining a lot of attention now that he’s being pushed on television.

In addition to all of that, WWE’s creative process is just not working for me right now. It’s really hard for me to sink my teeth into many of the stories they are telling. Part of this is because they continue to push people I don’t have much interest in, such as Shane McMahon, Baron Corbin, Braun Strowman, and Lars Sullivan, while doing little or nothing with performers I want to see a lot more of, including Rusev, Nakamura, Ruby Riott, Cesaro, and Chad Gable. This is compounded by the fact that Raw is way too long; the three hour format has always worked to the detriment of the product ever since the three hour format began in 2012.

And out of the stars who I do enjoy who also receive decent TV time, many of their current stories just aren’t all that captivating. This includes Styles, Asuka, Balor, Usos, McIntyre, and Ricochet, among others. I’d also throw Becky Lynch into that category. While her feud with Lacey Evans is fine and has been very helpful for Evans, it’s just not nearly as exciting as the days when Becky was stealing the show on almost a weekly basis back in the latter half of 2018.

The roster is too big for everyone to be given a spotlight, so inevitably many fans will have a list of wrestlers they feel aren’t used properly. With that in mind, here are some of the current questions that frustrate me as I am watching the show. Why the heck is Asuka suddenly teaming up with Kairi Sane and aligned with Paige? Why did the Riott Squad break up with no interesting storyline behind it? How am I supposed to take the Viking Raiders seriously? How has a feud between two great teams like the Usos and the Revival produced the worst segment of the year where Scott Dawson is dragging his burning crotch across the ring? Why is a match between Andrade and Ali used as just the latest way to put over Randy Orton? How did Sami Zayn emerge unscathed 24 hours after Braun Strowman seemingly murdered him? Why has women’s wrestling in general been de-emphasized since WrestleMania 35? Why is Nikki Cross not on my TV?

WWE has created a landscape where it is really tempting to seek an alternative right now. I have not sought out an alternative wrestling product ever since early 2001 when ECW and WCW folded. I used to obsessively watch WWF, WCW, and ECW from 1995 through 2000; this was the peak of my wrestling fandom, and for a good amount of that time WWF was easily third in the pecking order for me. I was devastated when ECW in particular went bankrupt, as I found nothing more entertaining every single week than witnessing those wrestlers execute Paul Heyman’s creative vision in the underdog role.

Once ECW and WCW were gone, I decided that I would be very careful about investing in another wrestling promotion, because I know how I am with these things and it’s really difficult for me to just dip my toes in the water. As an example coming from a different form of entertainment, back around 1999 I began to occasionally check out the first 20 minutes of Late Night with Conan O’Brien before going to sleep. I loved the comedy bits and didn’t care at all about the celebrity interviews, so I was fine with shutting the show off right before the first celebrity guest came out. But then I realized that Conan would also occasionally insert a comedy bit between the first two celebrity guests, so I started to watch through the first celebrity interview to see if there was a hilarious comedy bit waiting for me on the other side. By early 2002 I was watching every single minute of the show, minus the musical guests, and I continued watching every episode like that for the next 15+ years. This was a huge commitment to make considering Conan would run 160 to 200 shows a year, but I was all-in and fully invested, with no regrets.

Maybe the bigger point here is that I need to become better at enjoying things in moderation, and I’m working on that. Regardless, there could potentially be a massive emotional investment and time commitment required of me to really get into another wrestling product besides WWE, and that has always been a concern in the back of my mind whenever a new wrestling promotion would pop up on my radar since 2001. I never really felt ready for that kind of commitment.

I stayed away from ROH and TNA throughout most of their history. I briefly dabbled in TNA in early 2010 when they tried their Monday night experiment, but I was done with them by October that year because the product was so bad, and I’ve never gone back. I’ve never been tempted to watch NXT, partially because my disdain for Triple H is such that there’s an instant turn-off factor right there. I don’t watch New Japan. I don’t believe I have ever seen a Kenny Omega or Young Bucks match, nor can I tell you which Young Buck is which. I am not stating these things with any kind of pride or shame, I’m just trying to establish the point that I have ignored plenty of alternative wrestling options out there over the last 15 to 20 years largely because I didn’t think I had it in me anymore to put that kind of commitment into another wrestling product.

But that may very well change now. It sounds like AEW could be ready to announce a TV deal with TNT very soon. As someone who used to watch WCW Monday Nitro every week during the Monday night wars and saw how quickly WCW became the top company once they landed that show, this sounds like a potential game-changer to me. It’s hard for me to take any company seriously as a threat to WWE without a TV deal on a major network, so this will now get me to take AEW seriously, if it turns out to be true.

But that’s not the only reason that my attention is turning towards AEW. As I outlined at the beginning of this post, WWE has created a landscape where it’s actually hard not to be curious about what AEW is up to. That WWE would rather freeze Sasha Banks and Luke Harper rather than let them go tells me to take AEW seriously. That WWE would rather treat the Revival like dirt instead of releasing them tells me to take AEW seriously. That a big time star like Dean Ambrose has no issues turning down millions of dollars just to get the hell out of WWE tells me to take AEW seriously. That WWE’s ratings continue to plummet tells me to take AEW seriously.

It’s way too early to know how things are going to turn out for AEW. Maybe they will bomb and rapidly fade away, or maybe they will start with a solid foundation of roughly a million television viewers and gradually grow that base as WWE continues to dwindle their viewers by putting on a poor product most Monday nights. The bottom line though is that WWE’s defensive tactics in dealing with many of their unhappy superstars is a strong indication that AEW is at least a giant pain in their ass right now, and it certainly has my attention.

WWE has a few months to change my mind, but if AEW’s television show began next week I’d definitely check it out, with the intention to watch it every single week. And with every new story of WWE refusing to release an unhappy superstar, as well as WWE continuing to present a product that features way too many poorly written stories and giving so much time to performers I don’t want to see, WWE is only pushing me further in that direction.

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