It’s easy to see why wrestling fans in droves are jumping on the AEW hype train. They’ve signed former WWE stars Chris Jericho, PAC (formerly Neville), Billy Gunn (creative), Dustin Rhodes (Goldust), and the AEW Executive Vice-President Cody. They even brought in the greatest Wrestling commentator of this generation Jim Ross to handle the microphone duties when the bell rings here on May 25th. Since the announcement that Dean Ambrose is leaving WWE, it’s been rumored that his previous character Jon Moxley would be going to AEW and returning to the Indie scene. The recent Twitter video of Moxley has drawn all the conspiracy theorists out with a variety of opinions of what’s next. I won’t be truly convinced it’s not a Vince McMahon swerve until I see him elsewhere. If that makes me Alex Jones or Jesse "The Body" Ventura then so be it.
WWE’s ratings have been down and with the FOX deal looming in October the pressure is on Vince, Triple H and the rest of the Merry Men and Women to figure things out before the WWE goes the way of the Titanic. However, as ESPN's Lee Corso says, “Not so fast my friend…”
There were many pundits in the 90’s who were convinced that WWE was on its death bed and Eric Bischoff’s WCW renegades were going to bring down the empire. Umm no. The Atlanta based company imploded, primarily because of poor leadership, lack of direction, Corporate Censors and the pressure WWE brought with the Attitude Era. It’s been written in history what Vince McMahon does when threatened and despite poor ratings, and declining fan interest the WWE may not be too concerned yet. At least in my opinion. The proof isn’t on the WWE.
They don’t have to beat AEW and it’s on the newbies to prove they belong. AEW hasn’t had a live weekly show yet. Their PPV will do amazingly well, but let’s not applaud too soon. How will AEW’s ratings do in particular when their talent is allowed to wrestle elsewhere during the off time? This is important because the enthusiasm to see a wrestler compete on TV you just saw live may not be enticing. The ratings will need to increase over time (obviously) and take a chunk from WWE. Will they be able to keep the stories and matches fresh? Will they avoid the same matches each week? Booking for periodic large shows is different than doing live weekly television.
Another is that nobody AEW signed from WWE was anyone they wanted to keep. Jericho is still good but he was running above mid-card and who was he really going above on the WWE roster? PAC is good, but far from a big name and paid to stay home until his contract ran out, and even Moxley/Ambrose. I’m not convinced they wanted to keep him either. Again, WWE didn’t want him. Lastly, they thought so much of Cody Rhodes he became Stardust. We have no idea if the American Nightmare Cody, Kenny Omega, and the Young Bucks will be able to carry AEW. Being the top guys in ROH or New Japan isn’t the same. So far it’s been a lot of signing of buddies and people they’ve worked with for years.
To assume the WWE is going to fold or go down easy is just crazy. The McMahons have been promoting fights for a century and there is no reason to bet against them yet.