Opinion | How AEW is Different than WCW and will Continue to Succeed
While All Elite Wrestling (AEW) may never become the greatest wrestling promotion in the world, a feat only WCW has accomplished, Tony Khan's promotion will never be as chaotic and disapproving like WCW was.
Today, we discuss some major points that make All Elite Wrestling (AEW) different than WCW.
Wrestling fans know how the leadership in WCW changed rapidly from Jim Herd, who knew nothing about pro wrestling, to Kevin Nash, who wanted to be top of the food chain on screen, to Vince Russo, who sank the ship with his chaotic booking ideas. WCW would have been better if it had stable leadership. But that is not the case with All Elite Wrestling (AEW). Even though The Elite (The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega) hold corporate positions, Khan has the last say. Wrestling Observer Newsletter has awarded Khan Promoter of the Year (2019–2022) and Best Booker (2020–2022).
The Four Pillars
All Elite Wrestling (AEW) started with many former WCW, WWE, and NJPW performers and crew. It helped bring in many viewers to the product. However, AEW has been building around originals like Darby Allen, MJF, Jungle Boy Jack Perry, and Sammy Guevara, who are the present and future of the company. They perform in Dynamite, Rampage, Dark, and Elevation and entertain audiences worldwide weekly. On multiple occasions, Allen and Guevara have been TNT (World Television) champions. Perry is a former World Tag Team Champion, and MJF has already achieved his glory by winning the World Championship.
If AEW was anything like WCW, and with only four years since its inception, we would have seen only the former WWE guys exchanging the world championship and getting prime television time. Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, and Rey Mysterio never got the spotlight in WCW, even if they were the best performers and most popular, leading all four of them to jump ships and become the all-time greats in WWE.
The Millennial Cowboy
Legendary performers like Chris Jericho, the first Undisputed WWE champion, unified the WWE and WCW world championships in 2001, became the first world champion of All Elite Wrestling (AEW) in 2019. He was the ultimate sports entertainer whose entertainment-driven work gave the brand-new All Elite Wrestling (AEW) World title a big spotlight. Brutish brawler Jon Moxley succeeded Jericho. He bought more legitimacy to the title by defending it in some of the most brutal matches. But then it was time for non-WWE guys to shine.
Kenny Omega succeeded Moxley and used it to showcase to the North American audience why he was the most accomplished Western wrestler in Japanese wrestling history. He bought his "5-Star Match Magic" to the All Elite Wrestling (AEW) World Title. This all was done in 3 years, so the most over-homegrown baby face, "Hangman" Adam Page, can become the 4th AEW world champion, defeating Omega in a 5.5 Star Match. Page was the one Jericho defeated to become the first All Elite Wrestling (AEW) World Champion; Page and Omega were the All Elite Wrestling (AEW) World Tag Team Champions, and in the future, Page would have a brutal rivalry with Moxley. What a story for the first home-grown wrestler to win the World Title!
In contrast, Hogan and Nash did everything they could to keep The Icon Sting below them in WCW, including botching Sting's highly anticipated World Title win against Hoagn in Starcade 97.
Storylines and Executions
The unstoppable and undefeated Goldberg won the WCW World Championship from Hollywood Hogan in the WCW Nitro edition of July 6, 1998, in front of more than 40,000 fans inside the Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA. Atlanta was Goldberg's hometown. The 40,000-plus fans went crazy when their hometown hero won the title. This sounds epic.
But hear me out. Georgia Dome could hold up to around 80,000 people. Goldberg was the biggest box office draw whose name was being cheered in arenas around the states like a battle cry. Hogan was the ultimate heel World Champion who everyone wanted to get beat up and lose the title. WCW announced the title bout only less than a week before the match. The reason: WCW just wanted to beat Raw in the ratings. They did. But just for a week.
Can you imagine a PPV main event Goldberg Vs. Hogan at the Georgia Dome, with 1–2 months of buildup? How much money could WCW have made at the gate and with PPV purchases? It would have been a huge profit. Also, can you vision around 80,000 fans cheering for their hometown hero winning the World Title?
Meanwhile, every All Elite Wrestling (AEW) World Title change had taken place on PPV, including when Hangman Adam Page defeated his mentor and former tag team partner Kenny Omega at Full Gear 2021. WCW was all focused on "Monday Night Wars"; trying to beat Raw weekly. All Elite Wrestling (AEW) uses WWE's formula of prime-time television building up to PPV but also gives PPV worth of matches on television for free.
Actions and Consequences
Although, Punk's return to wrestling was a significant event that attracted more audience, the unfortunate All Out 2022 post-show media scrum saw CM Punk insult and berate several fellow wrestlers, leading to a legitimate backstage fight between Punk, Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson, Kenny Omega, and Ace Steel. All involved were suspended, with Punk's future in All Elite Wrestling (AEW) still in question.
In WCW, the officials turned a blind eye to the problematic behaviors of Scott Steiner and Scott Hall, which saw them getting in trouble with the law on multiple occasions. They should have been held accountable and given a chance at redemption. But WCW just kept letting them go on self-destructive paths. On top of that, WCW exploited Hall's alcoholism as a gimmick which was awarded Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic in 1998 by Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
Why discuss All Elite Wrestling's second weekly television show behind its flagship, Dynamite? The answer: WCW also had a second weekly show in Thunder. The top WCW performers refused to work on Thunder, deeming it an inferior show where the jobbers perform. Even though talented performers like Booker T used Thunder to build their fanbase to become the WCW world champion eventually, WCW was in its final days. Thunder always got terrible ratings and viewerships. It could have done way better.
The first match on Rampage included Christian Cage challenging Kenny Omega (who held AEW World, Impact Wrestling World & AAA Mega titles simultaneously) for the Impact Wrestling World Title. First All Elite Wrestling (AEW) World Champion Chris Jericho regularly provides commentary to Rampisge. Every champion and performer has appeared at Rampage.
Many loyal WWE fans wish on social media for AEW to go out of business like WCW and ECW. However, it is better to have an alternative to WWE as the audience can have something more refreshing.
Most importantly, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) employs hundreds of people, meaning people have a place to work and provide for themselves. When WCW closed down, so many folks were out of jobs. When WWE cut its budget during the pandemic, many talents were out of jobs—many of those found a place in AEW or Ring of Honor (also owned by Khan). The existence of AEW puts WWE talent on notice to keep up, which is suitable for business — more jobs and opportunities are best for business.