By Nick Perkins, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@WesternRebel)
“I’m not in competition with anybody but myself. My goal is to beat my last performance.” – Celine Dion
“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – Literally Any Article Ever Talking About History
March 26, 2001 was a great day for Vince McMahon. It was the day he got to go on national television (on two separate channels, no less!), to announce to the world that he had purchased World Championship Wrestling.
McMahon had, in his own words, “squeezed the life out of his competition.”
It wasn’t the first time, either.
The old-timers called it “Black Saturday.” Saturday, July 15, 1984 was the day Vince McMahon showed up on an episode of Georgia Championship Wrestling’s flagship program on TBS entitled, coincidentally, World Championship Wrestling.
He did so to announce the WWF’s purchase of WCW’s airtime on The Superstation. This was just another move in McMahon Plan to monopolize the wrestling industry. He made a series of savvy business that all led to one result: the WWF being the preeminent wrestling organization in the world.
It was a title they held until WCW came back strong with several business and creative maneuvers, including the signing of Hulk Hogan, the addition of a prime time wrestling show on Monday nights, directly opposite the WWF’s main show and the formation of the New World Order. The NWO was led by ex-WWF stars Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, and it brought WCW to the mainstream. So much so, that it briefly overtook the WWF as the number one wrestling promotion in the world.
But for as quickly as WCW rose to the top of professional wrestling, that’s how quickly it all came crashing down, which led to its eventual purchase by Vince McMahon.
And since that day in March of 2001, it has been Vince McMahon and his WWF (now WWE) that has been the proverbial king of the wrestling mountain.
Various organizations have sprung up through the past 17 years, including Ring of Honor and TNA (now Impact) Wrestling. New Japan Pro Wrestling will always have a place in pro wrestling. None of these companies, however, have been able to usurp the Mad Titan, Vince McMahon.
Quite frankly, nobody has ever been able to compete with the WWE.
Enter All Elite Wrestling.
AEW was recently announced by Cody Rhodes, the Young Bucks and a few others. It is the brainchild of those men, along with Tony Khan. Khan, as has been well documented, is the son of the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He is worth about a gazillion dollars and, if done right, he could help finance the next wrestling organization that could step up to WWE.
But that’s a big ‘If.’
There are a lot of things working against AEW, namely history. History is not on the side of those who have stepped to McMahon but it’s that history that can also serve as a template of what not to do. If AEW is smart, they’ll avoid past mistakes that other organizations have made.
From most accounts, AEW is smart. As somebody who has followed wrestling for more than 20 years, I have seen what works and what doesn’t, simply from an entertainment standpoint. I want All Elite Wrestling to be successful. I believe they can be, as long as they avoid the mistakes of companies that have come before them.
The biggest mistake they’ll want to avoid is, of course, trying to “compete” with Vince McMahon. Both WCW and TNA tried this and, despite a modicum of success, ended up failing miserably. Fans want a true alternative to WWE; they don’t want a company trying to be WWE. It worked for a while with WCW but, after realizing WCW only knew how to push former WWE stars, fans quickly lost interest.
The same can be said about TNA. TNA, at its hottest, was featuring the likes of AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels and more. They had a different look, a different feel and, it seemed, different goals. Gone were the days of Jeff Jarrett beating Raven or Rhyno every week. When the young, hungry talent were given opportunities to shine, that’s exactly what they did.
But then the TNA higher-ups hired people like Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff and even the damn Nasty Boys. That was in the Spring of 2010 and, quite honestly, TNA has never again reached its potential.
AEW will be wise not to rehash a myriad of WWE stars. Chris Jericho is one thing. He has proven his value to the wrestling world extends far beyond his WWE label. He proved that with his appearances in New Japan and with his own cruise. Jericho, it seems, shares the vision of Khan, Cody and The Bucks. He can be a valued member of the AEW roster. So could a team such as The Revival or someone such as Mike Kanellis. But AEW needs to be careful and selective with who they bring on board. I think and hope they will be.
From all accounts, the minds behind AEW know exactly what it is they’re trying to accomplish, and it has nothing to do with putting McMahon out of business.
Jericho, the most ‘WWE’ guy on the roster, has talked about this exact thing on his podcast, Talk is Jericho.
“I love the WWE,” Jericho stated. “I respect the WWE. They go through ups and downs creatively and stylistically and character-wise, but it’s the WWE, it’s the biggest wrestling company in the world. You’re not going to beat it. But we don’t want to beat the WWE. We’re not planning on that. That’s not the mindset of AEW. The mindset is to provide an option, an alternative for wrestling fans. Something that you haven’t seen before or something that you haven’t seen in a while.”
It seems as if the Young Bucks agree, as Matt Jackson recently stated in an interview with CBS 2: Chicago, that he doesn’t “think that should be something that we’re even considering right now is competing [sic]. I think we should be worried about ourselves. I think we should set our own goals aside and think, okay, let’s accomplish these goals in year one. Because after all, we are a brand new business.”
Jackson continued, saying that he doesn’t think AEW “should be even paying attention to what they’re doing. If we’re going to do any type of comparison, it should be, how could we be different? I don’t want to use the templates. I don’t want to use the terminology. I just want to be different… That’s how Nick and I have really competed in our entire career, always trying to be different and just doing our own thing. I think we’re a startup, and I don’t think we should be jumping the gun and going, let’s go to war with these guys. I think that would be irresponsible of us.”
So the guys behind AEW already know what we’re telling them. Now, let’s just see if their actions match their words. Is AEW destined to make history, or merely repeat it? Time will tell, but one thing is certain- it’s an exciting time to be a wrestling fan.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and WOW head writer and lead voice Stephen Dickey discussing his career and the launch of the weekly WOW television series that airs Fridays at 8CT/9ET on AXS TV.