By Nick Perkins, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@WesternRebel)
Jon Moxley, who recently made his debut with All Elite Wrestling (AEW) made waves once again with podcast appearances on both “Talk is Jericho” and the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast.
The Jericho podcast was certainly the more ‘controversial’ of the two, but Keller’s interview was just as intriguing. In addition to an amazing rant about his notoriously boring match against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 32 that must be heard to be believed, Moxley said something that made my ears prick up as if I were a dog and he was Pavlov himself.
Keller was questioning Moxley about the typical roles of babyfaces and heels, whether or not that mindset is passé (it’s not), and how the wrestlers in AEW will be promoted. Ambrose said there will still be traditional heels and babyfaces in AEW, but he mentioned that it would be hard to truly ‘boo’ somebody like Cody Rhodes, because of his real-life story.
“The promotion is the babyface,” Moxley stated. It was a throwaway quote, but it perfectly sums up the battle lines being drawn between AEW and WWE. It’s not a war just yet, but if fans were forced to pick a side, it seems as if many would side with All Elite Wrestling.
AEW is the DIY promotion, started by a bunch of guys who were told they would never ‘make it.’ It’s owned by a guy who could very easily have come off to wrestling fans as the typical son of a rich man, born with a proverbial silver spoon. But Tony Khan is anything but typical. He’s a fan of professional wrestling, first and foremost. He also seems like a genuinely good dude, based on the appearances he’s made and interviews he’s given. It’s hard not to like Tony Khan and it’s even harder not to like Cody, The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, Chris Jericho, Jim Ross, Brandi Rhodes, and almost every single member of the AEW roster.
Except MJF. It’s easy to not like him.
For the time being, AEW are the clear babyfaces, going up against the McMad Titan himself, Vince McMahon. It’s a situation reminiscent of the ‘war’ between the then-WWF and Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling.
History books are written by the victors, and the history WWE would lead people to believe is that the WWF was the clear underdog in the fight against WCW. WWF was the mom and pop organization that gave the world Hulk Hogan and made pro wrestling cool. It was a family-run business that started with Jess McMahon and would continue to flourish until his grandson, Vince McMahon Jr. took ownership and then it skyrocketed. While the WWF was, in fact, a family business, it was far from a small business, even back then. Vince K. McMahon almost single-handedly monopolized the wrestling business in the ’80s. When Ted Turner purchased WCW and proudly proclaimed that he was “in the wrestling business,” McMahon scoffed. His arrogance never let him believe that WCW could be a true threat.
Until it was.
For a solid 3-4 years, WCW outshined, outperformed, and outdrew WWE at seemingly every turn. Their buy rates skyrocketed as the NWO, Sting, Goldberg and a select few others captured the hearts and imaginations of fans.
But it wouldn’t be long before those hearts were broken. After a series of dumb storylines, non-finishes to the majority of main event matches, and the failure to create new stars other than Goldberg, WCW soon found itself as the unintentional heel in the feud with WWE. Fans were quick to forgive and forget Vince McMahon and the bad decisions he made, both in front of and behind the camera. Suddenly, the company that changed the face of the business for a while became Public Enemy No. 1 for fans. Every decision the company made seemed to be a bad one. Every person they hired, every story they wrote, every match that was botched, none of it went unnoticed by fans.
Sound familiar? WCW became a joke within the industry before it was purchased by WWE. Fans had zero faith in the creative direction and they had nothing but scorn for the suits behind the company. WCW turned heel and it would go out on its back.
Now, twenty-ish years later, a new company has finally emerged with enough talent in front of and behind the scenes, as well as the bankroll, to compete with WWE. But, unlike WCW, this company is not being ran by a bunch of suits who don’t know a wristlock from a wristwatch (I’ve always wanted to use that metaphor). While it is about to occupy the former television home of WCW, AEW is not the byproduct of TNT or Turner Broadcasting.
More importantly than that, however, is the mission statement behind AEW. Whereas WCW featured a roster of performers who, seemingly, were only interested in forwarding their own careers, it seems as if AEW is more of an ‘all-for one, one-for-all,’ company. Cody, Tony Khan, The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, and even Chris Jericho aren’t looking to solely pad their own resumes and wallets. They have stated, on multiple occasions, that they want to change the wrestling world as we know it. So far, they’re off to a good start. The in-ring action at Double Or Nothing was top-notch, but it’s the stuff going on outside of the ring that clearly positions AEW as a ‘babyface.’
Their positioning of women and men as equals, as well as their attitudes toward transgender inclusion are breaking down decades-long barriers. Their foresight to provide the first sensory-inclusive pro wrestling show was a great move. Their denial of wanting to ‘compete’ with WWE (even though that’s exactly what they’re doing) allows them to remain on the high road, especially when WWE continues to make baffling business and creative decisions. Basically, they’re saying and doing everything right, as of now. Things could change because things always change when it involves the wrestling business. But that’s exactly what AEW says they want to usher in- change.
Nobody knows if AEW will be able to change the wrestling world. We don’t even know, just yet, if they will be the company to finally, totally challenge WWE for wrestling supremacy. Their track record is unproven and their history has yet to be written. But everybody likes a good underdog story, and that’s exactly what AEW is right now- an underdog. And it’s hard not to cheer them on. It’s hard not to root for the underdog.
It’s hard to not side with the babyface.
Check below for the latest Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and Glenn “Disco Inferno” Gilbertti, who discusses how being a good heel doesn’t stop outside the ring, a trait that big name wrestlers have in common, his male chauvinist persona, why he didn’t work for WWE after the WCW sale, and more.