How AEW can win the Wednesday night war
It’s now more than two years since the event that would ultimately lead to the formation of All Elite Wrestling was held. All In proved to be a resounding success, attracting a live crowd in excess of 10,000 – and proving Dave Meltzer wrong in the process.
It would prove to inspire the formation of a new promotion which openly stated its objective to compete with WWE. A combination of indie mainstays and big-name stars were recruited to lay the foundations and a weekly show was launched.
AEW would soon find itself going head to head with WWEs black and yellow brand, NXT, and the upstart promotion continues to disrupt and challenge the status quo, snapping up released WWE stars and forcing the bigger promotion to work harder to retain their personnel.
But can AEW win the Wednesday night war and establish itself as a legitimate threat to WWE’s status as the world’s number one organisation? We look at the steps Tony Khan and his team must take to at least stay in the fight.
Tap in to pop culture
AEW has already shown that it is in sync with the feelings of the hardcore wrestling community and has drawn a large percentage of its fanbase from within the community, even succeeding in poaching fans from its larger competitor.
But in order to generate a more mainstream appeal, the promotion must work harder to tap into pop culture. The WWE regularly engages with mainstream talk shows, celebrities, TV shows and other entertainment brands, and AEW has some ground to make up here.
There is something to build on, however. AEW has engaged with other entertainment sectors, such as the gambling sector, through its pay-per-view brands. Annual event All In features poker chips as part of the stage, while the promotion also stages Double or Nothing and the Casino Battle Royale, which borrows rules from blackjack.
The promotion has also recently announced plans to launch its own casino gaming brand and market itself to a whole new audience. This is a smart move on their part as the online gambling sector is booming. The range of online casino platforms available to American players is growing all the time. You can see many of the brands emerging on the scene in the full article here, where established names like BetMGM and 888 casino are getting into the US market.
There is naturally some cynicism among wrestling fans where celebrity cross-overs are concerned. David Arquette’s run as WCW champion during the promotion’s latter days is infamous, so this is an area where AEW must tread carefully.
But the recent news that Shaquille O’Neal is set to feature in an upcoming program with Cody Rhodes will undoubtedly get more eyes on the product, and Rhodes is experienced and savvy enough to make the feud work.
— Comic Book Resources (@CBR) November 12, 2020
The right pick-ups
AEW has raised eyebrows with the recruitment of household names like Chris Jericho and John Moxley (formerly Dean Ambrose), while the recent addition of Miro (formerly Rusev) has also encouraged WWE fans to check in.
But AEW cannot build its recruitment purely around former WWE stars. Picking up young talent at the right age and developing them could be key to helping the young promotion make ground on their bigger rival, while scouring Japan, Mexico and smaller US promotions for talent could also bear fruit.
AEW has already succeeded in disrupting the wrestling industry and its ratings figures have stacked up well against NXT. But there are improvements that Cody and co must make in order to last the course and compete in the longer term.