Not since the days of the WWE/ WCW Monday Night Wars has the WWE received direct ‘in your face’ competition from another wrestling promotion. However, the inaugural pay per view for upstart wrestling promotion All Elite Wrestling (AEW) seemed to offer an Andre the Giant-sized middle finger at the WWE and its ownership.
The show (Double or Nothing) was lauded by many as an overwhelming success. There was an electric feel to AEW’s premiere event, and it offered the audience exciting, emotional, and surprising action throughout the evening.
The question on my mind, as well as those of other wrestling fans, should Chairman of the Board, Vince McMahon be concerned about AEW making waves in his tide pool?
For decades, and for better or worse, McMahon has built his empire by snapping up other promotions and absorbing the talent. It is hard to argue the point that McMahon’s actions created a monopoly where fans had to take what WWE offered or walk away from sports entertainment. Clearly, the global reach of the WWE tells us most of the fans accepted the offerings of McMahon’s company. Rumblings from independent wrestling promotions landed on the periphery of WWE radar, except for the signing of first-class indie talent. In those instances, wrestlers had to abandon their former in-ring personas and adopt a name and back-story handed out by the WWE.
While sitting on his golden throne supported by the blood of his freelanced entertainers, McMahon remains decidedly hands-on. Although his television time has waned, he rules his kingdom with an iron fist. Allegations of unfair practices and a lack of concern for wrestlers’ health, once whispers, became louder proclamations. In particular, Phil Brooks, better known by his in-ring name CM Punk, pulled no punches exposing his own experience of poor medical care. WWE denied Brooks’ claims. However, stories from additional in-ring talent who opted to disassociate with the sports entertainment megalith tell similar tales. Generally, WWE talent is tight-lipped about what happens behind the curtain.
The machine that is the WWE rolls on expecting no challenges, indeed who could challenge such an empire?
Enter Tony Kahn.
Kahn is a life-long wrestling fanatic who also co-owns the Jacksonville Jaguars with his father, Shahid Kahn. In Kahn, we find an owner who has a bankroll large enough to match McMahon’s and the passion for building a wrestling promotion that makes a point not to repeat the mistakes of the WWE.
Kahn launched All Elite Wrestling on January 1, 2019 and has since developed working relationships with talented independent wrestlers as well as wrestling royalty. He wisely positioned these wrestlers in executive positions within AEW and is depending on them to help steer his ship through the sometimes-murky waters of the sports entertainment world.
To his credit, Kahn aligned himself with former WWE superstars Cody and Brandi Rhodes, as well as Cody’s brother WWE/WCW legend Dustin (Gold dust) Rhodes. Adding to his rank, Kahn brought Ring of Honor and New Japan wrestling megastars Nick and Matt Jackson (The Young Bucks) and Kenny Omega into the executive fold.
In addition to his executive stable of in-ring performers, Kahn wasted no time reaching out to the likes of Chris Jericho, Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, Tommy Dreamer, Chuckie Taylor, Adam Page, and Pentagon Jr. to bring on board. In what some consider a true coup de grace, former WWE/ Combat Zone Wrestling megastar Jonathan Good arrived at Double or Nothing to make his future intentions with AEW known. Good is better known as WWE’s Dean Ambrose and CZW’s Jon Moxley; he was a fan favorite at both promotions.
With rumors of more talent considering the move to AEW, I have to wonder if McMahon’s Goliath can be brought low by Kahn’s David. A single successful pay-per-view does not provide enough information and no one at the top of AEW claims their goal is to overthrow McMahon’s empire. Still, as someone with a deep appreciation for independent wrestlers who spend years working to reach the brass ring of the WWE only to be chewed up and spit out for their trouble, I am hoping AEW does disrupt the status quo. It is well past time for the WWE to have some real competition. The question is, does All Elite Wrestling have what it takes to bring the fight to McMahon?