Few industries are as dominated by one brand as professional wrestling is by WWE. In the 1990s, the company was involved in an intense duel with the rival WCW brand – 'Monday night wars – but once WCW fell away, Vince McMahon's enterprise has been devoid of any serious competition.
Other brands like TNA, Ring of Honour and New Japan Pro Wrestling are well known to fans but come nowhere close to challenging WWE's stranglehold on the pro-wrestling business. Now a new challenger is in the market – and he comes from an unusual source.
All Elite Wrestling (AEW) is the brainchild of Tony Khan, son of Pakistani American businessman Shahid Khan. The father-son duo launched the company some weeks ago and have already announced the first major wrestling event of the company – Double or Nothing. A weekly two-hour show is likely to be on air before the end of 2019.
But is there any chance of this upstart in the wrestling industry even causing minor irritation to McMahon and his multi-billion dollar corporation? It would be a monumental task. WWE's hold on the wrestling industry and the mind of wrestling fans is so great that even making a minor dent in its popularity would be a substantial achievement.
Current state of WWE
WWE's revenues have actually increased in recent times and the value of WWE stocks has also soared. Despite the fans' nostalgia for old days, attendance at Wrestlemania and other events remains high. New stars are slowly starting to develop a loyal fan following.
But a lot of effort has been made by the promoters of AEW and there have been a few high-profile signings – the most prominent one being Chris Jericho. One of the big moves made by the company is getting iconic commentator Jim Ross on board. For most WWE fans, he is the voice of professional wrestling and his association with this company would make the brand more recognisable.
This won't be enough. TNA hired a spate of WWE legends to boost up their popularity but it didn't bring great results. Compared to that, the current roster of wrestlers signed up by AEW has very few big names. So, what would matter is content.
However, if one trawls through the comments of wrestling fans who are unhappy with current WWE programming, their biggest complaint is that the current content is not like the 'good old days.' Some go one step further and believe WWE should go back to its 'Attitue era.' This is just not possible. What the company got away with in the old days can't be put on air.
Will AEW be different? It is unlikely that their programming would be any edgier than WWE. What the company will have to do is create unique storylines and compelling characters along with matches that are genuinely high-quality. Whether they will able to do that is hard to say.