When I first got back into pro wrestling 3 years ago, I never thought it would be as good as it is now.
I was already happy with NXT and NJPW. Both promotions excelled at in-ring action and character diversity, so it felt pretty good to be a wrestling fan again.
Still, I had no illusions of it ever returning to the insane heights it did in the 90’s, when wrestling was ultra mainstream. Back then, everybody knew who the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin were. To the point that even street vendors rocked bootleg WWF shirts. Wrasslin’ was that popular.
But that was over 20 years ago. Wrestling has since declined steadily into a niche attraction, thanks to the WWE successfully killing their competition. And as everyone knows, a monopoly is terrible for consumers.
With no other major players left, there’s no pressure to innovate or please fans anymore. Maximizing profit became the biggest priority, and it showed.
Thankfully, there were alternatives for those who knew where to look. A revolution against the WWE’s stale, boring product was brewing, and it was gaining traction among long-suffering wrestling fans.
In promotions around the world, charismatic wrestlers were building small, but dedicated followings by doing what the WWE wouldn’t: listening to fans.
This culminated in the largest indie wrestling event ever produced: All In.
It featured the biggest stars of the independent wrestling scene. By every metric, it was a huge success. 10 thousand tickets sold out in 30 minutes, and the crowd engagement was on a level unseen in years.
All In was a proof of concept. It was a huge gamble on the idea that there is a big, unserved market hungry for good professional wrestling. The organizers proved that there were many fans just waiting to be catered to.
I myself enjoyed it cause it was clearly a product made by the Elite, one of my favorite wrestling groups. Now, All In wasn’t perfect, no. But it was fun. It felt fresh and exciting, like witnessing a promising new band that you knew was going to be big someday.
It felt like the opening shot that signaled the start of a major turnaround for wrestling.
Enter Tony Khan, billionaire wrestling nerd.
He saw the success of All In and had the crazy idea: he’s put up a rival promotion with the same people who produced All In. One with a weekly show on a major US network.
And so, All Elite Wrestling was born in October 2019.
I was super excited for it, because I knew how talented and creative the Elite was. With major financial backing, I knew they could make something special. They could usher in a new era for modern wrestling, one that I’d look forward to every week.
My expectations were sky high. I tuned in every week.
Two years later, they’ve completely blown far past even my wildest dreams. It’s gotten to the point where I constantly question what I’ve done to deserve such incredible pro wrestling week over week.
Now, AEW has always been good. From their very first episode, they’ve had a fun, chaotic, and distinctly different program from WWE’s. And even throughout the pandemic, when they didn’t have any fans around, they found ways to deliver a good show.
But over the last month, they’ve reached a whole new level of greatness. They didn’t just regain the momentum they lost to the pandemic, they’ve shattered past it.
It started with the debut of CM Punk in his hometown of Chicago. He’s been away for 7 years, and has sworn to never wrestle again after his time at WWE.
For weeks before his eventual debut, there were rumors of him signing with AEW. The company itself teased it, but never confirmed it.
And then, he just showed up.
The crowd reaction was insane. The pop was deafening — you could hardly hear his entrance music. I haven’t seen anything like it since the attitude era.
And it only got better from there.
Just two weeks later, at their biggest PPV event, All Out, they debut Adam Cole (the top star from their closest rival, NXT) and Bryan fucking Danielson within two fucking minutes of each other.
That’s unheard of in pro wrestling. Usually, they space out major debuts between different shows so one star doesn’t outshine another. Doing this also helped build anticipation for future events. Not AEW. They just laid out all their cards at once, and it was awesome.
Everyone lost their minds. Me included.
All Out 2021 was the first PPV I ever bought, and I couldn’t be happier with it. AEW did more than just give us fans what we want: they gave us what we didn’t know we wanted. That is much, much harder.
I‘m just amazed at how they’ve pulled everything off. They’ve given me an unprecedented level of joy that I haven’t had since the pandemic started.
It’s super exciting. I eagerly tune in every week cause I know I’m gonna get something awesome. Nothing else has made me feel like a kid at Christmas.
With the arrival of all this top talent, AEW has no shortage of dream matches to make. And they’ve wasted no time giving one away already with the marquee match to their biggest show ever: Kenny Omega vs Bryan Danielson.
If you’re not a wrestling fan, allow me to make this comparison so you get an idea of how big a deal this is: they’re basically the LeBron James and Kevin Durant of pro wrestling. And they’ve never had a match on TV before.
Naturally, every wrestling fan was beyond excited for it. I actually woke up early to watch it live just 2 days ago. And holy shit, did it deliver.
The match ended in a draw after 30 minutes. And as disappointing as it was for some to not have a winner, it made absolute sense story-wise. These are the two best wrestlers in the world. Of course 30 minutes isn’t enough to see who’s better.
I mean, Kenny Omega’s best match ever was almost 65 minutes long. And I enjoyed every minute of that. The man just knows how to get your attention and hold it. And now, he gets a rare opponent that’s on the same level.
What a time to be a wrestling fan.
It’s been so satisfying seeing AEW grow into the powerhouse of a promotion that they now are. I’ve seen glimmers of their potential over these past 2 years, so to see them finally reach this level, this quickly has been something I can’t describe.
I’m so invested in their success that I’ve started paying for their content. And crazier still, I feel like I’m shortchanging them by paying so little for it!
That’s how much I love AEW. I didn’t think I could love pro wrestling any more than I already do, but they’ve given me countless reasons to do so. They know how to reward fans for paying attention, while still keeping us hungry for more.
The craziest part is they’re just getting started. When Omega and Danielson finally compete for the AEW title, it’s gonna fuck so hard.
And I’ll be there enjoying every second of it.
I hope you do too.