Every sport has that one franchise or competition that young hopefuls one day want to be a part of.
For American football it’s the NFL, in basketball the NBA remains the holy grail, while the NHL, MLB and even the English Premier League still lead the way in hockey, baseball and football respectively.
For more than two decades, since the end of the ‘Monday night wars’ at least, those who want to become a professional wrestler have eyed the WWE as their ultimate destination of choice – Vince McMahon’s outfit enjoying a near monopoly in the hearts and minds of wrestling fans around the world.
But in the last year or so, the daring upstart AEW has begun to make inroads into the WWE’s comfy dominance, and in many different areas Tony Khan’s ‘start up’ has clearly been eating into the market share dictated by McMahon and co.
The goalposts have moved so far that now the leading stars from the independent circuit are considering joining AEW over WWE, helped in part by the likes of CM Punk, Sting and Bryan Danielson deciding to lace up their boots in Khan’s venture after leaving WWE under something of a cloud.
— AEW on TV (@AEWonTV) December 20, 2021
It’s true to say that former WWE stars are typically joining AEW only after their contracts at the former have expired, but Khan’s ability to create superstars from scratch – Darby Allin, MJF and Jungle Boy to name a few – while enhancing the already stellar careers of Kenny Omega, Adam Page and the Young Bucks, is often a far more enticing proposition for those in the wrestling community than McMahon’s size-obsessed rival.
The viewing figures suggest there’s still a long road for AEW to take before they usurp WWE as wrestling’s premier institution, but the signs suggest that the new pretender to the throne has everything in place to challenge the established order.
But will it be a case of all hail the king, or the king is dead in 2022?
The Numbers Game
From world-renowned veterans to up-and-coming sensations, the AEW roster ticks all of the boxes.
But it’s no good if nobody is tuning in to see their athletes strutting their stuff on a weekly basis, and selling tickets to shows – and PPV buys – is central to wrestling’s business model. Khan has revealed that AEW was ‘profitable’ in 2021 without going into too much detail, and that’s impressive enough given how new his firm is to an already dominated niche.
AEW’s Dynamite show continues to broadcast to around one million viewers per week, and that stacks up very nicely against the 600,000 or so who tune in to WWE’s developmental arm NXT each week.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) January 4, 2022
McMahon’s flagship broadcast, RAW, continues to lead the way with around 1.5 million weekly fans, but it’s no secret that the brand is waning – as recently as October the show delivered its lowest ever viewing figure for its target age range.
There’s been commercial revenue from other areas for AEW to savour too. Sales of CM Punk shirts topped 100,000 in his first month after signing, while Khan’s reported ‘eight figure’ investment in the official AEW video game should bear fruit this year. In the meantime, disciples of the brand can download the official AEW Casino app, which features blackjack, roulette, poker, slots and more. If wrestling fans get a taste for the action at the table, this article shows other online casinos where they can access sign-up bonuses and play their new favourite games.
So will 2022 be the year that AEW takes over WWE’s mantle? The upstart clearly has everything in place, and it’s not impossible that Dynamite will take over RAW as the most watched wrestling show by December.
As AEW favourite Jon Moxley is famed for saying, what a paradigm shift that would be…