As a certified pro-wrestling mark that proudly sported both a black and white and red and black nWo shirt back in the day, there is nothing I love better than a cool wrasslin’ shirt. So, when I saw the Bullet Club shirt go mainstream I really wanted to get one… even though I had no idea what the Bullet Club was.
You see, I’m a fairly analogue (for lack of a better word) entertainment consumer, meaning if its not available on my cable package – I don’t watch it. So this means that the wide world of pro-wrestling, though on my radar by way of podcasts, is not necessarily in front of my eyes for viewing.
But, damn, those shirts look cool. So, not wanting to be a poser, I looked up a bunch of YouTube videos on the Bullet Club, past members, current feuds etc. The squad didn’t live up to the shirt, and I moved on without one.
However, the North American portion of the group stayed in the background of my audio wrestling consumption (which is heavy) and the names Kenny Omega, Hangman Page and The Young Bucks became really familiar to me. I wasn’t a fan, but I knew they were a thing and I wanted in. So I tried again to get into the Bucks by way of watching them on Ring of Honour with my newly acquired Fite Network.
It was still a no… but, man, is their theme song catchy.
So here I was on the outside looking in; a guy that really wants to be a wrestling fan more then a WWE fan that can’t get into what is clearly the thing to be into right now. And while I was dealing with this, The Young Bucks were building a huge YouTube brand and bonding with former WWE star and son of legendary performer Dusty Rhodes, Cody.
Being the Elite is huge. The shirts are huge. The meta-counter-culture-ish approach to wrestling is huge. Oh… and… now they are friends with Chris Jericho, appearing on his podcast and going on his cruise.
Yeah… no need to sell me on Y2J, guys… I’ve been Team Jericho since the days of Ralphus and that goofy topknot hair style.
I’m closer to being in…. All In, if you will.
As it happens, I happen to be on a Chris Jericho kick at the moment. I read his books, listen to his pod and have his 20 principals for success taped to the wall above my desk. I think he is one of the most interesting personalities to have emerged from the world of pro-wrestling this side of Dwayne Johnson. He’s a character that I, as a fan, feel like I grew up with in a way. We bonded in the WCW cruiserweight division and remained close through the “Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla”, “Undisputed” and “stupid idiot” years right on into “the list.”
While many of my favourites moved on, Chris always came back and he always came back with something new. He worked some of the all time greats, but still put Fandango over at WrestleMania. No matter what era we as fans were in, Jericho was there.
And then, all of a sudden, he was doing run-ins in Japan. This, I had to see.
Turns out, off of his WWE creative leash, Chris Jericho is pretty friggin’ awesome. So, if he’s into this Being the Elite thing, maybe I should give it another go.
Which led to the timely announcement of All Elite Wrestling and the intended subject of this column: a new wrestling promotion featuring The Elite (Cody, Young Bucks and Hangman Page) and Chris Jericho financed by a really, really rich guy named Tony Khan (he has his own NFL team already!).
So, is this big news for me and other wrestling fans? Short answer: Yes. Yes it is.
Since the death of WCW, WWE has not had much in the way of competition and, let me be clear, they still don’t. Nothing is going to touch that brand in terms of recognition. Not Impact. Not New Japan. Not ROH, Lucha Underground, CMML or AEW. WrestleMania is just too big.
However, looking at this announcement and who is involved, we do have a few things to talk about:
Will AEW get a TV deal? Smart money would say yes. While there is money to be had on the internet and through streaming services, a solid TV deal is still where its at. We now live in a world where WWE programming is worth BILLIONS of money to FOX so, for sure, other networks will be thinking of cashing in on one of the few remaining live non-repeat programming types out there.
Who else is going? The free agent market isn’t what it once was with NXT sucking up indie talent like Matt Riddle and Keith Lee, but that doesn’t mean having an alternative place to work isn’t going to entice talents that aren’t happy over in the WWE or other promotions. Will members of the bloated WWE main roster decide to take a possible pay cut for a higher spot in a worker friendly promotion? Maybe. Just don’t hold your breath for CM Punk, guys.
Will AEW force WWE creative to go in new direction? Anyone that has watched an episode of RAW over the past few months can, and will, tell you the same thing: The show is really, really stale. While SmackDown still provides a solid fix for main roster viewing, the audience for both has shrunk considerably over the past several years. Blame it on Roman, blame it on Brock, blame it on PG or bad booking, the product has lost much of his its base. Is some fresh buzz within the industry enough to shake WWE creative out of their rut? I don’t know. The ship has been sailing in these waters for some time and Vince McMahon has never been richer, so its tough to say that this new blip on his radar will have him take chances on fresh ideas or riskier content.
Is AEW going it alone or will they have a talent share deal of some kind with ROH, NJPW, Impact or other promotions? This is an interesting one. Part of the appeal of All In was the mixed bag of talent that showed up to compete under one roof. In fact, part of the coolness of the entire Bullet Club movement comes from this same place: not knowing where these guys are going to show up next. It remains to be seen how the entity of AEW ends up playing with others, but it doesn’t seem that any bridges have been burned so perhaps an ROH vs AEW event will be on the horizon down the road.
Is this the kickoff of a new Monday Night Wars? No. And as a fan, I don’t want there to be. What I want is for there to be a healthy wrestling industry with places for talents to work, make money, pay their bills and live their dreams. The Wars were great, the Attitude Era was what it was; let’s allow this new moment in wrestling to be what it is: something new, something different… something for us to talk about.
Because if there is one thing that wrestling marks love to do, it’s talk about wrestling and the announcement of AEW has given us just that.