That is approaching the wildest week in skilled wrestling historical past, rivaling WWE’s buy of WCW in 2001. Lower than a day has handed since rumors that Vince McMahon was near promoting WWE to the Saudi Arabian Public Funding Fund, new reviews emerged that AEW proprietor Tony Khan and his father (proprietor of Jaguars Shad Khan) had made a merger proposal that may see the Khans purchase WWE and merged two of the biggest skilled wrestling corporations on this planet.
Experiences of a possible merger are met with shock, pleasure and loads of bitterness. The tribalism inside each manufacturers over the previous 4 years has been some of the poisonous parts of the wrestling fandom – with a vocal minority on either side attacking one another over who’s “higher” and defending their favourite model as if it have been a sovereign nation.
The reality is that WWE and AEW have two very completely different approaches to wrestling, concentrating on completely different audiences. WWE focuses on mainstream opinion-sharing, turning into synonymous with skilled wrestling for a large viewers and tailoring its programming to a large age group. AEW, however, sharpens its tooth on hardcore, area of interest wrestling followers – who principally rejected the broad WWE strategy and both have been wrestling followers or switched to watching indie or Japanese wrestling consequently.
The longer term the place these two visions come collectively is terrifying but in addition thrilling. It could possibly be the very best factor that ever occurred to the corporate, or it could possibly be absolutely the worst. There are such a lot of variables right here that it is value delving into the transferring components and exploring what such a merger would imply for wrestling.
Competitors is nice. Consolidation is unhealthy
That is the largest and finest argument towards a possible merger of each manufacturers. When it grew to become clear after the launch of AEW that there was sufficient of an viewers to maintain it afloat, the competitors pressured WWE to up its sport.
Actually, for many of 2010, WWE was largely stagnant. On the time, the corporate had three accepted “eras”, the PG period, the fact TV period, and the brand new period – however all three washed up collectively right into a somewhat nasty soup. The corporate concurrently sought to place itself as a kids’s present, an extension of actuality TV, and on the similar time a critical wrestling firm. The end result was bland. Most die-hard wrestling followers have moved to NXT, WWE’s rising model, whereas viewership has steadily declined for 2 company occasions, STRICT and Failure.
Being below stress from AEW significantly improved the WWE product. Early makes an attempt to problem AEW by head-to-head matchups with NXT Dynamite in “Wednesday Evening Wars” failed for WWE, with AEW routinely beating the competitors. This led to concentrated efforts to enhance the WWE product, which was largely profitable.
Younger wrestlers have been moved to the primary roster to offer alternatives for brand spanking new expertise. The storylines have develop into deeper and dealt with with extra care than earlier than AEW’s launch, and the collective success of every wrestling firm all the best way to the indie scene has led many to name it a “golden period” as principally any wrestling fan can discover a thriving content material manufacturing firm, which they like.
There’s a massive concern that with out competitors, the motivation to enhance disappears. This might result in a return to a mindset that favors forward-thinking over innovation, not only for WWE, but in addition for AEW. AEW would have a lot much less stress to push, with no TV rights offers ready for them, with broader rights negotiated for either side of the corporate.
It does not matter what trade you are in or what model you help: competitors is nice. Stress drives innovation, and at any time when we see a big conglomerate of rivals, it normally ends in shoppers dropping out within the again room.
That stated, AEW’s involvement is MUCH higher than Saudi Arabia shopping for WWE
There’s completely little question that the worst attainable consequence of the sale of WWE can be Saudi Arabian management of the corporate. We have mentioned numerous explanation why it could be horrible, and nothing has modified on that entrance.
When you’re taking a look at a choice sheet that may be finest for a enterprise, it could in all probability be:
No. 1: A media firm buys WWE
No. 2: Funding agency buys WWE
No. 3: WWE merges with AEW
No. 999: Saudi Arabia Buys WWE
A merger could possibly be an enormous boon for employees’ rights
With out query, the worst enterprise observe continued by WWE is the best way it treats its staff. For years, WWE has bent tax legal guidelines to categorise its wrestlers as “unbiased contractors”. This exempted WWE from most employment-related productions given to full-time staff, together with not offering advantages – whereas by some means guaranteeing that its unbiased contractors couldn’t work for another firm or pursue sources of revenue exterior of WWE.
It is a routine critique of WWE practices and stays in place primarily due to wrestlers’ concern that they can not discover work elsewhere, or the idea that any problem will likely be buried within the court docket system – and WWE will in the end win by exhaustion.
In the meantime, AEW was praised from the beginning for its labor rights. Many wrestlers are both true freelance contractors who can work for different wrestling corporations and pursue their very own unbiased bookings, or maintain full-time positions inside the firm the place they complement their in-ring work with clerical duties, artistic duties, or organizational duties.
Additionally, there’s a variety of discuss AEW’s lighter work schedule. As a substitute of abilities anticipated to wrestle 2-3 occasions per week on tv or non-broadcast TV reveals, wrestlers historically practice for one match per week at most. Moreover, the corporate operates nearly seasonally, with the time between every quarterly pay-per-view providing a chance to rotate expertise, permitting some wrestlers to take a major break and showcase different workers – particularly within the decrease and mid-range playing cards.
There are a lot of hopes that the merger of the 2 corporations might result in the standardization of labor practices – extra seemingly that WWE would undertake a few of AEW’s guidelines than the opposite method round. It could be the largest leap in the direction of labor rights that WWE wrestlers have ever seen, and it could significantly enhance their high quality of life.
This could possibly be good if the manufacturers keep separate
If this merger have been to happen, either side should study from the sins of the previous. One of many largest errors in wrestling historical past stems from the mishandling of WCW’s “Invasion”, which took some of the memorable moments in wrestling historical past and turned it into an entire mess.
Because the mud settled, it grew to become clear that a greater route can be to maintain WCW as a separate model, however with WWE’s stability and governance to vary route – somewhat than making an attempt to combine WCW expertise into WWE and water down the product consequently.
It is a fully completely different state of affairs. No firm will fail, however the query stays: AEW and WWE should stay separate entities with nearly no crossovers. These are two completely different TV audiences who needn’t really feel pressured to observe 4-5 nights of wrestling per week to really feel like they understand how the tales are unfolding.
Exceptions can and ought to be for the uncommon marquise dream match – or doubtlessly the once-a-year tremendous present the place expertise clashes throughout manufacturers. Who would not need to see Ricochet vs. Ray Fenix or Kenny Omega vs. Sami Zayn?
Dream matches can be superb – so long as you train restraint in maintaining any core viewers.
Can this actually occur?
Actually, I do not know. At this level, plainly the ability is within the fingers of Vince McMahon, who must reply the query “Which is extra necessary: ego or heritage?”
McMahon’s legacy was deservedly hit with particulars of his sexual misconduct and silent money funds that noticed him stroll away from shame in 2022. Had he offered his firm to Saudi Arabia, it could have cemented his disdain for followers and the trade. It could, nonetheless, protect his ego by permitting him to exit on his phrases and along with his personal fingers.
A merger with AEW is the other possibility. It could actually be seen as a “loss” to McMahon’s ego, basically promoting off a part of his firm and dropping management to a smaller competitor. Nonetheless, it could protect WWE’s long-term future and preserve it as a U.S.-based firm, which might significantly profit McMahon as it’s seen within the far future.
Contemplating all of the elements, a possible AEW/WWE merger appears very, most unlikely – however it’s one thing to take a look at because the talks appear to be rolling. It will change the way forward for wrestling eternally. Whether or not it is good or unhealthy is as much as you.