I’m Going To Witness History At AEW DYNAMITE Tonight!
I haven’t felt like this in years. And I mean years!
Between 1988 and 2008, I was the biggest wrestling fan around. I’d watch every week, go to live shows, play wrestling video games to death, collect freakin’ almanacs, and learn every possible thing I could about the unique medium of entertainment known as Professional Wrestling.
But the greatest period to be a fan, for me at least, was during the infamous Monday Night Wars. From 1996, when Scott Hall popped up on WCW Monday Nitro pretending to be Razor Ramon from the WWF leading “an invasion” and kickstarting the New World Order (nWo), through 2001 when WCW lost the war and was bought out by Vince McMahon and his WWF, it was five years of riveting TV.
And that’s because the spirit of competition was so alive, so primal, that you could feel it vibrating off of your TV screen. On TNT, you’d find WCW- backed by Ted Turner’s billions and filled with repackaged versions of many of wrestling’s greatest stars from the previous decade. On USA you’d find McMahon’s WWF- the once untouchable titan of the wrestling industry- reinventing itself to outdo WCW, which had taken over the wrestling world and became the premiere sports entertainment brand during its phenomenal 1996-1998 run of hot angles and Monday night ratings victories.
On WCW programming, you’d get to see old favorites like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Randy Savage, and Sting.
On WWF programming, they were creating new icons with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
It was my favorite time to be a wrestling fan, and then the bottom kind of dropped out almost the moment McMahon bought WCW.
But this isn’t a column about the WWE’s slow decline over the last 18 years. It’s a column about the future of professional wrestling, and that future begins tonight.
For the first time since 2001, the former WWF (now WWE) has its first real competitor in All Elite Wrestling (AEW), and that’s not all: A Ratings War Will Be Kickstarted All Over Again!
Because WWE recently made the oh-so-interesting decision to move their NXT show from its streaming network and actually get it up onto USA, where it’ll go head to head with AEW’s new weekly primetime show Dynamite, which will proudly bring wrestling back to the network that mopped the floor with the WWF in the late 90s: TNT!
Cody Rhodes, one of the founders and public faces of AEW has said he’s excited to be able launch a company made for wrestling fans that’s run by wrestlers.
And that’s one of the things that makes this all so exciting, because while I’ll be there in person at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. to witness Dynamite, I’m sure every wrestler in North America will be keeping a very close eye on the show as well. Why? Because they finally have a true alternative to the WWE, and that means they’re more empowered now than they’ve been in nearly 20 years.
Something I touched on in last week’s 100th episode of The Fanboy Podcast is the way wrestlers have been neutered by the near-monopoly McMahon has been running with his WWE since 2001.
Think about it: If you’re a wrestler, and you want a raise, or a better opportunity to shine, you’ve been stuck accepting whatever WWE’s best offer is. You have close to no leverage at negotiations because the WWE knows you won’t make anywhere near the kind of money you’d make with them elsewhere, and because your star power would take a hit shifting from WWE’s primetime, worldwide programming to something more independent like Ring of Honor (ROH) or Lucha Underground.
So if you want to be a top-tier A-list wrestler, and to be involved in major angles and storylines, you’ve really only had one option since WWE went out of business. (And don’t get me started on TNA/Impact Wrestling, because that launched in the immediate aftermath of the death of WCW and always felt like a rehash of the product that had just lost to WWF.)
But that’s not the case anymore.
AEW gives big names options. It gives wrestlers tired of the over-sanitized, micromanaged, ornately-scripted, corporate WWE product a place where they can be unleashed and given a real chance to connect with crowds in ways the current WWE structure won’t allow.
And it even helps midcarders and rookies, because sometimes in the WWE you hit a glass ceiling. The creative forces will run out of ideas for you, and you just kind of stay in neutral forever, or just fade away. Traditionally, what’s always helped wrestlers find themselves…is going away for a while.
Back when there were two major wrestling promotions, you’d see that all the time. A wrestler who had grown stagnant or got lost in the shuffle in one company, would “jump ship” to the competitor and- in many cases- find that X factor that either reignites their star power, or finally breaks them through the glass ceiling.
A change of setting tends to do wonders, and wrestlers now have another primetime location to hone their skills and reinvent themselves if need be. And those stars will either take AEW to levels not seen since WCW’s heyday, or- at the very least- be able to create enough noise that when they eventually return to WWE they’ll be bigger, more empowered stars than they were before.
That’s why tonight will be historic no matter what.
Because regardless of whether or not they kick things off with an amazing angle, or if they have their own “Lex Luger, who everyone thought was a WWF wrestler, shows up on the debut of WCW Nitro” moment, history will be made just by AEW going up against the WWE and signaling to the world that wrestling’s “monopoly years” are over.
That’s why you should be rooting for AEW no matter where your allegiances lie. Are you a WWE lifer who wants to see NXT win this “war”? Great. Do that! Are you one of the legion of lapsed wrestling fans (like me) who loves the medium but can’t stand what the WWE product has become over the last 18 years? Here’s your true alternative!
But no one can argue that this isn’t the shot in the arm that professional wrestling has needed for some time. It’ll force WWE to push itself creatively. It’ll give wrestlers a voice and some added motivation that’s been missing for quite some time. And it’ll bring back that feeling of “anything can happen” that was so present during the Monday Night Wars, because you knew each company wanted to be the one to dominate the conversation every single week.
Heck, I’m not evening rooting against WWE here. I just want to see them wake up to the fact that their product has become unwatchable by turning its back on the kinds of fundamentals that AEW seems ready to embrace. I want wrestling to feel fresh and exciting again, and to see wrestlers pushing themselves to be the best they can be because they know, when their contract is up, they’ll have a chance to completely change their lives.
I haven’t been this excited to be a wrestling fan in years. I haven’t attended a live show in over 15 years. And now, here I am, about to get into my car and drive four hours from my home in Queens to Washington, D.C. I’ve loaded up my phone with great listening materials to commemorate the day and keep me alert on the road (Hint: An episode of every Conrad Thompson podcast– which, if you’re a wrestling fan and not listening to any of them, you’re lost.)
And I’m far from the only one who is sensing what a huge week this is for wrestling, as ever respectable Hollywood trades like Variety are writing about what a pivotal week this is for the wrestling industry.
So if you’re a wrestling fan, and you’ve been sleeping on the significance of all of this, allow me to be your wake up call:
It’s time to start paying attention again. And it all starts tonight.
Time for me to hit the road.
Thanks for reading!
Mario-Francisco Robles (@I_AM_MFR)
Editor-In-Chief and Co-Founder of Revenge of The Fans. Previously, he's written for Latino-Review, IGN, Moviehole, and The Splash Report. He's also the host of the top-rated show The Fanboy Podcast and the co-host of The Revengers Podcast. E-Mail: MFR@RevengeOfTheFans.com | Twitter: @I_AM_MFR