"Wins and losses will matter in AEW like they have never mattered before."
These were the words of Cody Rhodes in January 2019. Speaking at the then-upcoming promotion's first press conference in Jacksonville, Florida, the Executive Vice President's statement went hand-in-hand with the "real sport feel" trumpeted elsewhere. It was a clear, concerted effort to present the Tony Khan-helmed group as an alternative to WWE, who dispensed with presenting their product as anything close to a sport decades ago, replacing "wrestling" with "Sports Entertainment," "wrestlers" with "Superstars," and later, "fans" with "the WWE Universe."
AEW's strategy was to appeal to any wrestling fan whose itch wasn't being scratched by the market leaders, who hadn't faced serious competition since WCW went out of business. Lapsed or otherwise, Rhodes spoke directly to those people, understanding the need for differentiation in a western marketplace dominated by a single entity for so long.
Reinstalling a competitive framework beneath American wrestling's increasingly histrionic presentation was the goal. Win and a wrestler would move up the ladder; lose, and they'd slide, with wins and losses weighted depending on the quality of opposition and other circumstances. There'd be enough flexibility to allow alternative forms of advancement (a la Brodie Lee attacking Jon Moxley to create his own World Championship shot), though the premise was simple - and supported by statistics.