AEW’s mission statement is only barely coded. The press release reads almost like a WWE fantasy booking thread on r/SquaredCircle. To analyse the subtext of two key excerpts:
“Focused on producing fast-paced, high impact competitions, AEW offers fans less scripted, soapy drama, and more athleticism and real sports analytics.”
Translated: “We won’t bore you to death with rest holds, and our performers won’t look like dorks reciting fake, lame sh*t.”
“AEW will raise the stakes for its matches and deepen fan engagement by tracking each competitor’s wins and losses.”
Translated: “50/50 booking is rotten, and creates an atmosphere of complete meaninglessness. Chris Jericho isn’t getting his win back with a roll-up, relax.”
“We will be diametrically opposed to WWE in every conceivable way,” is the lede. So honed in on the disenchanted hardcores was this mainstream release, it’s a wonder AEW didn’t confirm that sneezing will be permitted on television. There is a certain risk inherent to this strategy, in that AEW is specifically targeting the disenfranchised subset of a diminished fanbase—one that, per increasing external pressure applied by USA and Fox, in itself barely meets the bare minimum of prime time.
It’s the WCW approach taken in the least WCW manner imaginable. Eric Bischoff has repeatedly revealed his old ethos as a retrospective talking head: If the WWF did one thing, WCW had to do the opposite to distinguish itself. WCW died, largely, by literally swerving this strategy in its inexplicably hilarious death throes. WCW, of course, held a greater advantage then than AEW does now. The company contracted established household names far more popular than those contracted full-time by WWE now, and situated them in an alluring, subverted new context.
Two decades on, another great talent levelling holds the potential to usurp WWE’s monopoly once more.