Is AEW's Success Guaranteed?
All Elite Wrestling’s (AEW) Double or Nothing was a huge success with the pay-per-view (PPV) meeting its buy-rate goal while receiving critical acclaim for its matches. With AEW preparing for its next PPV in August and a TV deal with TNT scheduled for the fall, the promotion seems as if it can do no wrong. Nonetheless, fans and critics alike shouldn’t take AEW’s success for granted. In fact, is AEW’s success a guaranteed thing?
Its Television Deal: AEW landed a lucrative television deal for a new promotion with little track record but they will have to prove themselves on TNT. AEW has shown it has a built-in audience but will this be enough to sustain the ratings TNT is looking for? Currently, TNT is the number-two cable network behind the USA Network and USA’s WWE content is what has allowed it to edge out TNT. If AEW doesn’t draw in enough fans, it could be looking for a new TV home, having to settle for a much less favorable deal as well as a spot on a lesser channel.
Drawing in Lapsed and New Fans: The success of Double or Nothing shows AEW has a core fan base built largely through social media which will support it for the immediate future. That being said, AEW still needs to bring in more than its current audience if it wants to be a serious alternative to the WWE. AEW owners Shahid and Tony Khan are spending substantial funds to bring in wrestlers such as Chris Jericho, Cody, the Young Bucks, Jon Moxley, and Kenny Omega (and it’s likely there are more on the way) as well as investing funds in AEW’s promotion and production. There are a substantial number of fans who stopped watching after ECW and WCW’s demise, but there’s no telling whether they are still interested in wrestling. AEW would be wise to attract new fans as well as lapsed fans.
Pay-per-view: According to this week’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter, AEW currently plans on running four pay-per-views annually along with occasional specials on streaming services. AEW does not appear to have any say in the PPV company’s price tag of $49.95 but it seems likely the promotion will have to lower the price or offer it on streaming services at a more economical price. Fans used to paying $9.95 per month for the WWE Network may balk at dropping nearly fifty dollars for one show. AEW’s first PPV featured solid production values and few technical glitches (mostly problems with camera work), a good sign for future shows.
AEW’s Sports-Oriented Philosophy: Cody Rhodes has made it known that AEW is going to promote wrestling as a sport rather than sports entertainment. This presentation will also use sports analytics as AEW keeps close tabs on wins and losses, going even further by analyzing wrestler’s win percentages when they use particular moves. This sports-oriented approach could be the next big trend in wrestling or it could fall flat on its face, forcing the promotion to book a more traditional style.
As much as fans are looking for an alternative to the WWE, there’s no guarantee of success for AEW, even with the financial backing of a multi-billionaire and a TV deal on a major cable outlet. Nonetheless, it’s an exciting time to be a fan and most fans and industry figures are hopeful the competition will lead to a better-quality product for everyone in wrestling ranging from fans to wrestlers themselves.