We can call it “Wrestling” again, and not “Sports Entertainment”. And those guys in the ring? Well, we can call them “Wrestlers” and not “Superstars”. And it’s about DAMN time!
We can thank AEW for making Wrestling fun again.
I have been an avid Pro Wrestling fan since the age of 6. I am 39 now. My wife once asked me durning an episode of Monday Night Raw who Paul Heyman was. What she got was almost an entire history lesson on ECW. I can do the same for NWA wrestling as well as New Japan Pro Wrestling. I unapologetically love pro wrestling.
That said, I can safely say that this past Saturday’s pay-per-view, All Out, put on by AEW, was the most fun I’ve had watching wrestling since the Monday Night Wars. And there’s so much more on the horizon.
All Elite Wrestling has been the talk of the wrestling world these past few weeks. Many are saying it’s a long since needed competition for industry juggernaut WWE. I see things a bit differently. WCW (World Championship Wrestling) was competition for WWE back in the 90s. AEW, today, is an alternative by being what WWE hasn’t been for years. Almost an Anti-WWE if you will. And nothing better exemplifies that than the signing of former WWE Superstar CM Punk. Punk stepped away from the industry 7 years ago after a long run in WWE, due in part to losing his love for the business of Pro Wrestling.
To watch Punk’s return was surreal. Now here’s a guy who’s just ready to have fun in the business again. Just watch his August 20th return to Pro Wrestling below.
Punk was just the beginning
While Saturday at All Out saw CM Punk make his in ring debut vs Darby Allin, it also saw 3 former WWE Superstars make their debuts in AEW.
The first was Ruby Soho. Formerly known as Ruby Riott in the WWE, who was a victim of the June budget cuts. She came out to Rancid’s signature song. Personally, I knew she was going to debut in that spot. I knew she was going to use that song, (Rancid is one of my favorite bands) and I still marked out.
The next two debuts on Saturday are probably the most exciting ending to a wrestling show I have seen in, well, maybe ever. And again, fan since age six.
The first was free agent Adam Cole, who made his final WWE appearance just 2 short weeks ago as part of WWE’s SummerSlam weekend. If you aren’t a wrestling fan, first, thanks for reading, and in that case you may not know who Adam Cole is. And we’ll get into why it’s the biggest AEW deal of all the recent debuts in the next section. But the debut, while on the radar of fans, I don’t think was expected at that point in the show. Not with another expected debut looming. Which made it all the better. Even in the age of the internet, fans can still be surprised.
The final debut of the night, which took place right after Cole’s, was that of Brian Danielson, known as Daniel Bryan in WWE. He has the star power of CM Punk, and he just recently was in the Main Event of WrestleMania. His signing with AEW is a huge testament to the brand itself. Unlike Punk, he harbors no ill will towards WWE, it was just time for something new.
Lets not bury the lede, Adam Cole is the biggest AEW signing
The guy you may or may not have heard of is the biggest signing of AEW this past month. Fan favorite CM Punk returning is a big deal. His t-shirt is already the fastest selling in the history of Pro Wrestling Tees. He even bought ice cream for everyone in the United Center. Brain Danielson was just main eventing WrestleMania not 4 months ago, and now he too is All Elite.
But, the signing of Adam Cole is a way bigger deal than the signings of both of these industry veterans. At 42 and 40, Punk and Danielson still have a lot in left in the tank I’m sure. But, they are nearing the twilight of their career. Now, that’s not to say that can’t continue on for another decade or more. Just look at guys like Chris Jericho (50) and Sting (62). But the 32 year old Adam Cole is easily in the prime of his career. Unlike Punk, who was never set to return to WWE, Danielson who left on his own accord, and Soho and the many more recent AEW signings that were the result of WWE budget cuts, Cole was targeted. WWE did not want to lose him, and by all accounts tried very hard to keep him. In an alternate reality, Adam Cole should be a future WrestleMania main eventer. One would argue as early as 2022. He should be a future face of the company and enjoy multiple reigns as champion. And that will still happen, but it will happen in AEW. And that is just one of the many many problems facing WWE, highlighting the difference between the two companies.
AEW continues to dunk on WWE
WWE’s woes as of late have been AEW gains. Wrestlers like Ruby Soho, Aleister Black, 2.0 and Miro, who many fans felt were underutilized in WWE, are finding new life in AEW. And there is more migration on the horizon. One thing that personally turned me off to WWE long ago, as well as many long time fans I’m sure, has been the constant reliability on former top draws and big names coming in, working a handful of matches, main evening top events and getting title shots. All this over the younger talent that week in and week out are there performing, injuring themselves, rehabbing, then getting back out there to do it all again.
It’s a practice that that WWE is exercising to this day. Why, just two weeks ago the two WWE championships (yes there are still 2) were challenged for by John Cena and the more egregious Goldberg. Now I can give a pass to John Cena, he is one of the most decorated Superstars in the history of the WWE and he can still cut fire promos. But Goldberg?! Aside from never possessing much wrestling ability even in his prime… He shows up for 2 weeks, gets a title shot, works that match and then maybe one more, and that’s it. Until the next time. It’s lazy “creative”, and it’s lazy booking. All while burning the younger talent. Perhaps Adam Cole saw the writing on the walls in that regard.
How AEW does it right
Meanwhile, on the AEW side of things, yes they bring in the aging vets just like WWE. However, they bring them in as full time members of the roster, they pair these vets with young talent. To help them get noticed, to help get them “over” with the crowd in positive or negative ways. And it’s effective. Recently, the returning CM Punk worked a program with 28 year old Darby Allin. And industry veteran Chris Jericho worked with 25 year old MJF.
It’s possible that one day Darby Allin and MJF will be big names like Chris Jericho and CM Punk, and it will be, in part, due to the former using their ability to draw eyes and getting those eyes on the younger, deserving talent. And it’s absolutely the biggest difference right now between AEW and WWE. AEW is showing us the talent we loved from days past, while at the same time showcasing the next generation of talent we will soon fall in love with.
Goddamnit Pro Wrestling is fun again!
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