Competition is a global phenomenon that occurs in sports, at work, between television companies, in classrooms or even among ordinary people. It is a part of everyday life. The WWE was legitimately challenged by World Championship Wrestling, which Vince McMahon purchased in March, 2001. The WWE did not have any major competition until 2019 when All Elite Wrestling – AEW, emerged. The wrestling world was abuzz prior to its first televised show. Before I discuss some of the moments that turned AEW into a viable competitor for the WWE, I would like to discuss how the new company became a reality, starting with its President.

Tony Khan is the President of AEW, and also co-owns the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and English Football’s Fulham F.C. His father, Shahid Khan, has full ownership of both teams. Long after filing for many trademarks relating to the new wrestling company, television contracts were signed and agreed upon with TNT in the United States and TSN in Canada. The company’s first cable television show – AEW Dynamite debuted on October 2, 2019.

Cody Rhodes was granted his WWE release in 2016. He wanted to find his own way and create his own legacy. He wrestled in Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling where he met and established friendships with the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) and Kenny Omega. They left ROH late in 2018 and helped form AEW. At the company’s inaugural press conference, held at the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, TIAA Bank Field, it was announced that the four wrestlers, collectively known as The Elite, signed on as in-ring talents and executive vice presidents. Among other signings at that time were Christopher Daniels, Scorpio Sky and Frankie Kazarian (formerly of Impact Wrestling), Adam Page, Chris Jericho and a couple of standouts from the independents, Maxwell Jacob Friedman (MJF) and Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D.

The opening match of the debut episode of Dynamite featured Cody Rhodes against Sammy Guevara. The crowd was enthusiastic and supportive of both men. Sammy gave his opponent everything he had, but eventually succumbed to Cody after an extremely competitive opener. The main event of the debut episode showcased members of the Elite (The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega) against Jericho, Santana and Ortiz. Jericho helped attain victory for his team after hitting the Judas Effect. But things became really chaotic afterwards. Cody entered the ring and joined the Elite, attacking Jericho. Guevara entered to even the odds. Then Dustin Rhodes and Jake Hager entered the fray. The show ended with Jericho, Santana, Ortiz, Hager and Sammy standing in the ring verbally jousting with the Elite. Fans went crazy for this. That was the beginning of the first “tandem warfare� in AEW – The Elite vs. Jericho’s group (known as The Inner Circle.)

For most of 2021, the Inner Circle feuded with the Pinnacle (MJF, FTR, Shawn Spears and Wardlow). The leaders of the groups -Jericho and MJF enjoyed a few great matches against each other, which the younger MJF won. The two groups engaged in some wild and brutal contests like Blood and Guts (AEW’s spin on WCW’s Wargames) and the Stadium Stampede, which involved all ten men in a no holds barred match battling it out between Daily’s Place and TIAA Bank Field.

AEW’s women’s roster is extremely talented and competitive. Aside from the current champion, Britt Baker, other competitors include Thunder Rosa, Kris Statlander and Jade Cargill, just to name a few. One of the best women’s matches in the brief history of the promotion took place on the St. Patrick’s Day episode of Dynamite. Baker battled Rosa in a hard fought “lights out� match. At the end of the match Thunder Rosa put Baker through a table and pinned her. But Dr. Baker had her moment on May 30 at Double or Nothing as she defeated Hikaru Shida to win her first AEW Women’s title.

The company has seen other superstars come in from the WWE – reasons range from expired contracts, being misused on the roster, wanting a new challenge or wanting to help out the next generation of wrestlers. One of those is Sting. He debuted in AEW on their special episode of Dynamite called Winter is Coming. The 1,000 fans in attendance at Daily’s Place that night went crazy. Currently, he is paired with one of the best young wrestlers in AEW – Darby Allin.

On the second episode of AEW Rampage, on August 20, 2021 from Chicago, C.M. Punk returned after a seven-year absence from the industry. The hometown crowd went insane when his theme song, Cult of Personality blared over the speakers. The crowd started to sing the lyrics and some in the audience cried out of pure joy. When he entered the ring, he took in all the adulation and began to speak. He talked about his time in wrestling, what made him leave and why he returned. He acknowledged Darby Allin and Sting up in the rafters stating he would see them at All Out on September 5. The match between Allin and Punk occurred that night and Punk won his AEW in-ring debut. After the match, Punk showed his opponent and Sting lots of respect by shaking their hands and embracing them. But, AEW ended their All Out pay-per-view in an explosive way.

Kenny Omega retained the AEW World title against Christian Cage, but what transpired afterwards got the wrestling world talking. The rest of the Elite (The Young Bucks, The Good Brothers, Michael Nakazawa and Brandon Cutler) walked to the ring and attacked Christian. Unfamiliar music then played over the PA system and out came Adam Cole. Fans at the NOW Arena, in Chicago erupted with excitement as Cole walked to the ring. When he entered, he went face-to-face with Omega and teased challenging him for the title. Then, he turned and attacked Christian. Adam Cole became a member of the Elite. The champion continued ranting on the microphone about beating everyone on the roster. And, I am sure that is how everyone thought the pay-per-view would end – with Omega talking. Except AEW had one more shocking surprise.

A version of Flight of the Valkyries played in the arena and the crowd lost its minds as Bryan Danielson made his All Elite Wrestling debut. When he entered the arena, there was a huge smile etched on his face. The Elite were stunned. Bryan entered the ring and he, Christian, Jungle Boy, Luchasaurus and Frankie Kazarian attacked the Elite. All Out concluded with the five fan favorites in the ring staring and taunting the Elite, who were backpedaling outside the ring. The crowd chanted A-E-W, A-E-W as the show went off the air. The arrival of Bryan led to a one-on-one non-title contest against Omega on Dynamite, which aired on September 22 at Arthur Ashe Stadium. The matched went to a thirty-minute time limit draw. I am sure there will be a rematch for the title between the two at some point – it may take place at their next pay-per-view, Full Gear on November 13.

In my opinion, while AEW does not have television shows directly opposite Raw or Smackdown, it is considered legitimate competition for the WWE. Former WWE stars like Miro, Malakai Black, FTR, among others, have “jumped ship�. They have won championships or have been involved in main event level rivalries since joining AEW. Also, the fans enjoy singing along to some of the wrestlers’ theme music. They know the lyrics to Jericho’s theme song Judas, performed by his band Fozzy, they know CM Punk’s entrance song – Cult of Personality by Living Colour, and many others. The fans are into everything on the show, and the surprises are pretty big when they do happen. In the past two years of its existence, AEW has shown to be a great alternative to the WWE and hopefully it will stay that way for years to come.

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