with Mike Mooneyham
All Elite Wrestling poised to become game-changer
- 26th January 2019
Post and Courier - Wrestling
Rhodes (center) and The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Massie) will serve as executive
vice presidents of All Elite Wrestling. Photo provided
told Cody Rhodes it would never happen. But Rhodes wouldnt take no for an
saw his vision of a revolutionary wrestling promotion officially take shape with
the recent announcement that All Elite Wrestling was in business.
the launch for most wrestling companies, this one comes with considerable financial
backing and an increasingly growing list of dynamic young stars.
comes from the Khan family, who own the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL and have
a reported net worth of $7 billion, considerably more than WWEs McMahon
family. While individual monetary worth isnt necessarily an overriding indicator
of a companys potential success, in todays wrestling market its
almost a must to at least get into the game.
the heels of the companys ultra-successful All In show last September in
Chicago, which sold out in minutes, a corporate structure and game plan have been
put into place. AEW is the brainchild of Rhodes (real name Cody Runnels) and his
close friends, The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Massie), who in recent years have
been one of the hottest commodities outside the realm of WWE.
founders and leaders of the new company, Rhodes and The Bucks have multi-year
deals and will serve as executive vice presidents of AEW. Codys wife, former
WWE ring announcer Brandi Rhodes (Runnels), will serve as Chief Brand Officer
and be in charge of the women on the AEW roster. Matt Massies wife, Dana
Massie, will be head of merchandising.
was Rhodes who changed the course of his career when he surprisingly asked for
his release from WWE in May 2016, leaving a sizable contract on the table.
exit from WWE was less than one year after his father, American Dream
Dusty Rhodes, passed away. He would leave the company with five tag-team title
reigns, two Intercontinental championship runs and a handful of Wrestlemania appearances
on his resume.
left WWE not because of the money, but I wanted my soul to fill up with wrestling,
many doubters telling him that he was possibly risking his future in wrestling
by leaving the all-powerful WWE, Rhodes was confident that he could forge his
own successful path, and he succeeded in doing just that and more.
leaving WWE, the 33-year-old Rhodes has won the prestigious Ring of Honor world
championship, joined the wildly popular Bullet Club, and performed at the last
two Wrestle Kingdoms at the Tokyo Dome. A match with New Japan Pro Wrestling sensation
Kenny Omega, arguably the hottest free agent in wrestling today, looms in Rhodes
future, but it could happen in All Elite if Rhodes has his way.
IWGP U.S. champion would be the crowning achievement if he decides to continue
his career in All Elite. Omega, along with Rhodes, The Young Bucks and Adam Page,
reportedly have all been offered lucrative contracts with WWE in attempts by the
company to derail its latest opposition. Thus far, though, the young talent remain
committed to blazing their own unique trail in the industry.
biggest catch to date is longtime WWE superstar Chris Jericho, who signed a three-year,
non-exclusive deal with AEW that he called an NFL-level offer and
the best contract of his life.
Jericho is now All In with All Elite Wrestling, Jericho said
after signing. Were going to change the universe baby!
the universe, though, may be easier than going head to head with WWE.
is the biggest wrestling company in the world youre not going to
beat it, Jericho told Wrestling Inc. We dont want to beat the
WWE. Were not planning on that. Thats not the mindset of AEW. The
mindset is to provide an option, an alternative for wrestling fans. Its
something you havent seen before and havent seen in a while.
Elite held its launch rally Jan. 8 in Jacksonville, Fla., at the home of the Jacksonville
Jaguars, and on the same day WWE was holding Smackdown Live in the city.
more major AEW shows have already been announced. Double or Nothing is scheduled
May 25 in Las Vegas at MGM Grand Garden Arena, along with a second event planned
this summer in Jacksonville.
things differently and giving talent more creative freedom are among the basic
tenets of the new organization. Like his famous father might have said, young
Rhodes is taking the bull by the horns, willing to take chances and create excitement.
will be the writers in this new venture, and they will not be micro-managed, Rhodes
wont be a writer hired for All Elite Wrestling anytime soon, said
Rhodes. Because wrestlers are the writers. Were the writers. Like
I said with guys going out there and playing their own music, believe me
the day comes that I see this is something we can really benefit from
absolutely, but I knew 40 writers in WWE and about four of them actually
reason I remember them and value them, they helped produce pre-tapes, they were
team players, so right now thats one thing weve gotten a lot of questions
about. Were keeping it very in-house for now.
todays brand of pro wrestling, the successful kind anyway, is all about
television and talent. Young stars are being recruited, and undoubtedly some WWE
performers are eyeing opportunities when their contracts expire. All Elite reportedly
is negotiating with two major cable stations.
blueprint is solid. No U.S.-based pro wrestling company other than WWE had drawn
10,000 fans since WCW did it nearly 20 years ago. Not only did All In sell out,
it did so in under 30 minutes when tickets went on sale several months earlier.
Khan, 36, will serve as president of All Elite Wrestling, while Rhodes and The
Young Bucks will be the braintrust.
Elite Wrestling president Tony Khan, whose family owns the NFLs Jacksonville
Jaguars. Photo provided
was named vice chairman and director of football operations for the Fulham Football
Club in 2017.
father, Shad, owns both the Jaguars and the Fulham Football Club, which is based
younger Khan is no newcomer to the wrestling business. A lifelong fan, the businessman
and football executive is excited about his new venture. But he refuted a rumor
that he was attempting to acquire Impact Wrestling or any other existing company.
looking to start something new ... I am not looking to absorb, Khan said
on Sean Waltmans recent podcast. I am open to partnerships. There
are a lot of people doing exciting things all over the world and especially internationally;
I am very open to partnerships. And domestically, I think Ive seen the future
and its what were doing.
am very, very happy with where were at today
I am not really looking
to acquire a lot of other companies or even libraries, but as far as partnerships
and things of that nature I think theres a lot of exciting things that people
equal pay scale for men and women talent will be offered, according to Khan, who
also plans for AEW talent to be full-time employees of the company, complete with
healthcare and benefits.
modified that stance in a recent interview with ESPN.
want to make this a better world for wrestling fans by making it a better world
for wrestlers. So the first step you have is you up that price point and you take
care of your wrestlers more. The more that happens, we can continue to go.
union in pro wrestling and thats this thing that people say all of
the time, and they dont realize it a union in pro wrestling would
put pro wrestling out of business. But, with that said, we should be actively
working towards some sort of body, and this is outside of what Im talking
about with AEW and as me in the executive role, but we should actively be working
to have the happiest talent you can possibly have.
that starts as a talent feedback system, or a players league, or some sort
of body where theres a complete, transparent communication between those
in the office and those in the locker room.
Shad Khan, 68, who was born in Pakistan and immigrated to the United
States in 1967, is ranked 65th on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans,
and 217th among the richest people in the world.
of only three NFL owners who were born outside the United States, Khan bought
the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011 for $760 million. The Jaguars are now worth more
than $2 billion.
said he will be as committed to All Elite Wrestling as everything else in his
the following statement: I am the lead investor, a supporter and a backer
of All Elite Wrestling, and I anticipate great things today and into the future
for AEW and everyone who has worked passionately on this weeks launch. I
know AEW will be welcomed by wrestling fans here in the U.S. and throughout the
world who are ready for something new and authentic. AEW will work hard to deliver
on that promise.
important, I am the father the proud father of Tony Khan, who will
serve in a leadership role at AEW during the 2019 launch and in the years ahead.
Tony will assemble a great team to take AEW over the top, for the benefit of everyone
who loves the wrestling industry, while continuing to serve in his current capacities
with the Jaguars and Fulham.
will launch with a roster of the top wrestlers in the world, added Tony
Khan, who reportedly is investing $100 million into AEW. While theyll
clash in what will be some of the most intense and fast-paced contests ever sanctioned
in the squared circle, theyll also share a common goal: to make this the
true golden age, to make this the greatest time ever to be a wrestling fan. Likewise,
as a business, by treating our wrestlers with respect and warmth, we also seek
to make this the golden age for the performers themselves.
buzz generated by the fledgling promotion, especially among younger, hardcore
fans, has been substantial. An informal social media survey displayed overwhelming
optimism concerning the companys future. While any new major wrestling promotion
not named WWE faces an uphill battle in todays climate, many fans feel AEW
has a legitimate chance to become a self-sustaining, profitable enterprise.
Tingle, media and marketing director at the Australian-based
Media Man Int and a longtime follower
of the wrestling business, weighed in on the new promotion, offering an analysis
and projections for AEW.
firmly believes that AEW could provide a viable alternative to Vince McMahons
monolith. Much depends, says Tingle, on how long the Khan family is prepared to
wait for a return on their investment.
Elite Wrestling has their work cut out for them no matter how deep those pockets
are, says Tingle, who lists several positive factors for the promotion,
including those deep pockets of the Khan family and their overall success in the
sports and entertainment business, along with the signing of Chris Jericho.
also is a multi-media and business mastermind. His in-ring skills and being over
are only a moderate part of the deal with Jericho. Hes super smart to the
business, and defied the odds himself to become the hottest wrestler in the world,
and got the deal of a lifetime.
also sees Cody Rhodes as a significant piece of the puzzle.
management and involvement facilitates positive news, cred and the fans and industry
wanting to see him and the crew succeed, says Tingle. Worldwide positive
news and PR has already been achieved due to the close-knit world of professional
wrestling. Soon the news needs to get to the mainstream sports and entertainment
world (via a TV deal with regular programming).
adds Tingle, there will be challenges.
is known to pay good money to performers, so they are burning through cash. Performers
will expect big pay packets, and may demand big deals to make the jump over now
that the world knows Jericho got a massive payday.
then there are the unknowns.
long is the Khan family giving AEW to work and show a return on investment (if
we can assume thats also part of the goal, other than just making a mark
on the industry)? How long can AEW be a loss leader, funded by other
Khan business investments? The wrestling world knows the story of WCWs challenge
and success up against WWE. Just how much money does one spend to become successful,
then only to see a downward spiral and catastrophic cash burn and collapse?
most fans and sports media commentators, I really want to see All Elite Wrestling
succeed and become a true and sustainable alternative to WWE (and even New Japan
Pro Wrestling to some extent). I think the odds are against the long-term, decades-plus
success of the promotion, but I would love to see it happen. With the right TV
deal, international expansion and fans around the world continuing to get behind
the Khan clan, it could happen. It would be incredible to see AEW become a sustainable
pro wrestling company for decades into the future.
Rhodes dream is to change the wrestling world. He knows that
lofty goal wont be easy.
WCW boss Eric Bichoff recently offered advice to the new promotion on his After
83 Weeks podcast.
in a zone right now. It doesnt come easily, it doesnt come often,
but theyre there. Be smart, go slow, dont let it go to your head,
trust me. Go slow and always surround yourself with people you absolutely trust.
really cool about (All In) is they did it without television, added Bischoff.
That is whats mind boggling. From a guy whos grown up in the
wrestling business who couldnt imagine being involved in the wrestling industry
without a solid TV platform underneath you, these guys go out with their own money
and prove everybody wrong.
Rhodes older brother, WWEs Goldust (Dustin Runnels), told Wrestling
Inc. that the venture is big not only for his brother, but for the entire wrestling
something the world needs to grasp hold of because Cody is a Rhodes. The wrestling
community loves the Rhodes family, not only loves them, but we know what were
doing. Everyone makes mistakes along the way, but we learn from our mistakes.
We learn and we watch as much as possible before we do any big move like this,
and this is a big move.
Hall of Famer Jerry The King Lawler said competition makes everyone
better, and history shows that it brings out the best in WWE.
hope it does well because believe it or not, competition is the best thing for
anything. The best time that the WWE ever had was during the Monday Night Wars,
Lawler said on his Dinner with the King podcast.
had two wrestling shows on at the same time on Monday nights. Two different companies,
and they were getting seven and eight million people watching each one of them.
And now you struggle to get two million to watch the only show in town.
in the arm
fans and performers also weighed in on social media with their thoughts on All
wrestling star Joel Deaton believes AEW has a great chance to succeed, but only
if the company goes the opposite route of what WWE is doing.
seems the money is there. If they do the exact opposite of the way WWEs
shows are done, it will have a chance, posted Deaton. Something different
with solid talent. Shake it all up
NWA world junior heavyweight champion Denny Brown says the formula is in place
for a successful promotion.
good product, a good show top to bottom, and not everyone is a superstar. Going
back to the fundamentals of whats on the marquee. Wrestling. Not every match
needs to be a main event. Make everything mean something from top to bottom.
dont know much about the financial aspect of the biz, but I know TV rights
play a big part in the viability of a company, wrote Jesse OQuinn
of Hanahan. If they can score a good TV deal, they could make a nice impact.
The talent level speaks for itself. I hope they do well. Competition breeds creativity.
cant afford to sign too many disgruntled WWE talents or they will appear
as WWE-Lite. There are too many good talents available that can be developed without
taking in WWE refugees, opined Jerry Wiseman of Sylva, N.C.
James Dio of Charleston makes a comparison between AEW and the now defunct WCW.
some billionaire own a brand back in the 90s with a gigantic roster of world-class
talent? I think it was called WCW? Whatever happened to that?
Green of Murray, Ky., believes AEWs future hinges on a major TV deal.
though streaming has taken over the video viewing world, it wont pay the
salaries. I do believe Cody and the Bucks have the knowledge, work ethic and vision
to create a viable product, but a TV deal from a TBS, TNT or Paramount is what
it will take to make it profitable from the jump. Oh, and signing Kenny Omega
will help with ratings!
Johnson of Summerville agrees.
the backing of the Khan family, it looks like theyre in it to win it. Jericho
signed a three-year deal and that tells me that he thinks a lot about it in this
stage of his career. We will see what kind of TV deal they can get and that will
show what direction theyre going in. Also lets not forget about how
great TNA was, but in the end the talent ended up leaving.
Collins of Columbia believes AEW will need help from other companies in the first
year in order to garner a lucrative TV deal.
could be a chicken/egg scenario. In order to get a good TV contract, they first
have to sign enough talent to have a deep enough roster to be able to create enough
storylines that can sustain a new company. And in order to get enough talent to
sign, they may need a TV contract.
may be able to get away with making Double or Nothing an All In 2
by simply putting on great matches, but I think for them to be viable the first
couple of years until they can strengthen the roster, they are going to have to
make arrangements with ROH, NJPW, MLW, etc. in order to put out an ongoing product.
Daniels of Nashville foresees growing pains for the company and, despite the wealth
of young talent, questions if that group is ready for weekly prime-time exposure.
dont think people really understand what it takes to be camera-ready. Guys
like Finn Balor went to NXT to learn stuff like that for over a year. Theres
an art to it, and unless Cody is giving crash courses to how its done, theres
gonna be some growing pains.
Hunter of Washington, D.C., sees a less-scripted format as a positive.
president Cody Rhodes has said they werent looking to hire writers and want
their performers to get over on their own. No micro-managing. Thats a refreshing
throwback approach. If they successfully create an alternative to WWE with major
financial backing and a solid television deal, why wouldnt it be viable?
Fox didnt pay WWE billions because pro wrestling is a hard sell.
Westcott of Meridian, Idaho, says that AEW could be just the shot in the arm that
the wrestling industry needs.
havent been the same since both WCW and ECW closed their doors. Impact Wrestling
is just a shell of its former self. ROH has made huge advances and there is New
Japan for true world competition.
uphill battle for sure, adds Eric Buddy Burke of Columbia. With time,
patience, and money and brains, its possible.
everyone, however, is sold on AEW.
WCW announcer Chris Cruise of Silver Spring, Md., is a hardened skeptic who sees
a potential money-loser in the making.
opportunity to make money with a national wrestling promotion on TV in 2019 does
not exist, says Cruise.
Turner thought it would be a great investment as well, Bill Hazelwood of
Greenville remarked on AEWs foray into wrestling.
have never been impressed by Omega and the Young Bucks. There is nothing about
the wrestling today that makes me want to watch, wrote Rick Bauer. It
will collapse when all those egos start to clash.
Nash of Loris believes AEW has a chance to be successful, just nowhere near the
level of the WWE juggernaut.
(Khan) needs to concentrate on a losing football team. Will they be successful?
Sure. They have an audience but not WWE numbers and pop-culture relevance.
Ferrell of Greer says AEW will have to present an edgier product to bring new
fans into the fold and compete with the worldwide leader in sports entertainment.
they want to compete, they have to bring back a wrestling product that is not
PG. Something with an edge more in line with the Attitude Era. They need to sell
that its wrestling for adults
at least in part. They will not out-PG
the WWE; they have that demographic on lock.
Pendley of Birmingham, Ala., says acquiring Kenny Omega would be a major get for
the upstart promotion and could be a game-changer.
dont know if wrestling has passed him (Vince McMahon) by, or he does not
look at his shows closely. Every match is predictable, every angle and outcome
is the same. How many matches can you see dive after dive, flip after flip, same
match different talents, each match is not staged differently.
the end, though, pro wrestling needs more players to flourish and prosper. More
places for the boys to work is always a good thing.
Waltman, the former X-Pac, put it in perspective.
hope the enthusiasm stays because everyone complains that we need another major
player in the industry, so please support it.
Post and Courier)