shock defection set to send pro wrestlings hottest
war since the 90s into overdrive - February 23rd,
McMahon and Cody Rhodes have been on opposite sides
of the hottest pro wrestling war in decades. It looks
like they're about to team up. Source: FOX SPORTS
Max Laughton from Fox Sports
pro wrestling fan who knows their history also knows
theres nothing better than a war.
was arguably no greater era in the quasi-sports
history than the late 1990s, when Ted Turners
WCW battled every Monday night with Vince McMahons
of millions of dollars were spent, with big names
switching sides seemingly every month; and it drove
some of the most creative wrestling television weve
ever seen, plus legendary storylines like McMahons
feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin which turned Austin
into an icon.
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when the war ended in 2001, things changed. WWE became
wrestlings undisputed titan, and in the eyes
of many, the lack of strong competition has enabled
it to slow down, creating fewer modern stars and rely
on megabucks deals with TV networks and Saudi Arabia.
is making more money than it ever has but its US TV
ratings are sliding, and while big events like WrestleMania
and the Royal Rumble still draw massive crowds, it
has seen the company focus on part-time stars like
Brock Lesnar, or names from the past (like
Reigns, set to headline his sixth WrestleMania in
eight years, is the exception.
absence left a gap in the market, unable to be filled
by Impact Wrestling (nee TNA), which had stars like
Sting, Hulk Hogan, Kurt Angle and Christian along
with in-ring greats like AJ Styles and Samoa Joe but
couldnt get out of its own way when it comes
to booking (creating storylines).
it was clear as WWEs TV deals continued to grow
that there was space for a competitor. Into that space
stepped billionaire Tony Khan, a long-time wrestling
fan whose family owns the NFLs Jacksonville
Jaguars and English football side Fulham.
company, AEW, has taken advantage of several simultaneous
factors to grow into the biggest threat to WWEs
dominance since WCW was purchased.
by getting a deal with US cable network TNT (and then
a more-lucrative second contract in early 2020) the
company became financially viable. Then came the talent,
with some of the biggest independent stars all coming
out of contract at once.
star Cody Rhodes, New Japan heavyweight champion Kenny
Omega and legendary tag team The Young Bucks (Matt
and Nick Jackson), plus emerging star Hangman
Adam Page, were a great core. But the additions of
long-time WWE star Chris Jericho, plus Jon Moxley
(nee Dean Ambrose) and more recently Bryan Danielson
(nee Daniel Bryan) and CM Punk gave them the star
power to grow.
many wrestling fans passionately follow the weekly
TV ratings, with AEWs flagship show Dynamite
and Monday Night Raw trading the lead in the key 18-49
demographic, though WWE still wins with total viewers
and SmackDown (with the advantage of being on free-to-air
Fox) is the biggest show each week.
leadership group in 2019, including Matt Jackson (left),
"Hangman" Adam Page (fourth from left),
Tony Khan (middle), Nick Jackson (fourth from right),
Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, and Brandi Rhodes. (Photo
by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for WarnerMedia)
Source: Getty Images
for so long the war has been one-way, with AEW providing
a moneyed alternative for big stars who may prefer
the companys more independent-inspired style
of pro wrestling, compared to WWEs big event
has now changed with Cody Rhodes, who began his career
at just 21 with WWE and spent a decade outside of
the main event scene, suddenly departing AEW after
they couldnt agree on a new contract.
was a massive shock for the entire wrestling world,
who thought Rhodes re-signing would be automatic given
he helped create the company and has two other TV
shows - as a judge on a contest show and on a Rhodes
family-focused reality program with partner Brandi
- across the networks which air AEW programming.
years ago, before the initial All Out
show that sparked AEW into existence, Rhodes told
Foxsports.com.au he left WWE because he wanted
to be able to play my music how I would play it.
gave him that opportunity, but over the last two years
Rhodes and his fellow executive vice-presidents Omega
and the Bucks, have taken a smaller role on the creative
side, with Tony Khan handling the booking.
has enabled AEW to narrow its initially-wide vision
of what the shows should look like. But while wrestlers
are still able to deliver unscripted promos, Rhodes
and the like no longer control their storylines (though
they had input).
means Rhodes, who was keen to follow in the footsteps
of his legendary father Dusty - who booked for WCW
and WWEs NXT developmental - was no longer fully
playing his music to his tune. And, according to reports,
its this changing dichotomy - along with disagreements
over the size of his new contract - that led to Rhodes
stunning exit from AEW.
the only company that will be able to pay Rhodes what
he wants is WWE, and McMahons company would
love to reverse the trend of big-name stars heading
from up north to AEW.
doesnt hurt that Rhodes would be joining WWE
just in time for WrestleMania.
Rhodes never won the AEW world championship due to
a stipulation on a 2019 match he lost to Chris Jericho,
he was a main-event draw, building the secondary TNT
championship and helping create new stars in the process.
TV ratings for his segments were always strong.
Rhodes does indeed join WWE - and The Miz hinted at
the move on this weeks edition of Monday Night
Raw - the huge question will be how they handle him.
has a mixed track record with big names from other
companies. When they bought WCW and began what couldve
been the greatest storyline in wrestling history,
as their ex-rivals invaded, an insistence upon WWE
wrestlers looking stronger than WCW ones limited its
potential. In the end The Invasion pitted
The Rock on one side and Stone Cold Steve Austin and
Kurt Angle on the other; not exactly a WWE-WCW dream
decade, when Sting finally made his long-awaited debut
in WWE after decades as essentially WCWs mascot,
he lost to Triple H at WrestleMania in a match which
ended up recreating the Monday Night Wars including
DX vs the NWO.
recently AJ Styles was quickly brought into the main
event picture after years in TNA/Impact, but WWE never
perceived that company as a rival.
will Rhodes head into the main event scene straight
away? If he does, it would serve as proof to other
AEW stars that the grass can be greener on the other
side, allowing WWE to potentially poach them when
their contracts are up.
he instead returns to his previous WWE status - upper
mid-card would be the inside term, as a wrestler
whos always relevant and may challenge for some
titles but rarely main event or contend for the world
championship - it could end up working against the
company in coming years.
the billions in WWEs coffers, and their decades-long
headstart, theres no threat of AEW becoming
the biggest promotion in wrestling any time in the
near future. But in the eyes of hardcore critics,
the two companies are on contrasting paths and it
remains to be seen whether WWE will make changes.
do so with Rhodes would turn a brewing war into one
that can become red-hot, and potentially push wrestling
back into the wider public consciousness for the first
time in decades.
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