This past Saturday, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) finally made its long-anticipated pay-per-view debut with Double or Nothing from Las Vegas, and from all accounts, it was a huge success, both from a fan’s perspective and from a business side. Dave Meltzer reported on Wrestling Observer Radio that Double or Nothing hit the 200,000 buys range on Saturday night, which is higher than any WWE Pay Per View in recent times that wasn’t one of the Big Four – Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam or Survivor Series. It was also a huge increase in Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks first foray into PPV, All In, from last September, which did around 20,000 buys. An encouraging sign for a company looking to become an “alternative” to WWE‘s presentation of pro wrestling.
And while it’s far too early to say they’ll become competition on the level that World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was to WWE in the mid to late 1990s – let’s face it, WWE’s brand name is just too far along and globally ingrained in the pop culture zeitgeist of the mainstream – AEW can offer a competitive show that could attract some of the younger markets that WWE has struggled to maintain and/or retain (unless you’re under the age of 12). And of course, publicly, WWE will say all the right things, that they aren’t worried about AEW, that they treat everything on television or in film as competition, you have to wonder how WWE – and Vince McMahon in particular – will react to AEW’s success this weekend.
For First Raw After AEW, Can Vince McMahon Get “Ruthless” Once Again?
It’s not entirely without precedent either. While WWE actively mentioned competition like WCW and ECW on its television during the Monday Night Wars, when IMPACT Wrestling – then Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling – made its debut on June 19, 2002, Vince reacted. He may not have mentioned TNA by name, but he did take time on the first Monday Night Raw following TNA’s debut, live from the Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, to make sure to address how he handled competition in the past. It was during that segment on June 24, 2002, that Vince McMahon revealed his “ruthless aggression” that had helped him wipe out his competition, from the territories of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) to American Wrestling Association (AWA) to recently fallen competitors WCW and ECW.
Out of that speech came a shift in WWE’s programming. With WCW and ECW dormant, WWE was drifting out of the infamous Attitude Era, and this new era would take its time directly from Vince’s speech that night – the Ruthless Aggression Era. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock were on their last legs with the company, and while TNA took several of the WCW and ECW Superstars who didn’t head to Stamford following their respective companies collapses, they also looked to new, exciting new stars, like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Amazing Red, and Christopher Daniels to lead them. TNA also took stars who had been misused in WWE and/or WCW, stars like R-Truth, Raven, Jeff Jarrett, and others, and made them World Champions.
In response, WWE pushed a slew of new stars from their developmental, like John Cena, Randy Orton, Shelton Benjamin, Batista and a young stud named Brock Lesnar. They also took established stars they’d acquired from WCW and others that had been somewhat overlooked in the past and pushed them to the moon, seeing stars like Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, and more become World Champions. It became a fresh new era for WWE, distancing itself from the crude antics of the Attitude Era and pushing more emphasis on wrestling. They even began to recruit from the indies like TNA was doing, bringing in indie stars like CM Punk, Alexis Laree (aka Mickie James), Gail Kim, Beth Phoenix, and more.
Considering the shift that Vince pushed following TNA’s arrival – which had substantially lower PPV buys that Double or Nothing for their initial weekly PPVs (even their first traditional monthly PPV, 2004’s Victory Road, only did between 20-25,000 buys), you’d have to wonder what Vince may be planning in response to this new noisy neighbor from Florida. While it’s unlikely WWE will name drop that “pissant company” on its episode of Raw tonight from the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri, but there will definitely be some rumblings backstage. And with WWE’s plummeting ratings and recent walk-outs from Creative and Talent (including the former Dean Ambrose, Jon Moxley, who was one of the biggest shock moments of Saturday’s Double or Nothing), perhaps this may just be the shot that Vince McMahon needs to finally get Ruthless once again.
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.