As 2019 started, Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks, members of arguably the most popular stable in sports entertainment today, announced plans for All Elite Wrestling. This new company was rumored after the success of the All In event that sold out 10,000 seats in Chicago just a few months ago. While details haven’t been revealed yet, a press conference is scheduled for next week, which might include more information about the foundation of the company.
Tony Khan, the son of Jacksonville Jaguars’ owner, Shaq Khan, will be the president of the All Elite promotion. Since the Khan family purchase of the Jaguars in 2011, Tony Khan has worked extensively with the NFL franchise and also worked with the Fullham FC team that their family purchased in 2013. According to Forbes, the Khan family is worth an estimated $6.3 billion. In recent years, Tony Khan launched TruMedia Networks, a sports-based media organization.
Join us January 8th in JACKSONVILLE for more information on Double or Nothing…and AEW! pic.twitter.com/72gnO6fqOh
— Double or Nothing (@ALL_IN_2018) January 1, 2019
While the popularity and hype of the Elite group might lead some to overestimate the possibilities of this project, even the most cautious view of this scenario allows for the potential for a situation that could change the professional wrestling landscape. Granted, a lot of what this group is capable of will depend on several variables, but for the first time since WCW closed, it appears that there might be a legitimate alternative to WWE if AEW can get off the ground. However, it should be noted that everything is speculation based on potential, as there aren’t any results yet to give any indication what the impact of All Elite might be within the sports entertainment market.
As is the case with any product, (and the point that I emphasized about Impact’s TV deal in an article last week) distribution is the key to reach the more possible viewers. According to The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, there are multiple television offers on the table, but nothing is official yet. Considering that they could be more than one offer from cable networks, it’s safe to say that AEW will have a TV deal somewhere, but what station could determine a lot about the potential of the organization.
As I detailed in the column last week, Impact Wrestling’s TV clearance will drop by 40% when they start on the Pursuit Channel this year, and none of the three largest cable systems will carry the channel. If All Elite is going to be a major force within the business, they will need a channel with wide clearance, which might determine the entire business model.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEWrestling) January 3, 2019
The press conference next week will include details for “Double or Nothing,” the follow-up to the All In event. The original pay-per-view in September saw Ring Of Honor offer its production staff for the PPV, and the show featured talent from ROH, New Japan, and Impact. Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks are extremely talented athletes and some of the best of their generation so they are undoubtedly competitors that a promotion can be built around. However, if the success of All In is what led to this launch of All Elite then it must be considered that part of the draw of All In was the fact that it put talent from multiple organizations on the show. That being said, it would be wise if AEW continued the working agreements that were used for All In if that’s possible.
It’s somewhat of a murky situation because Cody and The Bucks finished up with ROH at Final Battle just a few weeks ago, but are still scheduled for this week’s Wrestle Kingdom show at the Tokyo Dome so their New Japan status remains unknown. If All Elite runs TV tapings that cover multiple episodes and then produce an occasional live pay-per-view that would theoretically give the trio a schedule that would allow them to continue to work for New Japan. Another aspect would be that type of schedule could give AEW talent the opportunity to work elsewhere as well. Ring Of Honor and New Japan have worked together successful for the past several years and are scheduled to co-promote the G1 Super Card at Madison Square Garden in April.
That ensures the ROH/NJPW working agreement will be in place until at least the MSG event, but will there be a point when New Japan has to choose what promotion to work with? That scenario would become more complicated if Cody and The Bucks remain on the NJPW roster. An American partnership is really what allowed for the North American expansion of the Japanese product over the past few years and it was an important piece of the puzzle for the increased distribution of the product through the TV deal on AXS and the launch of the NJPW World streaming service. Obviously, a United States working agreement is important for New Japan to continue its expansion so it will be interesting to see if they can continue to work with each group.
All things considered, in my opinion, it would make the most sense for All Elite to work with every promotion possible similar to the way the All In event brought different talent to the same card. Plus, the WWE owns 95% of the market in the United States so it doesn’t make sense for smaller promotions to attempt to divide pieces of the pie instead of trying to expand accessibility to an alternative.
That being said, All Elite and Ring Of Honor will be focused on the same demographic, which is why the Elite stable played such a major role in the renewed popularity of ROH in recent years. Even with the appreciation that Cody and The Bucks genuinely expressed prior to their ROH exit, it seems like it would be very difficult for the two promotions to trade talent because of the same audience they are attempting to draw with the similar style. At the same time, Kenny Omega is one of the members of The Elite stable in Japan, but as of this writing, his status hasn’t been confirmed. It’s doubtful the IWGP champion would leave New Japan for an upstart project in America so does he work Japan and All Elite? How would that affect the previously mentioned NJPW/ROH agreement?
As mentioned, I think the best scenario would be that AEW works with other organizations because there’s not much of an upside to attempting to divide the audience. At the same time, with as much stellar talent that is around, the wrestling landscape has become crowded in recent years, and some leagues, such as the struggling Impact might be pushed out when more main stream options are available. Names like Pentagon, Sami Callihan, and others could get a bigger platform under the All Elite banner. Chris Jericho and Jim Ross are also names rumored for the project, which would provide some well-known figures to the casual fan that might not be aware of The Elite.
More than anything, this project brings the potential to change the landscape of the sports entertainment industry and provide a buzz that hasn’t existed since WCW closed. AEW has the funding to really make an impact within the business and the importance of that can’t be understated. If a product looks minor league, it will be perceived as minor league, which is something that TNA proved under the Dixie Carter regime.
Tony Khan provides the funding and the business resources to present a top-level product and the money to sign some of the best talent in the world. How many times has ROH had their top talent leave because the money WWE offered was too good to decline? Now, All Elite has the resources to offer comparative or better money than the WWE, an aspect that could completely change the paradigm of the industry. Granted, an organization being put on the map can’t be planned, but the pieces of the puzzle were organically put into place over the past several months so it at least appears that All Elite Wrestling has the best chance to offer a true alternative to the WWE since the wrestling boom of the late 90s.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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