With so much user-generated content out there (a.k.a. social media), I sometimes find myself going down a rabbit hole reading the flame wars that popup about the most inane topics. Of course, I am not going to rehash all of them here, though the other day I read a back and forth that spurred me to write this column. The argument was over this one person who did not think that AEW was being a strong alternative to WWE and how they were frustrated by that observation.
That got me to thinking about what my expectations are of AEW as a fan. And, for me, it is pretty simple – my expectation is that AEW is a wrestling program that engages me in a way that lets me forget about the stresses and struggles of my world for two or three hours each week. That’s it. I do not need AEW to be an alternative to WWE, especially since I have not watched WWE regularly in over 15 years. In fact, I do not need AEW to have an “alternative” feeling at all, actually. I just want to watch a wrestling show that has continuity from week to week and tells a story that I find interesting as an adult.
WWE is pretty clear that they are not going to give me that product and I am completely fine with that, by the way. I do not need Vince McMahon and his team to cater to me and my wants and needs. The reason why I did not watch the WWE product regularly for over 15 years is because WWE was the only major game in town and I was not really that interested in their product. As opposed to those wrestling fans (and entertainment fans, in general) who continue to watch a product that they do not like, I just do not have the time to waste on that type of stuff. If I think a wrestling show is bad, then I stop watching it. Related, if I think a wrestling show is not written for me, then I stop watching it. I watched Impact Wrestling for a little bit over those 15 or so years, but their hopscotching between channels after they left Spike in 2014 made it a chore for me to find them and become engaged as a fan. And now, I just do not have AXS TV on my YouTube TV package, so I cannot even inadvertently flip on to their wrestling show. However, I did subscribe to their YouTube Insider program for a dollar a month back in August and I do watch their weekly shows on that platform.
So… I stopped watching wrestling regularly until AEW came around. Now, I find myself getting a bit of that old NWA and WCW vibe from the promotion, both of which speak to the professional wrestling that I watched when I was younger. Further, I love the cross-promotional work between AEW, Impact Wrestling, NJPW, and the NWA, among others (might as well throw in GCW since they had Nick Gage on Dynamite). I love that type of stuff because it makes the show interesting for me. I enjoy the business-end of professional wrestling and watching a patchwork of non-WWE promotions work together to provide a true alternative for the performers and backstage talent is great. I could watch that type of stuff develop over months and years and never get tired of it. The cross-promotional matches going on at events like NWA’s EmPowerrr late last month are exactly the type of circumstances that I find engaging.
Anyway, as I read that argument between those fans on social media about what AEW is supposed to be, it made me realize that, for me, I need AEW to be a fun, weekly destressing event that understands I am not a young child or a teenager. And, so far, that is what I have experienced from Tony Khan and his team. First, I experienced this watching Dynamite on Wednesday nights (often on my DVR during the pandemic as I was busy on Wednesday nights). Then I experienced this watching Rampage on Friday nights before heading to bed before the weekend began. For me, in my life, AEW’s programming fits this need and fills that programming gap that the professional wrestling fan in me has been looking for since the early 2000s. I can only hope that their programming continues to be engaging so that I continue to watch every Wednesday and Friday night!