We aren’t far removed from wrestling losing one of its biggest pioneers in Vince McMahon. One could argue it’s for the better, but it feels as though the company has changed. Once overlooked or blatantly ignored wrestlers are suddenly getting the respect they deserve. Paul Levesque, better known as Triple H, has brought a level of excitement and hasn’t missed the mark yet.
All Elite Wrestling’s existence also has to be given some credit. They were the first company in quite awhile to put pressure on the WWE. All of a sudden, WWE wasn’t the only place to go for a lucrative payday. The heavily-anticipated return of CM Punk occurred in AEW. Kenny Omega was able to establish his name in the United States there as well. WWE also lost some of their biggest contributors in names like Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose, Chris Jericho and more. Most importantly, fans that were frustrated with WWE’s way of booking had a legitimate alternative.
On the other hand, AEW was also heavily criticized for seemingly morphing in a more-like WWE product. The company also had a difficult time keeping a consistent spotlight on many of their signings. It still felt different enough, but with Triple H now taking over the WWE product, it’s likely that these two companies are going to be more similar than ever. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it will allow for more wrestlers to make their impact.
Recently, Wardlow claimed his intentions on helping professional wrestling become more mainstream. In the end, both companies should want what is best for the wrestling industry.
Here are four ways to potentially help the company become more mainstream and to change the format of professional wrestling in the United States for the first time in a long time:
4. Make Free Agency a Bigger Deal
When it comes to mainstream sports, some fans often prefer the offseason more than they prefer the actual season. Fans are informed of the length and salaries of their favorite athletes and are given plenty to discuss. Predictions and fantasies about new destinations play a large role in keeping these sports relevant.
The wrestling industry is beginning to be a bit more open with this side of things, but it could be time to go all out. With multiple options for performers to go to, it could add another layer if companies were more open about the lengths of each contract.
3. Allow Your Stars to Truly Brand Themselves
AEW gets credit for already allowing this, but under previous regimes, it was frowned upon by the WWE for a star to “get themselves” over. WWE essentially eliminated the option for their stars to stream on Twitch, as well as use other avenues such as cameos for extra income.
The majority of professional wrestlers are littered with charisma and infectious personality. They aren’t always able to get the proper television time to display themselves, so why not allow them to find other ways to get more “over” with a crowd? Not only could it bring more eyes to the product, but it’ll help create more stars than companies are currently able to.
2. Transparency, Transparency, Transparency
There is a slippery slope to walk on as it pertains to being honest with hardcore fans. Protecting kayfabe should still be a priority, but it’s time to adjust to the fanbase. A vast majority knows and understands the product is scripted and craves to know the backstage politics and real feelings of their stars.
For example, Tom Holland didn’t promote his Spiderman movies as Peter Parker in interviews. Fans are more than capable of separating the two. Transparency by wrestlers is often revealed years after a storyline. It is time to make press conferences a bigger deal. Once again, AEW had already begun this process, but the press conferences are often cookie-cut.
Are there rumors of backstage drama? Dismiss it or acknowledge them. Wrestling fans understand much of the backstage politics and process, so it’s time for companies to stop acting like this isn’t the case.
1. Work as a Wrestling Community
This is a tricky one, but it’s necessary. Companies like AEW and WWE are often met with dissension from fans and ownership with one often wanting to destroy the other. The actual performers do a solid job with acknowledging others in their field, regardless of company affiliation. Regardless of which side of the fence you are, everyone within the business should want to do what’s best for professional wrestling as a whole.
This idea includes potential collaborations from the two biggest wrestling companies in AEW and WWE. It probably wouldn’t have happened under Vince McMahon’s leadership, but it could certainly happen now. For example, all 30 teams in the NBA are competing against each other, but ultimately every team wants to see the league grow as a whole. It is time to see beyond the walls of competition and work together in growing the industry as a whole.