Just a few years ago, Cody Rhodes was floundering in the WWE as Stardust, a fantastical character that, despite Rhodes’ commitment, was consistently overlooked by the company’s creative team. Rhodes, the son of legendary grappler Dusty Rhodes, left the sports entertainment juggernaut in 2016, choosing to test his luck in the independent scene, which is robust if not financially stable. It wasn’t long, though, before Rhodes linked up with the indie scene’s brightest stars—The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, and others—and organized 2018's All In, an independent event encompassing wrestlers from Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and other organizations that sold out the 11,000-seat Sears Centre Arena in just 30 minutes. That turned out to be a proof of concept for All Elite Wrestling, which, amazingly, just inked a deal with WarnerMedia, Deadline reports.
AEW will kick off with Double Or Nothing, a Las Vegas event set to air on May 25, and the punches will continue to fly during primetime broadcasts on TNT beginning this fall. AEW content will also stream via Bleacher Report’s B/R Live and during select pay-per-view slots. And thank god, because, without a viable competitor, WWE’s non-NXT content has consistently grown worse and worse. Talented performers are wasted, storylines are recycled, and fans are often left with nowhere else to turn.
AEW isn’t shy about shading its competitor, either, saying that it won’t be trafficking in “scripted, soapy drama,” but will instead offer “fast-paced, high-impact competitions” with “more athleticism and real sports analytics.” They’ll also be adopting an “inclusive approach” to talent, and we’re excited to see who will join Rhodes, Omega, the Bucks, Adam Page, and WWE veteran Chris Jericho on the roster.
WWE’s been scooping up indie talent at a more furious rate than usual as of late, and also refusing to allow some of its underutilized talent to exit their contracts, presumably out of fear of AEW’s influence. That’s not a good look for the company, especially following John Oliver’s recent takedown and the bad press accompanying WWE’s flourishing partnership with Saudi Arabia.
“Wrestling fans have wanted—and needed—something different, authentic and better for far too long,” said Tony Khan, president and CEO of AEW. “AEW is answering that call.”