When it comes to wrestling, there’s nothing like a competition.
In the current climate, where World Wrestling Entertainment has been basically the only game in town for almost 20 years, that’s especially true. With the rise of a newer wrestling company, All Elite Wrestling, fans are starting to get the benefits of two feuding brands.
The stark contrast between the two brands was palpable as AEW came to the Kansas City area for the first time last week.
For some quick background: Back in January 2019, All Elite Wrestling, a combination of independent wrestlers and former WWE talent, was established. In October 2019, its flagship show, “Dynamite,” debuted on TNT. It’s the first big-time competition World Wrestling Entertainment, the biggest wrestling company in the world, has had since purchasing its former challenger, World Championship Wrestling, in 2001.
Promising a more wrestling-focused brand geared more toward its talent in the ring than WWE’s soap opera-like storylines, AEW is a back-to-basics brand in a way that reminded me why I fell in love with it as a kid.
Feb. 26 served as a great example of that, as “Dynamite” came to to the Silverstein Eye Center Arena in Independence, Missouri.
The crowd was, as they say in wrestling slang, “hot,” yelling chants in percussive fashion like “A-E-Dub,” when a wrestler pulled off a risky move, and “Dip-N-Dots,” when Dustin Rhodes threw an opponent into a Dippin’ Dots machine in the concessions area of the arena. There were explosions, high-flying attacks and long, bloody brawls from some of wrestling’s best like Kenny Omega, PAC, the tag team Jurassic Express (yes, one of them wears a dinosaur mask) and Big Swole.
Even with the placement of our seats, where we were far away from the ring in cramped seating (I will forever hate arena seats) and in front of a know-it-all fan who was either: A) calling a relative to tell them where he was or B) comparing it to the WWE, I still had a great time and a lot of laughs.
Compare this to the WWE which, a day after that AEW event, crowned three past-their-prime, part-time wrestlers in a controversial pay-per-view competition in Saudi Arabia, where no talent was displayed. The Undertaker (a wrestler who only comes out of retirement to collect a big paycheck for minimal work), Goldberg and Brock Lesnar destroyed newer wrestlers, all in under three minutes. Where’s the fun or, at the very least, excitement in that?
Where I often hear the usual “Wrestling is fake. Why bother watching it?” AEW is showing that wrestling can be a kinetic dance of athleticism, timed punches and kicks, flips and takedowns.
There are bright spots in WWE, like its farm league NXT and a selection of newer wrestlers, who often are body slammed out of the spotlight by some older guy on his last legs.
For years, WWE was able to get away with that kind of booking. But with AEW coming around, there’s reason to believe the product and presentation can be much more enthralling and engaging.