What began as a one-off event, which was heavily criticised by people within the wrestling world, sprouted into the closest competitor to WWE since WCW was at its peak in the late 90s.
It was, and still is, financially backed by multimillionaire wrestling fan Tony Khan and the Khan family, as well as former ROH and NJPW stars Cody Rhodes, Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson.
After selling out the first show All In in just 30 minutes, and the initial success of the show, All Elite Wrestling was formed on January 1, 2019 and officially announced via Being the Elite, the YouTube show hosted by The Young Bucks.
Five months later, AEW had its first official show, Double or Nothing.
AEW signed a contract with British broadcasting company, ITV, to give UK fans a way to watch AEW Double or Nothing and the weekly show once it was created. This was a major move for UK fans because it made AEW similar to WWE in terms of accessibility to their product.
Double or Nothing, like All In, sold out in 30 minutes, as well as receiving 98,000 pay per view buys, a rough 50/50 split between the US and the UK. Along with replay buys, this would put Double or Nothing as the biggest PPV that was not produced by WWE or WCW, surpassing ECW.
AEW has always had an air of the mid-1990’s wrestling, so for them to set up a deal with WarnerMedia, the same company who had broadcasted WCW Monday Nitro during the Monday Night Wars, seemed apt.
AEW would announce AEW Dynamite, their weekly show on Wednesday nights, broadcasting on TNT and thus, bringing us another television war, this time between NXT and AEW.
Despite nothing happening between Double or Nothing in May and the inaugural Dynamite in October, AEW still remained relevant and in the news because of the hype they had created for themselves.
Dave Meltzer, of The Wrestling Observer, called AEW the hottest non-WWE force in the US wrestling industry after just one show, Double or Nothing. Speaking of the first official PPV, what a show it was.
Headlined by Chris Jericho vs Kenny Omega, the winner went on to face ‘Hangman’ Adam Page to crown the first-ever AEW World Heavyweight Champion. The show also featured the absolutely amazing brother vs brother match between Cody and Dustin Rhodes.
AEW has capitalised on the current landscape of social media in 2020, making YouTube a larger platform than their actual weekly programming. On their channel, they have another show, AEW Dark, airing every Tuesday, featuring the dark matches from the previous week’s Dynamite taping.
They also air A Road To and Countdown To shows prior to PPV events allowing fans who may have missed certain aspects of a storyline to catch up, as well as seeing new interviews and segments. Comparing them to WWE, who do have a large social media presence but don’t really use it to the extend AEW would, would, however, be harsh at this stage.
WWE has The Bump, but that is classed more of a talk show instead of a catch-up show. It’s not surprising to see AEW on YouTube, considering this all started with Being the Elite, the YouTube show hosted by Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks.
AEW has also presented multiple shows in a different format to keep their programming fresh.
WWE has been heavily criticised for having the same set and same layout to weekly shows and PPV’s, despite having customised sets in the early 2000s – which AEW has not done.
The first time we saw the custom set was AEW Bash at the Beach. As the name suggested, it was a beach. We’ve seen AEW shows in conjunction with gaming events, namely Fyter Fest, as well as seeing AEW shows produced on a ship via Chris Jericho’s Rock ‘n’ Rager at Sea.
AEW has done brilliantly to differentiate themselves from other companies using different sets and different ways of presenting their shows while keeping a regular theme throughout them; the casino theme.
With their shows named after different terms, All In and Double or Nothing, having their pre-shows named the ‘Buy In’ and matches named with ‘casino’ preceding it makes sense.
They have presented themselves in a fantastic way, being what they wanted to be; the alternative product to the big outlandish style of the WWE.
In just one calendar year, not even a full 12 months, AEW have immediately gone to at least second in fans’ preferred choice of company to watch, behind WWE. While in other fans perception, they’re first, based on things you read on Twitter.
In the limited number of events AEW has produced, they’ve put on some of the best matches and moments already of the decade already.
Look back at Double or Nothing – despite fans anticipating the arrival of Jon Moxley, we all still went ballistic when he came through the crowd and attacked Omega and Jericho.
With the company still in its infancy, AEW has no restrictions on where they can go and what they can produce.
They’re innovative, alternative and the hottest thing in the wrestling world.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @George_Geal_. Thanks for reading!