By Zander Carver, Columnist
ROME, Ga.– The world of professional wrestling has been turned upside down in 2019 with the rise of new promotion All Elite Wrestling, WWE’s developmental program NXT moving to the USA network, as well as star after star signing to both major companies.
In the late 1990’s World Championship Wrestling, and the World Wrestling Federation entered the infamous “Monday Night Wars” in which both companies aired on television at the same time on the same night. This is what led to the WWF Attitude Era, WCW’s New World Order, and many other staples of wrestling history. The Monday Night Wars gave us household names with the likes of The Rock, Stone Cold, Triple H, and the Undertaker, and is considered by many to be the peak of wrestling popularity. With NXT and AEW now premiering live on Wednesday nights every week many believe that a new wrestling war is beginning, many taking to call it the “Wednesday Night Wars.”
With the emergence of AEW, and WWE’s global expansion, both companies have been doing everything in their power to prevent the other side from getting their hands on talent. WWE has recently been signing their NXT UK superstars to exclusive deals rather than the much more lenient contracts they’d had allowing them to also appear for other promotions on the independent circuit. While they have received repeated fan backlash and criticisms for these deals, it has also opened up opportunities for more stars to rise in the wrestling scene.
Tom Campbell, a host for well known YouTube wrestling channel Cultaholic has been a fan through both the original Monday Night Wars, and now the newly forming Wednesday Night Wars sees this as a good thing for rising talent.
“WWE have corralled so many of these UK guys to exclusive deals with them taking them out of the British independent pool,” Campbell said. “Everyone thinks these shows are now going to suffer, but no. I’ve worked for enough companies to see it happen, what will happen now is those spots that belonged to NXT UK guys are being taken up by other talented independent guys looking to make a name for themselves.”
With the war beginning, and WWE recently making a billion dollar deal to move their show Smackdown to the Fox Sports network, WWE have begun to bring in as many mainstream talent as possible. WWE not only has world renowned names such as Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey, but within the last month WWE has now scheduled former UFC champion Cain Velasquez to challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship, and heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury to fight Braun Strowman in a wrestling match in Saudia Arabia. Not only has WWE scheduled these mainstream fighters to come in and work for them, but also in the last month WWE has had celebrities such as Marshmellow, Rob Stone, and NBA player Enes Kanter appear for them to win their 24/7 championship belt.
In the same regard to WWE bringing in celebrities and mainstream names to appear for them, getting the company mainstream attention, but AEW has also done the same. On their debut episode of AEW Dynamite the company had Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes appear on the show as a way to not only promote Smith’s upcoming movie, but also to get more eyes on their product.
In the same regard to WWE and AEW trying to sign up all of the independent talent they can, WWE is doing everything in their power to prevent their legends from leaving, as they know the nostalgia bump their ratings receive would apply to AEW just as well as it does for WWE. After WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart appeared at AEW Double or Nothing to unveil AEW’s championship, WWE began resigning all of the legends that they could, including the likes of The Undertaker, Goldberg, and Edge, the latter of which was rumored to sign with the rival promotion.
“It’s great that even now you don’t have to be a full time wrestler to make money,” Campbell said. “WWE has these legends contracts now that keep them from going elsewhere, while essentially playing an ambassador for the company a couple days a year and still making a full time wage.”
They say that competition brings out the best of both sides, and with AEW winning in ratings the first two weeks many are excited to see just how both sides continue to step up their game.