AEW’s first few years in business have been dramatic, to say the least. Dealing with the pandemic in addition to WWE’s seemingly endless roster cuts has made for a volatile and unpredictable business as of late. But it’s safe to say that AEW has navigated it well.
At this point, the “war” between AEW and WWE is in full swing. And AEW obviously has more than a few arrows in its quiver to take shots at WWE. But it also has a few secret weapons that will continue to set it apart as the battle rages on.
AEW’s Forbidden Door to NJPW
During the course of the pandemic, AEW founder, president, and CEO Tony Khan started talking about the forbidden door. This meant that he was building partnerships with other wrestling promotions like Impact and NWA.
Working with NWA has been good though the partnership with Impact has not been as interesting as fans hoped. It basically turned into shared custody of the Good Brothers. But a different forbidden door partnership has been far more productive.
AEW and NJPW have become quite tight. Tomohiro Ishii, Satoshi Kojima, KENTA, Yuji Nagata, and Minoru Suzuki have all made appearances. Fan are loving this crossover that is only going to get bigger and more involved. And it’s something that WWE simply cannot offer wrestling fans.
The AEW Referee Corps
Referees are a key dimension of good professional wrestling. They are part of the layout of the match, making sure everything goes according to plan. More importantly, they are the first on the scene when things go wrong, providing aid to injured wrestlers.
But in modern WWE, referees are rarely part of the match in a meaningful way beyond the basics. AEW has taken refereeing to another level thanks to talented refs like Aubrey Edwards and Bryce Remsberg. They have their own characters fans who are getting behind.
This adds a whole new aspect to the story being told in a match. And fans are definitely responding to this in a big way. Watching Evil Uno involve the refs in some of his moves will never, ever get old. It’s something WWE is sorely lacking.
This is an odd one to suggest as Vince McMahon is the head of WWE. But he may be their competition’s best weapon in the battle against WWE. While the debate about Vince’s legacy in pro wrestling will always be contentious at best, it’s hard to deny that he has had a massive impact on every aspect of the business.
But the endless flow of cuts has provided a regular supply of recognizable and established talent for other companies to bring in. More than that, WWE’s bad booking and poor treatment of wrestlers have driven off major stars like Adam Cole, Bryan Danielson, and Jon Moxley.
Vince McMahon has unintentionally become WWE’s biggest weakness while pushing AEW’s development to new levels. The reality is that no one can take down WWE other than WWE. And
WWE seems to be doing everything in its power to help its opponent do just that. Every move that the company makes only strengthens AEW’s position, even if it’s only a tiny bit.