The internet is ripe with keyboard warriors who will rant and rave about AEW or WWE. The newest way to insult the competition is to make light of the size of their audience.
When AEW went to the Wembley Stadium in August, they tooted their horn, and 81,035 tickets were purchased for the event. It was a record-breaking number. Later in the month, the government released that the turnstile count was only 72,265. Was Tony Khan inflating his numbers to look good and decided to tack on 8,000? The answer is no.
It is true that 81,035 tickets were sold, but only 72,265 attendees were in the audience. Likely that means that 8000 people did not show up or those were tickets for scalping. Even if 72,265 people were there in the stadium that is still a significant number to be proud of.
Haters of AEW (see diehard marks for WWE) will be quick to point out that AEW is a liar and they are boasting about numbers, while secretly denying that their brand is dying. Since the Wembley Stadium event, AEW has not had nearly the success in attendance in the States. Spiteful fans will post photos of empty sections (the hard cam side) of the arena and will put on their smug comments “See, look at how AEW is dying.”
Those who mock AEW are not lying per se. The company has seen a decline in attendance for its weekly TV shows. There was a dip when CM Punk left Collision and Dynamite has been struggling to keep their momentum since 2019. But you cannot make the same argument about the PPVs. AEW All In 2022 had 8,799 in attendance while AEW All In 2023 had 9,073.
Now, WWE fans are correct when they jeer that AEW has not reached WWE levels yet. WWE’s Payback PPV netted an attendance of 12,468. Ironically, the same marks that talk incessantly about AEW losing numbers also have to explain how WWE went from 12,468 in 2023 when they were netting between 16,000 and 30,000 in the early 2000s. Who is going to stick up for them losing 4000 seats?
My point is that the numbers comparison is moot. WCW’s Bash at the Beach attendance was 8,300 in 1996 (the day the NWO was formed). That did not stop them from winning over their competition in 1997 and 1998. Playing the numbers game is a lame attempt to feel superior about your brand. AEW is going up against a brand that has had over 50 years to perfect its craft. It’s going to take time and different strategies to win their audience.
AEW has consistently triumphed over NXT numbers which should tell you that creative management cannot come up with new and modern spin-off shows that are better than AEW. Even if AEW never reaches the level of popularity of WWE, they are still taking up a piece of the market better than any competitor. This reality forces WWE to push better matches and content (which is a huge benefit for the viewers).
But the part of the equation that angry fans seem to forget is that our market has enough room for two wrestling federations. Fans are too different animals that contain two totally different vibes. WWE is Skittles and AEW is Snickers. If a party has Skittles and Snickers you don’t get upset, you just choose one over the other. This is a triumph for entertainment.
Attendance and viewership is important. No viewers equals no money to continue existing. AEW is going to have to work to reach their goals and keep growing. But that fact should not make you a jerk about it. There’s a guy on Facebook right now who is selling a spiteful shirt that has the number 72,265 on it to mock AEW’s turnstile number. This guy needs a better hobby. Your memes aren’t funny and your gatekeeping seems desperate. Besides, if numbers are so important to how you should feel about a brand then look how WWE fails miserably against an Indianapolis 500 event (230,000 in attendance) or a University of Michigan football event (more than 100,000 in attendance).
Let wrestling be competitive and find a flavor you like.