Professional wrestling needs competition to flourish

Fans may think they know what is best for business, but the reality and history show that viable alternatives always improves the wrestling industry.

TBS's AEW Dynamite Los Angeles Debut After Party
TBS's AEW Dynamite Los Angeles Debut After Party / Leon Bennett/GettyImages

All Elite Wrestling had some compelling headlines as WrestleMania Week started. There was heavy discourse on the organization’s position in the industry thanks to CM Punk’s interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. By the end of the evening, talent releases didn’t help the discussion. As tribalism continues to flourish in unintelligent spaces of the IWC, one point remains clear – professional wrestling and sports entertainment alike need AEW and other organizations to find long-term success.

Punk had some interesting things to say during his chat with Helwani. While many wanted to see what he would say about his backstage situations while a part of the AEW roster, it’s what he had to say about how the company operates from a business standpoint that truly stood out. He touched on everything from competition to drawing large gates, guaranteed money, and even the value of star ratings. And while the validity of his comments will spur debates, there’s some truth behind them if you look at things from a business perspective.

AEW is seeing some issues when it comes to both tracked and estimated KPIs measured within professional wrestling. Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics and outlets such as WrestleTix do excellent jobs tracking metrics like television ratings and ticket sales for both weekly shows and major events. The combined effort of their work shows a developing concern around weekly television ratings and ticket sales, even though there are some outliers like events like the 2023 edition of All In. While some may not care about what the data presents, it’s important to understand as much of the picture as possible when having discussions about “success” in a business stance.

All Elite Wrestling is also in developing talks for its next rights deal. The expectations are that WBD will partner with AEW in a new deal that will be an increase over previous agreements. Expectations also include the potential for the AEW product to turn up on a streaming service such as MAX (formerly HBO Max). It’s best for business that both developments turn out true and in the best outcome possible to ensure that AEW continues to thrive at a level that makes it a viable competitor to WWE in a market that is truly in need of competition.

Professional wrestling has seen what the industry would look like if WWE were allowed to be the only promotion in power. Vince McMahon’s forced departure may have spurred a creative improvement, but the lack of competition would eliminate any need for that to truly continue over the long term.

Endeavor already enjoys the benefit of holding a monopoly in one industry. Just look at the UFC’s place in MMA as an example. Fans continue to complain about the quality of that product as fighters are paid small percentages and the quality of fight cards consistently declines. This is happening as other organizations in MMA hemorrhage money in a futile effort to keep up with the UFC. Efforts that will undoubtedly end in failure. Professional wrestling doesn’t need to find itself in a similar position once again.

It’s fun to debate dream matches and argue about which roster has the best talent. But it is important to recognize that one debate point is true, regardless of which organization you support. Regardless of if you call it professional wrestling or sports entertainment, the industry needs competition to flourish. Competition really is what’s best for business.