WWE has been the top dog in wrestling for longer than some of their wrestlers have been alive. However, since 2019 AEW has come along and put a thorn in their side, with their slick presentation, brilliant wrestlers and international stars galore. But is AEW better than WWE?
While Raw and Smackdown have the edge on AEW Dynamite and Rampage ratings wise, AEW are catching up fast. With the latest AEW Dynamite just shy of a million viewers, fans are starting to speculate how long it will take until they match, and surpass, Raw.
Tony Khan has built a fantastic product with AEW. AEW Dynamite is consistently the best weekly wrestling product on TV, now undisputed after the canibalisation of NXT. While Bron Breakker has become a big star, NXT UK 2.0 has largely been seen as a failure by the fans.
Is AEW better than WWE?
Use of Stables
Since it’s inception, AEW has made stables a core part of it’s presentation. It makes sense – The Elite were the basis of the promotion, after all. Without the team of Kenny Omega, Adam Page, the Young Bucks and Cody Rhodes, there would be no AEW.
While the Elite, with it’s ever changing cast of characters, have been the focal point of the show, it is not the only stable that commands screen time. The likes of Chris Jericho’s Inner Circle, the Best Friends, Death Triangle and The Factory have all been key parts of AEW, and have all been involved with high profile feuds with each other and other roster members.
While WWE does have some stables, their presentation is less reliant on factions. For some reason, in recent years Vince McMahon hasn’t been too keen on having factions be a key part of the show. Whilst teams like the Hurt Business and the New Day have been important in the grand scheme of things and won many championships, the idea of “faction warfare” has never been of huge importance.
Shows like NXT and NXT UK use the faction system well, with NXT UK in particular having teams like Imperium, British Strong Style and SUBCULTURE as teams that can fight each other, but on WWE TV the pickings are slim.
Use of Legends
While WWE does love to trot out their legends and have them beat the younger talent (see: Goldberg). Fans are tired of seeing WWE have their young up and comers cut off at the knees to help prop up a limited talent who was famous 20 years ago (see: Goldberg). Like Kevin Owens, who worked all year to become Universal Champion and was set to defend it at Wrestlemania, but lost it in mere seconds to Goldberg at the Royal Rumble and was relegated to an undercard match instead.
CM Punk’s statements seven years ago on the Colt Cabana podcast echo true even today. After losing to The Rock, the Undertaker and Brock Lesnar, he angrily asked Vince McMahon “Who’s going to be here on Monday?”. He was concerned that despite him being the only full-time wrestler of that group, he was continually being forced to lose to the part time legends and made to look like a loser. It severely impacted how popular he was with the fans and made the show less interesting to watch.
AEW manages to use their legends much better than WWE, and to a lesser detriment to their full-time roster. I wrote an article in length regard this top, which you can read about here.
In AEW, legends of wrestling are used mainly to help the younger talent. Arn Anderson is a manager for Cody Rhodes, Jake Roberts is with Lance Archer and Tully Blanchard is managing FTR. These legends pass on their knowledge to the younger generation and help add legitimacy to their characters.
Sting is different, as despite being 62 he still wrestles in the ring. And, he us undefeated which would usually be a knock, a la Goldberg. However Sting is being used perfectly to help build Darby Allin into a main event wrestler for AEW for years to come. Sting and Darby have had a number of matches together and fans have come to love Darby more due to his partnership with the legendary Sting.
Watching Monday Night Raw is an absolute chore, and not just because it rhymes. Three hours is way too long for a wrestling show. Two hours can sometimes drag in AEW Dynamite, but thankfully most of the time it’s thoroughly entertaining. Due to Raw being three hours long, WWE have to struggle to stretch a normal shows amount of content in three hours, thus the endless rematches and long, drawn out segments.
AEW Dynamite is consistently entertaining, and I think for one reason. Matches that mean something. Whilst WWE insists on rematch upon rematch, usually even redoing matches from the pay per view. Every AEW match has meaning, and you rarely see the same match twice.
Even if the match on AEW Dynamite is one like Wardlow vs Matt Sydal, it still matters. You have the background of the MJF-Wardlow simmering tensions, while the match was set up due to the two facing each other inside the Dynamite Diamond Ring battle royale. To top it off, the winner of the match also matters. If Wardlow wins he can move up the rankings and potentially earn himself a shot at the TNT Championship or AEW Championship. Likewise for Sydal.
In WWE, matches mean nothing. Aside from the odd number one contenders match, a regular singles match on Raw or Smackdown means absolutely nothing. For example, Jinder Mahal barely won any matches since his return in 2016 to Smackdown. But then he is added to a number one contenders match for no reason, wins it somehow then wins the WWE Championship.
The Forbidden Door
WWE is an enclosed eco-system in which nobody outside of it even exists. It’s like North Korea, with occasional trips to Saudi Arabia. Unless your in the WWE system (WWE, NXT & NXT UK) then it’s not even acknowledged. Sports Entertaining > Professional Wrestling.
The idea of joining forces with other companies could not be more alien to WWE. While they did have collaborations with companies during the 90s, since then they have worked hard to show their fans that they are the only sports entertainment company in the world. This severely limits the surprise factor of who can show up in WWE. We know exactly who’s signed to WWE and that will be it. A surprise debut from NXT is not the same.
Whereas AEW’s collaboration has produced some of the most exciting moments in recent wrestling history. The forbidden door, a concept named by NJPW’s Hiroshi Tanahashi, is a concept of a door between AEW and the rest of wrestling world. The door to WWE is closed and nobody may enter or leave, but in AEW that door is wide open.
Wrestlers not signed to AEW have made appearances in the promotion to great fanfare. NJPW wrestlers like KENTA, Minour Suzuki and Tomohiro Ishii have all bashed down the forbidden door and had some of the best matches in AEW history.
The forbidden door allows huge moments for fans to get excited for. You know who who’s going to show in AEW, and the fans are anticipating who the next big surprise debut in AEW will be. Fans have speculated that the likes of Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Will Ospreay will show up in AEW eventually, and are thrilled with the prospect. Meanwhile in WWE, there is no chance of any of these showing up and the fans miss out on dream matches as a result.