There’s a degree of disingenuous over the last few weeks amid discussions over where the long term TV home is going to be for All Elite Wrestling.
Over the last weeks a hot topic of discussion in pro wrestling has been the potential of WWE finding its new home for Monday Night Raw deep in the loving arms of Warner Brothers Discovery. WBD is of course the current home of AEW where Dynamite, Rampage and Collision air weekly on TNT and TBS.
Let’s first dispense with the false reality that loyalty means anything in business.
Here’s some breaking news from the real world: When it comes to business, the only thing companies care about is the common denominator at the end of their quarters. As a wise prophet once said: “Cash moves everything around me/C.R.E.A.M./Get the money, dollar, dollar bill y’all.”
The rule is the status quo whether we’re talking WBD, Fox, NBC and whomever else enters the ring, the property needs to be worth their investment, and it needs to add value to their product offerings. For example, the reason Fox hasn’t re-upped with WWE for its portion of the broadcast rights is because TV numbers fell well short of expectations. Dropping them is a fair conclusion considering how much time, money and broadcast positioning Fox gave them.
Conversely, from WBD’s perspective you can easily argue that while AEW has done very well in its timeslots for the most part since inception, their average viewership has stagnated and nestled within the 800K and 1 million range at its absolute best week to week. Weekly ratings rankings aside, even considering potential value in digital streaming, is that enough for WBD to re-up their deal with AEW? The answer to that is relative. It depends on whether they’re OK with the status quo and the potential for AEW to grow over time and whether there’s value in that for shareholders, versus paying considerably more for WWE’s rights to a more established product that in concession could also leave the platform in “X” years.
It’s a matter of value, risk and reward.
The running narrative in some circles on social media and among some commentators is WBD not renewing their deal with AEW is a death blow to the company. And for a select few, that any potential failure in AEW is a positive development. Foremost that isn’t in stone, and secondly as noted above, companies are beholden to test the value of investments in products if that value is a benefit to shareholders. Look at Twitter when they sold out users to Elon Musk for the sake of “due diligence” for shareholders. Obviously not the same thing to a tee, but you get the point. Above all the transaction itself matters.
However, even if we arrive at a point where WBD and WWE come to a deal for the rights to air Raw, that does not mean it is a deathblow to AEW. I don’t personally think this scenario is going to play out, but I also think that if it did that doesn’t mean there aren’t other potential destinations for AEW programming in the United States.
The contrary is to say there isn’t value in the combined media property of Ring of Honor and AEW both for its live content and extensive library when dedicated streaming platforms owned by the content producers themselves (i.e. Paramount, Disney, Prime, Netflix etc. on the corporate side of things) are in the market for content to attract viewers to their platforms. For example, I cancelled my Netflix subscription because their content is “not good.” Would I consider renewing if AEW were to be there? Probably, as there would now be value there. That’s the whole point of these contracts–is there value there for stakeholders, subscribers and shareholders alike? That’s the apex question.
The more concerning part of these conversations come from anyone who thinks it would be funny or comical for AEW to lose its TV home. Moreover, that it would be even funnier for WWE to get one-up on their closest competition; as though getting the “last” infantile “laugh” is a badge worth applauding when I don’t think WWE as an entity frankly cares about some odd fan-driven wrestling proxy war from a few years prior. It’s business, and in the end WWE, AEW, and any potential suitors are going to do what’s best for them.
I feel like as though this conversation is predominantly a byproduct of the fact that social media, and specifically Twitter/X, is a cesspool of trolls and bad takes. It’s alarming that any group could even in jest think it’s a great thing for AEW to not have a guaranteed home for its programming toward the end of 2024.
The wrestling landscape is a better place in 2023 with AEW in it; an AEW that is alive and offering something different from what WWE was doing was the whole point at the outset. It’s important to present alternatives, and it’s important for those alternatives to be stable and supported. Diamonds sharpen diamonds, and it can be argued AEW is a huge reason why the HHH-led WWE has been a better product overall simply because AEW’s arrival alarmed the status quo and said get off your butt and get back to putting on good wrestling shows. And for the last year, while AEW has been mired in drama and inconsistent booking, you can make a valid argument that WWE has been more consistent in terms of quality. For example, I’m always going to favour a wrestling-first product, but all the same WWE has been a much easier watch over the last calendar year and that’s a huge positive for the wrestling landscape.
If the wrestling industry is healthy, that’s a positive for a fans, the alphabet soup companies, and most importantly the wrestlers who can better negotiate good contracts for themselves. Wrestling needs WWE. Wrestling needs AEW. Wrestling needs ROH, Impact, hell even NWA, and every other domestic and international flavour. To believe otherwise is frankly absurd and thought in bad faith.
Could AEW lose its home at WBD? Sure. Is it the end of the world? No. Should it be cheerlead? Absolutely not. Either major company being in a bad position is a colossal negative.