Cody and the Young Bucks will lead AEW into battle this fall after inking a TV deal with Turner.
Just hours before Wednesday’s upfronts for WarnerMedia, the billionaire-backed pro wrestling upstart AEW issued a press release to announce a television deal with TNT.
Per the press release:
Later this year, WarnerMedia will provide exclusive multi-platform access for fans to watch AEW events, airing live weekly matches on TNT in prime time, as well as streaming them through WarnerMedia’s B/R Live and on pay-per-view. A leading digital sports enterprise, B/R Live’s high fan engagement will provide an invaluable opportunity to build AEW’s audience.
The release went on to note that WarnerMedia’s B/R Live will serve as the exclusive digital streaming partner in the United States for the upcoming Double Nothing pay-per-view on May 25.
The report did not specify a launch date for AEW’s weekly television series, though it is expected to premiere sometime this fall as was reported last week by Tony Maglio of The Wrap, who referred to the deal as “virtually done.”
An official start date could be announced as soon as WarnerMedia’s upfronts presentation at 10:00 a.m. EST today.
Executive vice presidents Cody, the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega will lead AEW in somewhat of a player-coach role, while Tony Khan of the billionaire Khan family will run the organization as President and CEO.
AEW, fueled by the momentum of big-name signings like legendary former WWE Superstar Chris Jericho and all-world wrestler Kenny Omega, couldn’t have picked a better time to challenge WWE and vie for portions of its disillusioned and lapsed audience. Viewership for both Raw and SmackDown has been anemic, with year-to-year declines of as many as 30% for Raw earlier this month and only minimal improvements since.
In a recent fireside chat with J.P. Morgan Global Technology, WWE co-President George Barrios all but overlooked the budding promotion as singular competition, instead noting that WWE considers everything competition. Even sleep:
“The best comment I’ve ever heard was from Reed Hastings who said, ‘Sleep is competition.’ He nailed it. You are competing for people’s time. So, whether it’s Fortnite, the NBA, Kung Fu novels—we are fighting for people’s time,” said Barrios.
“So, everyone is a competitor at everything. So yeah, AEW has announced and welcome to the game.”
Increased frustration, both internally and among the WWE’s eternally disgruntled fans, has led to a tense relationship between WWE and its fanbase. The apparent WWE fatigue leaves both current and former fans ripe for the picking to seek an alternative which, while lightyears away from the worldwide leader from the standpoint of business and prestige, can succeed should it deliver superior storylines, matches and innovations.
“Wrestling fans have wanted—and needed—something different, authentic and better for far too long,” said Tony Khan, via the press release.
“AEW is answering the call. AEW is about more than wrestling. It’s about a movement fueled by wrestling fans who have been underserved and perhaps even disappointed by what the industry has produced in recent years.”
It’s unknown whether or not AEW will adopt a sponsor-friendly TV-PG format similar to WWE, or whether it will take advantage of possibly being able to offer an edgier product. Based on the language and material from AEW’s cult-favorite YouTube show Being the Elite, embracing a TV-PG product would come as somewhat of a surprise, even among “good Christian boys.”
AEW’s announcement has officially launched the next installment of a wrestling war on a national scale. The Monday Night Wars pitting WWE against WCW during the mid-nineties into the early 2000s helped shape wrestling’s biggest boom period.
Chris Jericho signed with All Elite Wrestling during a press conference earlier this year and claimed a major TV deal was coming.
Credit: AEW Twitter, @AEWrestling
The subsequent, short-lived war between a Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff-led TNA in 2010 only highlighted how far wrestling’s mainstream popularity had fallen. After a strong first showing during a Monday night test run in January, which garnered an impressive 1.5 rating, Impact failed to make it past the two-month mark before retreating back to Thursday nights.
It’s worth noting wrestling’s World War 3 will not feature head-to-head first-run television programming between WWE and AEW. Whether it will recapture the magic of the original Monday Night Wars or further fracture an already dwindling pro wrestling audience is anybody’s guess.
AEW’s inaugural Double or Nothing pay-per-view will take place Saturday, May 25 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.