“The more things change, the more they stay the same” -Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
Social media was an absolute buzz today, as All Elite Wrestling announced that they signed Paul Wight, the former Big Show in the WWE, to a multi-year deal for the promotion. As of now, the 25-year pro is set to be a commentator for AEW’s upcoming additional Youtube show, Elevation, but I’d guess there will be more of a role for him in the Khan-owned league in the next few months.
For the complete release click here https://t.co/Cru5OrCOdk
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) February 24, 2021
In some ways, this news is very ironic, as reflects a previous era of the industry. There was only a brief period in the history of the industry that WWE was on the ropes when the combination of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash was added with the concept of a Hulk Hogan heel turn. However, it should be noted that even before Nitro’s 83-week run of ratings victories, it was Hulk and later Randy Savage that made the leap in 1994. Macho Man was one of Vince McMahon’s biggest stars of the 80s, but the sports entertainment kingpin shipped the Slim Jim pitchman to the sidelines because he thought Savage was too old for the “New Generation” that was put in place to repair the organization’s image after the steroid scandal of a few years earlier.
Macho Man left, taking the snack endorsement deal with him, and had a completely fresh run under the Turner banner. WCW put Vince on the ropes before it imploded, as those within the Ted Turner conglomerate assumed there would always be enough cash on the payroll to cover the bloated contracts. McMahon bought WCW and its assets, including the incredibly profitable tape library for pennies on the dollar. Extreme Championship Wrestling, a group that revolutionized the presentation of the genre in the United States, officially folded just a month after the Turner sale. Dixie Carter tried to run TNA, enough said.
The point being, the pro wrestling industry has evolved, but the basic dynamics remain in place because it provides a foundation to the industry. If a product is going to make an impact on the landscape of the business, it needs the talent, the distribution, and the correct presentation to be effective.
I penned an article last week about the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre pay-per-view and explained that beyond getting The Giant on the roster at time, the debut of The Big Show was a shift in the narrative of the era. Two years earlier, the future of the WWF was in jeopardy and as some of McMahon’s biggest stars signed with Ted Turner, it looked as though WCW was the place to be in the industry. By 1999, Big Show’s jump and the Chris Jericho debut later that year sent the message that the young stars of the business saw their future in the WWF.
The importance of the success of AEW for the industry as a whole can’t be understated because without options for the performers and the fans, the business is stagnant, which was more or less the narrative of the industry for several years prior to the launch of All Elite. Established names like Jon Moxley and FTR opted to sign with AEW, while names like Chris Jericho, Sting, and now Big Show would rather ink a Tony Khan deal than be used occasionally for cameos in the WWE. Talent that just needed to be given an opportunity to shine like Eddie Kingston and Lance Archer chose AEW because they saw it as the more productive option.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
This isn’t meant as a jab against the WWE, especially because they will continue to generate record-setting revenue from their TV and network deals for the next several years so you can’t argue with the success, but it’s very possible the publicly-traded company is focused more on its place on the stock market than it’s position in the sports entertainment business. We’ve heard it several times, one of the main criticisms of the WWE product in recent years is the generic approach to the shows. At the very least, another legitimate option provides fuel for the industry.
Don’t get me wrong, AEW isn’t going to surpass WWE, and that shouldn’t be the goal anyway. As I’ve written before, success for All Elite isn’t beating Raw in the ratings, it’s being a profitable business venture. The TNT extension that was signed last year made AEW a profitable project so they are already successful. The sports entertainment industry has already been exponentially better because of the existence of more options and it ultimately provides better products for the fans.
Welcome to @AEW, @PaulWight! Watch #AEWDynamite tonight for more info on Paul’s arrival here, and for more info on our new show AEW Dark: Elevation! It will be streaming soon every Monday night on AEW YouTube! pic.twitter.com/z5BaztjfF3
— Tony Khan (@TonyKhan) February 24, 2021
I have to be honest, I was very surprised when I saw that The Big Show signed with AEW. I assumed he would remain under the WWE umbrella because he worked for the company for more than two decades and probably had a decision contract to make cameos or be used to put someone over, which is how he was used for a short match against Drew McIntyre on Raw last year. That said, the fact that Paul Wight inked a deal with AEW sends the message that he sees some type of future in the organization. If he just wanted the money, he could’ve stayed under contract to WWE so the move is certainly a positive statement for All Elite. While I don’t think an additional Youtube show will do much in the grand scheme of things, Wight as a commentator is a good way to use him. Reportedly, Wight will wrestle some matches in AEW, but at 49, it makes sense for him to be used primarily in a non-wrestling role and then maximize his star power with a few key bouts.
Considering Shaq’s current involvement in AEW and the fact that the rumored Shaq/Big Show match didn’t happen in the WWE, I’d say it was a safe bet that the bout eventually takes place in All Elite. There are always another key bouts with a few members of the roster that can be used to put more of a spotlight on them. Besides in the ring, there’s a major benefit to AEW from a PR prospective as well because his involvement can be used to create very valuable brand awareness, which is a very important aspect to continue to build the company.
The WWE is now the major corporation in the wrestling business and while management is smart enough to maintain it, it’s very interesting that AEW is the company that is pushing the envelope to make waves, similar to what Vince McMahon did in 1997. Modern day McMahon wants to copyright everything, which is a smart business move, but there was a time when he helped Paul Heyman market ECW’s first pay-per-view. There’s somewhat of a comparison about how All Elite has promotes some of the Impact and New Japan matches. The Big Show, Jericho, Sting, Cody, FTR, and a few others opted not to sign another deal with WWE to ink a contract with All Elite instead so it will be very interesting to see the direction of the industry in the next few months.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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