Tony Khan’s All Elite wrestling makes biggest non-WWE show since 1999 –


All Elite Wrestling (AEW), the professional wrestling promotion founded by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham FC co-owner Tony Khan, will host America’s biggest non-WWE wrestling show in over 20 years tonight at Arthur Ashe Stadium . More than 19,000 fans are expected to attend the Flushing Tennis Center for the live broadcast of AEW Dynamite: Grand Slam and the AEW recording of Friday evening Outburst: Grand Slam. For the record, the last time a WWE contestant drew 20,000 fans to an event was January 4, 1999, when 38,809 people showed up at the Georgia Dome for an episode of WCW (World Championship Wrestling). ) Monday Nitro.

The sold-out New York card comes at a time when the upstart promotion seems to be in full swing. In addition to record-breaking ticket and pay-per-view sales, AEW is selling more merchandise than ever (they’ve sold over 100,000 CM Punk shirts), and Dynamite beat WWE’s flagship show Monday evening gross in demo 18-49 of the last two weeks. Wrestling historian Dave Meltzer (founder, Wrestling Observer Bulletin) called recent milestones “really important; 1999 was truly the last time that a [WWE competitor] had broken through at this level. WCW had a very strong business from 1996 to the spring of 1999. No one has come close since.

Our opinion : Khan launched AEW in early 2019, signing a pool of top talent (including Chris Jericho, Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks). But it did so without a TV deal in place, and when the promotion was finally signed with WarnerMedia, the deal “really failed to cover the costs associated with producing the shows,” Khan said. The longtime wrestling fan was funding the business out of pocket for the first year.

The risks Khan took began to pay off in January 2020, when AEW signed a four-year renewal with affiliate AT&T worth more than $ 175 million (through December 2023). The deal, which provided for a third hour of programming, made the company financially viable in the long term and helped support the company during the pandemic. As Khan said, “We had a solid income [coming in], even without all the live event ticketing revenue that had been significant [up to that point] for us.”

AEW’s ratings have held up relatively well during the pandemic, leading WarnerMedia to add a second weekly show to its programming schedule (Carnage Friday evenings). But Khan said the return of fans to the sites had given his promotion the momentum it needed to “not only close the gap, but also get ahead in recent weeks.” Dynamite to beat Raw the last two weeks. While Monday night football likely cost WWE victory last week, there was no NFL game on September 6.

While that makes for a catchy headline, the truth is that whether AEW wins or loses the weekly odds battle at this point is irrelevant. “The fact that they’ve been so close for less than two years on TV is pretty remarkable,” Meltzer said. “This [usually] takes a long time to start from scratch and reach a certain level – and the other company is like 13 times their size. The climb was certainly faster than expected. “

AEW has also been successful in converting its weekly TV audience to pay-per-view buyers. The company has made an average of more than 100,000 purchases per event and each of its PPV broadcasts (Double or nothing, All out, Revolution, Full equipment) increased year over year. The company’s most recent pay-per-view had over 205,000 purchases (over $ 10 million in gross pay-per-view receipts), the most of any WWE contestant since May 1999. For the prospect, no other Wrestling Promotion has only hosted an event with over 60,000 PPV purchases this millennium.

Khan says AEW is profitable today, but given his “big investment” up front and the income he has reinvested in the business (including an eight-figure spend to develop a video game) , it is not yet in the dark. This should change in the years to come. The company is expected to see a significant increase in the value of its media rights going forward (see: WWE’s $ 470 million / year for Raw and Smack down handsets), and a godsend could come following the video game’s release in 2022.

AEW entered the world of professional wrestling at a time when WWE maintained a monopoly on the industry. So, could a league that has entered one of the Big Four challenge the establishment in the same way? Unfortunately, the opportunity seems unique to wrestling. “There is no other sport where such a high percentage of above replacement and elite talent would be available to sign in such a small window of time,” said Khan. In fact, he argues that even with AEW on the scene, a third major promotion would have a better chance of succeeding than a second league football, basketball or baseball in this country.

Harvey Schiller, who was the president of Turner Sports during the heyday of WCW, pointed out that in pro wrestling promotions create their own stars, which makes success easier to achieve. “WCW built Goldberg from the ground up. It wasn’t like he was a quarterback, who had to see how he behaved, ”he said. “They created the quarterback and put him in a position to be successful.” Goldberg has become one of the company’s biggest draws.

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