Comparing and Contrasting the Main Event Stars in WWE and AEW TodayMarch 11, 2021
Comparing and Contrasting the Main Event Stars in WWE and AEW Today
It may not seem like it, but we're nearly 18 months into the highly publicized Wednesday Night Wars as AEW Dynamite debuted while NXT moved up to network television in October 2019.
In that time, we've learned a lot about both companies' approaches to professional wrestling. Honestly, comparing a new venture to the third brand of a conglomerate with 68 years of history every week doesn't make a lot of sense, but there are some fascinating differences in their presentation and core ideals.
Although Dynamite and NXT both take place on Wednesday, they exist for drastically different reasons.
All Elite Wrestling's flagship series is more of a representation of the company's methods while the black-and-gold brand is a developmental ecosystem that is trying to transition into a standalone show. It's like comparing apples to oranges.
Now, NXT has evolved to compete with Dynamite, but that's a conversation for a different day. Instead, let's keep this analysis straightforward and compare and contrast AEW and WWE overall.
There is a legitimate discussion to be had about the validity of the Women's Evolution when Raw is a mess versus the competition's highly criticized fledgling division. But in this article, we will cover what distinguishes their main event stars.
The main distinction between both companies is that WWE still very much elevates big men to the top of its card. It's no secret that Vince McMahon's ideal Superstars are tall and jacked, but AEW has been willing to utilize smaller guys.
The average AEW world champion stands at 6'0" as Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho both just barely hit the mark. Jon Moxley was the tallest and he is listed as 6'2". In the company's first year, there was some criticism that all of its biggest stars were short, but bringing in Jake Hager, Lance Archer and Wardlow has added some depth.
Meanwhile, WWE is known as "the land of the giants" for a reason. Most of its last few world champions are colossal. Of course, AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston and Seth Rollins are a few exceptions, but Drew McIntyre, Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns and Bobby Lashley are more in line with McMahon's vision of a top star. Outside of NXT, most of the headliners fit this mold.
More companies are straying away from this standard. Rich Swann was a cruiserweight with WWE, but he's now a world champion with Impact Wrestling.
AEW, which recently partnered with Impact, also seems more likely to crown someone who isn't a prototypical heavyweight.
AEW’s Lack of Diversity in Its Main Event Scene
While AEW has made some progressive signings and exceptional moves toward making wrestling more inclusive, it's hard to ignore that there aren't many people of color in its main event scene.
To be fair, there are several stars on the roster who could develop into fixtures, such as Scorpio Sky, but it's going to take time to build him into a credible contender.
To WWE's credit, they have crowned two Black world champions in the last two years. Roman Reigns is also a Pacific Islander, and his Samoan culture is a big part of his current reign as universal champion.
Next week, Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa will become the first women to compete in the main event of Dynamite. However, female WWE Superstars have headlined more shows and pay-per-views over the last two years. Sasha Banks is one of the biggest stars in the company, and she is well on her way to making history as one of the first Black women to headline WrestleMania.
AEW has made some strides in the industry, but the new company is behind in this category.
WWE's approach to diversity is far from perfect, but it has given women and people of color significant opportunities recently. AEW will have to address this eventually, or it will be easy to paint its attempts to build a diverse roster as futile.
Use of Heel Champions
Both AEW and WWE have a top heel as a champion right now. It's a tried and true method that helps to develop the next main protagonist who will eventually overcome them.
On SmackDown, Roman Reigns is doing the best work of his career as The Tribal Chief, a villainous persona that many fans never expected him to take on. Meanwhile, Kenny Omega has introduced a version of The Cleaner, his popular character from New Japan Pro-Wrestling, as the third AEW world champion.
Omega isn't the first antagonist to stand atop of the company; its inaugural champion, Chris Jericho, set the precedent in August 2019.
However, AEW books most of its babyface characters in the main event scene well. Moxley is a perfect example and everything you could want in a major star. The former titleholder was cool, competent and engaging as opposed to many of WWE's main heroes who often come off as gullible or uninteresting.
Booking a villain as the top star can be a difficult balancing act because if you don't create compelling adversaries, the fans will just cheer for the bad guy. AEW has done a better job on this front because WWE doesn't exactly book textbook white meat babyface characters well anymore.
It's fair to say it's harder to do so in today's era, but other companies have proved there is a way to change the formula.
Renewed Focus on Engaging Characters
There has been a bit of a lack of strong and dynamic characters in some major wrestling companies over the last few years, but that's where AEW has been the most successful so far.
There are so many distinct characters on the roster, which makes Dynamite such an entertaining show every week.
Eddie Kingston has been a revelation for the company. His promo work and rivalry with Jon Moxley were excellent. Mox also stands out as one of the most captivating stars in the industry. His swagger and confidence have transformed him into someone who could be the face of any promotion. Chris Jericho also made a good inaugural champion because his initial work with The Inner Circle was so fun to watch.
This kind of energy is what made NXT must-see television at its peak. As noted earlier, Roman Reigns is delivering some exceptional character work, as well. The Tribal Chief is easily the most compelling aspect of WWE programming. Raw could use someone as compelling at the forefront right now, as WWE's flagship show has struggled in recent weeks.
AEW’s Attempt to Create New Stars
WWE's biggest advantage over AEW is the fact that it has so many established Superstars. This makes it easier for the company to promote a wider scope of performers and give women and people of color more opportunities.
AEW is still building its company from the ground up. It does have many recognizable names, and hardcore fans have an attachment to many of its core performers because of New Japan, but it's going to take some time to develop the mainstream recognition that WWE so easily wields at the moment.
So far, AEW has made some earnest attempts to create homegrown stars in Darby Allin and Jungle Boy, and its Nightmare Factory training facility has helped to nurture a new generation to work with.
Additionally, "Hangman" Adam Page is quickly becoming one of the best characters on the roster, and it's only a matter of time before he wins the AEW World Championship. MJF and Sammy Guevara are also diamonds in the rough.
The hope for an alternative has put a lot of pressure on the company's shoulders, and it's slowly but surely making progress.
It's going to take time to realistically compete with WWE, which has the resources to continue to sign top indie stars and use NXT to groom homegrown talent as a part of its deepest roster to date.
As long as AEW continues to grow into a desirable destination, it will make headway, but it's going to be an uphill battle.