Why AEW Doesn't Need WrestleMania-Type Signature Event

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2021

Why AEW Doesn't Need WrestleMania-Type Signature Event

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    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    Almost every major sports league has a signature event. The NFL has the Super Bowl, MLB has the World Series and the NHL has the Stanley Cup. For WWE, every fan knows the biggest show of the year is WrestleMania. 

    Some fans prefer events such as the Royal Rumble or Survivor Series because they are based around a specific type of match, but even they will concede The Show of Shows is the premier WWE pay-per-view. Nothing else comes close.

    With the exception of 2020, WWE has turned its marquee PPV into an entire week of events. The episodes of Raw and SmackDown that bookend the show usually happen in the same city along with NXT TakeOver. With the addition of Axxess events, there is never a lull in the activities. 

    Promotions such as Impact have also tried to single out one show, such as Bound for Glory, as its centerpiece, but All Elite Wrestling still doesn't have such an event.

    AEW has Revolution, Double or Nothing, All Out and Full Gear as its quarterly supershows, and special episodes of Dynamite sprinkled in throughout the year to add some variety.

    While there may come a time when president Tony Khan declares one show to be the company's signature event, there are plenty of reasons why AEW might want to steer clear of this line of thinking. 

Unrealistic Expectations

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    If a promotion declares one PPV to be more important than every other night of the year, fans will immediately start referring to that show as the "WrestleMania" of that company. 

    What that will do is place unrealistic expectations on the event, the promoters and the wrestlers because fans will demand to see something worthy of being called a "WrestleMania moment."

    'Mania has had its hot and cold years, especially over the last two decades, but the annual event has produced so many memorable moments that it will always stand out as WWE's most iconic show. Even though the company has tried to make SummerSlam feel like WrestleMania 2.0 at times, it has never come close to feeling that way for the WWE Universe.

    By not picking one PPV as the company's signature event, AEW frees itself from those expectations. This allows the fans to enjoy the show on their own terms. 

    Think about it in terms of entertainment franchises: Some people built up Zack Snyder's cut of Justice League in their minds that when it turned out to be just OK, they felt let down. The same thing happens to some fans at WrestleMania every year. They go in expecting to see something on the level of Hulk Hogan slamming Andre the Giant but end up with The Undertaker vs. Big Show and A-Train. 

Differentiating Between Companies

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    AEW and WWE are both guilty of taking jabs at each other.

    AEW stars regularly make jokes about WWE policies on Being The Elite, and WWE moved an entire show from its own network to cable television just so AEW wouldn't go unopposed on Wednesdays. Some of these moments have been funny and others petty, but that's the nature of the business.

    Remember when WWE mocked WCW with those "Billionaire Ted" skits designed to make fun of Ted Turner? Remember when Eric Bischoff challenged Vince McMahon to fight him on Nitro? Promotions using their corporate rivalries as entertainment fodder is nothing new.

    However, AEW has tried hard to make itself feel unique, especially when compared to WWE. Choosing not to pick one event above all others is another way the promotion can keep carving its own path.

    The more things All Elite Wrestling does to make itself unique in the landscape of wrestling, the more longevity it will have. It's better for the fans and the wrestlers if AEW stays in business. It's even better for WWE because competition is what helped it become the largest promotion in the world. 

Every Event Can Be Big

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    No matter how much WWE does to build up any PPV other than WrestleMania, it will never feel as important. Even if the company stopped using the WrestleMania name for some reason, it will always be the show of shows.

    If Khan refuses to put the importance of one of his shows over the rest, it allows the company to make every PPV feels like a big deal. Since they only take place quarterly instead of monthly, AEW PPVs always feel important.

    Each PPV can still have its own unique identity, but none of them need to be billed as anything more than what they already are. As soon as AEW puts that pressure on the show and the performers, those unrealistic expectations we mentioned earlier start to kick in. 

    What AEW should do is market all four shows at the same level to maintain consistent interest throughout the year.

    Some casual fans will stop watching WWE for months at a time, but they always come back for WrestleMania. If AEW has four big shows throughout the year, people are more likely to remain invested in its weekly programming. 

WrestleMania Is Rarely the Best WWE PPV

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    WrestleMania is the unquestioned pinnacle of WWE programming every year, but is it actually the best show? Many fans would say no.

    For some fans, the length of the marquee show is off-putting. Before it was split into a two-night event last year, 'Mania was almost an all-day affair. You had to set aside up to eight hours to make sure you saw all of the action. By the time the main event rolled around, many in the venue would be tired, lost their voice, sore or all three at the same time. Those stadium seats are not designed for comfort.

    The other thing to remember is pro wrestlers don't have a gauge they can adjust at a moment's notice to ensure their WrestleMania match is the best thing they do all year. There are certainly levels to their performances, but a lot of Superstars put their all into every match they have.

    The best WWE match of the year almost never takes place at WrestleMania anymore. In fact, there have been TV bouts that outshine most PPV matches. It's all a matter of timing and the people working together in the ring having chemistry.

    If AEW never classifies one event as its most important, it can make sure every PPV feels equal and unique at the same time. 

Let the Fans Decide Which Event Is the Most Important

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    No matter what any promotion tries to push, the fans will decide which wrestlers they like best, which matches were awesome and which events matter the most to them.

    For a lot of members of the WWE Universe, WrestleMania is not their favorite PPV. Some like the unpredictability of the Royal Rumble while others enjoy the carnage promised at Extreme Rules or Hell in a Cell. For others, SummerSlam is their show because it takes place during their favorite season. Everyone has their own reasons for choosing what they enjoy.

    AEW should just let the fans decide which show is their favorite. Trying to force one to feel more epic than another just creates more chances to disappoint. 

    This also prevents any city from being favored by hosting the single biggest show. If all four events have the same level of hype, fans in four cities will get to be part of the fun. It's all about reaching as many people as possible, especially during the first few years a promotion is in business.

Do the Pros Outweigh the Cons?

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    We've gone over how many good reasons there are for AEW to refrain from having a signature PPV, but we should also look at the other side of the coin.

    WrestleMania generates a ton of income for both WWE and the city hosting the show. It creates jobs, brings in tourists and gives fans a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    There is also the matter of press coverage to consider. An event like Fastlane isn't going to get a lot of mainstream attention, but when it's 'Mania season, every talk show interviews WWE Superstars who will be performing.

    Major news and sports coverage is not something pro wrestling gets very often, and when it does, it isn't always for the best reasons. WWE getting attention for WrestleMania is always a positive for the company.

    The level of excitement fans have for different shows is also something to consider. Sunday football games are not as big a deal, but the Super Bowl can be an all-day party for some fans. The same goes for wrestling fans and WrestleMania. It gives people a reason to clear their schedule and congregate with others for the weekend. It's easier to do that once every year than it is to do it quarterly. 

    When looking at it from both sides, there are good arguments for and against AEW having one PPV that stands above the others. There are certainly benefits but based on AEW's strategy thus far, the best thing it can do is keep acting like every PPV matters as much as the last.


    What do you think? Should AEW designate one show as its version of WrestleMania or stick to its current setup? Let us know in the comments section.