It's been decades since Vince McMahon bought out his biggest rival, WCW, thus putting an end to a heated wrestling war that lasted six years.
TNA (now Impact Wrestling) tried unsuccessfully to compete with the WWE promotion. But with the rise of the new AEW company, McMahon and his crew are preparing for another wrestling war. AEW is only a few months young, but there's already a handful of uncanny resemblances they share with WCW. There are also a large portion of differences involving the two companies, and some of these could hurt AEW's ability to compete with WWE.
Let's get into five reasons why AEW is the next WCW, and five reasons they they're not.
10 Next WCW: Wealthy Owners
WCW was owned by billionaire Ted Turner from 1988 until 2001. Turner was founder of CNN and TBS and also owned the Atlanta Braves' MLB team from 1976 to '96, before Time Warner took over.
Well, the AEW promotion is owned and operated by the wealthy Khan Family. Shahid owns Fulham F.C. of the EPL and the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars. Forbes lists Khan's net worth at $7.9 billion. His son Tony is the president and CEO of AEW.
Both AEW and WCW are owned by billionaires, so the Khans won't have a problem paying top dollar to their superstars. Cody and Brandi Rhodes and the Jackson brothers have the resources they need to compete with WWE.
9 Not WCW: The Hulk Hogan Factor
WCW was unable to seriously compete with WWE in the '90s until they signed Hulk Hogan, who had left McMahon's promotion and was in the midst of an acting career. Eric Bischoff recruited Hogan to join his company and with that, WCW was on the wrestling map more than ever before.
Now, AEW ha landed some big names in Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, and Kenny Omega. But none of these guys have or will impact the wrestling world the way Hogan did during his prime wrestling years. There isn't that one addition that can flip the AEW promotion entirely. Whereas with Bischoff and WCW, signing Hogan was the one big move that started the Monday Night Wars.
8 Next WCW: Competitive Salaries/Pay
In the '90s, a large number of WWE superstars flocked for WCW when Eric Bischoff offered them more money. It started with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. Then guys like Lex Luger, Bret Hart, and "Macho Man" Randy Savage were coming along for the ride.
AEW has been able to recruit many big-name talents by offering competitive pay to pry them away from WWE. In January, Brandi Rhodes announced that its female wrestlers would earn the same pay as the male superstars.
At the end of the day, money talks for wrestlers. And like WCW, AEW is able to land a bunch of superstars from around the world by giving them boatloads of cash.
7 Not WCW: Eric Bischoff Is On The Other Side
Eric Bischoff worked as the Executive Producer and President of WCW. Turner simply gave him the keys and resources to run the show the way he wanted, and Bischoff came up with so many genius ideas and business plans that put WCW on par with WWE.
This time, Bischoff is on WWE's side for the next wrestling war. He was brought back as new Executive Director of SmackDown Live, and Paul Heyman got the same title for the Raw brand.
Bischoff was the main enemy in WWE's last wrestling war. This time, he'll be fighting on their side. Talk about Bizarro World.
6 Next WCW: TNT Deal & Ratings War
TNT aired Monday Nitro — WCW's flagship program — to compete with WWE's Raw, and it obviously turned out to be a game-changer of a business program for Bischoff and company.
Well, AEW was able to secure a television deal with TNT , where they'll perform a weekly Wednesday night program that'll start up in the fall. And in the same way that Nitro and Raw clashed on Mondays, AEW's weekly TV show will go to war with WWE'S NXT on Wednesday nights.
5 Not WCW: Pushing The Women's Division
WCW never seriously pushed its women's division, nor its cruiserweights and tag team division, for that matter. They were simply all about the New World Order, and nothing else. In fact, the WCW Women's Championship and Women's Cruiserweight Championship belts only lasted for nine months and one year, respectively.
AEW isn't about to repeat that mistake. As mentioned earlier, they're paying their female superstars the same amount as men. Having recruited top female stars like Britt Baker, Allie, and Awesome Kong, AEW is bent on pushing its women's division the same way as WWE has over these last few years.
4 Next WCW: Signing Former WWE Superstars
WCW built most of its product around former WWE talents — namely Hogan, Luger Nash, Hall, Savage, Ultimate Warrior and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, among others. In most cases, these superstars saw better money and overall opportunity in WCW, so they made the jump.
AEW was able to recruit Chris Jericho long after his last run with WWE. Dean Ambrose (Moxley) chose to leave WWE this year due to creative frustration and he joined AEW. Pac — known as Neville in WWE — left the company two years ago as he too became unhappy with his role with the company. Now he's with the rival AEW promotion.
AEW is following WCW's plan to recruit a handful of former WWE talents, with many of them frustrated with their placements in Vince McMahon's company.
3 Not WCW: Homegrown Talents
One of WCW's biggest problems was their inability and refusal to develop their own talents. Goldberg was an exception, but other promising talents like Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio. and Eddie Guerrero never got their chances in WCW — and it's why they left for WWE. Over time, WCW's decision to rely solely on its veteran stars really led to disastrous results.
AEW isn't going to make this mistake. They've recruited some phenomenal in-ring performers and seem intent on developing them accordingly. This includes Britt Baker, Michael Nakazawa, Kylie Rae and Joey Janela, among others. In short, AEW simply won't rely entirely on its big-name pickups. They'll develop their own stars as well.
2 Next WCW: Big-Named Superstars
When TNA started out in 2002, they were only able to acquire a handful of established names. Sting and founder Jeff Jarrett come to mind, but for its first few years, TNA had to spend ample time in developing their own stars.
But like WCW did in the Monday Night Wars, AEW has been able to land some big-name and world-class talents to build their product around. It obviously started with Cody and Brandi Rhodes, plus The Young Bucks. Then Chris Jericho followed. Then Kenny Omega. Then Jon Moxley.
As we noted above, developing homegrown talent is key. But you need some big-name leaders to step up and show the way. AEW has done that by acquiring some of the greatest wrestlers in the world.
1 Not WCW: Unproven Leadership & Management
When WCW hired Bischoff to run the show, he already had valuable experience in AWA and he even attempted to land a commentary gig with WWE. Bischoff joined WCW in 1991 and worked his way up, and it was clear over time that he was well-suited for an executive role.
But AEW is leaning on Tony Khan, the Rhodes' and the Jackson brothers to lead the way. None of them have much, if any, wrestling executive/management experience . But the Khan family believes these are the right people to lead this promotion. Cody and the Young Bucks have to show that they can handle the workload of being main event stars, executives and bookers. Can they pull it off over the long run? That's the million dollar question.