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Wrestling with Silence: Comparing WWE and AEW’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

In the face of a global pandemic, professional wrestling has been forced to adapt. Some ideas have been home runs, but of course, some have been swings and misses. Still, creative, never before seen matches have taken place that people will never forget, like WWE’s Boneyard Match and AEW’s Stadium Stampede

No matter what, we’ll always compare the two premier wrestling companies in North America, World Wrestling Entertainment, and All Elite Wrestling. We compare their talent, their champions, their storylines, hell – we even the ratings of their shows. Each company has had to face the challenge of putting on shows with no fans, coming up with creative ways to combat this. It’s time to compare how each company has adjusted to the challenges of this global pandemic.

Challenge: No Fans

WWE: WWE has simply just .. continued. We’re seeing the same matches, with the same participants, in the same style we would see with fans in the arena. Their biggest problem: the silence is deafening. Us as fans can only take so much of Michael Cole’s yapping, I really can’t imagine how hard it might be to wrestle while listening it. While it’s admirable that WWE is still putting on shows, they should take a page out of AEW’s book here.

AEW: AEW has done the obvious, but that doesn’t make it a great idea – they’ve put wrestlers and television personalities in the crowd. It works perfectly. The silence of WWE matches can cause the show’s to drag, but AEW shows haven’t been bogged down to that effect. AEW has even done things like separating heels and faces to certain sides, and having wrestlers side betting during the matches. It’s become an added layer of to look forward to during these shows, and that’s a great thing. 

Challenge: Storyline Progression

WWE: The storyline progression on RAW and Smackdown has worked for some feuds, like Brock Lesnar and Drew McIntyre, but for most feuds it has not. The last time fans were in the arena, the Universal Champion was Goldberg, and he was about to face off against Roman Reigns for the title. In a little over two months, the title is now in the hands of Braun Strowman, who has already faced Bray Wyatt, and will now face Miz and Morisson in a handicap match for the title. WHAT? Also, there’s now a rule where superstars can jump brands randomly, and AJ Styles got traded to Smackdown with no explanation. Storylines in the world of WWE don’t always make sense, but they’ve been especially bad in recent months.

AEW: Contrary to WWE, AEW has been able to develop, continue and finish entertaining storylines in the face of this challenge. The ‘Exalted One’ was revealed, Matt Hardy debuted, the Elite and the Inner Circle continued their feud, and we even got a championship tournament, culminating with a crowning moment for Cody Rhodes. While WWE has been leaving plenty of loose ends and adding random filler feuds that last a month tops, AEW has been paying off storylines months in the making.

Challenge: The Fourth Wall

WWE: This has been WWE’s biggest fault, they have barely even acknowledged this pandemic. Their biggest superstar, Roman Reigns, skipped Wrestlemania due to it and we never even got an explanation. I don’t think we’ve ever even heard the word Coronavirus on television yet. In the year 2020, in this age of information, this is an asinine thing to do. It is so freaking stupid. If for some unknown, crazy reason, WWE was your only form of participation in society, you literally wouldn’t think anything was different in the world. It just makes zero sense.

AEW: At least one wrestling company doesn’t think its viewers are complete morons. AEW has repeatedly mentioned their talent have been tested before each show, a welcome acknowledgement to the viewers at home. Another thing AEW has done right is simply wish their viewers well, and talk about how weird of a situation it is. All other major sporting that have happened since this pandemic have acknowledged it, and to ignore it is just plain stupid. I get that WWE wants to play the keeping kayfabe card, but some things supersede it. A freaking global pandemic is one of those things.

This wasn’t meant to be an AEW puff piece, but they’ve just been putting out much better content than WWE during this pandemic. Not every episode has been a winner, but they’ve had more hits than misses. The WWE still has done some good things, like the Boneyard Match, the Firefly Funhouse Match and the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, but aside from that .. it’s been rough. Plus, you could argue that AEW’s Stadium Stampede match was better than all three. 

The powers at be in WWE have always been stubborn, but they need to borrow a couple of AEW’s ideas if they want their content to improve until fans return.

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