Author's note: The following article is purely an opinion piece. If you're not interested in my honest viewpoints or are expecting a fully unbiased article, then you might as well stop reading right here.
"Layeth the smacketh down on your candy asses!" is one of biggest catchphrases I can remember during my younger days. Growing up, my mom didn't want us to watch wrestling. However, my dad let us stay up late so we could watch Smackdown on Thursday nights. He introduced me to the sport around the year 1998, and I've been hooked ever since.
Young me was OBSESSED with WWF (soon to be WWE) and I'd watch so many Pay-Per-View events and documentaries on the VHS tapes my dad would sneak home for me. I played so many wrestling video games it seemed like my only hobby (other than the NFL) and in a way that still exists within me to this day... but not to that extent.
At school, I'd constantly use their library to find results for recent episodes of Raw and Smackdown as well as the Pay-Per-View events. I couldn't tell you the number of times "WWE Smackdown Spoilers" was entered into the Google search bar (and yes, for some reason I always capitalized the first letter of each word like that). As I grew up, I never outgrew my love for wrestling, but there was a point where I realized the "good ol days" of WWE were in the past.
The years from around 2010-2013 weren't very exciting to me. I don't remember everything about that time period, but I do specifically recall John Cena running rampant over the industry. Not only that, but I enjoyed some of the younger talent who were on the rise... namely a group known as The Nexus. Led by Wade Barrett, I was excited to see how WWE creative would go about getting the new rookies over. Guys like Barrett, Daniel Bryan, Darren Young, Skip Sheffield (aka Ryback), Justin Gabriel, Michael Tarver, Heath Slater, David Otunga and Husky Harris (aka Bray Wyatt) were running roughshod over the WWE.
At Summerslam 2010, Team Nexus faced off against Team WWE in a 7 on 7 elimination match in the main event. The result is where my love for wrestling appeared to be slowly coming to an end. John Cena ended up overcoming the 1 on 2 odds against Gabriel and Barrett to defeat The Nexus on the big stage. Once again, WWE fed the young guys to the machine known as John Cena, and I was deflated.
Fast forward a few years through CM Punk's departure from the company, The Undertaker (my all time favorite wrestler) having his Wrestlemania Streak ended by Brock Lesnar, to the eventual force feeding of Roman Reigns as the company's top star, and I was simply tired of WWE. I stopped watching every show despite being an adult at that point and having the full access to ability to tune in. Sure, I might check out Smackdown now and then or watch a Pay-Per-View event but my general interest in the product waned considerably.
I found a site called Fightful.com and have been using their podcast review shows to keep myself up to date with the current happenings in WWE.
Then it happened...
July 21st, 2021 I decided to tune in to an episode of AEW Dynamite for the very first time. I always heard about the company, but never really looked into it (after all, I grew up purely a WWE guy). On this night, it changed my mindset for good.
When I turned it on, former WWE star Chris Jericho was making his entrance to his song "Judas" and had the entire crowd singing along with it. With the camera panning around to individuals in the audience singing their hearts out with huge smiles and the look of genuine happiness, it gave me legitimate goosebumps. I looked on with the same large smile I once had while watching WWF on the screen when I was a kid.
I couldn't watch the entire episode because I had a 3am start at work the following morning, but I knew in my heart - WRESTLING IS BACK!
From then on, I'd watch nearly every episode of AEW Dynamite and the soon-to-be AEW Rampage and was rarely (if ever) disappointed. I remember how loudly I shouted and nearly came to tears when CM Punk made his hyped up All Elite Wrestling debut in Chicago (there was no surprise, but it didn't change the impact of the moment), seeing the debuts of both Adam Cole (BABAY!) and Bryan Danielson within minutes of each other at Double or Nothing (the first wrestling Pay-Per-View I bought at full price and watched live) as well as plenty of purely awesome wrestling matches in the weeks and months to follow.
Not only was the wrestling incredible, but so were the wrestlers themselves. Growing up, my favorites were The Undertaker, Sting and CM Punk - and 2/3 of them are in the company too! Never would I have imagined the Voice of the Voiceless would be back in a pro wrestling ring, but even more crazy is the fact that he is only my third favorite in the company! I absolutely LOVE Malakai Black as well, but my absolute favorite AEW wrestler is Maxwell Jacob Friedman, MJF.
Hearing him insult his opponents on the mic is BRUTAL. His mic skills are flawless and remind me of The Rock in his prime with how smooth he is.
What's even more impressive is how he still gets fans to boo him. In this day and age, fans cheer the people they like despite their face/heel alignment... at least that's I thought while watching WWE. MJF has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand every time he picks up "the stick". The savage insults, cussing and shots at WWE that come out of his mouth never fail to make me laugh and give an audible "oh!" when I hear them. MJF is the perfect example of the mature, hardcore, non-pg product I always wanted WWE to be... oh yeah, and he's also a great wrestler.
I had watched the main WWE product for over 20 years at this point (I also watched WCW with my dad, but never saw TNA, New Japan, RoH or even NXT), but it doesn't even compare to the happiness and excitement I get on a weekly basis when I tune in to Dynamite or Rampage and hear the opening line "IT'S WEDNESDAY NIGHT, AND YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS!".
I just wanted to put together a little piece showing my appreciation for this company. AEW has brought the wrestling fan back out of me and I can't thank them enough.
Thank you, Tony Khan. Thank You, Cody Rhodes. Thank you, Brodie Lee.
This writer is All Elite.