The Holy Grail: AEW Finally Gave Us Something WWE Could Not

Photo via Ed Webster/Flickr

For the Love of Professional Wrestling

It is often difficult to explain why we love professional wrestling so much.

Yes, we know it is scripted.

Yes, we know they aren’t really fighting.

But for those who have watched for years, we understand what the outsiders do not: professional wrestling is perhaps the most unique storytelling medium in the world.

As a whole, professional wrestling offers perhaps the most intricate weaving of loosely connected stories imaginable. From its origins as a legitimate sporting contest to the early days of the “fix” in the 1920s and 30s through the rise of the NWA and the then-WWWF, blended with the rich histories in the United Kingdom, Mexico, Canada, Japan, and beyond, it is often what happens outside of the ring that truly shapes the industry’s unique canon.

When many fans share their interpretation of the “canon,” they recall the tried-and-true classics:

  • Hogan and Andre at WM 3
  • Flair and Steamboat’s 1989 trilogy
  • “The Boyhood Dream”
  • Austin 3:16
  • “Hogan is the third man”
  • The “Pipebomb”
  • The Rock returning in 2011
  • Brock Lesnar returning in 2012
  • The end of “The Streak” in 2014
  • Omega and Okada’s series in NJPW
  • Edge returning in 2020

For brevity’s sake, we left off dozens of memorable moments. But as the years progressed, so many of the “moments” that wrestling fans have become conditioned to remember were verbal promos and returns of lapsed talents.

The majority also took place within WWE. And rightfully so, as the company has stood as the absolute juggernaut within the industry for decades now. While companies like TNA/Impact and Ring of Honor has certainly produced some amazing and noteworthy bouts and moments of their own, no company has been able to even chip away at the veneer of World Wrestling Entertainment.

The Holy Grail of Wrestling

On August 20, 2021, All Elite Wrestling provided an absolute rarity for professional wrestling, however.

At the start of the second edition of Rampage – an episode dubbed “The First Dance” – the upstart unveiled the holy grail of professional wrestling.

The golden goose.

That one elusive moment that even the titanic WWE could not.

When Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” hit and 15,000+ fans erupted in unison, the first shot to really penetrate WWE’s dominance was fired.

Yes, AEW has had incredible moments and debuts. Jon Moxley’s introduction at Double or Nothing was epic. Sting’s debut on Dynamite was a feel-good moment. Some of the matches and the slow-archs that have build the next generation of AEW talent have been artful in their presentation.

But CM Punk hitting the stage in front of a rabid Chicago crowd is a moment that will transcend the industry. This is more than a meme. This is more than a YouTube clip that will be re-watched millions of times over the next decade.

This is the type of moment that those who devoutly follow professional wrestling will be talking about in ten, fifteen, twenty, or even thirty years as a major turning point in this industry.

Had WWE brought Punk back on an episode of Raw or, even better, the Royal Rumble, it would have been huge. But the fact that AEW can lay claim to this moment means that the paradigm is indeed shifting.

Every single step taken by both WWE and AEW will now be met with even greater scrutiny moving forward. With respect to Christian, Kurt Angle, Randy Savage and even Hulk Hogan, it is hard to think of a single example of a wrestler so closely associated with one company moving to another feels like it could immediately create a more seismic rumble.

What happens next is anyone’s guess.

But for the first time in about two decades, it really does feel like the world will be watching…

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