Jake Hager has backed All Elite Wrestling to continue their rise in the industry – but insists there is no “war” with fellow wrestling giant WWE.
For the better part of 20 years, Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment stood undisputed as the sole powerhouse in the business.
In January 2019, though, Tony Khan and a handful of wrestling megastars launched AEW – a credible alternative that has rivalled WWE’s dominance ever since.
With a global fanbase of their own, their weekly television show Dynamite is beginning to pull in excess of 1 million viewers on TNT in the US – doing so twice in April alone.
Those figures eclipsed those of WWE’s NXT show when they went head-to-head before the latter moved to a different night.
Now, many are desperate to see them chase down WWE’s Monday Night Raw, with figures for that broadcast slipping to 1.7 million in recent weeks.
Many longer-time fans can’t help but draw comparisons between the Monday Night Wars that saw WWE and WCW go head-to-head in a ruthless battle just past the millennium.
But while it’s clear that the present battle for viewers is every bit as competitive as the iconic one that came before it, there’s certainly no thirst for blood.
Speaking exclusively to Daily Star Online, AEW’s Jake Hager – himself a former WWE star under the name Jack Swagger – admitted there just isn’t the appetite for such a cut-throat war.
For him, AEW’s longevity is by far the greater issue.
“For the most part,” he explained “We don’t really look at it as a war because a lot of us come from that company and a lot of us work and have worked with those people, are friends with those people and hang out with those people in social sets and things.
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“Really, it’s all about wanting AEW to last. We’re doing good numbers and a great demo, and that means AEW is going to be here to stay.
“That’s really what I’m worried about and what I want. I think every wrestling fan wants Monday Night Wars 2.0, but the fact of the matter is that the industry has changed.
“We’re different wrestlers, we’re doing different storylines and telling different stories.
“Can we have a healthy competition and see how far we can grow our company? Sure… (but) to get back to where you’re trying to put each other out of business? That’s just not really this day and age.”
AEW, like all forms of live entertainment, has been forced to evolve in its quest to continue throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that has robbed the wrestling industry of its biggest asset – live fans.
But with television figures booming and an undoubted buzz about the company just a little more than two years into its existence, there is a lot they’ve done well.
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Hager, 39, applauds the company’s creativity over the last year, but reckons they’d have smashed the 1 million viewers mark much sooner had fans been back in arenas.
“AEW has done a great job of dealing with it and finding the silver linings to continually produce great shows every week,” he added.
“In some parts it was great because it was very easy to keep the fans on their toes a little bit more – there were no fans in the audience so we could keep the storylines a little more creative.
“You can do that for so long but eventually you need fans in there to make the show because they’re part of it.
“Back then I think we would have been doing these numbers consistently last year so now that we’re here and we’re [getting 1m plus] for weeks in a row and producing great storylines, I’m very proud to be part of AEW Dynamite.”
Jake Hager and the Inner Circle take on The Pinnacle at AEW’s Blood & Guts event on Wednesday, May 5. Fans in the UK can watch live on Fite.tv or on Friday night on ITV4. For more details visit allelitewrestling.com.
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