You’re going to hear a lot about the WWE vs AEW wrestling war in 2020. Since the demise of WCW in 2001, no wrestling company has been considered a serious rival to WWE - until now. Co-founded by Cody Rhodes - son of NWA legend Dusty Rhodes, brother to Dustin ‘Goldust’ Rhodes - All Elite Wrestling is set for a huge 12 months, which should include the announcement of its first video game. Why is it such a threat, and what can you expect when the game hits PS4 - or even PS5? Delve into our WWE vs AEW guide to find out.
WWE vs AEW guide: The basics
WWE traces its lineage back to the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), formed by Vince McMahon Sr in 1963. It dropped the extra W from its name in 1979, after which point new owner Vince McMahon began to expand beyond his father’s Northwestern base. Mega-fame for its stars arrived in the ‘90s, as the likes of first Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior, and later Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, became household names, adored by fans aged 14 to 40.
All Elite Wrestling’s tale begins much more recently. Its brief history begins with last year’s independent All In event, the brainchild of Rhodes and his Ring Of Honor colleagues (and friends) Matt and Nick Jackson, AKA The Young Bucks. The event sold out in 30 minutes, hosted 11,000 fans, and inspired the trio to turn that one-off show into a bonafide federation. Trademarks were filed in November 2018, and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Tony Khan – a lifelong wrestling fan - signed on to be president and chief source of funds.
WWE vs AEW guide: The rosters
WWE maintains ties to many of its stars of yesteryear - indeed, the WWE 2K20 legends list features names such as 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, Undertaker, Kane, Shawn Michaels, and Bret Hart. UFC alumni Ronda Rousey and Brock Lesnar aside, it’s struggled to create stars of that calibre in the 2010s, although Irish firebrand Becky Lynch is incredibly popular. [And, she told GR in 2016, a huge Street Fighter fan.] Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, AJ Styles and Ricochet are among the best wrestlers in the world, but all have suffered from shaky booking where wins and losses are rendered meaningless. For more profiles, here’s the WWE 2K20 roster.
The AEW roster features some names with WWE spells on the CV: co-founder Cody Rhodes, nine-time intercontinental champion Chris Jericho, former Shield member Jon ‘Dean Ambrose’ Moxley, to name three. But it’s given equal billing to independent favourites such as those exceptional Young Bucks, the widely revered Kenny Omega, and brilliantly unhinged Adam Page. Former TNA Impact champion Awesome Kong is its most famous female star, while other names to track are reigning champion Riho, and real-life dentist Britt Baker DMD.
WWE vs AEW guide: The video game
WWE has spawned thirty years’ worth of officially branded games, its most famous being the Smackdown series that began on PS1 in 2000 and, after various publisher changes, is now owned and developed by 2K. Its latest instalment, WWE 2K20, is legendarily awful - easily the worst game in the series’ 19-year history.
2K20’s ongoing issues open up a big window of opportunity for AEW. The company is known to be working on a game, and while no official details are confirmed, it’s apparently doing so in tandem with Japanese studio Syn Sophia. The dev was previously known as AKI Corporation - the team which developed WWF No Mercy on N64, which even 20 years on is widely considered the best WWF/E game of all time.
WWE vs AEW guide: How to watch
In the States, WWE has various shows spread across national TV. Raw is broadcast on USA Network on Monday nights. Its other flagship show, Smackdown Live, is on Fox Sports on Friday evenings. For NXT, you need to turn into USA Network on a Wednesday night. And all manner of special events and other content can be viewed via the WWE Network, at $9.99 a month.
In the UK, Raw and Smackdown are on Sky until the end of this year, when they switch to BT. For all other content, including NXT, you need to be a WWE Network subscriber. It costs £9.99 per month.
AEW’s weekly two-hour Wednesday night show Dynamite began in October 2019, and can be seen on TNT in the United States, while its pay-per-views are broadcast on Bleacher Report Live. In the UK, rights are held by ITV. Dynamite can be watched on Thursday nights via the ITV Hub or on Fridays on ITV4. PPVs are available through ITV Box Office.
WWE vs AEW guide: The future
With NXT and AEW Dynamite now going head-to-head on Wednesday nights, wrestling fans are set for a potentially scintillating 2020: competition should drive both companies to put on spectacular matches and compelling storylines. To that end, WWE has placed Paul Heyman, known for booking shocking storylines and excellent matches, in charge of Raw, with mixed results so far. Match quality is up, but soap opera angles like Lana cheating on her husband Rusev with Bobby Lashley are cringeworthy, to the point of insulting the company’s long-time audience.
WWE has to acknowledge critical fan reaction to such nonsense and up its game, if it’s not to tease even more former devotees into switching to AEW. Cody and co’s upstarts may not have WWE’s production values, but so far what the organisation lacks in pizzaz has been compensated for in match quality. If it can tempt two or three big WWE names to make the same jump as Moxley fan interest will naturally increase further – but it should also maintain its approach of having the confidence to create its own stars, such as Page and Baker. The new decade heralds a new era in wrestling. In rings both real and digital, we can’t wait.
WWE 2K20 is out now. While Jericho and Ambrose are no longer on the roster, they’re still playable as created wrestlers - see all the best ones in our guide to WWE 2K20 CAWs.