WWE No Longer Owns All of Professional Wrestling

At the end of the All In pay-per-view in 2018, Cody came on the mic and passionately said that no one person, company, or entity owns pro wrestling. At the time it was a nice thought, and it may have even been technically true, but we all knew who actually "owned" pro wrestling. It was WWE.

Yes, there was New Japan and Ring of Honor and TNA/Impact, but WWE basically controlled the narrative when it came to pro wrestling. They also controlled a lot of its history. The story of professional wrestling was the story of WWE. It was the story that Vince McMahon wanted to tell. 

WCW was a lot of things, both good and bad, but in WWE-controlled history, the company was a mess that only got anywhere because they used "Ted Turner's bank account" to "buy stars made by Vince McMahon." That's the story WWE pushed for 20 years and so that became the truth. History is written by the winners.

The same is true for wrestlers. Demolition? One of the most dominant tag teams of the late-80s and early-90s? Nope. Vince McMahon doesn't like them, so they're barely mentioned today. Ultimate Warrior? He was an unstable lunatic who barely deserved a job in the WWF.... until he made up with Vince McMahon and then he was an inspirational mega star. Neither of those portrayals are necessarily correct (he was a big star, but he was also a huge jerk) but his legacy was determined by what Vince McMahon decided. Bret Hart? He screwed himself and he was a miserable grump... until he came back to WWE and then he was a legend and one of the best ever. There are so many stories like this. If you want to get respect in the wrestling industry, you have to be on good terms with McMahon.

For decades, the legacies of wrestlers depended on what Vince McMahon thought of them. That's a big reason why the WWE Hall of Fame exists. It's there to honour the wrestlers that Vince McMahon believes are worthy - and the ones that he gets along with. It's used as a way to get wrestlers to fall in line and listen to Vince. If you don't, you won't get in the Hall of Fame and you won't be remembered.

That's not the case anymore.

In a pre-AEW world, someone like Sting would be remembered for (for some reason) challenging Triple H to defend the honour of WCW... and losing. CM Punk would not be remembered at all. Now that AEW is here? Both of them are celebrated. In the case of Punk, he doesn't need to make up with McMahon and shake hands at the Hall of Fame to have his career appreciated. He can be celebrated right now, on his terms, and that's because AEW exists. Sure, WWE owns the footage, but they no longer own the whole story.

Nowhere is this more clear than with Owen Hart. For years we've been told that his widow Martha "hates wrestling and doesn't want Owen to be celebrated as a wrestler." We all believed it. Well, it turns out that's not true. She hates WWE and doesn't want Owen to be celebrated by WWE. And that's a big difference. Now, because AEW exists, we know that

And this isn't just important for "legends" and their legacies. Now someone like Andrade or the late Brodie Lee can leave WWE and know they'll still have a big stage to perform on and get respect. Their careers aren't doomed because Vince McMahon doesn't see something in them. Someone like Adam Cole doesn't have to take whatever McMahon is offering him. There is somewhere else to go and maybe that somewhere else will appreciate you.

Vince McMahon spent his entire adult life killing the territories and running companies out of business until he was the only one left. He wanted to control the narrative as much as he wanted to make money and be successful. And it worked. For a very long time it worked.

Now? All eyes are on AEW. There's a huge stadium show in New York this week... and it's not being held by Vince McMahon. That's huge. That's industry-changing. Vince McMahon no longer owns it all. Sure, he owns a lot of it, but not all of it. That matters. 

Before you get mad, don't think that this means AEW is going to put WWE out of business. They won't. WWE is hugely successful and will be for a very, very long time. AEW likely won't even challenge them for the top spot in wrestling. But they don't have to. They just have to be there. They just have to be a place where those who aren't respected by McMahon (and even some who are) can go to get the respect they deserve. Or at least they can get a chance. One company no longer owns pro wrestling. And that's such a good thing.

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