The two companies said they are forming the first new wrestling circuit to launch in the past 20 years, with primetime broadcasts planned on TNT, streaming via Bleacher Report’s B/R Live as well as select pay-per-view slots. The announcement was made on the morning of WarnerMedia’s upfront presentation to media buyers in New York.
The venture will kick off May 25 with an event in Las Vegas that is dubbed Double or Nothing.
Eschewing what it called the “scripted, soapy drama” of other wrestling on the air (read: the WWE), All Elite is promising “fast-paced, high-impact competitions” with “more athleticism and real sports analytics.”
Wrestling for decades has been a top-rated attraction with family viewing appeal and the added benefit to today’s networks of being a live, weekly show without repeats. Ring sports in general have seen a revival, with boxing getting a boost at Showtime and ESPN and the UFC shifting to ESPN+. At the Fox upfront on Monday, the network brought John Cena and Ronda Rousey onstage to celebrate the debut of WWE Smackdown Live, which migrated from USA. Viacom has also entered the octagon with a multi-year deal with Bellator, an MMA circuit. And the WWE itself also operates a successful streaming outlet.
WarnerMedia and All Elite said their partnership would showcase a “diverse” roster of wrestlers, including members of a group tagged “The Elite,” including The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson), Codi and Brandi Rhodes, Kennu Kenny Omega and Hangman Page. Chris Jericho is another notable wrestler in the mix.
Michael Quigley, EVP of commercial operations, content strategy and monetization at TNT and TBS, described AEW as a “talent-forward, fan-first league” with an “inclusive approach.”
Tony Khan, president and CEO of AEW, said the new league is satisfying pent-up demand. “Wrestling fans have wanted – and needed – something different, authentic and better for far too long,” he said. “AEW is answering that call.”
Khan negotiated the media rights deal with Bernie Cahill, co-founder of Activist Artists Management,, an entity where Khan is also an investor and partner.”