On a weekend absolutely loaded with interesting wrestling matches, Pay-Per-Views, and “Premium Live Events,” wrestling fans have once again begun to debate which promotion was better, WWE or AEW. To some, the former promotion is the only show in town, the company that made wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, John Cena, and the Rock, and the industry leader for a reason. And to others? Well, AEW is the exciting new thing, a challenger brand that positions wrestling forward and produces five-star classics on the regular.
Though there is some crossover between fans of the two brands, with people having their favorites in either promotion, what do legends think about AEW's position in the professional wrestling landscape? Are they contenders or simply pretenders? Fortunately, none other than “The Hulkster,” Hulk Hogan, decided to weigh in on that very topic on the MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, and needless to say, his comments will draw a variety of different reactions from one camp to another.
“I was talking to somebody, and I equated it to NASCAR drivers. You need seat time,” Hogan said via Fightful. “You need to spend time in that seat until you start winning championships. It’s almost like AEW is on track. They’re kind of like the little engine that could, and they’re on track. I just think they need more seat time. They just need to be around just a little bit longer to be really, really, really competitive, where they could go head to head on Monday nights, but they’re moving forward quite quickly. They’re doing a great job over there.”
Asked if he watches AEW, Hogan said he does, noting that he's a fan of wrestling, not just WWE.
“I record everything, brother. I’m a wrestling fan,” Hogan said. “I record everything, and I’ll sit back, and I’ll fast forward through stuff and watch stuff I want to watch. If a match is the sh**s, and I can see it going nowhere, I’ll blow right by it. But yeah, they got a lot of talent over there, a lot of good guys.”
Does Hogan have a point? Does AEW have an important place in the professional wrestling landscape that pushes everyone else, including WWE, to be better? Well, considering the product WWE puts out now is head and shoulders better than what they produced before AEW's release, with Paul “Triple H” Levesque getting serious consideration for Booker of the Year in 2022, it's safe to say Hulk's opinion holds some weight.
Jeff Jarrett provides a similar commentary to Hulk Hogan on AEW versus WWE.
Speaking of where AEW and WWE fall in the wrestling landscape, Jeff Jarrett, Hulk Hogan's boss from TNA back in the day, was asked about Tony Khan's company having to run head-on against NXT Battleground on Memorial Day Weekend. A man who knows a thing about working for and against WWE as both a booker and a promoter – he was literally booked for a match on Double or Nothing – Jarrett noted that you can't look around too much and instead need to focus on constant self-improvement.
“At the end of the day, the longevity of my business, I found out real early in my career, and to this day, I compete against myself,” Jarrett said via Fightful. “That is my number one mindset. I want to be better than I was yesterday. If you compete against yourself day in and day out, that's the real barometer. You cannot control anything outside of that. You may think you can, you may think you can compete against other talent or other companies or other matches, at the end of the day, the only thing that you can really control, your destiny, is competing against yourself, and that's what I do day in and day out.”
Now granted, WWE didn't have the same mindset as Jarrett, as they tasked poor Shawn Michaels with running a B-level “Premium Live Event” against AEW's biggest show of the year, headlined by a pair of fairly predictable championship matches. Still, when a promotion attempts to best the other, especially when they are running head-to-head, it can lead to the sort of “hotshot” booking that plagued the Wednesday Night Wars with no real benefit to anyone. Really the lesson to learn should come from Tony Schiavone, who announced that Mankind was going to win the WWF Championship on an episode of Nitro which led to a large segment of the crowd changing the channel to see the match.