All Elite Wrestling, the new wrestling promotion from Jacksonville Jaguars owner Tony Khan and the former Ring of Honor / New Japan Pro-Wrestling stable known as the Elite, made a number of announcements about the company at a rally in Jacksonville today. You can watch the full press conference here, or keep reading for a quick rundown of the major news.
1. The promotion’s first official show, Double or Nothing, will be held in Las Vegas on May 25 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Elite members and AEW Executive Vice Presidents Cody Rhodes, Nick Jackson and Matt Jackson revealed this expected news early in the press conference.
2. Their second show, which doesn’t have an announced date yet, will be in Jacksonville, and some of the gate will go towards victims of gun violence.
3. Maxwell Jacob Friedman, aka MJF, a talented young star who’s worked with Major League Wrestling and various independents, and had a match at All In, will be working for All Elite. MJF has progressed quickly in the ring, and between great delivery and a firm grasp on his spoiled rich kid persona, is one of the best promos on the indies today.
4. Joey Janela and Penelope Ford, who also appeared at All In, will be working for All Elite, as well. The two appeared on-stage to attack MJF after he insulted the press conference’s host, wrestling podcaster Conrad Thompson. Janela has become one of the bigger names on the independent circuit over the last few years, due to his fun Spring Break shows over WrestleMania weekend and his willingness to take absurd (and viral-friendly) bumps. Ford will presumably be an addition to AEW’s women’s roster.
5. PAC, who wrestled in WWE under the name Neville, and was the reigning Cruiserweight champion there when he walked out on the promotion in 2017, made a surprise appearance during a promo by Hangman Adam Page. PAC reappeared in the Dragon Gate promotion in Japan last year after almost a year off from wrestling, with the same heel persona he developed near the end of his WWE run. He’s a great signing, in Paste’s opinion—he’s one of the best in-ring performers in the world, and had finally developed a strong character before quitting WWE. And that history with WWE plays in nicely with AEW’s renegade image and the company’s attempts to brand itself as ideologically and philosophically distinct from WWE. Like AEW founder Cody Rhodes, PAC was willing to walk away from WWE because he felt like he was being misused, taking a stand that few wrestlers can afford to.
6. Cima, the long-time Dragon Gate stalwart who created his own promotion in China in 2018, will be bringing stars from Oriental Wrestling Entertainment to All Elite. Matt Jackson didn’t specify any specific OWE wrestlers beyond Cima, but he did mention the Strong Hearts stable, which includes T-Hawk, El Lindaman, Takehiro Yamamura, Seiki Yoshioka, Gao Jingjia, and current Impact stars Dezmond Xavier and Zachary Wentz. OWE has gotten some online attention for its state-of-the-art high flying, which makes it sound like a perfect fit for a promotion that’ll heavily feature the Young Bucks.
7. The biggest talent reveal of the night came at the very end: Chris Jericho will be working for All Elite Wrestling, the first non-WWE American wrestling promotion he will work for in almost 20 years. This wasn’t exactly a surprise—Jericho’s name has been connected to the Khan family’s wrestling promotion since rumors of it first started to circulate in 2018, and between his work in New Japan Pro-Wrestling and his recent cruise his friendship with the Elite is well-established. Still, Jericho has seemed reluctant to end his relationship with WWE—he’s made appearances for them even after debuting for New Japan. He’s the right kind of legend for an upstart company like All Elite Wrestling—his name has tremendous mainstream appeal, not just from his long WWE career but from his reality show appearances and game show hosting gigs, and despite being close to 50 he can still perform at a high level. AEW shouldn’t bring in too many WWE names—their greatest strength is that they’re not WWE, a message they repeatedly hammered home in today’s press conference—but Jericho makes a great deal of sense for a company like this.
8. A few wrestlers that were already known to be signing with All Elite Wrestling confirmed it by appearing on-stage today. That includes Britt Baker, who wrestled in the women’s match on All In and is also a dentist, and the three members of SCU, Chris Daniels, Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky.
9. There was a lot of talk of revolution at the event, but what could be the most revolutionary thing about AEW was only hinted at in two vague announcements. Cody Rhodes announced that wrestlers would be sharing a greater portion of the company’s profits than in other promotions, closer to the split seen between players and owners in the major unscripted sports. Brandi Rhodes, AEW’s Chief Brand Officer, said that women in AEW would be paid as well as the men. They didn’t go into specifics about how wrestlers will be compensated or how they’ll make sure women make as much as the men—presumably there isn’t a rigid pay scale in place here, and top stars will make more than wrestlers that are lower on the card. One of the most ridiculous things about WWE, and thus the wrestling business as a whole, is the way the company classifies its full-time contracted wrestlers as independent contractors, which means it doesn’t have to offer them benefits or other basic protections typically extended to employees by their employers. Neither Rhodes specifically addressed how AEW will approach contracts, and whether the company will adopt WWE’s policy on independent contractors or not, but if AEW wanted to truly revolutionize the industry the biggest thing it could do is break from the long-standing and exploitative labor practices of WWE.
There wasn’t any word on Elite members Kenny Omega and Marty Scurll’s involvement with the company, but none was expected. Omega’s under contract with New Japan until the end of January, but seems committed to leaving the promotion that’s been his primary home for most of the last decade. Scurll, meanwhile, is contracted to Ring of Honor through April.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about All Elite Wrestling, and it’s way too early to make any guesses about its viability or how it’ll impact the wrestling business. The company’s taking shape, though, and looks like it could be another national promotion with a strong presence marketing to fans who are disgruntled with WWE.