By Jamie Holker

This week could be the biggest shakeup in professional wrestling since the collapse of WCW in 2001.

Since then, the WWE (formerly WWF) has had a monopoly on the worldwide wrestling scene, sitting high above their largely regional competitors.

But all that is about to change, as a new competitor arrives on network television this Wednesday in the form of AEW Dynamite, symbolically on WCW’s old network TNT.

All Elite Wrestling (AEW) was formed by former WWE star Cody Rhodes, son of WWE Hall of Famer ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes, and his friends in the wrestling stable called ‘The Elite’, itself a spin-off of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Bullet Club.

Kenny Omega in action.

The five members – Cody, his wife Brandi Rhodes, Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks Matt and Nick Jackson – teamed up with Tony and Shahid Khan, owners of Fulham FC and the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, to try and break the stranglehold WWE has held on wrestling for so long.

To do this they have assembled a stellar roster from around the world, even before their first live TV show. These are made up of former WWE superstars such as Shawn Spiers FKA Tye Dillinger and Dustin Rhodes (formerly Goldust, Cody’s half-brother), indie wrestling favourites such as Joey Janela, Jimmy Havoc and PAC, and partnerships with other federations such as Mexico’s AAA has allowed them to use stars from their roster such as the incredible tag team The Lucha Bros – Rey Fenix and Pentagon Jr.

In the run up to the TV debut, AEW have hosted several large pay-per-view events, each of which have sold out large arenas within minutes, including All Out in Chicago’s Sears Centre Arena where the first AEW champion Chris Jericho was crowned after a bloody battle with Adam ‘Hangman’ Page.

WWE have responded to this new threat seriously. They have revamped their core products RAW and Smackdown, shaking up the creative talent at the top of the company, and striking a new TV deal that sees Smackdown move to a new network on Fox Sports, and a new time slot on Friday nights.

In addition, the company has debuted their third brand on television. NXT was once the developmental younger brother to RAW and Smackdown, where talent would be brought in from other promotions or even with no wrestling experience, to learn the ropes of the WWE style and gain experience working on TV shows in front of a live audience.

Matt and Nick Jackson make up The Young Bucks.

However, NXT has gained a reputation as one of the best wrestling shows in the world, developing WWE main roster stars such as Kevin Owens, Finn Balor and Roman Reigns. NXT has also hosted their own WWE Network specials called ‘Takeovers’, which have staged some of the highest rated and most talked about wrestling matches of all time.

Not only that but given NXT’s traditional timeslot of Wednesday nights, this means that AEW’s Dynamite and WWE’s NXT are going directly head-to-head for TV ratings. This has always been the barometer for success – how many eyes they can draw to their product – and was the reason for Monday Night Wars of the 1990s between WCW and WWE.

WWE choosing to put NXT up against AEW rather than their core products of RAW and Smackdown shows how confident they are that AEW is not a serious challenger to their dominance just yet. But the fact that they have responded at all also shows they are taking AEW seriously.

With two major promotions going head-to-head in the United States, and New Japan Pro Wrestling still churning out classic matches on the other side of the world, it’s clear that whoever comes out of the Wednesday Night Wars on top, the real winners will be the fans.