AEW and WWE Conspiracy: Are They Working Together?

“There’s an AEW and WWE conspiracy going on, bro!”

I do like a good conspiracy theory. I have wasted many nights down a YouTube rabbit hole of moon landing logistics and grassy knoll angles. It doesn’t mean I necessarily believe in them, but it fascinates me why others do. Even AJ Styles’, "There are some things about it that makes sense" retort to Daniel Bryan’s flat earth heckle made me have a quick google on how horizons work.

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So when Vince Russo proclaimed the AEW might, in fact, be in bed with WWE, I couldn’t help but ponder on the possibilities.

Now, this isn’t an anti-Russo article, bro. Russo’s must-watch TV writing was a major part of me evolving from a casual fan to a weekly viewing mark, so I owe/blame him for that. However, there are a lot of things I disagree with him on, and this is one of them.

Again, let me repeat before you send the guys in the white coats round, I DO NOT BELIEVE AEW AND WWE ARE WORKING TOGETHER. This article is just to highlight why some people may feel this way. So, first of all, I will post my conspiracy evidence, and then try to dispel it with the more likely reason. To re-quote the face who might believe in fake space, there are some things about it that make sense…

Reason 1 – WWE’s Fond Farewell to Dean Ambrose

The Conspiracy

Usually, when a wrestler leaves the WWE with no intention to retire from the business, they are given nothing but well wishes on their future endeavors.

The AEW and WWE Conspiracy - Cody Rhodes released from WWE in 2016

Not Ambrose. They made the fact that Dean wouldn’t be renewing his contract public months in advance, making us smarky markys (myself included) believe that the whole thing was possibly a work.

The AEW and WWE Conspiracy - WWE statement on Dean Ambrose leaving the company from January 2019

That theory remained until the end, only being strengthened by how kindly they treated Ambrose by giving him a Shield farewell tour culminating in the WWE network special "The Shield’s Final Chapter ". Everyone still had it in the back of his or her mind that there was still a possibility it was all smoke and mirrors and Dean was going to stay, or turn heel, or something. This belief continued right up until the stroke of midnight on the last day of Ambrose contract where, in the style of Doctor Who, he regenerated into The Mox.

So why would WWE give him a hero’s farewell if they knew he was going to jump ship? Why make someone look strong enough to deserve their own network special when they are planning on batting for the other team? Maybe they want him to look strong to help give AEW a little bit more credibility….

The Probable Reality

It is possible WWE presumed Jon Moxley just wanted time off. They knew he was frustrated and probably thought that after some time away to cool his jets he would eventually return refreshed, like Chris Jericho in 2005 rather than Chris Jericho in 2019.

Maybe they were just trying their hardest not to look like the villains, so they didn’t have another CM Punk fiasco on their hands (they fired him on his wedding day!). Unlike Punk, the backlash of Ambrose/Moxley chants and negative press would be potentially damaging now that WWE has some actual competition to capitalize on it.

In fact, for a short while, it looked like they were going to squash him, being beaten up and defeated by the likes of Nia Jax, Drew McIntyre, Elias and the main roster debuting EC3.

"I was hoping that [Vince] would write me off TV that night,” Moxley opened up in his first interview since leaving WWE on Talk is Jericho, “but he was like, ‘We’ll just finish you up at ‘Mania.’ He was like, ‘We’re not gonna bury you on the way out or anything’ and I went, ‘Well, actually, it’s funny you mention that because that’s the reason I stormed in here because it looks to me that that’s exactly what you’re doing!’

Moxley continued, "They had EC3 come in as a babyface and defeat me in two minutes. The crowd does not like this because it is transparent what’s happening [WWE burying him], and this is not good for EC3 because now he’s gonna get the backlash, so it was an unfair position for him to be put in."

As for The Shield’s last ride together? Well, The Shield was the most popular wrestling faction of the decade. If they’re going to go, WWE might as well pull a Gene Simmons from Kiss and milk every last penny they can on a retirement tour! Pennies that they apparently had no intention of giving Moxley.

"You want to know how much I got paid for that last show I did? This was a house show that they literally turned into a special. They flew in writers, cameramen, and everything and put it on the Network basically for me. $500. I got paid five hundred bucks for that sucker,” Moxley said. “I can just imagine [Mark Carrano, WWE Senior Director of Talent Relations] and Vince going over who would get paid what for this event and Vince going, ‘Five hundred bucks! Screw him!’ That’s literally the minimum you get for just showing up. If you show up to TV but aren’t used, you get five hundred bucks. It’s the same money extras get. The absolute minimum. Five hundred bucks for a Network special! I thought about calling him up for a second but then I was like, naw, it’s funny. I’ll just leave it…"

If you need any more evidence, turn to our write-up, “The Liberation of Dean Ambrose”, a must-read for any wrestling fan.

Reason 2 – WWE Legends in AEW

The Conspiracy

It’s not the fact that old WWE legends have appeared or are actively contracted to AEW, it’s more that they still seem to be on good terms with McMahon and co. For example, Billy Gun and Bret Hart being inducted to the 2019 Hall Of Fame, or DDP’s documentary “Positively Living” being uploaded to the WWE network all took place within weeks before all three were involved with Double Or Nothing, AEW’s debut PPV.  Triple H and Shawn Michaels even referenced the rival company during DX’s Hall Of Fame induction speech, asking if Billy Gun was "All In" and declaring that "Vince McMahon will buy that little pissant company just to fire you again."

Why would WWE allow this unless they were in cahoots with The Elite?

Probable Reality

None of these wrestlers were actually under an active contract with WWE, unlike say, Dustin Rhodes, who had to wait until his contract was up before publicly starting his One Last Ride run with his brother’s new promotion.

Recommended: Dustin Rhodes – Proving to the World (and Himself) That He’s Still Got It

Legends like Undertaker and Kurt Angle are still signed on WWE part-time contracts despite only making sporadic appearances, which is why WWE had the power to pull The Deadman and the Olympic Hero from making appearances over Double Or Nothing weekend at Starrcast II, even though those events weren’t officially under the AEW banner. So don’t expect to see John Cena F5ing Jimmy Havoc into a table anytime soon. In fact, don’t expect to see John Cena anytime ever. Get it? Because you can’t see…oh, forget it.

As for loyalty to WWE? These men and women who have banged up their bodies for years earned the right to make money off their name in any way they see fit, especially someone like Diamond Dallas Page who has his own business in DDP Yoga to promote and has a close personal relationship with the Rhodes family.

Reason 3 – The Visual Similarities between AEW and WWE

WWE has always used 20×20 ring while other promotions such WCW and ECW tended to favor 16×16 making their smaller framed wrestlers appear larger.

AEW has not only opted to use the same ring size as WWE, but they have also decided to implement the black mats and walled barricades rather than the barred steel barriers and exposed floor/basic crash mats.

The floor space and ramp area are also unexpectedly and suspiciously similar between the two promotions. Wouldn’t AEW want to distance themselves from WWE as far as possible? Unless of course, they’re both using the same supplier…

Probable Reality

Well, after some research, it appears they are NOT using the same supplier, which is probably the biggest indicator for the case that the two are NOT working together. WWE rings are made by a man called Mark Carpenter, whereas AEW’s Double Or Nothing ring was made by former TNA/Impact employee Mark Rosen, who also served as the timekeeper for the event. The most noticeable difference between the two squared circles are the ropes. WWE uses literal taped ropes, whereas it appears AEW are going for cables in a rubber casing. This type of design is more taught and is favored by highflyers, but hated by Mick Foley who lost his ear during a hangman spot in 1994 thanks to a tighter, less forgiving design.

AEW probably went for the bigger ring and similar barricade appearance purely because it looks more professional and helps them get over as being a legit alternative.

In Summary

It’s highly unlikely that WWE and AEW are working together, even after hearing Russo’s first stream on the subject.

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In short, his first point on his new conspiracy podcast stream is that he was there during the time ECW was "in bed" with WWE.

The difference between then and now is that WWE’s main competition at the time was WCW and they did not see ECW as a threat. In fact, WWE has a similar relationship like they had with ECW right now with British promotions such as ICW and Progress.

Even back then, WWE wouldn’t risk making ECW look like it had a chance against them with the most prominent example being Triple H destroying Taz in a champion vs champion match back in 2000.

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Heck, WWE wouldn’t even let Sting go over at his one and only WrestleMania match for fear of it making WCW look strong, despite the fact that the company had been dead for over 15 years!

My point is if WWE were in a partnership with AEW, they wouldn’t want them looking better than themselves, and from this wrestling fans point of view, that’s something AEW seem to be doing effortlessly.

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Tim Buckler, a senior writer here at Pro Wrestling Stories, has been an author for over a decade, penning articles for sites such as WhatCulture, Screen Rant, Inside The Ropes, and many more, but his heart will always belong to Pro Wrestling Stories. He also presents a pop culture radio show entitled "The Little Telly Upstairs," which airs every Thursday 8-10 pm on Radio Woking, featuring news, views, and music from film, television, comic books, video games and, of course, Pro Wrestling. Follow him @blockbusterman on Twitter for more of his ramblings!