AEW have firmly established themselves as an alternative to WWE in their 18 months of existence, and they only appear to be going from strength to strength.
Going up against NXT on Wednesday nights, AEW almost completely dominated the ratings until recently and still rake in around 700,000 viewers on average every single week.
For a company that has only had a TV show since last October, that’s really quite impressive.
But the demand for AEW extends well beyond the United States and, in fact, the UK is one of the hotbeds for The Elite, the group of performers that also comprise executive positions within the company underneath Tony Khan.
In the UK, AEW can be found on ITV, but not live. AEW Dynamite can be watched on ITV – for free it’s worth adding – on Friday nights. The other option for UK fans is to subscribe to FITE TV and pay $5 a month.
By comparison, NXT can be found on BT Sport. BT Sport is a cable service fans have to pay for, but many already do whether it’s for WWE, UFC, football, boxing or any other sport it broadcasts.
In fairness, on the surface, AEW’s deal seemed great at first. ITV 4 – as was the originally intended destination for Dynamite – is available in nearly 27million homes while BT Sport is in roughly 2.19million homes.
There’s no doubt NXT is easier to watch in real-time that AEW for UK fans, so talkSPORT asked Cody Rhodes if the company are planning on improving the current UK TV deal to include a live show.
On AEW’s UK TV deal
“I think so [we will look to improve it]. I know that Tony and myself, we have a real vested interest in the UK. I’ve always just loved the UK wrestling scene. That’s why I spent so much time there after I left [WWE].
“So, we do everything we can, whether that be AEW Plus on FITE or with ITV and our partners there, but one thing that’s really helpful is the data that we get.
“WWE has, what, a 40-year head start and so when a lot of television networks and different places do put their trust in us, they’re not reluctant but it’s almost on a trial basis. You have situations like ITV in the UK and TSN in Canada, that trial basis has really been rewarded because the viewership is massive and the hunger is there.
“The whole revolution we talk about is genuine, so I think it’s something we’re looking into as far as the potential to not having the delay. We love being on ITV and that’s where we would prefer to be because they are in so many homes and they’re such a staple of the United Kingdom, but, to your point, we want fans to have the best opportunity to see our show.
“And there’s still plans for us coming over to the UK. I know right now with everything going on it’s very difficult, but that’s still a big goal of mine just personally. I know other people share that goal, but I think if you’re a wrestler you just have to wrestle in the UK.
“It’s a different environment, a great learning experience, and we have a lot of great young men and women who need to learn, so that situation will only improve.
“As the brand grows larger on a worldwide scale – take for example the toy deal and having these wonderful conversations with Smyths, toy distributors in the UK. Thinking about that makes my day. It gives us confidence and a lot of hope and I think as a longtime wrestling fan it makes you feel good when you know the product is supported – it gives you hope.
“We’ve seen it so many times where an upstart, they lit the match and then it got blown out. Well in this case, we’re trying hard to really create this firestorm that is AEW and take it across the globe. So it’s something we look at very regularly.
The TNT champion – who defends the title against Sonny Kiss at Fight for the Fallen this Wednesday – stated that AEW’s preference was to stay with ITV, but AEW wouldn’t be against exploring elsewhere if it meant they could go live.
On the strength of that, we asked how possible it is that ITV decide to go live with Dynamite in the near future, or perhaps further down the line.
On the chances that ITV take Dynamite live on Wednesday nights
“Oh, definitely not impossible. TNT is out partner here in the US and they pay a great premium to have our product on, so you want to respect both sides of the coin.
“And that’s something as far as me and management go, it’s very new to me. I never mind when people yell at me about this stuff online or they hit me with the, ‘oh, you didn’t go to college’, the classic BTE joke. I don’t mind that.
“I’m growing in the management role. Not even a year ago I was on a stage joking about what a WWE title looked like and bragging about our UK TV deal. And then I get hit with a little hard dose of reality and I don’t mind tasting that medicine. That’s part of being an adult. I’ve learned.
“I’m joking about their title and then in the middle of the world’s COVID crisis I got handed Little Ruth, my little title, and I know it’s not what people expected. It’s all part of being and adult and learning.
“I’m learning every day and I love going and taking these business meetings and meeting with our partners.
“AEW is really such a partnership of people and once they get in a room with the wrestlers themselves and you can feel the passion of what we’re trying to do, I think a lot of people buy in on it.”.
UK fans can watch AEW’s Fight for the Fallen LIVE on FITE right here