What AEW Does Best

In an industry that so often lacks it, All Elite Wrestling has displayed compassion of a commendable scale. Brandon Bethune details how the company has handled grief so successfully, while exploring the potential positive ramifications of their gestures.

AEW have handled Brodie Lee’s passing with grace. (Photo Credit – AEW/TNT)

AEW have handled Brodie Lee’s passing with grace (via AEW/TNT)

I’ve tried to articulate a million different things in a million ways to describe why I love All Elite Wrestling.

I could say it reignited a core love of wrestling that has been in steady decline since 2001. I could say it has provided creative fulfilment for not only wrestlers, but for those that cover the biz, being able to talk about something that actually caters to them instead of punishing them. Or I could say it’s given us the absolute babe that is Hook.

I could say all of those things, but none of them would be as important as the next thing I’m about to say.

AEW helps people heal.

On December 26th 2021, the tragic news emerged of wrestler Brodie Lee’s passing.

To say this news shocked the wrestling world would be a massive understatement, as it was news that broke the hearts of so many in wrestling, to such a degree, that the loss is still having an effect on the industry almost a year on. 

It’s rare in wrestling for a real-life incident to have such a profound effect on its community, and even rarer when that effect is remembered and turned into positivity. 

So often in wrestling, such tragic events are given momentary attention but are then swept under the rug. In worse cases, they are used as a cheap heat magnet or a headline grab that only serves to make people uncomfortable or tarnish a memory.

Wrestling moves so fast that the collective grief everyone feels from a loss is never truly mourned among those in the business. The passing of Brodie Lee hasn’t had this treatment.

AEW, and to a lesser (but no less important) extent WWE, have been so kind and thoughtful in their efforts to treat Brodie Lee’s passing with respect, doing so by using the positive energy behind this universally beloved man to keep his memory alive and to help those suffering through his loss.

From the December 31st Brodie Lee tribute show to the September 29th Rochester tribute, AEW have helped fans, wrestlers and, most importantly, his wife and son Brodie Jr to cope with the hole he left in their world by highlighting Brodie’s love and care for everyone around him, and by having wrestlers like those in Dark Order ensure that his memory is never forgotten.

The degree to which this has resonated around wrestling has been astronomical, and has had long standing effects on wrestling ever since.

CM Punk’s return doesn’t happen without the AEW locker room coming together out of respect for Brodie Lee (Photo Credit – AEW)

CM Punk’s return doesn’t happen without the AEW locker room coming together out of respect for Brodie Lee (via AEW)

Two of the most euphoric wrestling moments in recent memory, CM Punk and Bryan Danielson’s AEW arrivals, don’t happen without AEW’s response to the Brodie Lee tragedy.

To highlight Punk, a man who for long, by all accounts, resented and lost faith in wrestling for the toxicity of its culture, has openly stated his faith was partially renewed in wrestling by way of AEW’s Brodie tribute. More specifically, the rosters respect of Amanda Huber’s wishes by not disclosing the nature of Brodie’s life ending illness.

Right or wrong, Punk’s belief that word would’ve got out ‘elsewhere’ was fundamental to restoring his belief in wrestling, and his belief in AEW. 

Because it’s enough to leave a company over creative differences or money, but if another company is making you feel at home before you’ve even set foot there, simultaneously helping you rediscover a love for an industry that almost killed you, that company is worth a damn.

This isn’t at all to rag on WWE in any case, people like Bryan Danielson, Adam Cole and Jake Atlas have all had nice things to say about the company recently. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to ignore the dark cloud of negativity that continuously exists over Titan Towers.

People constantly have negative things to say about the Fed, and mass-releasing people during a pandemic while squeezing out that Saudi revenue isn’t going to help change that.

People trust AEW, and they don’t trust WWE, with the perfect (and my final) example of this being AEW’s recent announcement of the ‘Owen Hart Cup’.

AEW have formed a partnership with widow Martha to honour the legacy of the late Owen Hart.

The narrative following Owen Hart’s death in 1999 couldn’t have been more dissimilar to that of Brodie Lee’s.

While WWE presented a wonderful tribute to help its stars mourn the night after the incident, each subsequent event after this chipped away at the good will the tribute formed.

As further details were uncovered surrounding Owen’s death, each step WWE took became more and more desperate, and less like they were trying to preserve Owen Hart’s legacy. More so, that they simply wanted to be in control of it to avoid any belief of wrongdoing.

You could go round and round regarding whether it was the right decision to continue the Over The Edge PPV in ‘99 after Owen’s fall, or whether they were fully to blame for the accident (though ‘Dark Side of The Ring’s documentary last year certainly seems an indictment of this), but the one thing that’s indisputable is that Martha Hart has no reason to TRUST WWE.

WWE, the same company that wheeled Brain Pillman’s widow out for an interview TWENTY FOUR HOURS after her husband passed away.  WWE, the same company that refuses responsibility for any and all aspects of Owen Hart’s passing, so much so that they tried to sue Martha Hart for daring to come up against them on the details surrounding her husband’s death.

The narrative was spun that Martha Hart was a cold and callous woman refusing to let anyone but herself celebrate Owen’s legacy, when that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Furthermore, this proved to be a disservice to Owen Hart’s otherwise immaculate legacy. Owen’s name had unfortunately become more synonymous with the accident, and the fallout from it, rather than the prankster super-worker and beloved family man he was.

At the end of the day, Martha just didn’t trust the company her husband died in to celebrate his legacy with reverence. AEW, through it’ handling of Brodie Lee’s passing and the long-standing effects of that, have earned Martha Hart’s trust.

With all this considered, it’s hard to imagine AEW’s celebration of Owen Hart’s legacy not being handled with grace considering Brodie Lee’s passing. 

Merchandise and video game appearances will allow the wrestling fans and wrestlers who loved him to celebrate Owen’s legacy, as will the wrestlers stepping up to compete in the Owen Hart Cup. All in the name of the wonderful Owen Hart Foundation that continues to do wonderful outreach work in the legendary wrestler’s name.

More importantly than that though; it’ll give Martha Hart the same chance Amanda Huber has been given, in allowing her to see the legacy of her husband handled in the right way, something she’s never been allowed to experience.

Could Kevin Owens’ AEW arrival be influenced by their tribute to Owen Hart? (Photo Credit – WWE)

And once again, watch AEW’s treatment of real-life tragedy be a key point in allowing people to believe in wrestling, an oftentimes disgusting and vile industry, all over again.

And you watch in four months when a certain wrestler whose idol, son, and in-ring last name are all based off Owen Hart, steps foot in AEW, and says in interviews that the compamy’s treatment of Owen was a major reason behind his signing.

Because that’s more important than anything else. A company that makes people believe, and a company that loves its wrestlers and its fans. A company that helps people.

And if that’s not elite, then I don’t know what is.

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