“What’s the difference between me ‘n you? You talk a good one but you don’t do what you supposed to do.” – Dr.Dre

What on earth would a line from The Chronic 2001 album have to do with professional wrestling? Well, unless you have avoided the endless, mind-numbing squabble online (and bless you for it), you know that AEW and WWE fans take constant jabs at each other for some of the dumbest and most ridiculous reasons. God forbid that two successful professional wrestling companies are operating at once that offer highly talented wrestlers displaying their talents nationally, and in a lot of cases, globally. This has split many of the hardcore fandom into “sides” unnecessarily and has made the rest of us very familiar with the block and mute buttons on Twitter and the like. So when you look at the Dr.’s iconic line, you can see that both sides can easily use it against the other, stating that the WWE way, or the AEW way is “what you supposed to do.” 

I grew up on WWF/E, but like many, have fallen out of favor with the weekly product for some time. I still watch most of the pay per….ahem….premium live events, and as you can see from many of my written reviews for this site, I usually find lots to enjoy. AEW has been a blessing for me regarding weekly televised wrestling. It isn’t perfect, but I find that week in, and week out, I am buzzing after Dynamite with excitement and investment. All this said, it is still very easy to see the many differences and similarities to both products on television. This is why I wanted to take a little closer look at how these differences and similarities look live, in the same venue, roughly two months apart. 

I was fortunate to attend AEW and WWE at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit, MI. I was there for AEW’s Blood and Guts in late June and was just at WWE SmackDown this past Friday. AEW was coming hot off the heels of Forbidden Door, which my lovely bride and I also attended. WWE had no huge events prior, but this felt different after the whole Vince McMahon saga, so my expectations for the show had changed quite a bit. 

Now, this was AEW’s first journey into the mitten, so for that reason, there was a lot more excitement in the air around LCA that Wednesday evening. The lines were all long both inside the arena and out, plus the building was packed to capacity at approximately 11,500 rabid fans. The WWE crowd was quite a bit different. There was definitely still some excitement in the air, but of a different kind. The crowd at the WWE show was a much more diverse crowd than AEW’s, as well as much younger. There were young children everywhere, all itching to see their favorites. Also, it was a much smaller crowd. According to WrestleTix on Twitter, roughly 9,300 tickets were sold. About one-third of the building was tarped off, including most of the upper deck from my lower bowl seats. Of the available seats, I would guess about 75% of them were filled. 

Soon after entering the building for Blood and Guts, not only were we greeted by a sea of people, but also by THE FIEND.

Well, a much shorter, more portly version.

WWE vs. AEW Crowd Noise

For SmackDown, it was quite calm upon entry, outside of one of my friend’s desperate attempts to find meaty feets (don’t ask). Overall, the AEW crowd was much rowdier before, during, and after the Blood and Guts show. Between Orange Cassidy opening the show by entering the arena to “Jane’ by Jefferson Starship, to the Acclaimed and Ass Boys exploding, through the Blood and Guts match itself, the crowd never faltered. 

That’s not to say the WWE crowd didn’t get hot, because during Roman Reigns beatdown of Drew McIntyre and the Viking Raiders vs. New Day Viking Rules match taped for next week’s SmackDown (****¼ match that I’d highly recommend), they got red hot.

Outside of that, the crowd was quite tame for SmackDown. One of the reasons for this was really the most glaring difference between the two shows. There were periods of time during the SmackDown show where for 10-15 minutes nothing happened in the ring. We would get a match, then a barrage of advertisements, video packages, and backstage segments that would kill the crowd dead. The female host of the live event (whose name escapes me) would even tell the crowd to cheer as loud as they could, or boo as loud as they could during these down times, but I’ll get back to that later. 

Outside of the aforementioned Viking Rules match, the crowd wasn’t given a ton to cheer about. Everything else on the show was fine (women’s matches) to pretty good (BUTCH vs. Ludwig Kaiser), but nothing was worth noting. Also, this week’s SmackDown taping started at 7 pm EST, so neither this week’s nor next week’s show happened live for the television audience. This brings me back to the live event host getting the crowd to cheer and boo. If I had to guess, they likely had the crowd do this so production could edit these reactions into a lot of the matches. For most of the matches, it was a barrage of light and sound for the entrances, but once the bell rang, you could hear a pin drop. I would be curious if this sounds (sounded) different on television. This was simply not an issue for AEW. Tony Khan did come out before both Dynamite and the Rampage taping to hype up the crowd, but I promise you it wasn’t needed. Chalk it up to the first time in the city, a gimmick show, better/more quality action, or all of the above. I’m sure you’d get a different reason from 100 different fans. 

WWE vs. AEW Production

When it comes to the look and feel of the two shows, the WWE production blows AEW out of the water.

Everything for SmackDown was so much cleaner, brighter, and polished. Everything about the show felt produced and manufactured to a tee. Your mileage on that may vary, but the show looked like it came from a billion-dollar corporation.

AEW was much grittier. It wasn’t unpolished, but it felt like a newer organization still figuring things out. There were timing issues, different focuses, sound issues, and the like.

Ultimately, AEW’s focus was on the in-ring action, which in my opinion, was stellar. It was not focused on all the exterior packages and promos and setup.

WWE focused on the exterior production, which was stellar, and much less on the in-ring action. 

What’s The Difference? 

In the end, both shows were enjoyable on different levels, and like most things, when you compare these two companies, these levels will vary based on who you ask. I think both companies can learn from one another. Both can put on a top-tier, high-quality, in-ring product.

Though WWE will hit those highs now and again, AEW is much more consistent in the ring. When it comes to the production of a wrestling show, I think you have to give the nod to WWE. I don’t think AEW needs to work to become them because I think a more gritty, raw look to the shows suits them. However, I think that when it comes to the video packages, backstage segments and promos, and the general flow of the show, AEW can learn a few things to upgrade its overall product. 

So keep fighting all you tribalistic weirdos. There’s enough good from both companies and beyond for everyone to enjoy.