How To Solve The AEW Equation

As I was scrolling through social media, I saw an interesting note about an appearance from Chris Jericho on Busted Open radio where he addressed some of the criticisms toward the recent AEW shows and offered some insight into how the organization will address different aspects of the product.

But, will the strategy to tweak the broadcast be effective?

Obviously, the answer remains to be seen, but I think some of the fundamental flaws within the program might be more difficult to fix than just a simply rewrite before a broadcast. One of the more revealing aspects of the Jericho appearance is that he mentioned that the company will have more production meetings before shows to reduce the amount of duplicate segments that would take place within a particular episode.

Proper production meetings for a national television show should be a given so it was a little surprising to hear that there wasn’t already a process involved in the tapings to review the overall format of the shows.

While this sounds simplistic, it reveals a much bigger problem and will have to shift the narrative of the product if it’s going to be corrected. As we know, a vast majority of the All Elite roster went directly from the independent scene to national television so there will understandably be a learning curve to work on TNT. That said, some of the AEW product as a whole is geared toward the “indy mindset,” which is something that just doesn’t translate to television, especially because there are a certain amount of commercial breaks that must fit into the presentation throughout the show. The whole “go out there and steal the show” simply can’t be the case for every match every week because by nature instead of the presentation of a key bout each week that becomes a memorable part of the program, everything more or less gets lost in a stew of high spots and kick outs. For example, how many tag matches on the show become a dazzling spot fest with no actual tags and several dives to the floor? A match itself can stand out as an action packed contest, but when that’s the mind set for several matches for several weeks in a row, instead of stand out bouts, it just becomes a repetitive formula on Dynamite.

Keep in mind, there isn’t the monthly indy show where guys can get away with every high spot in the book because the fans only see the promotion every five or six weeks at most (obviously, pandemic aside) so the fact that there’s a TNT broadcast weekly is why not every tag match or even every main event has to be a 20-minute extravaganzas where everyone kicks out of every move.

Another keep piece of the All Elite puzzle is something that is a common discussion point among viewers and it’s a two-fold problem. There are too many factions in the promotion and in the process there are way too many performers on the roster. Don’t get me wrong, one of the many reasons that AEW has a level of good will with the fans is that the organization gives opportunity to those that deserve a chance to make a name for themselves. It’s truly a wonderful story to watch someone make it to the big leagues and achieve their dream of a national contract. That said, it’s just not realistically possible for everyone, even everyone that deserves it and has the talent for it, to land a deal, which is why it’s such an accomplishment for those that ink a contract. At the end of the day, the logistics have to shake out to a point where it benefits the promotion as a whole, and along those lines, there’s the scenario that if a booker tries to get everyone over then nobody gets over.

With the robust roster, the factions that are put together seem to be more of a way to shoehorn as many people as possible onto the show, but again, if you try to get everyone over then nobody gets over since everything blends together so the audience has too many aspects to follow with the product. It might sound harsh, but follow me here, not everybody under contract to AEW has to be a featured or pushed star, if there isn’t a mid-card, how do you establish the main eventers? There are guys that made a living with a career as solid mid-card performers and there’s nothing wrong with that. Usually, the term mid-carder implies that the competitor lacks something to make it to the main event scene, but that’s not always the case, sometimes it’s simply where they fit best in their particular era. For example, Al Snow wasn’t going to main event Wrestlemania, but he had an entertaining career for more than thirty years and there was always a place on the card for him because of the skills he brought to the table.

Maybe instead of the leader of a third-tier faction, QT Marshal can be the gate keeper of AEW? The guys that the promotion might look to sign or push, they can be put in there with QT to see if they can go bell-to-bell. Every promotion needs a Brooklyn Brawler, and that’s not a bad thing, Steve Lombardi had a job for decades.

Finally, some of the repetitive segments on the program seem to boil down to mismanagement of the program. Sometimes the jaded internet fan base forgets just how valuable of a commodity national TV is, and truth be told, considering that All Elite is in a position to further expand its audience with the NXT move to Tuesday, it’s very important for AEW to maximize its TV minutes. The post-match run-ins have to be limited or eliminated completely because again, it just dilutes the overall effectiveness of a segment. This past week was a key example, The Factory beat down Dustin before the Gunn Club beat down QT before there was a brawl between the two stables before Marshal was in a figure four on top of the bus. If the point was for QT to get heat with an attack on Dustin, let him get the heat and powder out to retain it. With the extra run-ins and Cody using the figure four on the top of the bus, the baby face already has a measure of revenge so where can go it from here? This isn’t meant as anything negative toward the Gunn Club, but was it more important for them to get a chance to have a spot on Dynamite than to build heat for a storyline that involves one of the top baby faces in the promotion?

Ultimately, the repetitive run-ins or interruptions of interview segments are the result of booking that lacks variety or takes the same path to get to a different destination. In my opinion, the best way to avoid that is to focus on the key players in an angle without attempting to jam as many competitors as possible into a segment just to get them some minuscule amount of TV time. Some angles were recycled, such as Team Taz tried to recruit Darby and then the current angle with Christian Cage is more or less a replay. That’s another indication that maybe there are just too many wrestlers on the roster.

Am I being critical of AEW? Sure, but that’s not to say that the promotion isn’t very solid. Make no mistake about it, the pro wrestling industry is more interesting now than it has been in years because of the existence of All Elite. There’s nothing wrong with a discussion of flaws because if nothing else, it allows an opportunity for the organization to evolve. Too often, fans assume that either everything is perfect or everything is off the rails, which is probably the result of more documentaries in recent years that sum up entire eras in 15 minutes. All Elite doesn’t have to be perfect, and there’s rarely an occasion in the history of the business where a company had a perfect run.

The biggest takeaway from the Jericho comments is that All Elite recognizes some of their mistakes, and that is ultimately just as important, if not more so than the successful decisions. Sometimes knowing that it avoid or when to change course is just a beneficial to a promotion in the grand scheme of things as successful angles. A look at the history of TNA will show you the result of when management didn’t know what pitfalls to avoid.

Finally, since All Elite has taken a different approach to the industry, it’s a polarizing product, which is fine. Some fans will jump on the AEW bandwagon simply because they will jump an any bandwagon that isn’t WWE to be contrarian. Of course, there are traditional fans that refuse to give AEW any credit, even when the success is obvious. However, the most important aspect of any business venture is profitability, and the TNT extension the company signed made it a profitable project so in many ways, All Elite Wrestling is already a successful company.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta
E mail | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta