Looking At The Direction Of AEW

All Elite Wrestling is just two weeks away from the Forbidden Door pay-per-view, the co-promoted event with New Japan so you can expect that the organization will make a solid push to sell the event to its audience within the next few episodes of Dynamite.

The concept makes sense on the surface because it allows for potential “dream matches” to take place, but with that comes sometimes unrealistic expectations. Furthermore, and this is potentially the biggest hurdle with these types of shows, there’s a very fine line between these dream match cards for a niche audience and an event that is too “inside baseball” so to speak, even for the AEW audience. It’s important to remember that while New Japan had a tremendous resurgence throughout most of the decade of 2010, it still has a very niche audience in the United States. That doesn’t take away from the fact that there was a time throughout most of the decade that NJPW delivered the best in-ring quality in the business, but rather to point out that not only has the Japanese league almost naturally lost some of its steam from that peak, it doesn’t have a measurable following in the United States. Yes, NJPW has the American spinoff project, but that’s kept in scale with the demand more often than not, which is why only select cities in the US host New Japan events. Besides the style, the logistics with the time difference can make it more difficult for the American audience to follow the project, and since the style is tailored to the Japanese crowds, as it should be, it wouldn’t make business sense for the company to make major investments into mainstream American distribution.

All things considered, I’m not sure if the promotional push to sell Forbidden Door is worth the valuable TV time it will use when those segments should probably be geared toward the All Elite product.

Just a glance at the current line-up of All Elite programming more or less reinforces the notion that the presentation will continue to be more scatter-brained and slapstick than anything else. Maxwell Jacob Friedman returned to the company after almost six months on the sidelines from a variety of injuries, giving the organization a much-needed boost as far as a sense of optimism around All Elite as a whole. In a rather random pairing the past few weeks, MJF began a rivalry with Rush, the luchador that also recently returned from an extended absence due to injury. To say this is a clash of styles is an understatement, and the premise of the confrontation is flimsy. They are scheduled for a match on Dynamite this week, and if this is a relatively quick way to give MJF a solid win to kickoff his comeback then it might be effective. However, this was such a thrown together feud that there hasn’t been enough time for any heat to develop and considering that Rush hasn’t been on the shows because of the injury, or featured before that, there’s really no reason for the audience to have any type of investment for him as a heel. Because of that, even a decisive win against him only has a minimal upside for MJF since Rush doesn’t have a lot of cache as a character within the AEW landscape.

The bigger issue is if the match goes off the rails, it could actually hinder, not help MJF’s return to the company. Yes, Rush is a very talented performer, but he works a very specific style and doesn’t seem to be too adaptable to any portion of the American style so unless he’s booked against another luchador that can plays to his strengths, the bouts yield mixed results. Plus, there was the infamous match against Jack Perry where Rush made him look like an enhancement talent at the same time he was supposed to be in the main event scene.

As far as rush in another sense, Tony Khan absolutely rushed the Will Ospreay main event push, and instead of allowing it to organically build toward the storybook conclusion in Wembley, Khan doesn’t have the patience for it. I don’t care what happens from here or how some type of angle at Forbidden Door might add to an eventual match at Wembley. The point is, putting Ospreay in the title picture at all before the London show dilutes the moment in the stadium. Aside from it being a retread as far as him wrestling for the title, there wasn’t a journey for him to get to the title match at the Forbidden Door event.

Yes, Ospreay had incredible matches against Bryan Danielson and Konosuke Takeshita on pay-per-view, but where did it lead? Outside of being “six stars by The Wrestling Observer,” what was the point of these contests? The reason I say this is, I actually agree that they were both stellar matches, but I think it was a complete missed opportunity to follow-up on either match in both scenarios. Despite his talent, Takeshita is still just another guy on the roster. His bout with Ospreay could’ve and probably should’ve been a star-making performance, but he wasn’t put in a more prominent spot on AEW programming after that. Unless Danielson simply doesn’t want to be used in a main event role, Tony Khan has missed the chance to fully utilize him as far as being an asset to the company. Yes, Danielson is probably at the latter stage of his career so he’s not exactly the future of the organization, but if he’s not given an AEW world title reign, it seems like the company would be leaving money on the table. Perhaps, profit not being the top priority is one of the reasons we haven’t seen Danielson’s star power used in a better position in the promotion.

The biggest problem is, Ospreay and Swerve are both baby faces so besides the fact that there’s no build up of substance behind it for the storyline, it’s also going to be difficult to generate any type of heat for the match. There’s no doubt it’s going to be a dazzling spot fest with incredible displays of athleticism, but will that make it any different than the type of matches regularly on AEW television? In some ways, it’s a lose-lose situation because if Swerve wins, it takes away some of the steam of Ospreay because he had a title shot and failed. If he wins, it gives away the AEW World title victory on a much smaller and less important platform than the storybook setting at Wembley stadium. Maybe I’m missing something, but I just don’t see how Ospreay being rushed into the title match at Forbidden Door has any benefit compared to the payoff of him winning in London.

I could be wrong, but in many ways, I see this co-promoted venture, at least right now, as more of an exhibition pay-per-view than anything else. I understand that’s a conflicting term, but All Elite Wrestling is investing television time and a spot on its pay-per-view calendar to guest stars that won’t be on the shows next month so a lot of what takes place prior and during Forbidden Door is in a vacuum, in terms of its impact on the product. Forbidden Door is a detour, not a destination. For Will Ospreay, especially with the amount of cash and promotional push he received so far in AEW, the only destination should be winning the world championship in Wembley Stadium. Anything else would be an example of not truly utilizing the opportunity that is there with Ospreay on the roster for the London PPV.

Ironically, the assets available not being fully utilized is one of the narratives of the entire company.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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