I’m just going to say it: The All Elite Wrestling roster is too damn big.
Context: I absolutely love and support AEW. I still believe they are the best wrestling promotion on the planet. However, with a chaotic Forbidden Door already crowding a large roster, it’s time to call this blemish out.
While “officially” the AEW roster hovers around 100 total; “unofficially” there are dozens more unaccounted for that aren’t on their official roster page. Unofficially, the number stands closer to 140-150 wrestlers.
I want to reiterate that no disrespect is meant to those on a would-be chopping block. There is a lot of great talent on the roster — but talent that is seldom seen, or given the proper booking respect. There are three reasons why Tony Khan needs to greatly trim the roster.
Let’s dig in.
AEW Women’s Roster (still) Feels Unimportant
If there is one thing literally every fan, critic, or general observer of the AEW product can agree on, it’s that the women simply do not get enough time.
Is it the booking?
We barely see the AEW Women’s World Champion in Thunder Rosa, and Jade Cargill rarely sees in-ring action and legitimate threats in efforts to protect her dominance. These are talented women that deserve their spot; but is it ultimately working?
The division suffers from lack of time, booking respect, and stories.
Jericho versus Ortiz, the AEW Tag Team Championship showdown, the All-Atlantic Tournament, and Wardlow vs. the World are all heavily advertised for the 6/15 Dynamite. Meanwhile, a small blurb was given to Britt Baker vs. Toni Storm’s match.
The hard truth is that 10-man tags, the bloated Jericho Appreciation Society/Kingston feud, and random Ring of Honor ventures take time away from a still struggling women’s division. The talent is there. Storm, Baker, Hayter, Rosa, Soho, Statlander (arguably the most over women’s competitor), Deeb, Shida, The Bunny, Hogan, the list goes on…
In fact, next week in Milwaukee is the go-home shows for Forbidden Door; which no women’s matches will be featured at the time of this writing. I greatly fear that next week’s Dynamite and Rampage will also then feature no women’s matches.
This would be simply unacceptable.
The AEW women’s division will never be given the proper time if TK is trying to squeeze in so many dozens of wrestlers per week. More fat trimmed off the general roster means more time allotted for a women’s division that greatly deserves it.
Humans Like Order
Humans like simplistic ways to make sense of the world.
The AEW fanbase is smart, and we know more global and indies talent than the average WWE fan. But that doesn’t mean we need to see it every week.
When so much talent is brought in, even for a one-off appearance, it not only takes away time from other established talents on the roster, but makes other surprise entries feel unimportant. Will Ospreay is legit one of the best wrestlers in the world, and his debut felt “meh”.
When so many fans are asking TK to “focus on your originals” they’re doing so to maintain what contextual order they can. Quite frankly, it’s hard to keep straight all of the divisions, tag teams, and rankings in logical order. Even for diehard wresting fans, the AEW roster can seem a bit overwhelming and complicated at times.
It’s not even that there are too many championships (a common complaint), but the booking of those championships suffer in the midst of a crowded roster.
For example; John Silver is a fan favorite. Before last week’s Casino Battle Royale, the last time we saw Johnny Hungee on Dynamite or Rampage was against C.M. Punk on May 11th. Before that it was March 23rd.
Not every wrestler can be featured every week; but the roster shouldn’t be so bloated that we can go 3-4 months and see a wrestler only three times in that span; as in the case with Silver.
Humans like order, and we at least like to generally see the same cast of characters every week or so. Such a large roster makes that nearly impossible.
A Shift Towards the Future
When the Sex Pistols arrived in 1975, a boatload of controversy came with them. Their act is considered groundbreaking, not just in punk rock history, but within the entire music industry.
Yet as a band, they lasted less than three years. They struck when the iron was hot.
Now AEW is going to be around for a long time, but you need to shift to the future sooner than later. There are so many young talents that should have the spotlight headed their way that just aren’t.
When you set aside MJF, who is on another level, the names of the “under-30” club are quite impressive:
Brian Pillman Jr.
And note, Adam Page, Britt Baker, Adam Cole, Ricky Starks, Powerhouse Hobbs, Ruby Soho, Swerve Strickland, Ethan Page, and The Acclaimed, are all 32 and under.
Could I do without seeing Chris Jericho and his goons in favor of a properly built Jamie Hayter/Britt Baker feud? Yes.
Do I need to see an aging Hardy Boyz, Bobby Fish, or Frankie Kazarian yet again, when I could get see a feud featuring Powerhouse Hobbs, Lee Moriarty, Abadon, or Athena?
I love that Danhausen, but I’d much rather see Hook in a serious feud with a name like Brock Anderson or Ethan Page than another recycled 10-man tag.
Building the AEW product around established names like Moxley, Danielson, Rosa, Punk, Cole, Baker, Black, Statlander, and Kingston is smart. But laying the groundwork for featuring your 20-somethings (and early 30s) as the future of the company is just as important.
With such a bloated roster, it’s much harder to accomplish this.
Powerhouse Hobbs, Ricky Starks, and Hook, are three names that could one day become future main eventers. However, if TK keeps booking AEW like a wrestling smark off his ADHD meds, it may never happen.
Again, AEW is the premier wrestling promotion on the planet. But this also means they are held to a higher standard; even if slightly unfair. In comparison, I don’t hold WWE to any standard, because their bar is so low to begin with.
Something drastically needs to push AEW out of its lull very soon.
Giving the women’s division the respect it deserves, not overcrowding your weekly shows, and keeping your roster trimmed is vital for AEW’s continuing success. Unfortunately, this does mean a good 40-50 wrestlers should be future endeavored — which I will go into next week as to whom.
If Rampage isn’t getting a second hour, and Ring of Honor isn’t getting a TV deal anytime soon, AEW cannot carry on with an overweight roster forever.
It’s time to make some hard decisions for the future of All Elite Wrestling; and the sooner the better.