Two Sides Of The AEW Coin

I’ve written about it several times, but it remains a point of discussion around All Elite Wrestling and more specifically, will continue to shape the future of the promotion. Essentially, there are two sides of the coin to AEW and this past week’s episode of Dynamite proved that the quality control of the promotion is hit or miss in many aspects of the show. Granted, I’ve also written that the Khan-owned company doesn’t have to be perfect either. Nitro certainly wasn’t perfect, but was the top wrestling show in the world in 1997. That being said, it’s just as important to continue to evolve the product and learn from mishaps along the way to avoid a plateau in the audience. TNA got to about a million viewers and never quite went any further, even at its peak. Obviously, All Elite draws much better on the road and on pay-per-view than TNA did in its entire existence, but the point being that with the additions of CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, and others, there must be a tangible result for those acquisitions to be truly successful. I’m not sure Jeff Hardy on the Youtube show maximizes his star power or the brand exposure he could generate for the product.

As I wrote in an article last week, All Elite has the right approach to be the national pro wrestling commodity as a contrast to WWE’s sports entertainment presentation. Nobody is going to reach the level of production of Vince McMahon or the cache the WWE has as an entity in the sports world. It’s one of the benefits of winning the wrestling wars and getting the historical context of the organization. As we know, the vast majority of WWE programming is geared toward serving the stockholders more so than the audience. The shareholders that invest into WWE stock are what allowed the company to be worth more than a billion dollars so that takes priority and from strictly a corporate mindset it makes sense. So, the fans are usually soured on the rather notorious Saudi shows, but it’s great news for the shareholders because the Saudi events are among WWE’s most profitable shows. The balancing act to serve the investors and the viewing audience is another discussion for another time, but the bottom line is, there’s undoubtedly a market for more of a wrestling-based product in the United States.

One of the major positives of the All Elite program is that the company fully utilizes some of the talent that was either undervalued or completely overlooked in the WWE. The FTR Owen Hart tournament qualifying match was a brilliant display of how solid pro wrestling can create compelling television. FTR is, without question, the best tag team in the entire business right now, and if they are given the opportunity during the rest of their career, they could enter the conversation as one of the best tag teams of all time. Dax and Cash are true pros, and their ability as performers gave this match a “big fight” atmosphere. Dax got the win, but the biggest takeaway here is just how much the WWE missed the boat on them when they were under contract there. Considering the writing team wanted to put FTR in court jester outfits before their WWE exit, it’s proof of how important competition is in the business because I think it’s fair to say that FTR would’ve wasted the prime of their careers if they re-signed with WWE.

Along the same lines of the Dax/Cash segment, the Blackpool Combat Club victory was designed to put more spotlight on Wheeler Yuta, which makes sense because by nature, AEW has to build toward the future. I’m not sure how far Yuta will go in his AEW tenure, but the logic to establish a younger wrestler through an association with major stars is there. The argument could be made that prehaps there’s better use of both Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley, but most of that depends on how the current angles unfold on television. Another wise decision is the use of William Regal, one of the most underrated legends and brightest minds in the history of the industry. So often for several years, the WWE writing team only used legends from the past to get heat and it just made those stars look less than legends on-screen. On the flip side, Regal’s goodwill with the audience and his status as an elder statesman are used to enhance the entire stable.

On the other end of the spectrum, the use of gimmick matches over the course of just a few weeks is so ridiculous that it’s almost comical at this point. Within the span of about a month, there was a tables match, a Texas deathmatch, a coffin match, and then just on this past week’s episode, there was a street fight and a ladder match on the same card. It goes without saying that this will yield diminishing returns. Hikaru Shida and Serena Deeb had some solid matches, but their rivalry was rather sporadic as far as how it was featured on television. It’s not a jab at either of them as performers, but from a booking stand point, did this really justify a street fight? Was this feud really on the radar as far as the television show? Furthermore, the same can be said for the Scorpio Sky vs. Sammy Guevara bout, why exactly was this a ladder match? Outside of the fact that Tony Khan wanted to see Sammy in another ladder match, what was the true purpose of this stipulation? The Cody/Sammy ladder match is still relatively fresh in the audience’s mind, why dilute that contest with another ladder match not too long after the bout that originally received good reviews? The same can be said for the use of barbed wire during the Sammy/Sky match, it wasn’t necessary and just takes away from the gimmicks. More importantly, Sammy took a scary bump from a dive off the ladder and risks like that on a regular basis are ill-advised. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but it seems like only a matter of time before something goes seriously wrong with spots like that. Sammy legitimately has the talent to be one of the key performers for the future of AEW, he shouldn’t risk the bigger picture for a spot to get noticed on social media that will be forgotten a few days later anyway.

Finally, CM Punk could a promo to officially announce that he will challenge for the AEW world championship at Double or Nothing, which makes sense because he’s the biggest star on the roster and he should be in the main event to fully utilize that status. Still, this whole thing summarizes how poorly Adam Page was booked prior to and after his title victory. Page hasn’t defended the title or done much at all on television as champion. The delay to put Danielson vs. Page at Author Ashe stadium hindered a lot of his momentum and he just hasn’t seemed like he’s at the level of a world champion in terms of star power. Last week on the show, he made a very brief appearance to have a face off against Punk, but his effectiveness on TV during his title run was minimal. I understand the argument that the champion doesn’t have to be on TV every week, but I don’t think that approach applies to a new star that has to be established as champion. Punk should and probably will win the AEW championship, but it says a lot about the booking that Page wasn’t truly established at the main event level for the company.

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

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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