Where Does AEW Stand After One Year?

All Elite Wrestling celebrated its first full year on TNT for its Dynamite show this past week, and the show itself did reflect much of the first year of the company as a whole, specifically because it highlighted some of the hits and misses of the upstart league.

The opening tag match of FTR vs. Best Friends is a bout that on paper should be a tag team classic, especially off the heels of the star-making performance Trent and Chuck had with the brutal parking lot brawl with Santana and Ortiz. Plus, Trent and even Chuck to some extent are underrated in terms of their in-ring ability because of how much comedy is a part of their gimmick. Obviously, FTR’s ability to work as solid a match as you’re going to see in 2020 goes without saying, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better tag team in the world tag than Cash and Dax. The brawling outside of the ring and the goofy video game spot with Kip Sabin just wasn’t needed and do more to hinder than help this bout.

The same way that early episodes of Dynamite had the same formula of high spot tag matches that didn’t have much structure, this tag title match was overbooked as well.

Later in the show, a drawing was held to determine what teams will compete for the number one contender spot for FTR’s titles, and it appears that the Young Bucks/FTR bout is finally on the horizon. Similar to the division itself, I really think the path to get to this feud was unnecessarily complicated. Sometimes the simplest form of the narrative is the best version, and in this case, the story writes itself. They didn’t have to tease tension between the two teams, the rivalry between The Bucks and FTR, as well as their contrasting styles, was started a few years ago on social media. The AEW fan base is well aware of it so it would’ve made more sense to use that history, as opposed to trying to shoehorn another angle to get to the same match.

In my opinion, FTR’s debut should’ve included them storming the ring and attacking The Young Bucks because it would’ve emphasized the history between them on social media. The stare down that didn’t lead to a confrontation and even teaming together probably did more to take steam away from the angle than enhance it. Another aspect that I find puzzling is that The Young Bucks are presented like heels with the super kicks on announcers and staff, but yet, FTR are already established heels so who are the fans supposed to support in this rivalry? Booking something outside of the box just for the sake of doing it doesn’t automatically lead to a better storyline because the past few weeks of television have just muddied the waters instead of adding a sizzle to what will undoubtedly be a tremendous tag team match.

Bottom line, AEW was founded partially based on the popularity of the Young Bucks, and the fans know they have executive roles within the company so casting the Bucks are the representatives of All Elite, while FTR are the “anti-AEW” wrestlers is probably the best way to sell this bout. Don’t get me wrong, the skills of both teams are incredible, but it seems like management is making this angle more complicated to seem more “cutting edge” than the competition.

I hope the Miro/Kip pairing in temporary because this is yet another example of how some of these storylines can get diluted. Kip is playing video games, and Miro has the potential to be a monster heel for the company, how long until these goofy segments with Sabian erodes the mystic from Miro?

In a similar fashion, I think Orange Cassidy has to tone down some of the shtick once the bell rings. I understand that his character is what got him over big with the AEW audience so it makes sense to use that for the entrance and promos, but the soft chops and kicks during a TNT title match with Cody just seems out of place, especially when the actually in-ring content was superb. Don’t get me wrong, Cassidy has all the tools needed to be a major star for the organization, but utilizing them at the right place at the right time is key. Let him do all the gimmick stuff in the interviews and segments, but putting the comedy spots into a title match just takes away from the momentum of the contest.

A quick side note about the Women’s division, the recent additions to it within the past few months have really helped add depth. Hikura Shida has done a great job as champion and always delivers a solid bout. Brit Baker, who recently returned from injury, has a lot of potential to be a long term money-drawing heel for the promotion, if she can avoid more time on the sidelines. Granted, there were fluke incidents that saw her injure her knee, sustain a broken nose, and suffer a concussion. At the same time, even though really well done promos were used to keep her on television and put over her heel persona, she might have to be careful not to get labeled as injury prone because that might be the only thing that could derail her path to being a notable star for the company in the future.

The Chris Jericho/MJF segment was great stuff and it could be an indication to where they are going with this angle. Considering how popular Jericho continues to be, even as a heel, I think it’s very possible we see the Inner Circle turn on him, and MJF emerges at the new leader of the stable. The justification for it could be that since Jericho lost the AEW championship, he hasn’t been able to deliver on taking his stablemates to the promise land. It gives The Inner Circle a fresh coat of paint after more than a year in existence to extend its run as a faction, it elevates the status of MJF, and it allows Jericho for a major baby face run in AEW. Sammy, Santana, and Ortiz have all become more well known during their time as a part of The Inner Circle so their association with Jericho has been effective.

The AEW world title match was exactly what a main event bout should be and it brought a big fight atmosphere to TNT. I still think Lance Archer has main event potential at some point, but given his age, you have to wonder if the pieces of the puzzle will fit to see him win a major championship in AEW. Jon Moxley has his critics, but the guy is money and performs quality matches any time he’s in the ring so he continues to be a solid choice as champion. The bigger question is, after two former WWE competitors as champion, who will be the first homegrown star to win the AEW title?

On a national level, there’s more to it than just the in-ring skills, and there must be a certain level of star power for an athlete to be effective as the top guy in AEW. Thankfully, the company has several already on its roster that have the potential to work very well in the role. Adam Page, Kenny Omega,MJF, Pentagon, and others are all talented enough to be the world champion of a major company. As far as the sum total of not only AEW’s anniversary edition of Dynamite, but the first year of the company as a whole, it might sound like a generic answer, but it had it’s ups and downs. To expect the product to be perfect would be unreasonable, while overlooking the flaws wouldn’t be an accurate assessment either.

By nature, All Elite Wrestling will draw comparisons to WCW based on its level as another national group, as well as its association with TNT, the channel that broadcasted Nitro during the famous Monday Night Wars. Too often, fans look back at this era with a nostalgic lens and assume that everything they watched on Monday Nights during the boom period was great stuff. Keep in mind, the same year The Outsiders invaded to turn the entire industry upside down, Disc Inferno was still dancing on the same show. When the Steve Austin was pummeling Vince McMahon to a record-setting audience, Shawn Stasiak got a push.

So, AEW isn’t perfect, but its existence has made the wrestling business exponentially better, and from a business perspective, they are successful because the extension of the TNT deal made it a profitable venture. The critics can argue about philosophy, but profitability is ultimately the most important aspect of the industry.

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

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta