Tonight, All Elite Wrestling presents a special edition of Dynamite, Winter is Coming with the main event of Adam Page defending the world title against Bryan Danielson. Considering that last year’s edition of Winter is Coming featured the surprise debut of Sting, something that very few would’ve expected given his age and history of neck injuries several years earlier, and the Kenny Omega heel turn with Don Callis that began a title run that lasted nearly a year, there are certainly expectations for the show tonight. Granted, I doubt there are any legendary debuts on the line-up since it’s not possible to deliver that kind of moment regularly, but given that Tony Khan kept the Winter is Coming name for this event, I would guess that something major will take place before the broadcast goes off the air.
It goes without saying that Danielson vs. Page is the marquee match on the show, and in many ways, these titled editions of Dynamite are almost similar to WCW Clash of the Champions specials from that promotion’s heyday. In truth, it’s a happy medium when you take into account All Elite’s quarterly pay-per-view schedule, which has worked very well. It’s a topic that I’ve discussed before, but it remains relevant in this scenario, with a streaming network that offers thousands of hours of content for $4.99 a month or free for many customers, it’s exponentially more difficult to sell a $50 pay-per-view in the modern era. Tony Khan could book the best pay-per-view line-ups of all time and there would be diminishing returns if AEW had monthly pay-per-views because the audience just isn’t going to spend that type of money on wrestling every month when the market is already saturated with content that is more easily accessible now than other other time in history. That’s a strictly by the numbers approach, but obviously, there are also many benefits from a booking aspect as well when there’s not the pressure to book a pay-per-view card simply because there’s a PPV event on the schedule. This is one of the reasons All Elite has been able to avoid a stale series of rematches on pay-per-view, which was a pattern the WWE had for its events for several years during the majority of the John Cena era. A feud would usually get a three-match series on PPV before another challenger was shuffled into the mix to repeat the same pattern of matches.
That being said, with the expectations mentioned earlier, is it possible we see another new champion crowned at Winter is Coming?
It’s easy to jump on the All Elite band wagon and claim that Tony Khan has a much better product than WWE, but in reality, to compare the two is almost apples to oranges. The WWE is a publicly traded corporation that has to take into account its shareholders as much as, if not more so than its fan base. The sports entertainment empire always has countless hours of television to produce to satisfy its mega TV contracts that bring the organization record-setting profits. On the flip side, AEW is an upstart group that is still building itself in its first few years of existence without the corporate hoops to jump through or nearly as many hours of content to produce for its television.
However, when it comes to the staples of professional wrestling, Tony Khan brings a fresh prospective to the industry because he’s not nearly as jaded as the corporate group that dominated the industry for several years. In many respects, after Vince won the war, he attempted to reinvent the wheel of what sports entertainment should be and shifted the entire structure of the product. Sure, Vince wanted to reshape professional wrestling into sports entertainment as a branding technique not long after he purchased the WWWF from his dad in 1983, but even a few decades later, the ingredients for professional wrestling were still there, even if the packaging was changed to be more main stream for advertisers. The fuel of the competition of the Attitude era was based on sports entertainment, but the NWO taking Nitro by storm, and Mick Foley winning the title in 1999 were moments with a foundation of professional wrestling.
An over baby face and a heel with heat are basic parts of a successful pro wrestling formula, and it doesn’t take 38 writers to script the narrative. The WWE is tremendously successful based on its market share and its ability to capitalize on the climate of television, but the process for the product is artificial and the programming lacks any organic or spontaneous aspects. As we saw with the failed Roman Reigns super push, management often had its playbook and an agenda based on what looked good for the sponsors or the shareholders. They wanted the next John Cena, and also as we know, making a star isn’t as automatic as trying to mold one performer into the spot of another star. Legitimate money-drawing stars are unique commodities because they are quite literally unique enough to stand out as star to draw money. It’s no surprise that when Roman Reigns was allowed to naturally evolve as a performer that he continues to have the best run of his career as a heel.
All Elite Wrestling has a more organic presentation to the product and when you have two over talents with Page and Danielson, sometimes the simple story is the best story. The narrative was easy to tell since Dragon won the tournament so there’s a reason for him to challenge for the title, and he naturally evolved as a heel throughout the feud to set up the anticipated match for the title. Considering he debuted for AEW just a few months ago and his level of popularity, some might suggest that it was too early in his tenure to turn heel, but he worked Wrestlemania earlier this year so it wasn’t as though he spent too much time away from television before he made an appearance in AEW. By comparison, the fact that CM Punk was away from the industry for several years is why he has more mileage as a baby face before a heel run in All Elite. Don’t get me wrong, Bryan is one of the most talented and popular of his generation so it would be easy for him to remain a baby face, but the heel turn gives him something fresh and provides another layer of progress in his career as he starts a new chapter under the All Elite banner.
So, will Bryan Danielson win the AEW championship?
When you look at the numbers, there’s no doubt that Danielson and CM Punk draw the biggest viewership for the promotion so there’s obviously an argument to be made that Bryan Danielson as the champion would bring more of the casual audience to the product, and that’s the intrigue of the match because there’s an argument to be made for Page to retain or for Danielson to win it.
If a title match is too predictable, you don’t get the same reaction from the near falls or a false finish. However, when you take into account that Page is still new in the role as champion, I think that he will remain the champion at Winter is Coming and it’s the right decision. Danielson definitely the ability to have run as AEW champion that will help boost the exposure of the promotion, but it seems like he has more work to do as a heel, and he’s such a solid performer that he could win the title a few months from now and it would still have an impact for the organization. On the flip side, Adam Page is the first truly homegrown star to win the AEW world championship and while he has all the tools to be a major star for the promotion, he needs more than a brief title run to establish him as one of the top-tier stars for the company.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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