The Winter Solstice is upon us, and like most of the population, we're ready to symbolically put this wretched year behind us. So in the holiday spirit, I want to put a focus on a 'Xmas Wishlist' for each major wrestling promotion, as well as the industry as a whole.
As Frankie Kazarian would say, I'm a 'stupid mark' for AEW, but this is simply my cup of coffee when it comes to professional wrestling. There's a good chance you won't find as many negative points here in comparison to WWE. However, the upstart promotion isn't perfect, and my Wishlist for the boys (and girls) in Jacksonville comes with some criticisms of what has been a pretty solid product in spite of what 2020 has become.
So with that With that, let's jump into my AEW holiday Wishlist...
1. AEW Women Deserve Better
On average, there is about 4 women's match on Dynamite per month. Even on the most recent lackluster RAW, there were not only two women's matches, but they were tag team matches. There was even an opening segment which featured multiple women, and Alexa Bliss was featured in a segment of seemingly great importance.
Now the downside to all of these segments is that WWE writing is so bad that nothing really got over or made sense. (is Charlotte heel or face? Why is Asuka teaming up with her with their history? Why downgrade the importance of the tag titles by immediately calling for a Raw Women's title shot? Why is Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax?) But I can at least give Raw credit for attempting to do SOMETHING with their women's talent.
It's a different story in AEW. Sure, I appreciated the continuing Baker/Rosa storyline, but it never seems good enough to run beyond a short filler segment. Whatever is happening with Nyla, Red Velvet, Deeb, Big Swole, and Dia-vilisse isn't really made clear. And while I'm a huge mark for Abadon, demoting her feud for a week to AEW Dark doesn't make me feel good about her CHAMPIONSHIP program with Shida.
The bottom line is that we need more than one match and sporadic filler segments per week to make this division feel important.
The division still seems pretty aimless. Let's face it -- AEW needs Tessa Blanchard.
Blanchard is simply a needed jolt that AEW undoubtedly needs in this division. Along with Baker, Shida, and a returning Statlander, Blanchard rounds out what would be a dominant women's division. Of course you do risk alienating some of the locker room if the rumors of her backstage behavior are true, but it could be worth the risk in hopes that her Father, Tully, could become a backstage mentor to Tessa to help curb her alleged attitude problem. A name like hers will only elevate others, and with other talent on the rise in AEW such as Abadon, Leva Bates, Red Velvet, Anny Jay, Tay Conti and Big Swole, her arrival could be a recipe for success.
However if that's not the route Khan and company want to go, then signing Jordynne Grace, Taya Valkyrie and Rosemary (whose contracts are set to expire with Impact Wrestling in 2021) would be the lower risk - higher ceiling option than signing Blanchard. These are top-tier women's talent that would immediately put the division on notice.
Finally, in efforts to get this division cooking, let's introduce women's tag team championships. There is no reason with the size of their roster that a women's tag team championship wouldn't bring value and attraction to the show. This simply just needs to happen, and will highlight more of the women that aren't getting proper TV time.
2. AEW Elevation/Second Show/Third Hour
When AEW recently trademarked 'Elevation' there were rumors that it could be their second show. Even Tony Khan has mentioned that a second weekly show is going to happen in 2021, and it's much needed. A second show could solve a lot of the problems for the AEW women, and feature a lot of the talent that doesn't make Dynamite.
However, what day and time slot do you put this in? Is it a TNT/TBS like circumstance where Dynamite is the Nitro to Elevation's Thunder? Do you keep both shows on the same network, and if so, do you risk Monday or Friday nights to go up against Raw and Smackdown? It seems silly to me to have a show on Tuesday (competing with AEW Dark) or Thursday, meaning AEW is on two straight nights -- but perhaps that's not as bad it it seems. I'm not in charge of Turner Network Television for a reason.
Or perhaps Elevation (or something of the like) will be a third hour to Dynamite? Raw has pacing and writing problems to fill all three of their hours, but I would certainly give AEW a shot in this scenario.
Does AEW buy Impact Wrestling and make that their second show? Perhaps Elevation is trademarked for another project entirely. Regardless of speculation, one thing is certain: AEW needs a little more exposure than 2 hours a week (beyond YouTube).
3. MJF and Adam Page need to become AEW World Champions
These two are too good not to hold any gold. While "The Cleaner" Kenny Omega is one of my favorite wrestlers to watch, and I am enjoying his current title reign, I also recognize that there more mouths to feed a championship to. Adam Page is an extremely likable, overly-talented athlete that at least needs a taste of a world championship -- even if he's the one to defeat Omega sometime in the Summer -- only for MJF to quickly, and somehow deceitfully rip it away from Page to hold it himself.
Excuse my fantasy booking, but these two talents just need a world title in 2021.
4. Trios Titles
With so much talent to go around, and much of this talent in dedicated stables, why shouldn't AEW go the route of Trios Championship? It works in Dragon Gate and Stardom in Japan, and unless you count Chikara, you haven't really had a 3-Man/6-Man Championship since the WCW World Six-Man Tag Team Championship in 1991. Even then, those titles were short lived, lasting less than a year.
But this is a different era, and with such groups as Jurassic Express, Team Taz, Nightmare Family, Dark Order, Best Friends, SCU, and of course the Inner Circle, how could this be a bad idea? You can sustain some of these feuds in-between these different (and new) stables for years to come, and duplicate a lot of what New Japan and Dragon Gate does with their stables. In addition, you avoid the 'spot-fest' label by wrestling grumps (which are dead right at times) by giving these larger tag matches a purpose.
5. Chris Jericho Retirement Tour
I'm not being ageist, and his matches this year have still been pretty good, but I think it's time for The Ayatollah of Rock-and-Rolla to ride off into the sunset. I say that because as my favorite all-time wrestler (besides the fact that he's a real life douchebag that ignores the pandemic, publicly calls out pizza chains like a teenager, and supports a demagogue) I don't think he is serving the product anymore as an in-ring performer. Jericho was vital for AEW's early success, but as names start to float to the top, the likes of Omega, Page, MJF, Moxley, Allin, Cassidy, (and many others) will start to define the future of this company.
What I fear will happen is Jericho will be out there in 5 years time looking as sad and slow as The Undertaker did in Saudi Arabia not long ago. Professional wrestling is a physically and mentally demanding sport, and Jericho has just about done it all as a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. A dream match in this situation would be a true retirement match between Sting and Jericho where they can go out on their own terms and hang around the company as on-screen personalities, but stay away from the ring.
It's time for Jericho to put himself on the list, and take a final bow in what will go down as an incredible career.
6. The AEW video game needs to be good
This should be obvious, but I don't want AEW's next video game to go the way of TNA Wrestling's below average game. I'm not putting much into pre-release footage as there is more time to polish this project, and as someone who grew up on Fire Pro Wrestling -- gameplay will always supersede graphics. The wrestling gaming industry needs a "smart" game that puts a focus on not just expansive customization, but true to life physics within a wrestling match itself. With a clear puroresu influence from Omega, it's hard to tell exactly what the gameplay will look like -- be it a version of Giant Gram 2000 (if you don't know, go find out) or a similar build to the WWE2K/Smackdown vs. Raw series, as Yukes is involved in the game's development.
Putting AEW on the map even more so by creating a excellent gaming experience is of the utmost importance in today's gaming-dominated market, and this is one they can't screw up.
All-in-All, things are looking up for All Elite Wrestling, and I don't see 2021 as any kind of slump for the company as things will slowly get back to normal post-pandemic by the Summer (fingers-crossed). For a company founded just over a year ago and to be winning key demographics and making waves in the industry is a sight to see. However, AEW needs to keep their pedal to the metal and continue to drive what has been the best wrestling product over the past year into a dominating 2021.
With that, have a safe and happy holiday, folks, and here's to hoping that next year isn't going to be complete garbage.