Unpopular opinion of the week: BTE is a better developmental tool than NXT
As a Taoist, I have always believed life is fluid, and that your energy goes somewhere, even after death. While Brodie Lee may no longer be with us, his energy lives on through the effect he has had on others, and through the actions of a giant, but gentle soul. Brodie no doubt touched the lives of talent everywhere he worked -- from Chikara to WWE and AEW. One avenue where this can be seen on a weekly basis is on the ingenious "Being the Elite" weekly YouTube show.
Being the Elite is an episodic YouTube show headlined mainly by The Young Bucks which features segments, or "bits" starring an array of AEW talent. You might see anything and everything on BTE, from the Best Friends' attempts to unsuccessfully murder Brandon Cutler, the many personalities of Matt Hardy, Frankie Kazarian's anger management problems (but don't tell him that) to mostly recently, the BTE Championship. This championship is defended not in the ring, but in random contests ranging from mustard-packet throwing to playing craps with Skittles.
The current champion, John Silver, has had multiple successful defenses, and has a date with Marko Stunt for the title in a yet unnamed contest. So this begs the question: Why is this show "genius" and how is it a better developmental tool than NXT?
If there is one facet of WWE programming that I can point out to be its highest weakness, it's the overly scripted nature of the promos that talent have to give. At the end of the day, professional wrestling is about telling great stories, and you do that both in and out of the ring. However, whether talent isn't ready to be in front of a camera, or they simply aren't able to deliver scripted lines like an actor would, a lot of the in-ring promos from WWE talent fall very flat.
Rarely do you have a Raw or Smackdown where all promos are either top-notch or at least easily digestible. Granted, not everyone is Bray Wyatt or Randy Orton, but you would assume that a billion dollar company would invest more in making sure their talent can deliver and sell their promos as an important piece to the program's storytelling.
But this is rarely the case.
While no show is perfect, and AEW has had it's share of shit-sandwich promos, it comes few and far between. Whether it's Moxley, MJF, Omega, Kingston, Jericho, Baker, or the Rhodes Brothers -- many in AEW can cut a pretty damn good promo. A lot of this is simply due to experience and pure talent, but even a lot of the new and upcoming talent have a level of confidence in front of a camera that few have at that experience level. Prime examples of future champions in the making include "Hangman" Adam Page, The Acclaimed, John Silver and Alex Reynolds, Best Friends, Sammy Guevara, and The Varsity Blondes -- all of which regularly appear on Being the Elite.
In its simplicity, BTE has their talent do something that the WWE brands fail to do -- they have them go in front of a camera and grow their personalities through fun and comical skits. Talent is given the opportunity to get themselves over in their own unique way. As with the Fuego Del Sol vs. QT Marshall or Brandon Cutler vs. Peter Avalon feuds, these aren't meant for primetime and tend to build towards occasional matches on Dark, but entertaining in their own way.
For example, if you followed Cutler vs. Avalon at all, you'd know that after a unsuccessful run as a tag team pairing, they had a falling out. A feud began with Leva Bates caught in the middle, and after two matches ended in a draw/DQ, the both winless Cutler and Avalon finally blew off their feud where Cutler got his first victory in 2020. Now both are on a singles winning streak, and Avalon has had a gimmick change where he has become a wish.com version of Rick Rude as "Pretty" Peter Avalon. Leva is sort of on her own now with her Librarian gimmick, as she continues to beat Kip Sabian in video games (unless she lets him win).
This wasn't carefully crafted by a hierarchal booking committee. This was AEW Management letting their talent be as creative as they want to be, and then trusting in them enough to put it on camera. We have seen this character development best in the Dark Order segments over the past year, and if you haven't seen them, they're worth going out of your way to watch.
What began as a cult led by a semi-serious Vince McMahon parody in Brodie Lee has turned into a self-aware "cult" that pokes fun at themselves for being just that. John Silver is comedic gold whenever he is in front of a camera, and we have seen the on-camera progression of other members like Alex Reynolds, Anna Jay, Colt Cobana, Evil Uno, and Stu Grayson. While the Dark Order started slow, we have seen their involvement pick up in recent weeks with attempts to recruit Dustin Rhodes and Adam Page to their group.
The combination of AEW Dark and BTE is more effective than a traditional developmental territory where talent is basically told how to wrestle and cut a promo in a certain style. With BTE/Dark, talent can have a level of creative involvement both in character, and in their in-ring style that isn't being held back by the corporate standards of WWE. Furthermore, if you watch every week like I do, you start to grow to appreciate the talent on the show. I wasn't a Dark Order fan at first, but have grown to love them through BTE. Whether it's comedic cultural segments with Alex Abrahantes and Santana/Ortiz/Dasha, Orange Cassidy feeding candy to Kris Statlander, Britt Baker's "Waiting Room" on Dark, or Eddie Kingston cutting a promo on a cookie -- it all contributes to what makes All Elite Wrestling -- and Independent Wrestling -- so much fun to be a part of.
It humanizes them.
More often than not, WWE talent is told to keep personal life, (and third party revenues), away from the public eye. However, AEW embraces the idea of letting their talent have creative say over who they are and what they do, and how they present themselves -- third party or not. This is what gives All Elite Wrestling a personal feel to it, as fans sort of feel like they're part of the show much like in a way a parasocial relationship can exist among celebrities.
My hope is that BTE will only continue to grow and put out more content as the future for AEW continues to brighten. While this past episode was understandably a tribute to Brodie Lee, if you haven't caught an episode of Being the Elite, you are truly missing out.