Quote of the Week:
It’s like a movie with a blockbuster budget and cast, but if it’s written by creatively bankrupt nincompoops specifically for an audience of one, in a language nobody understands anymore, it’s…..trash. But people watch it because they like movies. – CM Punk on current WWE programming
The trolls are strong. There’s even a Facebook user with a Bray Wyatt avatar that will go out of their way on multiple wrestling pages just to demean AEW. What a sad existence you must lead to put so much hateful energy into a promotion you don’t even like…
But this article isn’t about those asswagons. They have enough issues on their own.
This article is for those who still may be on the fence about All Elite Wrestling, or may be struggling to understand it. Truth-be-told, the promotion is run much differently than Vince’s Empire. For anyone who grew up specifically watching the WWE brand, AEW may be unfamiliar territory.
I want to reiterate that being a fan of AEW doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy WWE, or vice versa. However, on a fundamental scale, things are done a bit differently in Jacksonville than they are in Stamford. With that, here is a handy guide on how to watch AEW.
Storylines Move Slowly
You’re going to see a lot of similarities between AEW and puroresu. Not that it’s uncommon; as Eric Bischoff lifted the idea of the nWo from an angle playing out in New Japan. A lot has been historically borrowed from Japanese wrestling for decades now. In New Japan and other Japanese promotions, stories tend to build slowly (like a great Asian horror movie).
In AEW, storylines will not wrap up within a few months as many WWE storylines do. You may not even know it, but TK is likely building for “Hangman” Adam Page to dethrone Kenny Omega at All Out in September. It truly is a slow burn.
From The Young Bucks slow transformation back into heels in The Elite, to the Moxley/Kingston relationship going from quick rivals to best friends, stories take time to play out.
Take, for instance, MJF and the Inner Circle. We all knew MJF was going to turn on (or take over) the Inner Circle at some point. But the eventual turn took months and months to get to. The tension of this angle was teased as far back as mid-2020.
The logic is that payoffs are more dramatic, and mean much more than a 1-2 month quick fix feud between two randomly placed individuals. Seeds are often planted, and it may take months, if not years, for something to grow.
Champions Have Longer Reigns
Speaking of Reigns, his current run as Universal Champion is a bit of an outlier in WWE at over 270 days. With the exception of NXT:UK (Walker and Kay Lee Ray both have runs over 600 days currently), most WWE champions have short-lived reigns.
This isn’t the case in AEW.
While the WWE Championship has changed hands five times since March 2020, the AEW World Championship has changed hands just twice. Omega’s current reign is closing in on 200 days, I would expect this to last until All Out in September.
Hikaru Shida held the AEW Women’s Championship for 372 days before dropping it to Britt Baker D.M.D. at Double or Nothing. The Young Bucks current tag team championship reign sits at over 200 days.
This may irk some who want to see different talent hold more titles. However, the logic is that the longer the title reign, the more prestige and importance given to the championship itself.
If you like short title runs, perhaps AEW isn’t for you. But this is how things are done in All Elite.
More Wrestling, Less Talk
WWE has built the opening 15-20 minute promo into the wrestling vernacular. Many fans are simply used to this, and do not bat an eye when the first wrestling they see on Raw or Smackdown doesn’t come until a quarter-way into the first hour.
This isn’t the case with AEW.
Most shows will open with a match, sometimes spanning over 20 minutes. In general, AEW will offer more bell-to-bell action in a two-hour show than WWE Raw can deliver in three hours.
Now this doesn’t mean Raw is an awful show. Before the Monday Night Wars, shows like WWF Wrestling Challenge, and Primetime Wrestling existed solely as a way to promote bigger shows and Pay-Per-Views.
In fact, if it weren’t for lucrative cable network contracts and corporate conglomerates demanding butt-loads of content, it still may be this way.
There does exist solid wrestling on both WWE flagships, but you’re generally going to get much less of it compared to Dynamite, and likely Rampage, when it kicks off.
When Miroslav Barnyashev joined AEW, he didn’t do so under the pretense that he would become Rusev 2.0. He repackaged himself to his own liking, and simply had fun with it. Now he has tons of momentum as a dominating TNT Champion.
Rinse and Repeat.
A lot of the AEW roster will have a high level of creative control over their gimmicks. In fact, a lot of talent you see were previously established Indies stars with control over their own gimmicks. Orange Cassidy and Best Friends, Adam Page, Darby Allin, Jungle Boy, and many others have done the same.
You won’t see a talent suddenly speaking with a Nigerian accent to get themselves over, or a once solid in-ring talent speaking to a doll on a weekly basis.
And there have been some great directions from WWE creative in past gimmicks for talents, don’t get me wrong. But you’re not ever, if rarely, going to get a “repackaged” AEW wrestler.
Yes, It’s Glorified Indies Wrestling
Last I checked, many AEW wrestlers are allowed to work the independent circuit if desired. The “Forbidden Door” is wide open, and with a special arrangement, you may see an AEW talent pop up on Impact Wrestling, New Japan, or other promotions.
While the company has a TV deal through 2023 and just hit a high buy rate for Double or Nothing, it’s still ‘Oh, So Indies!’. A lot of their fan base is familiar with the Indies scene, and a large chunk of their roster are experienced independent wrestlers.
And this is totally okay.
I never understood why “Indies” wrestling gets a bad rap. There is a level of non-conformity that exists in the Indies scene that is wonderful for professional wrestling. Different styles and gimmicks can mesh together in ways you’d never see in larger, corporate-driven promotions.
A company’s financial earnings doesn’t determine whether or not the product is good. This is especially true with the recent string of releases by WWE.
Some of the best matches and storylines have played out in the Independent wrestling scene over the years. You’re going to see wrestlers who want to challenge themselves, without confinement or creative in their ear, to push the envelope of what pro wrestling can be.
Which leads to the next sub-category…
The Forbidden Door
Tony Khan opened the “Forbidden Door”, and it’s simple. AEW can and will play nice with any other wrestling promotion in the world. What this means for the casual fan, however, is that the looking glass to other wrestling promotions in the world has been shattered. But it’s up to them to step through it or not.
Nobody is forcing you to know who Yuji Nagata is, or who Warhorse was when he faced Cody Rhodes in 2020. Sometimes wrestling fans only have time for so much, and the neatly packaged WWE roster spanning three cable shows is enough.
However, more and more wrestling fans are starting to realize that there is truly more out there than what Titan Towers built. To the fan who stupidly responds with “Who?” to a wrestler they don’t know only exposes their small tunnel of wrestling knowledge. If a person chooses to stay and enjoy their wrestling within one universe, this is perfectly fine. But please don’t try to shit on others who have made time to expose themselves to multiple wrestling promotions across multiple continents.
The EVP’s Are On Top (Right Now)
Kenny Omega was offered a multi-million dollar contract to jump ship to WWE. The Young Bucks were offered a similar deal. Yes, it seems very Jeff Jarrett in TNA-like that they currently hold both major titles in a company they help run.
But they’re damn good wrestlers, and one can argue that Omega is in the top 3 in the world right now. Neither the Bucks, or Omega were first AEW world/tag team champions. This comes on the heels of long-term story being played out.
Eventually, Omega will be dethroned by Adam Page, and the Bucks will (in my best guess) drop the titles to The Varsity Blondes or Jurassic Express. But it will take some time for this story to play out.
In the mean time, enjoy the plethora of other stories and talent. Britt Baker is arguably the hottest women’s wrestler in any company right now, and Miro is in the early stages of a dominant TNT Championship run.
There are stars on the rise as well, from Tay Conti and Leyla Hirsch to The Acclaimed, the aforementioned Varsity Blondes — and not to mention probably the best heel in the industry right now — Maxwell Jacob Friedman.
Speaking of stars…
AEW is NOT TNA
Haters will often criticize TK for signing WWE talent. I have two responses to this:
- WWE has had a monopoly over the industry for nearly 20 years. Almost ALL TALENT has likely been in WWE at one time or another.
- AEW is still a business. You sign the best talent for your roster to make the most money.
It doesn’t make sense for Tony Khan NOT to sign guys like Christian Cage and Miro. Hell, Cage just put over Jungle Boy Jack Perry, who is now in line for a world title shot against Kenny Omega. Cage hasn’t been skyrocketed o the top of the card. These guys are still in peak shape and can deliver in the ring.
With the Big Show and Mark Henry lending their non-wrestling talents to the company, and the legendary Sting helping Darby Allin along the way, ex-WWE signees are not being thrown into title pictures like they were in TNA.
With the recent releases from WWE, I am fully expecting some of them to be swiped up by AEW, because Khan would be stupid not to.
Tommy End (Aleister Black), Samoa Joe, Jessie McKay and Cassie Lee (The Iconics), and Heidi Lovelace (Ruby Riott) are names that would be much welcomed in an AEW ring. In addition, C.J. Perry (Lana) would receive a huge pop if she surprisingly accompanies Miro during a live show.
But look at the current champions:
Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, Britt Baker, Miro. Only one of whom fits the bill of an “ex-WWE” guy. There have been 16 title holders across all AEW championships since their inception. Only six made their name in WWE in prior years.
We need to ditch this tired trope. This is a still very brand-new company, and already, they are putting their championships on “non-WWE” talents. It’s time to let this die…
Khan’s Booking Philosophy (Why not have a wrestling fan in control?)
Tony Khan likes clean finishes. He doesn’t like to insult the fans, and he will acknowledge that other wresting promotions exist. He is a fan just like you and me. The difference?
His father is a billionaire.
We often see tired opinions that Tony Khan isn’t experienced enough to run a wresting company. But let’s be honest, booking wrestling isn’t that difficult.
This will be the subject of my next piece, but many wrestling fans can book a solid wrestling show. They may not see the financial side of things, nor have the in-ring experience to direct storytelling within the match better than the wrestlers in the match themselves — but overall, it’s not that hard.
I don’t care that Tony Khan hasn’t been in the industry for decades. Experience doesn’t always mean success. For a new show, All Elite Wrestling is doing pretty damn well for itself.
If Tony Khan can book a show with input from EVPs whilst letting wrestlers have creative direction over their own gimmicks, and the show is GOOD, I don’t care how it comes together.
Good wrestling is good wrestling.
Nobody has to like AEW, much like nobody has to like WWE. But I still see so many misconceptions about AEW that need to be corrected.
It’s okay that many fans aren’t familiar with AEW if all they know is WWE. So hopefully, this was a help. Both AEW and WWE can be good and can do this in different ways. While both promotions can be open for healthy critique, there is no need to mindlessly troll one because you don’t understand it, or just don’t like it.
I am All Elite. I hope you are, too. If not, that’s cool. You do you, and let people like things.