Before you come at me with a “what a stupid mark” comments…
No, I am not blindly defending the owner of All Elite Wrestling. There still exists problems with the company that I wish to be addressed. The sometimes inconsistent booking, the women’s division in general, and too much Ring of Honor on AEW TV are still current concerns of mine.
However, sometimes we need to step outside of our boxes and take an honest look at the landscape. I went back to an article from late 2022 regarding 10 things I wanted out of AEW in 2023 to see how he did. I also looked through a few other pieces for comparison.
And the results were…interesting.
But first, a note for better context:
The Roster is Big. But It’s Also Insanely Talented
I think this gets overlooked more than it should.
When Vince McMahon hoarded talented away from the territories in the mid to late 80s, he built a stacked roster. Roddy Piper, Curt Hennig, Rick Rude, Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, Harley Race, Ricky Steamboat — and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
He used them well enough, but with the exception of Savage, none of these talents ever touched the WWF World Championship during that time. That honor was (mostly) saved for Hulk Hogan. We’re seeing a similar situation with Roman Reigns in WWE, currently. There are lots of main event talents; Cody Rhodes, LA Knight, A.J. Styles, Seth Rollins, Drew McIntrye, etc. — and you can make a case for any of them to be world champion right now.
But that’s not how the company is booked; and with the exception of the Attitude Era, has always been this way to an extent.
AEW is simply not booked to center around one top guy. What’s happening with MJF right now is a bit of an outlier in the historical booking sense. But simply put: The AEW roster is probably the most talented roster in the world. You have up to two-dozen legitimate current and future main event talents in this company.
It’s not easy to book so many great wrestlers in a fulfilling manner. Not impossible, but not easy. Whether or not Khan is up for the task remains to be seen. He’s still green when it comes to the business, and is very much learning on the job. But given how much AEW has accomplished, and how fast they’ve grown in such a short time; give the credit where it’s due.
Has Tony Khan Delivered on the Desires of Fans?
Short answer: Yes.
Here is my personal asks from last year, and throughout this year. It’s not just me; a lot of fans share my sentiments on what “needed to change” from this company in 2023.
√ “Breathe” (Better pacing in weekly broadcasts) — This is something that was actually improved on compared to 2022.
√ Get the TBS title off of Cargill — Regardless of circumstances, this happened, and Statlander was the right person to take it off of her.
X Fix Rampage — This has not happened.
X A Weekly All-Women’s Show — Still waiting on this…see above…
√ Purge the Roster — This has actually slowly happened, as we’ve seen many releases over the last year.
√ Push The House of Black — They won the trios titles, and are in another tag team title match at Full Gear. Julia Hart has seen a significant push.
X No ROH on AEW TV — This is a miss.
√ Fire C.M. Punk — This happened one way or another…
√ Keep Pushing Youth — Most storylines and current champions revolve around young wrestlers. Checkmark.
√ Build for Forbidden Door Must Improve — I even asked for the coveted Danielson/Okada match, and we got it. It was magical.
√ Get Sammy Guevara out of the JAS — Check. The JAS is no more.
√ Lean Into Orange Cassidy — Check. His initial AEW International Championship run was truly great.
√Create an AEW ‘Young Lions Cup’ — We’re getting the AEW version of the G1 Climax in the Continental Classic. That’s close enough…
√ Stop Overprotective Booking — Check.
√ Book the Women Better — What? Why is there a checkmark? This will be explained in the next section.
For my personal asks, Khan hit 12/15. That’s not actually bad at all. So what about the women? Well, in hindsight…it’s been better than we think, even though there’s a long way to go…
Has The Women Been Booked Better?
Ah, yes, the much desired “2 women’s matches per week” narrative. I still agree with this narrative, but I can’t honestly deny that some advancements were made this year for women’s wrestling in AEW.
There is still a long way to go, don’t get me wrong. But I can’t knock even the slightest progress.
At Full Gear on Saturday, the women will have two matches, which is more than most PPVs. This should be the norm, but I’ll toast the progress when I see it. But if we reflect back, we had a stable created in The Outcasts, Kris Statlander returning to top form, and Julia Hart as a breakout star of the division.
We have two running angles with Hart/Blue/Nightingale/Statlander, and “Timeless” Toni Storm (a true gem) vs. Hikaru Shida. Keep in mind that two major stars in Jamie Hayter and Thunder Rosa were sidelined due to injury through 2023. Also keep in mind that Mercedes Mone was likely to appear in AEW if it weren’t for her own untimely injury.
Now look, I want to see two women’s matches per Dynamite. I want to see more character development, more continued stories, and generally more progress. But I’d be lying if I said the women’s division was worse off in 2023 than it was in 2022.
In short, even if not by that much, the women in AEW in 2023 have been booked better than prior years. If anything, it’s progress. There plenty yet to adjust, but this is the momentum to build upon.
Tony Khan is an Easy Target From Internet Bullies
Fun fact: Tony Khan has only made 10 “huge/important announcements” since AEW’s inception. There have been three this year, which probably makes this number seem higher. Out of his major announcements, most of them are actually warranted (no, last week’s was NOT warranted).
The internet likes to weave narratives that tend to be untrue to push an agenda. We see this in wrestling, politics, sports, you name it. Tony Khan is not the most charismatic of individuals. We all know this already. He never comes across as totally relaxed, or sometimes natural in his interviews or public announcements.
But is that something to pick on? It’s called anxiety. I am someone who is diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and I can see it a mile a way. Trust me, he probably has it. And while I can’t excuse his random outbursts on Twitter (put the phone down, Tony!), I also can’t really blame him, either.
He’s an easy target. And I hope he becomes a better manager and leader from these blemishes on AEW’s history (mostly from C.M. Punk).
AEW is the alternative, and when you have a million fans on social media telling him how to simultaneously run his promotion while bullying him at the same time, I can only imagine the weight that bears.
No, TK is not overly corporate in the sense that McMahon and Levesque are. The latter would usually ignore most internet comments. But would you rather have an owner that listens to his fans and does his best (even at the risk of having a few misses), or corporate heads that don’t really care about what the fans think at all?
Remember, we had the latter with WWE for many years…
Khan has made some P.R. blunders for sure — but at least he’s honestly doing his best — and I can appreciate that. I just hope he becomes a little more stoic in his approach to handling himself in the public eye moving forward.
Recency Bias is Making It Hard to be a Fan
Lastly, we must discuss recency bias.
What ‘ve personally realized is two major points:
- Sans a political revolution, large progress rarely happens overnight.
- We let our biases create false narratives.
Is WWE still the company that has boring and formulaic in-ring wrestling and values promos over matches? Actually, no. There have been some bangers over the past year, and even me, an AEW fan, can admit that. Is AEW just a constant spotfest every match with no psychology? Also, no. Any honest person can see that the in-ring product has probably gotten even better in 2023 for AEW.
Just because AEW was “____”, doesn’t mean they still are.
Full Gear is shaping up to be a really good show. MJF vs. Jay White, Swerve vs. Page, Shida vs. Storm, Cassidy vs. Moxley — these are all top quality matchups with stories behind them. This doesn’t even include the Six-Man with Sting, Copeland, Darby vs. Cage, Wayne and Luchasaurus. The Bucks vs. Omega and Jericho could be a classic. Statlander vs. Hart vs. Blue should be exciting.
Full Gear could be the start to help build AEW back to where they were in 2021. At least this is my hope for the PPV. I can stomach The Big Show on Dynamite if it means we get The Bucks vs. Golden Jets instead. But this, along with Joe dropping the ROH TV title, makes me wonder if TK got the hint from many of his own fans regarding these occurring issues.
This is a very solid card. Are we going to let past biases get in the way of enjoying it? When we keep moving the goalposts and raising the bar higher and higher to blow up past assumed narratives it creates an unachievable goal.
High Expectations In Life Will Seldom Be Met
Again, AEW has its issues. I’ll be the first to say that. But so does every other wrestling company, no matter what letters are behind it. Too often, AEW is held to such a high standard that it sucks out any enjoyment some fans could ever have from the product.
I have my concerns. AEW is not perfect. But it’s still subjectively good overall. And when we place such high expectations on anything in life; much less a wrestling product, there’s a good chance that such expectations will never be met. I might have placed such high expectations on the brand myself.
Tony Khan will do his best to listen to and pivot for his demanding fan base. He will no doubt have some hits, and have some misses — which we will (in good faith) call him out on. But I think it’s on us as fans to not be so hard on a young booker and see AEW for what it really is:
An alternative up against a corporate giant in WWE that is so secure in its place that it will never have to worry about what fans think. As much as I want to see AEW improve, and as much as I have called TK out in the past, I can’t lose sight of that. We have two major wrestling promotions after over 20 years of having only one. For my money, it’s best to just enjoy the wrestling — and for that matter — enjoy life.
Petition to turn AEW Rampage into an All-Women’s Show: