The results are in and AEW Dynamite only drew 823,000 viewers with Adam Copeland (Edge in WWE) vs. Christian Cage (Christian in WWE) as the main appeal of the show. Unfortunately, the 50 year-old Copeland and the 50 year-old Christian didn’t draw with their one-on-one match pitting 2 wrestlers with combined 13 WWE World Titles to their name and now Tony Khan has blown through an important match on free television.
Didn’t I prepare everyone with my October 2nd column entitled “Has Adam Copeland (Edge) Joined AEW aka TNA 2.0 with Too Many Ex-WWE Stars?”? Oh, yeah, I did and many of YOU attacked me for stating this opinion. Already just 2 months later, I’m right.
While I highly respect the talents of Adam and Christian, and actually believe they can still go… The fact that AEW once went from a company with fresh talent, 2019, with a few veterans helping (Jericho, for example) to relying on too many ex-WWE stars is exactly the route that TNA wrestling went.
The problem with Adam Copeland and Christian Cage is that we’ve seen them wrestle since 1997 and have seen their absolute best performances BEFORE they even landed in an AEW right. And for the record, I’d argue that was the case for Kenny Omega before he joined AEW. We already saw his best in New Japan Pro Wrestling and he just couldn’t top it in AEW, hence the many lackluster matches from him no matter how many stars Dave tries to inflate him.
With Adam Copeland, we just witnessed him take the Edge character as far as he could take him in the WWE. He had a good feud with Randy Orton and then he had 1 shot at Roman Reigns. Roman dispatched him (and Daniel Bryan, another example of my point), and thus, AEW has signed a guy whom we’ve already seen his best in a ring.
Now don’t get me wrong… I don’t blame Christian or Edge for leaving WWE to join AEW under different names (which is another issue). GO GET THAT MONEY… But let’s stop short of calling either guy “miracle signings” who could “SAVE” AEW from its second half of 2023 downward slide.
When you sign free agents, you want to sign them on their upward trajectory. For example, the WWE signed the Undertaker, Triple H, Mick Foley, and Steve Austin, ALL BEFORE they even came close to peaking with their careers. Then, the WWE simply repackages them and appreciates their talents, then kaboom, new stars. What you DON’T want to do is sign veteran talents at their peak or on the downward slide, especially when you aren’t aware of it. You always want to sign a wrestling free agent when he has much more room to grow instead of just doing retreads of their prior work.
For example, the Kurt Angle jump to TNA wrestling during the Fall of 2006. WWE took Angle as far as they could take him and pulled every last ounce of drawing ability out of him. Yes, he was a big splash in the TNA pond, but we’ve already seen the best out of Angle from his many great WWE matches. Then, when the had him defeat Samoa Joe in their first match, it was a complete disaster. Angle should have put over Joe and in my opinion, TNA ruined a star with an upward trajectory that still could have happened. TNA signed Angle at his peak and had his downslide years.
Right now, Matt Hardy is expressing frustration that AEW is not fully utilizing himself or his brother Jeff. Probably true, as they are still a solid tag team, but how much do they have left in the tank during their late 40s? And I don’t want to play the ageism card with the Hardys and Edge/Christian, but those guys put MILEAGE on their bodies from those early 2000s tag matches along with the Dudleys. The ironic thing is that idiotic Tony Khan sees it with the Hardys being past their peak, but doesn’t with Copeland and Cage.
That’s why Tony Khan needs BETTER advisors in his ear… The guy is signing the WRONG guys to his roster and things are being made worse when his Creative decisions are completely idiotic as well. Wrong talent cannot overcome bad creative.
If only AEW had a guy, on their paid roster, who could help Tony with talent decisions. You know, a guy who did it in the 1990s from the ground up. In fact, a guy who signed Edge and Christian to WWE contracts, along with many other young wrestlers who would debut with the WWE throughout the late 1990s and first half of the 2000s. Someone who could read if a free agent was poorly used with their previous employer and still hasn’t peaked yet. You know, like signing Steve Austin, Triple H, and Mick Foley to deals and they become top draws. Someone who could create a farm system that keeps your roster replenished with younger talent.
Does AEW have anyone on their roster who once did that? Oh yeah, Jim Ross. He’s the announcer that all of the AEW marks online hate, but he’s just announcing for that company and nothing administrative like he should.
A prime example of a GREAT free agent signing was Jon Moxley… Guy was under-utilized by WWE, motivated to prove them wrong, and was repackaged into something different in AEW. Moxley killed it during 2019-2020 for AEW and in my opinion, he was their best AEW Champion with his 2nd title reign (even had to overcome the COVID year). They signed him just before his peak… Now, however, he’s on the back-end of that peak and just as he signed a bigger extension with AEW. However, fans should NOT take away from Moxley’s success leaving WWE to join AEW, as he really helped make that place grow from the start.
I’d argue with Cody Rhodes, AEW under-utilized his talents and thus he didn’t peak while he was with him. Hence why Cody keeps growing in the WWE. My worry is that Cody’s peak will be when he defeats Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 40 and then we’re wondering what’s next. Maybe he wrestles CM Punk, but Punk isn’t as good as he once was, as his older self is clearly a tad slower in the ring. Punk draws because he’s polarizing and controversial as a personality, but nobody can argue he’s as good as he once was in the ring.
AEW’s creative is another problem, hence why Miro fell flat on his face when he joined. That’s the kind of free agent signing to make, someone who is young and appeared to be a victim of bad booking in the WWE. However, he’s struggled in AEW. Maybe being an upper midcarder as Rusev was his peak? It’s hard to know…
Go to WCW as a great example of how free agents can work. Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were actually under-utilized at the top of the WWE card, as Hall was never allowed to become WWE Champion as Razor while WWE made Diesel in to the most vanilla babyface. Hence why when they joined WCW, they still had prime and peak years to come… But both guys were older wrestlers signed by WCW and only had 2 more peak years left in them before they aged quickly along with the rest of the older WCW roster of veterans past their prime. On the undercard, Eric Bischoff raided Mexico, Japan, and ECW of many of its younger stars and guys like Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit (before his murders obviously), etc. flourished and helped WCW sustain strong viewership for 2-3 hours. While NWO was the top storyline, that undercard of younger wrestlers kept you interested throughout the show.
TNA was not… Signed Angle at his peak, but this company had Jeff Jarrett, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Sting, and many others past their primes. Their attempt at bringing in an ECW stable didn’t work, either. They just couldn’t bring the thunder like their younger selves.
FACT is that we’ve seen the best of Christian vs. Adam Copeland. Remember when Christian turned on Edge and bashed his brains in with the single person Conchairto? That was 2001… They feuded during 2001, folks, 22 years ago.
You know who AEW should really push? Swerve Strickland. Very evident that he was the main talent of Hit Row and was a free agent that the WWE foolishly released. Hence why Hit Row SUCKED without him. That’s the kind of guy that you get creative behind and start pushing as a new star. He’s not even close to his peak and that’s AEW’s advantage.
Try featuring him and use veterans like Adam Copeland and Christian Cage to put that guy over. And then try to find more like Swerve or wrestlers whom nobody has seen on television before. THAT is how you grow the wrestling business with talent. Otherwise, you need good Creative and Tony Khan is botching that.
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