The 2024 AEW Wishlist (From AEW Fans)

Welcome to Tokusen Wrestling. 

With the holidays upon us, a new year fast approaches. 

Coming off a brilliant 2021, into a tumultuous 2022, All Elite Wrestling has taken a small step forward in 2023, even if just in the latter half of the year. With the success of additional Pay-Per-Views, including the record-breaking All In showing at London, and an estimated revenue increase of 67% compared to 2022, things should be on the up-and-up for the No.2 company. 

However, AEW has been at a crossroads with their own identity in 2023. Many fans aren’t quite sure yet what AEW really wants to be. In short, is AEW going to be a true alternative, or the company that tries to do a little of  everything, but accomplishes nothing in the process? (Jack of all trades, master of none) 

Finding such an identity is never easy. Hell, WWE went through multiple versions of who they thought they were, and who they ultimately ended up as. Lest we forget the multiple eras the company has gone through in a span of four decades: 

-Rock N’ Roll Wrestling Era (80’s)
-Wrestlecrap Era (early-90’s)
-Attitude Era (late-90s)
-Ruthless Aggression Era (early 2000s)
-PG/Monopoly Era (2008-2019)
-The Levesque Era (2021-present)

In short, nobody has it figured out right away. Any successful company learns, adapts, and evolves. Much like our everyday lives, sometimes you need to throw shit at the wall just to see what sticks. Tony Khan and AEW are no different. 

If You Believe Dirtsheets…

But if you believe internet dirtsheets, things are not all “blue skies” in the land of The Elite over the past 18 months. From unsettled talent backstage and social media outbursts, to C.M. Punk trying to start a real fight with his boss, AEW has seemingly suffered from the chaos that has ensued in this time period; at least in the world of the IWC. 

Internet fan perception for some is that the AEW ship is being steered, but it doesn’t seem like anyone knows who is really at the helm, or at the least, where the ship is going. Now don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy the AEW brand. In fact, at the time of this writing, I believe the product to be at its best place since late 2021. 

Yes, ticket sales are down and TV ratings have plateaued. A new deal with Warner/Discovery has yet to be cemented, and the hip new thing to do amongst wrestling fans these days is to kick AEW when they’re down (we are a classy bunch). But I think many critics should consider that it’s perhaps not so much that AEW has cooled off, but rather that WWE simply has a hot product right now that is taking up most of the attention from casual and internet fans alike. 

That being said, nothing, even media/entertainment, is perfect. There is always room for improvement, and this is what this article intends to do: Give good faith suggestions on what AEW can do in 2024 to put a bit of their chaotic 2022-23 behind them.  I have spoken to many AEW fans in good faith and put together this list, as well as some of my own suggestions. But first, what is “good faith” criticism?

What is “Good Faith” Criticism?

What constitutes “good faith” in this case should be saved for those who actually watch the AEW product, and want it to succeed. We will no doubt see comments in bad faith, from fans who don’t even watch the weekly shows, or the “fans” who actually want AEW to go out of business.  Or even worse, they catch YouTube clips of weekly shows and assume they fully grasp what is going on and just like to give low effort opinions about AEW on the internet to pat themselves on the back. 

That’s like trying to write a movie review when you’ve only watched the trailers. 

That being said, I will ask all readers to participate in this, as a good faith way to make sure AEW continues to remain a strong No. 2 to WWE. Without true competition, we start the slow slide into another wrestling monopoly, and that would have dire effects on the business long-term. 

The only requirement is that you either watch somewhat regularly, or even if you don’t, ask yourself what could feasibly drive you to watch Dynamite or Collision on a weekly basis? 

So if you’re reading this, come up with 3 specific ways you believe AEW can improve in the spirit of catching fire once more like they did in 2021. And I do mean specific. Many criticisms of AEW tend to be vague. “Book better. Get rid of the Bucks. Tony Khan sucks.” —> these are lazy critiques, if you can call them that.

Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, or Disqus, let’s have a dialogue to help return AEW to its finest form.

Of course, I have my own list below, which begins…now.

1. Relax


Take a breath.

This is something to keep contextually in mind throughout this piece. While nothing is perfect, and improvements can always be made in all facets in life  (much less a wrestling show) — AEW is far from in dire straits. Last week’s Dynamite was the #1 show on cable television on that night. All In 2024 is nearing 40,000 tickets sold, Revolution 2024 is already over 12,000 sold, and December’s World’s End is approaching 8,000 tickets sold. Overall revenue for 2023 is estimated to be at a 67% increase compared to last year. Which regardless of net profit, still shows an upward trend.

This hardly seems like a company on the verge of going out of business. 

By most measures, AEW is still doing well. Even with ticket sales down, and a new TV deal yet to be cemented, the AEW brand is successful. So above all, while fans can be right in some of their criticism of the AEW product, things are still very solid right now.

So breathe. There’s a long way to go yet, and Khan has positioned AEW in a powerful spot at the moment.

2. Be Unique. Ignore Egotists.


In 1993, the Ultimate Fighting Championship was established with their first ever show held on November 12th. In essence, UFC was an alternative. UFC offered a brand of fighting never seen by mainstream audiences in highlighting what is mixed martial arts. A “buffet” of different fighting styles from around the world. As UFC gained in popularity over the years, the mainstream choice of fighting sports went from pro boxing to MMA. As we know it today, UFC is no longer the alternative, but the standard. 

Tony Khan must not get lost in the idea of placating fans who just want to see AEW become another version of WWE. After all, a large sect of wrestling fans have grown up watching wrestling in a very specific way. Call it conditioning, or familiarity – it’s all the same. Of course, there is nothing wrong with enjoying professional wrestling anyway you see fit; be it WWE or other (this is coming from someone who enjoyed HUSTLE)

But AEW should never attempt to fit into a box built by jaded wrestling fans with unrealistic expectations. After four years, when you consider Live+7 ratings, well over a million viewers take in the AEW product every week. Since day 1, the company has always tried to focus on nuanced storytelling through in-ring action in the majority of their angles. This is usually the opposite of what WWE tends to do, and clearly, it continues to work for many AEW fans. 

Lean Into Being a True Alternative.

There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to do professional wrestling. But heading into 2024, more than ever, Khan needs to embrace the alternative label. Forget negative voices like Cornette, Bischoff and Gilbertti – if their opinions on modern-day wrestling were truly valuable, they would be employed by a major company right now. They’re not. And not everyone is going to enjoy an alternative, especially a select few wrestling veterans. 

A sports-based product with minimal “sports entertainment” weaved in with such nuanced storytelling is an alternative. Being comfortable with violent matches, multiple tournaments per year, and utilizing talent from New Japan, Tokyo Joshi Pro, AAA, CMLL, etc. is what sets AEW apart as the alternative. Purposely gearing your product towards young/older adults is what also separates AEW from their competitor. As with any medium, much like UFC, some casual fans will follow – some won’t. But trying to fit into a box that someone else created will never work. 

Create a vision. Form an identity. Never look back. 

That being said, it doesn’t mean the product is without flaws. The rest of this list will serve as a good faith effort from myself, and many other AEW fans, as a way to push AEW into the stratosphere in 2024. 

3. Let Them Walk


Third on this list is the following notion: “If you don’t want to be here, there’s the door.”

That may sound harsh, but what Khan needs to practice more than ever is taking a page out of The Briscoe’s book and to simply “man up”. If there are disgruntled parties in the locker room that aren’t on board with the AEW vision laid out, and their role in it; offer them a one-way ticket out of their contract.

No locker room in wrestling history in any promotion has been without their occasional conflicts. However, if said conflict cannot be resolved, and one foot is already out the door (much like in the case of C.M. Punk post “Brawl Out”), then let them out to venture to assumed greener pastures. Vince McMahon is an awful human being, and we all know this. But at the very least, he kept his roster in line. He commanded respect. It’s time for TK to step into those shoes. You can walk a fine line between being a hard-ass and a genuinely nice human being. Khan needs to figure this balance out. 

Besides, all that glitters is not gold. And not every talent from AEW will find the same success in WWE as Cody Rhodes has. So if they want to go — let them.

For the record, I don’t believe the majority of the roster are in this camp. But for those few talents that aren’t totally feeling “elite”, then they’re better served elsewhere anyway. AEW needs to follow through on a cemented vision, and with a roster of loyal talents that shares that vision is necessary.


4. It’s Okay For Wrestlers To Take Ls


To summarize this in simple terms: Don’t overprotect your booking. 

It saddens me that Konsouke Takeshita pinned Kenny Omega (twice), and was never really rewarded for it in storyline. No push, no title opportunity. Just sent to the back of the line…

If we’re going in the direction of more sports-based, then like in real sports, teams/players lose. With the right story, “Any Given Sunday” can become “Any Given Wednesday”. When MJF defeated Kenny Omega on Collision this year, it didn’t hurt Omega at all to take the loss. With Takeshita, it’s almost as if Khan is too protective of him after defeating Omega, as if losing at all would make him look weak.

So he doesn’t seem to be booking him at all, or at least in any major programs. Is he afraid to book him in a loss in order to protect him? If so, this ridiculous logic needs to stop.

It’s not going to hurt Swerve Strickland after losing to Moxley on last week’s Dynamite, for example. If a talent is presented as a bonafide superstar, taking losses won’t hurt them. You don’t want to be too careful, and too overprotective.

In general, I want to see all of the monsters booked more often, win or loss. Hell, create a “Meat”-inspired tournament named after Bam Bam Bigelow or Vader and throw all of them in there for a world title shot. Miro, Hobbs, Takeshita, Big Bill, etc. Then they would have to lose. And guess what? None of them would look weak for doing so.

It’s how you lose that makes the difference, especially in a sports-based promotion.

5. Continue the Momentum for Women’s Wrestling


The women’s division still has a long way to go in AEW. But compared to 2022, 2023 was a slight breath of fresh air. The fact that Full Gear featured two women’s matches is an accomplishment in itself, but honestly, should be the norm. At the time of writing, on the latest Collision, Julia Hart and Skye Blue have aligned against Abadon and a returning Thunder Rosa. Kris Statlander and Willow Nightingale were victorious in a brutal street fight with Mercedes Martinez and Diamante. 

Two women’s matches. Two storylines. One show.

This should be the norm. I’ll say it again. This should be the norm. 

There are too many talented women in AEW for this not to be the norm. Kris Statander, Willow Nightingale, Britt Baker, Thunder Rosa, Jamie Hayter, Saraya, Hikaru Shida, Ruby Soho, Mariah May, Riho, Abadon, Skye Blue (to name a few) – and this isn’t even mentioning champions Julia Hart and “Timeless” Toni Storm. 

Yes, this means there’s room for women’s tag team titles. Yes, it means Tony Khan should consider a weekly all-women’s show. And if rumors are true that AEW is going in a more New Japan-inspired direction, this leads to a part 2 to this point.


6. Take Inspiration From AJW/Stardom


Do yourself a favor and watch the following match in the link provided. This is from the All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling 1995 Destiny show . 

Manami Toyota vs. Akira Hokuto [The Destiny Climax] (September 2, 1995)

This 5-star match featured two absolute legends in Akira Hokuto and Manami Toyota (who I believe to be the best women’s wrestler of all time). Now I wouldn’t expect the AEW Women’s Division to 100% emulate the brutal AJW style. It was a different time, and AJW was ahead of its time in that regard.

Random comment: It’s crazy that the Crush Gals are making their first U.S. appearance in 37 years on Jan. 27th. If you don’t know who they are, they’re considered the best women’s tag team of all time (Chigusa Nagayo & Lioness Asuka). Look them up!

When you watch the video, note the intensity and the vibe. The “big fight” feel. How these women were presented as larger-than-life. Can the AEW women be inspired by it? Can TK replicate it to a point? What if the women’s division become a featured attraction on its own?

All-Womens promotion Stardom continues to gain in global popularity for a reason. While I don’t believe any promotion will achieve the level AJW was at for women’s wrestling, Stardom definitely carries the spirit of AJW’s mantra “Victory Through Guts” with them. 

Stardom’s Success

Again, in the following clip, note the intensity between Maika and opponent Momo Watanabe. 

【スターダム】舞華がワールド・オブ・スターダム選手権 王座決定戦進出トーナメントを優勝し、12.29両国国技館大会での決定戦へ進出!-11.28後楽園大会-【STARDOM】

Ever since Japan opened its doors in early 2023 after Covid one thing is becoming clear with market trends: Tokyo is the future. Stardom just had a more profitable year than New Japan did, and you’re telling me that emulating a form of this for American audiences on a mainstream level wouldn’t go over? The influence of Japanese culture on the Western world will only continue to grow moving forward. This includes music, TV/movies, fashion, etc. Strike when the iron is hot. 

Even if the women aren’t given their own show, or Stardom-like factions, if we drive up the in-ring intensity, big fight feel, and give them two matches per show per week (even if just on either Dynamite or Collision) with added stories, do you think American viewers would start to tune in more?

I think they most definitely would. 

7. Make Sure Your Actors Have Buy-In


What to I mean by this? 

In theater/movie terms, it’s the answer to the following question: 

“Tell me who you are without saying a word.”

When you see talents like Swerve Strickland, MJF, Julia Hart, Adam Page, Ricky Starks, etc. walk out for their entrance, you know exactly what they’re all about. The mannerisms, the swagger, the personality, even the music — no promo is even needed yet. You’re already hooked.

This is what I mean by getting buy-in.

In simpler terms, whether it’s an AEW fan, or a WWE/Casual/New fan, they should always see see something interesting enough that they don’t even think about touching the remote. That means unique personalities on all levels. I won’t call out names, but you can imagine a number of AEW wrestlers that don’t really have that immediate buy-in the moment you see them. 

Interesting characters mean better stories. 

Roderick Strong is a wonderful example of this concept played out in real time. From ROH to NXT, Strong was never really going to get over just by being Roderick Strong. However, as soon as he adapted a persona as Adam Cole’s obsessive best friend, adorned the neck brace, and became “Neck Strong” did we see his stock increase. 

He can still go in-ring, and Strong is one of the most technically sound wrestlers on the AEW roster. But now viewers have more of a reason to tune in to see Strong; neck brace, mustache, glasses, shouting, and all. 

TK has moved in this direction towards the latter half of 2023, and it’s crucial that he keeps heading in this direction well into 2024. Seeing the character evolution and pushes of Julia Hart, Skye Blue, Abadon, Toni Storm, Roderick Strong, Swerve Strickland, Ricky Starks, MJF, etc. is the right direction.

These are all characters that the regular or loyal viewer can invest in. 

I honestly won’t mind if Khan goes the route of booking AEW like New Japan as rumored. I won’t mind a shift to even more in-ring action, either. You still want stories, but you also want to remain an alternative. AEW can still be the Indies/Puro hybrid that puts on blood and guts matches with a focus on in-ring over lengthy promos. 

That’s fine – you’re the alternative for a reason. Not everyone is going to like what you do.

But when people tune in, make sure they see something that forces them not to change the channel. Keep interesting characters, and only interesting characters, on television. If a viewer can’t tell what a wrestler is all about by simply looking at them, and they don’t have that immediate buy-in, then they shouldn’t be on primetime television. 

8. Stop Arguing With Idiots


“Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” – Mark Twain

Mr. Khan,

Stop. Feeding. Twitter Trolls. 

And this doesn’t just go for Khan himself. This goes for his talent as well. When Khan mentioned that AEW is under “constant attack” at the Ring of Honor Final Battle media scrum – he’s right. AEW is under constant attack from many bad faith actors. And while Khan has every right to respond out of frustration, it’s simply best not to in this case. 

Over a million fans tune into AEW every week in support. Engage with those fans on social media – not has-beens like Glenn Gilbertti. Let the product speak for itself, and lean into those who truly appreciate what you’re doing. 

Your silence will be stronger than any clapback you could ever make on social media. Take the advice from Paul Heyman on how he promoted ECW to heart: “Accentuate the positives; hide the negatives.”

Use this philosophy on social media moving forward both for you and your talent. Only focus on positivity in your brand and those negative voices will become quieter and quieter…

9. Swerve Must Become World Champion in 2024


This is a layup.

It seems a bit obvious at this point, and could likely be in the works. But out of everyone who could take the strap off of MJF, Swerve is in the absolute best place to do so. His pops become louder by the week, Prince Nana’s dance is infectious, and Strickland has separated himself as one of AEW’s best all-around performers at this point. 

While Swerve may very well end up as the winner of the Continental Classic, he’s much bigger than capturing a handful of mid-card championships. I honestly hope he comes up short in the semifinals, or finals of the tournament, only to regain momentum headed into a championship program with MJF in the new year. 

Revolution 2024 should be the stage where Swerve Strickland becomes the AEW World Champion. Enough said. This man is your future and it’s time to capitalize on it.

10. Stop the Rotating Roster/No ROH on AEW TV


No disrespect to Bryan Keith meant here…

I understand the historical importance of Ring of Honor. I also understand why Khan would want to feature the brand on AEW television to give it a boost. But every time a ROH title is featured on television, or a Ring of Honor talent is featured in a match, it takes away time for regular roster members to shine. Miro, Hobbs, Baker, – these are just a few names we really don’t see often enough, if at all, and we really need more of.

AEW fans, and potential future fans, need to become familiar with seeing the same faces on television every week.

While Khan has improved this area in the later half of 2023, we are still seeing too many weekly spots go to ROH talent that would be better served featuring a few of the names I mentioned above instead. 

In essence, the base weekly AEW roster needs to be cemented, and it still needs a little more shape. This includes keeping ROH talent and titles off of the weekly shows entirely. Let AEW be AEW, and ROH be ROH.

11. Your Championships Should Have Purpose


Everyone has the narrative that AEW has too many titles. In reality, this isn’t entirely true – it’s what they do with the titles that matters. 

Looking back at WCW, or even WWE, this isn’t outside of the norm to have a lot of titles. During the Attitude Era, WWF presented the Hardcore, Light Heavyweight, European, Intercontinental, Tag Team, Women’s/Divas, and World Championships. WCW featured the TV, Hardcore, Crusierweight, Tag Team, Women’s, United States and World Championships. Currently, WWE features 8 different championships, and AEW 7.

But with the winner of the C2 receiving the Continental Championship, we would now have three AEW mid-card titles (TNT, Continental, International). We don’t need so many mid-card titles.

I would consider combining the latter two, if possible.

I would also keep all ROH titles off of television

While many AEW fans will understand what Ring of Honor is, you still don’t want to confuse the occasional casual viewer that may see the letters ‘ROH’ on ‘AEW’ TV and wonder what promotion they’re actually watching. 

And of course, adding women’s tag team championships just makes sense at this point. As mentioned above, the talent is there. It’s not “too much” if it highlights women on your roster that deserve the attention. 

I would also start using the verbiage “TNT TV Championship”, as well as “TBS TV Championship”. Historically, wrestling promotions have had a TV championship, a mid-card championship, a world, and tag/trios. But this designates them as such. 

With the above put into action, you’d have the same amount of titles as other major promotions, but with a little less confusion and more direction. 

12. Bring Back Rankings


The beauty of the Continental Classic is that stories are created out of the tournament itself.

For example, given the current Gold League standings, if Jay White defeats Jon Moxley on Dynamite, it gives both of them 12 points. However, since Swerve Strickland, at 9 points, has the tiebreaker with Jay White, all he has to do is win to advance to next week’s semifinals.

A loss or tie, and he’s eliminated with a White victory. Or even worse, if Swerve and Rush come to a time limit draw, Swerve ends up with 10 points (not 12) and now has to root for Moxley to defeat Jay White, who could knock him out of the tournament entirely with a win.

Hell, the Blue League could still mathematically end in a 5-way tie right now.

This is basic storytelling through the high stakes of sport. AEW can get back to its sports-based roots by bringing back the rankings system. The only difference is that these should be “power rankings” that focus on a wrestler’s current momentum and success rather than specific records.

Building and abiding by a strict rankings system by record is tough for any booker. But if you throw in the term “Power” (much like the NFL), the rankings aren’t entirely based on record alone. Momentum and win quality play a part as well.

Again, this feeds into the sports-based product AEW was at the start, and that I hope we get more of moving forward.

Final Thoughts


Give this man a lot of money, TK.

As mentioned, AEW is doing well; even if many dissenting voices would say otherwise. But now is the time to re-capture the momentum from years ago. Trends fade; and WWE won’t be hot forever. In addition, online trends fade as well. Piling on AEW is something that any low-effort creator can partake in, and it gets easy engagement from others.

This too, will fade. Your flavor-makers tend to go against the grain, and when hating on AEW is no longer the cool thing to do, the trend-setters will look to the product for silver linings; which AEW needs to provide in great numbers.

I’m not even worried about a TV deal, even though I believe WBD will extend AEW’s TV spot. If not, FX, Paramount, and others, would jump at a product that has the reach and viewership in the 18-49 demographic as AEW does.

Tony Khan needs to make 2024 count, and the time to cement the product’s direction and identity is here. Be the alternative, listen to the wise voices in the locker room, and let’s change the world all over again.

Remember, WWE wouldn’t be as hot as they are now without the AEW brand as competition to begin with. It’s time to remind the world why AEW is still here.