The AEW Rankings System is Back! Why Fans Should Get Hyped


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The “magic” is slowly returning in the land of the elite. “Restoring the feeling” as some have put it. On Saturday night, Tony Khan announced the return of the rankings system, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. In my AEW wish list article, I called for the return of the rankings system. In addition, YouTuber Tranquilo Club also called for this return last week. He’s a good dude; give him a subscribe!

But we weren’t the only ones. Many AEW fans were clamoring to have this back, as it was one of the facets that separated AEW from WWE. Rumors have it now that it was C.M. Punk who lobbied to have the rankings removed in the first place.

Why am I not surprised?

And we’ll get to the criticisms later, but first, can we just give a shout out to a CEO that actually listens to their fans?

Love him or hate him, Tony Khan listens to his fan base. He’s been doing this from the beginning. Remember when WWE television was subjectively bad to average pre-2019? I know I wasn’t alone in making near constant stank faces (if I wasn’t bored half to death) when watching the WWE product during the 2010s. Primarily, this is because Vince McMahon never really cared to listen to his own fan base.

Luckily, things have changed now. Based on the recent success of the WWE product, Head of Creative, Paul Levesque, does actually listen to WWE fans. That being said, isn’t it great to be a wrestling fan right now? Big ups to Paul and Tony. They’re both doing good things for pro wrestling right now.


Assessing the Criticisms

Let’s get this out of the way. While most AEW fans are excited about the return of the rankings system, this comes with the usual naysayers lurking in the shadows.

“What about the stories?”
“Matches alone won’t move the needle!”
“Wrestling isn’t a sport, it’s entertainment!”

These critiques sound familiar, fellow AEW fans, don’t they? My dudes, we are so back! 

The Stone Cold bottom line is this: There are stories in professional sports all of the time. Renewed rivalries, cinderella stories, former stars competing against their former teams, exciting rookies, comeback players,  unexpected heroes, heartbreaking losses, the list goes on.

Storylines in sports are common, and pro wrestling is no exception. Last Wednesday’s main event between Samoa Joe and HOOK told the story of a young, rising star taking on a veteran world champion and giving one hell of a gutsy performance. HOOK looked better in that match than he has in his entire career to date.

It’s really that simple.

While it’s fine to tell stories outside of the ring in soap-operatic fashion, it’s not always necessary. And by no means do I think Khan is going to shift to a 100% sports-based storytelling model, but a likely notable lean into furthering feuds solely in-ring.

Remember, this type of booking philosophy is what makes AEW an alternative in the first place. And if the AEW fan base can get excited again about the product (unlike some parts of 2023 where it was lacking in major areas), that excitement will only spread across the universal wrestling fandom.


Isn’t It Just Going to be Like New Japan?


Not really.

But when fans make this comment, it’s assumed that there are no stories in New Japan Pro Wrestling. This is assumed for most puro promotions, including Stardom, Tokyo Joshi Pro, All Japan Pro Wrestling, etc.

Nothing could be further from the truth. What AEW might share in common with New Japan in some aspects is that New Japan tells their stories inside of the ring, as opposed to outside, like WWE traditionally does.

Beyond what happens in nuanced storytelling in the match itself, post-match interviews only add to the unfolding story, as well as press conferences and vignettes. In addition, pro wrestling magazines in Japan are still quite popular amongst fans, and that vessel is also used to further ongoing feuds.

Khan might take a similar approach in utilizing social media to advance storylines, but a returning rankings system could mean a return to some of the nuanced storytelling we saw during the Continental Classic.

In short, AEW may resemble New Japan at times (if you want to put it that way), but will still be a hybrid of an in-ring focused, sports-based product, with a little “sports-entertainment” thrown into various parts.


Every Match Matters


I am writing this in hopes that the rankings will be extended to 10 instead of 5. This is something many fans have called for, and it makes sense. For the casual fan that may not “get” why a “random” match was booked on Dynamite or Collison, look no further than the rankings.

Hypothetical: If we get a title graphic on screen pitting the #1 ranked “Hangman” Adam Page vs. the #8 ranked Sammy Guevara, we suddenly have a story. We have stakes. Guevara is fighting to stay in the top 10, while Page is trying to hold on to his top spot.

The 7th ranked Willow Nightingale shares a record with the two below her and has her spot based on strength of wins alone. She needs an upset over the 2nd ranked Deonna Purazzo to stay afloat.

And if there is a backstory or past feud within the matchup itself, we now have an added layer. For example, if a #3 ranked Jon Moxley was fighting to stay in the top 5 but has to face the #5 ranked Eddie Kingston.

Rankings mean every match matters. If there’s no storyline for a few talents, having ranked matches solve that problem; and will likely deliver a solid TV match in the process. Much like the Premier League, every match matters — and this is no different.


A “Playoff” System


One thing I would like to see upon return is the utilization of a playoff system. The American consumer goes through four major sports playoffs per year, and AEW could use a similar concept.

While we may not need entire tournaments, taking the top 4 records per division every 3 months for a mini-playoff would add to the sports-based storylines and high stakes nature that the rankings system presents. This also sets up high stakes matches where two wrestlers battling for the #4 spot could determine a future championship shot, or missing out on the opportunity entirely.

The “playoffs” could take place over two weeks leading into a major PPV. It’s just a thought, but would add to the sports-based presentation.


Loaded Roster; Exciting Matchups


AEW has a loaded roster full of main event level talents. I find that there are at least two-dozen wrestlers on this roster that could headline a show at anytime.

Just take a look at a potential Top 10 List for men’s and women’s at any given time:


-Toni Storm
-Britt Baker
-Kris Statlander
-Deonna Purazzo
-Willow Nightingale
-Jamie Hayter
-Julia Hart
-Skye Blue
-Thunder Rosa

And this isn’t even including the potential signing of Mercedes Mone. This doesn’t include other talents like Mariah May, Riho, Ruby Soho, and Hikaru Shida. Think of all of the different matchups simply within that top 10 alone to try to move up the rankings. Now let’s check the men’s:


-Samoa Joe
-Swerve Strickland
-Adam Page
-Bryan Danielson
-Jon Moxley
-Will Ospreay
-Jay White
-Ricky Starks
-Orange Cassidy
-Adam Copeland

And again, there’s many I left out, including MJF, Adam Cole, and Kenny Omega (due to injuries), and other names such as Darby Allin, Wardlow, Powerhouse Hobbs, and Takeshita.

When you have so many top-tier names going at it for placement in a rankings structure, you quite nearly foolproof your weekly shows. Remember, AEW is an in-ring focused company. Their fan base appreciates the in-ring product, and judging by recent ticket sales, there are many of us.

Better matchups simply equal better wrestling shows. High-stakes matches within the rankings ensure as such.


World & Tag Team Championships Only


At the end of the day, wrestling still needs to be wrestling. I wouldn’t use a separate rankings system for the TNT, TBS, International or Continental Championships. I would merely make a simple rule:

A top 10 spot means you can challenge for any other of the four championships. However, by doing so, you forfeit your spot in the rankings. If you win, you become a champion. If you lose, you’re out of the Top 10 until the next PPV cycle and a new playoff (3 months).

I wouldn’t hold the Trios Championships to any rankings as well. Only the Men’s and Women’s World Championships, and the Men’s and (future Women’s?) Tag Team Championships would carry a rankings system.

This way, a rankings system isn’t overly complicated for casual viewers who might not be used to a sports-based product. It also leaves room for the sports-entertainment for all other titles within the promotion.


A Perfect Fit for Warner Brothers/Discovery


WBD is leaning into their sports content more than ever. With the addition of live sports and news on Max, and turning the NBA into a top priority license acquisition, it’s clear WBD sees live sports in general as a big money maker.

In addition, streaming services are slowly dying. The market has become oversaturated, and consumers are becoming increasingly frustrated with rising costs and a diluted pool of quantity over quality. Personally, I have started to collect Blurays and 4K DVDs again, as I’d rather “own” my media than rely on a declining streaming service to deliver some of my favorite content.

This is amplified in the current fight to retain physical media in video games as well, but that’s an entire different conversation. 

Even recently, Spectrum and Disney were at odds over fees to carry their networks. This resulted in a deal where Spectrum customers now receive Disney+ (basic) for free. This trend will only continue as it’s likely more streaming services will continue to merge over time, and some will even dissolve.

AEW offers a live sports-based product that delivers good TV ratings for less money than acquiring the right for WWE programming would. It fits with the new ‘TNT Sports’ branding as a sports-based wrestling product. Max stands to be one of the few streaming services that will last given recent increased revenue, and the AEW product would fit right into the new TNT Sports brand.




I guess I’m getting ahead of myself with assuming Mercedes is AEW bound. But 2024 truly has been a delight so far for this promotion. We’re getting some very unabashed booking, and it’s fantastic. Takeshita vs. Darby, HOOK vs. Joe, FTR/Garcia vs. House of Black in a steel cage (Saturday), the debuts of Mariah May and Deonna Purazzo, and now we’re graced with Minoru Suzuki vs. Adam Copeland this week?

Let’s. Fucking. Go.

The ranking system will only help AEW return to form, and given match ratings, TV ratings, ticket sales, and general fan excitement — AEW is on an upswing right now.

Now it’s time to cement why they’re here in the first place. To provide fans with the best professional wrestling on the planet.