“We were disruptors. We were rebels. We spat in the face of tradition. It was out with the old and in with the new.” -Matthew Jackson
The Young Bucks made some bold statements in their interview on Dynamite this week with Renee Paquette, but perhaps the most insightful was their analysis of how the perception of All Elite Wrestling has changed since its inception. When the promotion burst onto the scene in 2019, the company was seen as a brazen upstart, willing to try things that other promotions would typically shy away from. Talents like Darby Allin, Sammy Guevara, and “Hangman” Adam Page weren’t the household names that they are now. There was an air of excitement and anticipation about the new crop of stars that would be built under the AEW banner.
Now, some five years later, the promotion finds itself at a crossroads. Several months removed from their rather unceremonious uncoupling from CM Punk, AEW appears to be hitting the reset button on its overall presentation. With MJF out of action for an extended period of time, the company is looking to new talents and new storylines to propel them into 2024 and beyond. Two matches in particular from this week’s Dynamite are very telling in that regard.
If last year was Skye Blue’s breakout year, then this year might just be the same for Anna Jay. She got off to a good start in her match against “The Virtuosa” Deonna Purrazzo, albeit in a losing effort. One of AEW’s original homegrown talents, Anna Jay has meandered in her time with the promotion. In terms of her associations, she never quite fit in with Dark Order or the Jericho Appreciation Society. The creative team toyed around with the idea of pairing her with Julia Hart after being misted, but that storyline was aborted as well–the role going to Skye Blue.
The Anna Jay we saw on Dynamite this week, however, was able to connect with the crowd and came to the ring with an air of confidence that has been sorely lacking in her presentation. More importantly, however, she was able to keep up with one of the preeminent women’s technical wrestlers in the world. Anna did not seem out of place in the ring with Deonna Purrazzo. While the outcome of the match was perhaps never in question, the quality of how the match would turn out was certainly unknown up until bell time. It’s clear that Anna Jay has been putting in the work to become better in all aspects of professional wrestling, from her persona to her skills in the squared circle. AEW would be well served to continue its investment in her and put her on a similar track this year to the one Skye Blue had last year.
This brings us to the main event between Samoa Joe and Hook–a match that has served as a flashpoint of spirited conversation throughout the internet wrestling community recently. Again, the outcome was never really in question here, but it remained to be seen what kind of match a still relatively inexperienced performer like Hook could give Joe. The FTW champion has an impressive record, but he hasn’t necessarily faced the stiffest of competition or shown much versatility in the ring.
Yet somehow, the kid held his own. He was able to tell a believable story in the ring, generate sympathy from the crowd, and somehow still hold on to his tough guy persona–all while, for the most part, being absolutely dominated by the world champion. Now I’m not saying Hook is ready for a push into a major title program just yet. What is apparent, however, is he has the chops to put on a really good run as the FTW champion and turn the belt into something more than just a vanity prop or a nod to yesteryear, which is the entire crux of what AEW must do as a company in order to remain a healthy and thriving wrestling promotion.
It’s wonderful that AEW is giving Sting such a great send-off. Adam Copeland has put on quality matches since joining the company. Christian Cage has revitalized the TNT title into, arguably, the second most prestigious belt in the whole company. Their window, however, is rapidly closing and it must eventually close in order to make room for the likes of Swerve Strickland, Jay White, Sammy Guevara, and all the rest of the next crop of AEW talents poised to finally break through into the upper tier. The mid-card then will have room for wrestlers like Hook, Wheeler Yuta, and Daniel Garcia, who are some of the best up-and-coming talents in the company that don’t quite have room to grow right now.
The Young Bucks say that the slogan surrounding AEW’s inception was, “Change the world.”
It’s time for the company to get back to doing just that.