Japanese word of the week: 危ない | Abunai – “Dangerous”
Song of the Week: Dying Wish – “Watch My Promise Die” (link below)
Notable Fact: Dying Wish lead vocalist Emma Boster also does the vocals for Julia Hart’s theme song “Harder Hart”
All Elite Wrestling has momentum headed into 2024, which could be their best year ever. Even if not the best AEW PPV of 2023 (the bar is so high now…), Saturday’s World’s End still delivered a solid show, and a continuation of AEW’s new direction. While some may see a lack of a TV deal and lower ticket sales as a red flag for the company; I actually believe things are on the upward trend.
Over the latter half of 2023 we have seen a more cemented product direction, a stronger women’s division, and some interesting alleged financial metrics. It tells the story of a company that lost its footing through late 2022 to mid-2023, but is slowly regaining its balance.
The magic might be returning to the land of the elite…
So without further ado, here are just a few reasons why 2024 will be AEW’s best year ever.
Future WBD TV Deal
At the time of writing, Andrew Zarian has reported that new projects have been in the works for AEW with Warner Brothers/Discovery. At the World’s End media scrum, AEW World Champion Samoa Joe announced a new partnership announced between AEW and WB Games.
It’s also important to note that reports indicate that the first meeting between WWE and WBD did not fair well for Levesque and (Nick) Khan. While the second presentation with WBD allegedly went better, WWE Raw still comes at a higher cost than AEW.
Given that the primary focus for WBD is the NBA, I don’t see a scenario where WBD spends the money on both WWE and NBA licensing.
AEW is a company valued by Forbes at over $2 Billion dollars. Meanwhile, Brandon Thurston and Dave Meltzer have both put AEW’s speculated 2023 revenue at a near 70% increase from 2022. In the business world, even with a net profit loss, a year-over-year increase in revenue means growth.
Take into consideration that this is a promotion that is five-years-old, survived a pandemic, stomached multiple scandals, and is still worth the money they’re worth (according to Forbes). If WBD can walk away with the NBA and AEW (at a lesser cost than WWE), it’s a bit of a no-brainer.
A new TV deal at some point in 2024 will cement AEW’s place in the wrestling world for hopefully many years to come. Love them or hate them, AEW’s presence is best for business for everyone. More importantly, it gives Khan the much needed momentum for the product moving forward.
A New Path is Being Forged (Sports-Based Storytelling)
Sports-based storytelling. This was the beauty of the Continental Classic. Quite frankly, Swerve Strickland didn’t need to win this tournament, as the next championship he will hold will be the AEW World Championship.
This was a gutsy, “boyhood dream come true” story for Eddie Kingston to become a triple-crown champion like his puroresu heroes. He did it by upsetting foe Bryan Danielson, and correcting a past loss against a longtime friend in Jon Moxley.
This entire tournament is what AEW fans want out of this product. There’s a time and place for “sports-entertainment”, but if AEW is to be the alternative, then they need to remain focused on the sports-based/high-stakes storytelling that you would see out of other real-life sports like the NFL or NBA.
And this seems to be the direction Khan is taking AEW into 2024. Hiroshi Tanahashi was recently named President of New Japan Pro Wrestling, which only likely strengthens that AEW/NJPW relationship. Especially considering that AEW original QT Marshall allegedly left due to a more “New Japan” influenced direction for AEW moving forward.
For the hardcore base, this is good news. Trying to be something you’re not will not draw in casual fans. Investing in a unique, genuine, alternative label is what will truly draw interest from fans on the other side. And this doesn’t mean just becoming a “better” version of WWE (which is what many jaded/bad faith fans actually wanted in my opinion).
It seems like AEW will stick to their in-ring focused guns to please their main base, and this is the best thing they can do for their future.
New Management and…Karma?
With the recent departures of staff in QT Marshall, Rafael Morffi (Head of Live Events), and even Dana Massie (Chief Merchandise/Marketing Officer), a few tides seem to be changing currents in AEW management.
As someone who has done marketing for a living, that last one is quite welcomed, as I personally feel like AEW could be marketed much better than they have been.
This is good news.
In addition, the job opening for VP of People and Culture is still listed on the AEW careers website. This is a young company, and mistakes have obviously been made. But it seems like there is a focus on a much needed culture shift within the organization.
Furthermore, does anyone find it interesting of the karma that is in play at the moment?
I never took sides in the Punk/Elite fiasco, as both parties did really stupid things that hurt the company. Even if Kenny Omega is my personal favorite (and I wish him a very speedy recovery), he isn’t totally absolved here.
But isn’t it interesting that The Bucks are taking a leave of absence, Dana Massie stepped down from her position, Omega is out from injury, and now Chris Jericho is fighting allegations of misconduct? These 4, not including Cody Rhodes and Jon Moxley, were the foundation of this company at the start.
We associate AEW with The Elite for a reason. I’m grateful for what Kenny Omega and Nick and Matt Jackson have accomplished in helping build this organization. But in 2024, it seems like karma has forced its hand to make way for newer names in a company that is much bigger than them.
With new management on the way and new stars on the horizon, it’s reason to be optimistic about the direction of the 2024 product.
Increased Focus on the Women’s Division
Finally, after years, TK is hitting the gas on the women’s division.
We have seen an increase in women’s matches, promos, and feuds in the latter half of 2023. Toni Storm and Julia Hart have truly come into their own. Kris Statlander, Skye Blue, and Willow Nightingale have greatly improved their craft, and names like Billie Starkz and Mariah May are future legends in the making.
And this isn’t including names like Jamie Hayter and Britt Baker (both injured), soon to return, as well as the recent return of Thunder Rosa. At the World’s End media scrum, Khan seemed to embrace the idea of a Women’s Tag Team Championship when asked, as many are taking notice of the increased quality of booking and talent in said division.
2024 could be the year that this division shoots for the stars. From what I can tell by the current optics, this seems to be the case. We had 3 women’s matches at World’s End (counting Zero Hour), as well as a featured vignette with a returning Serena Deeb.
And with the recent rumors that Mercedes Mone and Deonna Purazzo might be AEW bound, business is about to pick up even more. Even if I’m personally worried about Mone overshadowing blossoming stars in the division, it’s hard to argue with the extra eyes they would both bring to the product as a whole.
2024 will finally be the year of the women’s division.
The Future is Here
Samoa Joe’s win at World’s End is well deserved. Joe is one of the all-time greats in pro wrestling, and he has long earned a major world championship run. But make no mistake — Joe is really there to eventually put over the future of the business.
Swerve Strickland will become AEW World Champion in 2024.
But more importantly, the youth has been a source of focus over the latter part of 2023; a trend that will continue into 2024.
We saw Daniel Garcia and Sammy Guevara score pinfalls at World’s End. It’s extremely likely that Sting will face (and put over) Darby Allin in his retirement match at Revolution this year. Adam Page was mentioned by name by Samoa Joe in the media scrum as a possible future opponent. Ricky Starks, HOOK, Wheeler Yuta, Kyle Fletcher, and The Acclaimed, all hold gold right now.
And on the women’s side, consider that Julia Hart and Toni Storm are only 22 and 28, respectively. Mariah May, Jamie Hayter, and Riho are all in their mid-late 20s.
Oh, and lest we forget Adam Cole, Will Ospreay, and Jay White are all in their early 30s.
Future seeds are being planted, and with the exception of the Copeland/Cage storyline, the bulk of AEW’s stories are invested into their younger talents. This trend will only continue well into 2024. Dynamite this Wednesday will only prove as such…
Here’s the thing about internet trolls: They’re never truly satisfied.
Many spend hours dissecting every AEW show just to complain about it online for fake internet points. Or worse, they cherry-pick what they can based on a small sample size because they don’t actually watch (or like) the product.
After a while though, even trolls get bored. You’ll always have your WWE diehards stirring the pot. You’ll even have your biased “news” sites doing the same. As a former actual journalist, with an actual education in it, I can speak to this in depth. If you want a future article on which wrestling news sites are doing it the right way, and which ones are an embarrassment to journalism, let me know in the comments.
But humans are bored creatures when we’re online. At some point, complaining about AEW will become “no longer cool”. When the social media troll market becomes saturated with the same thing, it becomes monotonous. Nothing stands out, and different = new. And if you haven’t noticed, AEW’s numbers are still generally good. Their fans are still very much present. The online hate really isn’t working all that well, is it?
Furthermore, WWE won’t stay hot forever. Hell, it seems as if LA Knight has even cooled off a little.
And while we’ll always have bad faith writers and trolls go out of their way to make AEW look bad to stay relevant — the trend will die down. The majority of wrestling fans don’t live online, lest we forget.
It takes more energy to be negative than positive. In other words: Most of us don’t have that much negative energy to spare. Soon enough, the “cool” thing to do by IWC gatekeepers will be to tune into AEW instead of bashing it.
It’s Up to You
While I firmly believe in AEW’s ability to have an amazing 2024, ultimately, it’s up to you.
Traditional/Casual fans should view AEW through the lens of an alternative. If they enjoy what they see, then they will be rewarded. If they don’t enjoy what they see — then don’t watch, right? The hardcore fanbase usually enjoys AEW one way or another, even at its low points. But even then, we are rewarded when the company has a hot streak, much like the latter part of 2023.
Negative internet discourse has run its course, in my eyes. We’re all getting older, hopefully wiser, but above all — very tired. But in reality, AEW’s coming upswing in 2024 will make this easier on the wrestling world.
Khan is forging a more direct path ahead, and with some changes in management, and some new focuses on younger stars and the women’s division, this company is actually positioned quite well heading into 2024. I fully expect this year to be AEW’s best yet, and it starts on Wednesday night…
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