January 1, 2019 – All Elite Wrestling is announced and the wrestling world met it with much hype.
With the one year anniversary approaching, there’s no better time to call out some flaws in the company. AEW has developed a loyal following and retained goodwill with fans, but the product is still imperfect.
5. Who Are You?
One of the best things about AEW is giving independent wrestlers a new opportunity to turn their passion into their profession.
AEW has fostered a mostly smartened fanbase in-tune with the independent scene. The problem is that their flagship television program, AEW: Dynamite, is a new offering to the returning television viewers. This means that if you’re going to debut new characters, you have to tell that audience why they should care.
The debut of The Butcher, The Blade, and The Bunny is a prime example. They were given a prime spot, attacking the company’s top star to generate maximum heat, and…crickets.
Not only were the crowd chanting “Who Are You?”, but Jim Ross also seemed confused about who these stars were. The crowd in attendance were also at a loss, as the team featured was brought in to an unfamiliar territory, being a North-Eastern team debuting in the Mid-West.
Add to it Excalibur adding no information other than repeatedly identifying The Butcher, The Blade, The Bunny and all contributed to an overall botched experience.
The main takeaway from this is: educate your viewers at home.
4. Missing Pieces
The above MJF promo was pretty amazing. It’s too bad that at best it was only seen by half of the AEW viewing audience. AEW: Dynamite in Champaign, IL, drew a viewing audience of 851,000 while this promo which explained the debut of our previous entry was seen by around 112,000 on its own and 443,000 as part of AEW: Dark.
AEW has a strong online presence, but as the great mathematician Scott Steiner said “the numbers don’t lie, and they spell disaster.” Dynamite is first and foremost a television show, and having key moments and character development buried in online exclusives can alienate the TV audience.
There has also been a habit of putting character development in the separate YouTube channel “Being The Elite.” And though it was the platform by which the phenomenon launched, it still only retains a small fraction of the audience of AEW’s weekly program.
3. Too Many Cults
Factions have long been good for companies. Some of the most successful work in companies has been from groups such as The Four Horseman, Degeneration- X, The Shield, nWo, and others. Clearly there is nothing wrong with good old-fashioned faction magic when wisely applied.
AEW has its original Elite joined by other groups such as The Jurassic Express and So Cal Uncensored, but those aren’t the groups I’m talking about.
There seem to be 3 cult gimmicks currently: The Dark Order, Butcher/Blade/Bunny, and The Nightmare Collective. The Dark Order got off to a rough start, but have recently gained fan praise for their more focused packages. Butcher/Blade/Bunny got a bit of backstory of hired muscle for MJF along with a televised promo. Meanwhile The Nightmare Collective…we’re still trying to figure out exactly what that is and why we need another cult.
It is too much copy and paste for me.
2. Booking Meeting in the Lady’s Room
This is not a criticism of the performers.
WWE spent the past few years elevating their women’s division by signing every willing top talent on the indies, so when AEW came into existence they were forced to build from scratch. AEW has done an excellent job building a solid division with the best left on the indies, with veterans such as Emi Sakura/Awesome Kong, and top-tier international talent.
After overcoming the first hurdle, the big stumbling block seems to have come with regards to booking. Riho was given a strong showing in her initial title win, but became sparse on television. Her initial title defence against Dr Britt Baker was given minimal build, and her teacher/student story with Emi Sakura wasn’t given context until the pre-match promo at Full Gear.
In fact, Britt Baker and Bea Priestly were the only two women to have a full story arc, and that was a result of Bea knocking out Britt with botched kick. Even that was mishandled as they were handed an organic story, only to relegate it to the pre-show of Full Gear.
We know that AEW is capable of creating great stories, as we’ve seen with how they’ve invested in their tag division. Let’s hope that next year the same love gets spread among the women’s division.
1. But Do Wins And Losses Really Matter?!
Wrestling relies on suspension of disbelief, not statistical logic.
One of the primary features advertised for AEW was that “wins and losses matter” in this company. There was a natural curiosity to how exactly this would be implemented, and I would argue AEW is also unsure.
Fans were naturally critical of matches that appeared to defy this doctrine. A winless Jungle Boy facing Le Champion, two women fighting for number one contender despite one being named minutes earlier, and the constantly overlooked PAC were just a few criticisms. Some matches were even excluded as “Light’s Out” matches.
We got our first indication of a small retooling with the announcement that win-loss records would be reset as the year rolls over. A growing roster and weekly show should show us in the coming year how well the product adapts. Ideally, this statistics-based approach is able to evolve into organic storytelling.
Happy New Year.
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