AEW: A Year One Analysis

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AEW

All Elite Wrestling was revealed one year ago on New Year’s Day by The Elite. We have learned that since then, it is a company that is supposed to be the alternative to WWE most importantly. They had their first event in May 2019, Double or Nothing. They became the first wrestling company to return to TNT since WCW in October. With all the time that they have managed to be on TV and have as many big shows as they have, it is time for an evaluation. What has AEW managed to do right in their year as a company? And what have they done wrong? By no means has this “wrestling league” been perfect. With a new contract to guarantee them TV time until 2023 and a second television show, they have time to fix and learn.

We’ve covered every episode of AEW Dynamite in some sort of fashion. There has been good. There has been bad. As a realist, you have to accept there are rights and wrongs. Let’s take a look.

What They’ve Done Right:

Recent Handling of Hangman Page

If this were to be written before Dynamite was live on the air, this would be down in the “wrongs” section. Hangman Page started off his AEW career better than maybe anyone. He was undefeated and was one of two men given the chance to become the inaugural AEW World Champion. Sadly, he was as over as the “loser” version of Seth Rollins. The reaction was minimal at best, and there were at times boos ringing through the arena. At All Out he lost the biggest match of his life and things began to slowly change. The term “Cowboy Sh*t” was born and fans took a liking to Hangman. While it may not have seemed like it was good for Hangman to experience a losing streak, it seems to be something that has given him something he needed. An identity.

Page has attempted to distance himself The Elite for the foreseeable future. Somehow he ends up being teamed with Kenny Omega on a weekly basis, without being told in advance. This has actually brought him to an AEW Tag Team Championship match against SCU. But what is so excellent is that he seems to be going off the edge. Page wants nothing to do with The Elite and they won’t accept that. If this is leading to Hangman Page vs Kenny Omega, they are doing something right. Hangman Page isn’t in the spotlight right now, but the drunk cowboy is doing plenty to get the attention of the fans. Excellent change for him from what he was at first. Fans are behind him and a good story have gotten him well deserved attention.

Establishing the “Main Event” Scene

Chris Jericho. PAC. Jon Moxley. Cody. Darby Allin.

What all of these men have in common is either having a shot at earning the AEW World Championship, or even competed in a match where they can win it. That, by all accounts, makes these men “main event” players. The main event scene in All Elite Wrestling is excellent. Jon Moxley, for instance, has shown that his spot makes him a bigger star than he has ever been before. Darby Allin receives a mega-ovation any time he steps out in front of the crowd. PAC has made wins the most important thing in his mind as that is what will bring him to the AEW World Championship. It is the main event picture that not many companies can follow up. Now just making sure they are consistently treated like that is something AEW must follow through with.

Cody’s Storylines

It simply has not mattered who Cody is telling a story with. No matter who, it has been incredible and continues to be to this very day. Cody is possibly the most beloved wrestler in all of AEW. Look at his first big match with his brother, Dustin Rhodes. It was AEW’s match of the year and many fan’s choices for their match of the year. Every single second had fans on the edge of their seat as the sons of Dusty Rhodes went into the ring and stole the show. The lead-up may have been just as good as the match. Fast forward to his rivalry with Shawn Spears. The story had no right to be as good as it was. However, it became something terrific where Cody was out for redemption with his friend.

Then, of course, the rivalry for the AEW World Championship against Chris Jericho. Cody delivered a promo that many believed was the first of its kind in a long time. He put everything on the table because he knew the fans were talking about an Executive Vice President getting a shot at the title so fast. It was all put on the line against Jericho as the feud between The Elite and Inner Circle quietly began. In the championship match at Full Gear, Cody’s story only got enhanced when his protege, MJF, turned his back on him. And now here we are, with Cody accepting that he will do anything in his power to face the man who ended his championship dreams.

Tag Team Wrestling

There was not a bigger guarantee when it came to AEW than tag team wrestling in the company will be incredible. They started off with The Young Bucks and Lucha Bros and have only added from there. Santana and Ortiz. Best Friends. SCU. The list goes on to teams that have yet to firmly establish themselves. If Cody vs Dustin is the best match they have had in their first year, the list afterward may be filled exclusively with tag team matches. The tournament they had to crown the first-ever AEW Tag Team Champions was the highlight of Dynamite for the first few weeks. The upset of Private Party beating The Young Bucks in the first round is a perfect example of that. Tag team wrestling can do no wrong in AEW. The only hope is that the champs maybe switch it up soon.

Oh, they even messed around by adding Hangman Page and Kenny Omega to the division because, why not?

Chris Jericho

One person has been the AEW World Champion, ever. That person happens to be the main reason All Elite Wrestling is where it is. Without “Le Champion” who really knows if any of this would be possible. Chris Jericho has somehow reinvented himself once again, yet this time may be his finest work. He has developed his style away from the technical high-flyer he once was, becoming a Lucha-style brawler who uses a spinning elbow to win all of his matches. But the AEW World Champ is doing something else he has never done before, which is leading his own group. He created The Inner Circle to counteract The Elite and really anyone who gets in his way. But what it has also added is four men for him to play off of.

Jericho talking about “The Spanish God”, Sammy Guevara, is some of the best content you can watch on weekly wrestling television. “The Painmaker” challenged himself by joining this brand new wrestling company, with a legend and the rest of his life guaranteed inside the WWE, and completely made it his own. 30 years into this and somehow, someway, Chris Jericho remains the gift that keeps on giving. Drink it in, man.

What They’ve Done Wrong:

Mishandling of Kenny Omega

Photo: NJPW

Sure things are not always sure things, apparently. The love for Kenny Omega was going to be obvious when he came to the states to be apart of AEW. And that love remains. But something has not seemed right with “The Cleaner” since day one. How do you mishandle what many see as the “top dog” of your brand? Exactly how AEW has. He lost his very first match to Chris Jericho in the main event of Double or Nothing. Fast forward to his next giant match at All Out. His originally planned scrap with Jon Moxley was canceled due to Moxley pulling out because of injury. So instead, he faced PAC. PAC made him go to sleep with the Brutalizer in the middle of the ring. 0-2 in gigantic matches. But hey, he picked up steam again on Dynamite and AEW Dark, but it’s all about PPVs.

It was finally time for him and Jon Moxley to lock horns and beat the life out of each other. The match was unsanctioned and by all accounts was either loved or hated by fans. Either way, Omega still lost in the end. He has been placed in a makeshift tag team with Hangman Page and it seems his single career has been put on hold. His biggest win in AEW to this point is against PAC on Dynamite. A huge win, yes. But Kenny Omega should be doing more. Needs to be doing more. The matches he has been having are not only leaving a lot to be desired compared to his NJPW matches, but his feuds are as well. He should be the biggest star in the company and his positioning says differently.

Fully Developing New Stars

I named Darby Allin earlier as a main eventer. And I stand by that. But he happens to belong in this spot as well. What All Elite Wrestling has struggled to do is fully develop their wrestlers on TV. Whether it is a woman or a man, the struggle has been there. They create great content with wrestlers that the everyday crowd may not completely know. However, they usually do not even see the light on TV and is instead regulated to YouTube. Sure, Kris Statlander and MJF have been among those able to get over. But Statlander more than any deserves a background. Why is she an alien? Why does she love wrestling? Simple questions, yet no answers almost ever. AEW has steadily gotten better at this, but there is still a lot to be desired.

The list of names that deserve to get some credit honestly goes on and on. Why, oh why, should The Dark Order matter to anyone watching? At least they realized literally no one knew who these guys were and have begun to work on giving them an even higher power. Of course, there are those who need no introduction… looking at you, Orange Cassidy. But why should fans care about Kip Sabian? Or the Jurassic Express? If there is anything that may need to be improved the most, it is getting people to care about these wrestlers who we may have never seen before. You may notice I am not naming the women. There is a reason for that.

The Women’s Division

aew

Talented? Yes. A good champion? Absolutely. Then what’s the problem? Everything else. The women’s division in All Elite Wrestling has been terribly treated since the first day. Earlier it was brought up about fully developing new stars. Why not we fully develop a division? Please. Fans are begging for it. Riho is one of the most popular wrestlers in all of AEW and stands tall as the Women’s Champion. Unfortunately, that is being overshadowed by the Nightmare Collective and most specifically, Brandi Rhodes. It’s not good heel work, it’s just a complete waste of time. The only time anyone gets to see Riho now is if she is defending the championship. Let her show personality of some sort. It does not have to be promos, but give the women more time than once a week. Especially the champ.

Hikaru Shida is one of the best overall wrestlers they have but all of a sudden it seems she can’t buy a win on her own. It feels as though I could name every women’s wrestler under contract not named Brandi or Britt Baker and fans would not know much about them. Change that! This cannot be stressed enough. Women’s wrestling is a massive part of wrestling today and in a lot of ways some of the most popular. As a fan looking in, Kris Statlander currently is the only woman with a slight chance of getting over even if the Nightmare Collective is bothering her 24/7. Instead of continuing to ramble, here is the solution. Less Nightmare Collective. Less random men’s matches. More time for the women to shine. If given that time, they are guaranteed to make it work.

This could have been on here twice if we are being honest.

Being The “Alternative”

AEW on TNT
Photo: TNT

It felt like Tony Khan and The Elite said more than a few times in the build-up to the first episode of Dynamite is that this company is the “alternative” to the WWE. They were going to give fans pro wrestling that they wanted. Not be “sports entertainment” and scripted and this and that. And that is all great, it really is. But somehow in terms of being an “alternative”, they are losing to WWE’s own brand, NXT, in that regard. Before I hear the TV ratings argument, that is not the discussion here. The discussion is being the “alternative” that they said they will be for fans. More women’s wrestling, focus on promos, great feuds, less crappy finishes. It sounds a whole lot more like NXT than AEW. Hate to bring the Nightmare Collective back into this, but Kris Statlander and Riho were having a championship match that was ruined by them. Pretty sure that is a crappy finish.

Weeks earlier, Shayna Baszler and Rhea Ripley stole the viewers with an NXT Women’s  Championship match that saw a new champion crowned. AEW does plenty of things right, but when you promise that you are going to be an “alternative” to the WWE, you cannot go and be doing WWE stuff week in and week out. To become that “alternative”, it really is time for them to turn a corner and win the fans over for being a better product than their counterpart. Utilize your entire roster and be the “wrestling league” that TNT states you are. Rankings should help with that, which they very well have. Make it matter and be the different company you promised.

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can catch AEW Dynamite every Wednesday night at 8:00 pm Eastern, 6:00 pm Pacific on TNT and internationally on AEW Plus on Fite TV.

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