An Introduction, and The Good Stuff of All Elite Wrestling
All Elite Wrestling, on the whole, has done a pretty good job of being a mainstream alternative to the WWE. I say “on the whole” because there’s obviously things in the last few months, or few years since its inception in 2018 that proves that it’s not exactly the perfect alternative that it previously advertised itself to be. There’s quite a few good things, a few bad things and a worrying amount of ugly things that maybe shouldn’t be present in a relatively new start-up company.
I actually really do like AEW – it’s product is a very nice change from a very formulaic and essentially uninspiring show that WWE has been running since 2018 onwards. You don’t need to look a specific way or have a big build to be a star, you just need to be good (essentially) and I think that’s great. AEW often rotates roster members so that match-ups are new and fresh every week and not just a boring cycle of the same old shit and I really appreciate that.
The attempt at being inclusive and diverse through programmes like Community Outreach, Heels and just catering towards LGBTQ+ fans through removing transphobic signs and spotlighting LGBTQ+ wrestlers like Jake Atlas, Nyla Rose and Sonny Kiss is a huge step forward and something that I hope doesn’t go under the radar and instead gets more recognition for their attempts to make wrestling more inclusive, including with nationalities and other things that I haven’t mentioned here.
I’ll briefly mention The Owen Hart tournament because this is actually very sweet. It’s completely understandable that Martha Hart wouldn’t want a company who killed her husband to ever recognise or use Owen Hart’s image. In fact, WWE couldn’t even find any people to defend against them in their court case. But AEW honouring the legacy of Owen Hart by including him in their video game and creating an annual men’s and women’s tournament in his name. Rocky Romero was also a big help in getting permission from New Japan to use footage of Owen Hart from his days in their company. Just like they had done with Brodie Lee after his unfortunate passing, AEW have done a fantastic job in keeping the memory of those who have died and respectfully paying good tributes to them. While not a massive thing, Kenny Omega also wore a shirt of my favourite wrestler, Hana Kimura, on an AEW show that took place on the late Stardom star’s birthday.
First things first, AEW has some really solid TV matches. Like, really solid – backed up perfectly by the roster members. The addition of already popular and well known wrestlers like Adam Cole, Bryan Danielson and Christian Cage as well as those from around the independent scene like Orange Cassidy, Ethan Page, the Acclaimed etc make for a very well-rounded roster capable of putting on great matches across the whole card. Their use of legends is also pretty respectable. Sting is back wrestling and not doing so much that he has the possibility of getting injured, but it’s enough that it’s still fun and entertaining. Mark Henry and Paul Wight are in backstage roles and occasionally do on-screen roles such as commentary or most recently judging the Hangman vs Danielson 2 match.
This is more of a timezone thing, but AEW holding PPVs on Saturday rather than Sunday is incredibly helpful for those in Europe who have to work the next day on Monday and have to stay up late at night watching PPVs, so this change was much appreciated.
One of the more middle-ground things that AEW have done is the Forbidden Door. I say middle-ground because it absolutely benefitted AEW and New Japan – with New Japan wrestlers coming in to have matches with those in AEW. Suzuki, KENTA, Ishii, Kojima and very possibly Okada and Tanahashi in the future – it’s all very cool and crazy for something like this to be happening now. But on the flip side, where does IMPACT benefit? Omega won the IMPACT and TNA titles and defended them like, twice on IMPACT PPV before losing it to Christian Cage who defended it like twice also before dropping it. Jay White then appeared for some reason and led to absolutely nothing except some random tag team matches. No IMPACT wrestlers have come through this Forbidden Door into AEW and neither have any wrestlers gone to NJPW yet (Shameless plug, but I did in fact write about Bryan Danielson possibly going to New Japan for Monthly Puroresu). So while the Forbidden Door has had it’s spree of cool moments, it has come up short in some aspects which is unfortunate but we can only hope the relaxation of border restrictions in the future makes it more worthwhile.
And now for the Bad and the Ugly bits of AEW.
The Consistent Urge to Mention WWE
This has to stop. Like, very quickly. There are times where mentioning past history or making reference to the past history of wrestlers is pretty good. Like Fish/O’Reilly and Cole, who were a trio before WWE anyway, or the time Kenny Omega came out to Megalovania and the introduction video (made by Toby Fox) had references to Kota Ibushi – who was also mentioned by a crowd member in Kenny’s entrance in his last match as AEW World Champion with a sign that said “What would Kota think?”. Stuff like that is fine.
Then there’s stuff that really, really, does not need to happen. The whole Cody Rhodes with the throne and golden shovel (who we all know that’s referring to) just didn’t need to be there. MJF referencing WrestleMania to CM Punk, that does not need to be there. Bryan Danielson also referencing WrestleMania does not need to be there. We get it. The WWE exists. We don’t need to watch it. We don’t care about it. We don’t need to bring it up. So why mention it all. If you’re truly trying to be an alternative, maybe you should skip out on referencing WWE at every single opportunity. There are times where it works, but 99% of the time it’s painfully cringeworthy and not even worth it.
Pointless Groups and Wasting Time Slots
Feuds go on way too long. Jericho/MJF felt like an entire lifetime because I just didn’t care because it kept going on and on and on, and it lost all of its value. Inner Circle vs American Top Team is also a culprit of this, especially when it’s between two factions no one gives a toss about. Who cares?? At all??
Then there was that merging of Andrade vs PAC after PAC couldn’t enter the country, which for some reason got shoved in with the Cody Rhodes vs Malakai Black feud and turned into Cody and Death Triangle vs Malakai Black, Andrade and FTR. It was an absolute mess and really didn’t make things much easier to follow or much fun to care about. I know that PAC being stuck in England messed with plans, but that didn’t mean they had to go balls to the wall with overbooking to make up for it.
A friend mentioned to me about The Bunny + Penelope Ford vs TayJay going on too long, but I barely remember anything about it so I can’t really talk about that from personal experience, but I’ll bring it up anyway. The Hardy Family Office (or whatever HFO is meant to stand for) has also gone on way too long and is just a mishmash of people who don’t work well together at all and have feuded with Best Friends since before Luchasaurus was born, which actually brings me to my next point about factions and time wasting:
There’s people like Chris Jericho – who I really don’t care about at all. I really think Jericho should’ve retired after his AEW World championship run because right now he’s just leeching off all the popular stuff to stay relevant – Orange Cassidy for example. I just do not care about him anymore and he’s taking up time that should be being used for newer talents. This also applies to Jake Hager, who has contributed absolutely nothing to AEW and has had zero accomplishments besides being in Inner Circle, which is actually the drizzling shits already. Guevara and Proud & Powerful need to just leave Inner Circle, the faction should just disband and pair up Santana and Ortiz with Eddie Kingston officially as a trios team and bring back LAX. Inner Circle does not need to exist. It provides nothing of entertainment and Jericho and Hager are past their expiry dates.
Speaking of factions, I’ll briefly mention American Top Team – Also get rid of them. I don’t care. I think Dan Lambert is fine, he’s good on the mic – I just feel like it’s being wasted with this weird MMA invasion angle. It’s another faction that really doesn’t need to exist. I’d put Ethan Page as a singles wrestler and have him win the TNT title because he is a fully capable singles performer; charismatic, fun in the ring and a good wrestler – you just need to watch his run in IMPACT to see that – why not let him prove that on a bigger stage? That’s one of the “bad” things of AEW: There’s groups and factions that don’t need to exist that are clogging up time that could be used better elsewhere, like…
The AEW Women’s Division
Oh boy, oh boy. I really like women’s wrestling – I watch a lot of STARDOM, and have most recently gotten into Tokyo Joshi, as well as sporadically watching ChocoPro, SEAdLINNNG and whatever else I can get my hands on.
The treatment of the roster’s roster in All Elite Wrestling has been downright ugly and embarrassing. It might as well not even be there because it really isn’t given the love and attention it deserves, at all. One women’s match on each PPV is pretty much the norm, and the finals of the TBS Championship tournament wasn’t even the main event of Dynamite. In fact, I remember someone showing all the main events of the TNT era of Dynamite and it had ONE women’s main event – which was the St Patrick’s Day match between Thunder Rosa and Britt Baker.
It started off really well – Riho, Nyla Rose and then Shida won the belt. She did a FANTASTIC job as a pandemic champion and gave some amazing matches but they suffered from being completely forgotten halfway through her reign and just being given filler matches while they were building up Britt Baker as the next big thing – which… worked? Britt obviously isn’t the best in the ring and isn’t better than Shida but ever since Baker won the title, I haven’t cared about the women’s division at all. All the good women’s matches are on Dark and Dark: Elevation, and you would’ve thought that they would’ve been given more TV time now that there’s Rampage and a new champion that they were building up to. But nope. It fell flat. Please give the women more TV time and if possible make it equal to the men’s time – you have the space for it, I promise you that.
The Elephants in the Room (Because there’s quite a few)
When it comes to criticism, sometimes AEW is really good at listening to it or making something good out of it like the recent Cody TNT title win (I think it’s cool, sorry) and the whole “Suzuki Incident” where they didn’t play the entirety of Kaze Ni Nare which annoyed a lot of people and led to a fantastic match between Danielson and Suzuki on YouTube.
But sometimes they’re just completely arse at responding to criticism. I won’t go over it too much because it’s not my place to talk about it – but the Big Swole drama in the last few weeks where Tony Khan (TK) showed his good old forum-posting habits by insulting her wrestling then never apologise for it while other black talents showed their praise for the company was very telling of how AEW run things. People will always have different experiences with an employer, that’s fine. Will Hobbs giving praise for being given great chances is awesome, Lio Rush and Darius Lockhart speaking up about the issues was very well needed too – but the response to Tony Khan’s tweet and the lack of trying to clear the air was devastating and abysmal. Racism flung towards Big Swole and other derogatory comments and no sign of the company condemning it. Swole never said anything bad about the company, but TK felt the need to tweet that Swole was never a good wrestler – why? What does this accomplish except some cheap pop with fans who think that Tony Khan is hip and better than any other billionaire? The whole thing was just a complete mess.
Next up, AEW’s continuing relationship with Pro Wrestling Tees (PWT). Back in April, Pro Wrestling Tees was breached and over thousands of personal data like credit cards were stolen. It wasn’t until SEVEN MONTHS later that customers were notified of this breach. And by then, people’s credentials had already been compromised and stolen, with money being fraudulently used. And instead of notifying people immediately, as per law, PWT decided to take their sweet, sweet time to send a physical letter telling them of this absolute disaster. Not an email – a physical letter to all PWT customers. Yep, they did the bare minimum. And instead of AEW addressing this very serious issue at any point – they just sweep it under the rug by promoting a CM Punk shirt and other stuff. Not exactly the greatest look of all time, and this hasn’t even touched the surface of PWT’s questionable decisions and why AEW still affiliating with them is so bad, including still having pages up for Ric Flair, Marty Scurll and numerous other horrible people. Which yet again brings me to another point:
Signing abusers and people implicated in #SpeakingOut (or thereafter). Yep, I can’t believe I’m even saying this one. They signed Darby Allin, who had domestic abuse allegations come forward and Jay Lethal, who was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women was also signed with the company. For a company that’s meant to be inclusive and progressive, you’d think that they wouldn’t hire wrestlers that might make women (or anyone) feel uncomfortable. But nope, they’ll ignore it.
All Elite Wrestling do have a lot of good things going for them, really. Great ratings, good shows, a very stacked roster full of incredible talents. But for all the good things that they have – it’s also worth highlighting the bad things – there’s no point trying to act like it’s the godsend of mainstream professional wrestling and that’s leagues above WWE. Sure, it’s done a lot of things marginally better than WWE, but it still has its fair share of problems and issues that shouldn’t be ignored. It’s a great product, but it’s not as pure and wholesome as many seem to be trying to convince people that it is because there are good, bad and ugly things in all wrestling companies, after all.