All Elite Wrestling – Check In By Your Man Steve Soeffner
Well, it has been a year since All Elite Wrestling made its debut. It has had several Pay Per Views and hit the air waves just a few months ago. I have been a fan of the various members of the Elite and followed their journey from ROH, NJPW, and ultimately to being the bookers of their own promotion. This transition was helped and financed by the Khan family. Honestly, I didn’t think that all of these guys were WWE bound as they really made a commitment to stay together. If Tony Khan did not come along, I figured that ROH would give them all more creative control of booking so they could get some experience and ultimately relieve Delirious of his duties down the line.
I was fortunate enough to attend Double Or Nothing at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas last year thanks to a group ticket sale with Pro Wrestling Tees. It was an amazing experience to sit ringside and get a chance to see the early stages of AEW taking shape. The fans were enjoying the original matches as we never got a chance to see Cody vs. Dustin Rhodes in the WWE. It was an awesome match and they pulled out all the stops, especially Cody’s intro where he destroyed HHH’s throne. It was a roller coaster ride of a bout and was one my personal favorite matches of the year. The matches on the card were par for the course and were not too ground breaking to me. The debut of John Moxley at the end of night was crazy and had the entire audience going nuts.
It seems like they were riding a wave with other events leading to AEW going to a weekly format with Wednesday Night Dynamite. Fyter Fest came a few months after Double or Nothing and its main event was a non-sanctioned match between Joey Janela against Jon Moxley. Kenny Omega in 2018 had helped produce an event with NJPW in conjunction with CEO fighting gaming and this was a continuation.
Three weeks later we would get Fight For the Fallen at the Daily’s Place amphitheater which Shahid Khan help develop. A portion of the gate proceeds were donated to victims of gun violence. The main event for Fight of the Fallen was a tag match between the Young Bucks vs. the Brotherhood consisting of Cody and his Brother Dustin. The last PPV before heading to weekly TV was All In where Chris Jericho defeated Adam Page to become the inaugural champion.
AEW Dynamite debuted on October 2nd2019 and since then we have seen SCU become the tag teams champs and Rhio become the AEW Womens Champion. They even produced AEW Dark which streams on YouTube and has new content every Tuesday. In reaction to AEW, Vince McMahon and the WWE machine decided to take their developmental brand NXT and air it on USA as competition. Fans now have a chance to experience the Wednesday Night wars between these two promotions. Typically, AEW has been winning key demographics in the ratings for viewers.
After watching AEW on tv for the last few months the product for me started to become very stale. I know that Chris Jericho was going to be the champ since day one. There was no way that executives at TNT were going be okay with a relatively unknown wrestler like Adam Page to be the face of their new program airing nationwide. Chris Jericho is a multigenerational talent that could help bring back some the wrestling fans that disinterested with the WWE. He is a familiar face that can go on press tours and promote the brand on different media junkets and sell it well.
The inexperience of the Elite as executive vice presidents is starting to show as well. Seeing Pac vs Omega and the Young Bucks vs. the Lucha Brothers was great the first few times, but now has become procedural after the 3rd time around. The women’s division has become awkward and is challenging to be invested in a Joshi wrestler being undefeated in a division that has competitors like Nyla Rose and Brit Baker. Some talent like Jimmy Havoc and Joey Janela are barely used on Dynamite and have been placed in AEW DARK purgatory. It really is becoming clear that if you’re not a close friend or a “pet project” of the Elite you will barely see any actual tv time.
Moving forward, I think that they need to make some adjustments if they want to keep fans interested and entertained. First thing that comes to mind is having less cooks in the kitchen. It seems like the Elite helps produce specific pieces of AEW and this creates a very fragmented show. They need to get an experienced booker as a consultant overseeing the overall production. Someone like Eric Bischoff who is familiar with producing a product for national appeal and can get new viewers.
AEW needs to cultivate the talent already within their ranks by having a mid-card or tv title. This new belt would allow talent coming up to get some exposure and help develop some feuds on AEW Dark.
I would love to see Jungle Boy get a singles run and matches against Darby Allin or Sammy Guevara. The creation of a mid-card title would help balance out the card as a whole and make fans vested in watching AEW rather than it becoming the modern-day version of Sunday Night Heat.
A truly under used talent that could help improve the product is Joey Janela. He has produced several shows for GCW and his annual Spring Break during Wrestlemania weekend is a must-see event. Joey has a natural skill of finding talent and giving them a spotlight like the meteoric rise of the French Frankenstein, PCO who had an amazing match with Walter at Spring Break 2. It seems like the execs should bring Janela into the fold and ask him for help to produce AEW Dark or the mid card title events. My only fear is that Joey will get bored of being underutilized and will want to leave.
It is a sad state of affairs when the closest thing resembling heavy weights on your roster are Trent and Luchasaurus. Fans love going to shows to see an unstoppable machine tear through the roster only to be stopped by another beast. They need to invest in talent like Brian Cage or Killer Kross who both have the physique and skill to draw eyes to AEW. I would watch the Swolverine fight against Kenny Omega for the title of the true terminator any day. Kross would be great as the leader of the Dark Order and could have a great feud with Cody.
Lastly, the AEW producers will have to actively search other promotions that they have made partnerships with to get new talent on the roster. Variety is the spice of life. The last thing that fans want to see this fledgling promotion become is a retirement program for former WWE talent (like TNA). They will need to mend fences with bigger global players like NJPW and they cannot rely on others to do it for them. Both the Elite and NJPW have wronged another last year, but need to move on to help one another grow moving forward. It would be great to see a storyline where the Bullet Club invades AEW and even recruits roster members too.
Just a year in existence and AEW has hit the ground running. Some changes will need to be made if they want to pass the test of time. I have enjoyed following the journey of the Elite for the last few years and I would hate to AEW become just a mediocre experiment.
“There’s no elevator to success. You’ll have to take the stairs” -The Rock
Thanks to the team from Heel Turn Wrestling for letting me blog for them.