I love AEW. That should be no secret.
AEW: Dynamite is the only wrestling show I review regularly. I routinely give high marks for their PPVs, and honest-to-God, if I love it so much why don’t I just marry it?
If I thought Tony Khan would let me pick out the place settings, believe me, I’d ask.
But All Elite Wrestling isn’t perfect. It’s stumbled a few times since its launch in May 2019. And while it’s far and away the best pro wrestling company in North America, there are some glaring issues.
Here are five things that could make AEW better.
5. We Get it. WWE Sucks To Work For.
At the first AEW pay-per-view, Double Or Nothing, Cody famously took a dig at Triple H. Brandi, playing her best Stephanie, handed the American Nightmare a sledgehammer. And Cody proceeded to smash totally-not-a-Triple H throne.
It was thinly-veiled at best. Shamelessly petty at worst.
And above all, it was unnecessary.
Too often, AEW talent from WWE treat the promotion like athey’re CM Punk and AEW: Dynamite is Colt Cabana’s podcast. A place to vent frustration with Vince’s House of Wackiness.
Worst of all, it’s often Cody – arguably the face of AEW – leading the charge. If the throne thing wasn’t bad enough, there was a reference in November during his feud with Jericho to “that place we worked for 10 years.”
AEW’s acknowledgement of WWE is refreshing. Especially since WWE goes out of its way to do the exact opposite. But the digs are small-time indie stuff.
4. JR Telling His Own Stories
Hiring the legendary Jim Ross to be the voice of AEW was one of the smartest hires the company made in its early days.
But in practice, while still great, JR and the announcers in general have some issues.
While I appreciate the contained looseness of JR, Tony Schiavone, and Excalibur, sometimes it gets a little too loose. Not Michael Cole and JBL talking about anything but the match loose by any means. But they do go off the rails sometimes.
Schiavone being loose is a refreshing change of pace, considering he spent our collective childhoods babbling about “butts in the seats” and “the greatest night in the history of our sport.”
However, podcasting life has left JR far too loose. He gets funny at all the wrong times, and he’s gotten to the point that he regards his legitimate gaffes getting acknowledged by fans the same way he regards social media trolls.
Too much time is spent talking about “it’s all about more championships meaning more money.” And I get that, that’s good. But the story the AEW wrestlers are telling almost never reflects that, and it makes JR seem like he doesn’t grasp the story he’s watching so he makes up his own.
I know he isn’t, but that’s how it seems. And sweet baby Ray’s, don’t get me started on “Jungle Jack Perry.”
3. Broaden The Wrestling World
This is something AEW already does fairly well. But they could do it better.
Nothing wrong with room for improvement.
As mentioned, AEW doesn’t exist in a vacuum like WWE does. In WWE, it’s the only company that exists and has ever existed. Vince is at war with Eurasia, Vince has always been at war with Eurasia.
I read books ‘n stuff.
Anyway, in the minds of pop culture, AEW is already starting to come across as “that show that isn’t WWE.” As evidenced when Howard Stern, talking about Dustin Rhodes, admitted to being unfamiliar with it. Made worse when co-host Robin Quivers incorrectly told him it’s a “backyard wrestling federation.”
But it wouldn’t hurt to mention more often that AEW is one company in a large, large industry. AEW is already on the right track, and Cody’s TNT Championship Open Challenge is the perfect vehicle. Ricky Starks being acknowledged as last being in NWA was a big step forward.
Two AAA Championships have been defended in AEW – the AAA Tag Team Championships at All Out and the Mega Championship on AEW: Dynamite. It sends a message that AEW isn’t the other wrestling company. They’re the competition.
Not for ratings, but for talent. The audience should be told regularly that AEW is on the lookout for the best talent possible to entertain them.
2. Vary The Roster
Again, this is another thing that AEW does fairly well. But they could do it better.
There are long stretches of AEW: Dynamite, that go on for weeks at a time, when I feel like I’m seeing the same ten people each week.
Every week, you can bank on seeing Cody (moreso now with the TNT Championship open challenge). Odds are you’ll see AEW Champion Jon Moxley, and you’ll definitely see Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega.
Granted, AEW doesn’t have a bench as deep as WWE’s. But the roster is deep enough that the show could presumably be headlined by a different top star every week.
It’s the opposite of WWE’s issue, which is the company feeling like we have to see the entirety of their roster in every episode.
1. The Women’s Division
The AEW women’s division needs more stories.
They have the talent, and they have the core group they’re building around: Nyla Rose, Hikaru Shida, Kris Statlander, Penelope Ford, and (prior to her injury) Dr. Britt Baker.
Throughout pretty much all of 2020, the women’s matches on AEW: Dynamite has been some combination of those five women. Which is fine. A lot of the AEW women’s division isn’t necessarily ready for prime time.
Indeed, Statlander and Ford seem like they’re learning on-the-job. But there needs to be engaging stories. AEW needs more than its fake ranking system to build animosity among the roster.
The recent storyline building between Dr. Baker and Big Swole is a big step forward. But it’s one they can’t pay off, because Baker is out through at least this year’s All Out PPV.
By far, the women’s division is the weakest part of AEW’s game. They’re on track to fixing it, but it’s been broken since the company’s inception. It’s time for AEW to close the gaps.
AEW is great, but it could be better.
The problem with AEW’s matches, storytelling, and roster are very real. But they aren’t crippling. AEW isn’t in crisis by any stretch of the imagination.
But there’s no reason a great product can’t be made even better.
AEW: Dynamite airs Wednesday nights at 8 PM/ET on TNT.
Images provided by All Elite Wrestling.