AEW’s Fight For The Fallen event this past weekend was another opportunity for the new promotion to show what it’s got.
Unfortunately, like Fyter Fest before it, we got a glimpse of AEW at its least elite.
Don’t get me wrong. Fight For The Fallen felt like a big show. The action was big, the setting felt big, and the show had its fair share of big stars.
But where AEW is starting to slip is in the details. It’s the little things that make a great pro wrestling show. And with Fight For The Fallen, it’s showing that All Elite has a bad habit of missing the little details that make or break a card.
Here’s just a few little things that could have made Fight For The Fallen a much bigger success.
Jim Ross: Slumber-knocker
I can’t believe I’m saying this. But Jim Ross’s announcing has been boring.
Head over to YouTube and just type “Jim Ross calls” and insert the noun of your choice. Whatever they attach Ross’s vocals to is made immeasurably more exciting by his passion and intensity.
Passion and intensity have been sorely lacking from JR’s commentary in the three shows he’s called for AEW. And in the case of Fight For The Fallen, there’s a bigger problem than Ross sounding boring.
He sounds bored.
And I get it. He’s still learning the product. This is a crutch I’ll let AEW go back to a few times, but this is still a new company. But this is a problem. It’s one thing Jim Ross to not only sound like he isn’t keeping up. It’s a whole other ball of wax for him to sound like he isn’t interested in keeping up.
This is something that probably hasn’t had to be said since the mid-90s, but Jim Ross needs to step up his game on the headset.
Brandi’s Backwards Booking
Fight For The Fallen used the same social media tools to promote itself that other AEW shows have used.
The platform they’ve used the most is their “Road To” series on YouTube. In the second Road To Fight For The Fallen, a lot of attention went to Brandi Rhodes’s story.
Not just her story leading into her Fight For The Fallen match against Allie, Brandi’s first AEW match, but the story of her life.
Rhodes detailed her background in competitive ice-skating and went on at length about how she always choked at the big competitions.
It was genuinely emotional, and probably the best piece of business AEW has put together, from a promotional standpoint, in several weeks.
So imagine my surprise and confusion when, at Fight For The Fallen, Brandi was the dastardly heel. She brought the enormous Awesome Kong along to act as her personal muscle. And she was right to be nervous about choking on the big stage, because she was sloppy as hell in that match.
It’s just such a strange and backwards approach. AEW had a built-in story that gave Brandi heart and the most important thing any wrestler can have: sympathy.
But when the music hit and the lights were on, they pulled a swerve. Wait, that isn’t accurate. A swerve would mean AEW used fans’ expectations and emotions to misdirect them and go in another direction.
They just went in another direction with no context or reasoning. AEW is set to debut on TNT this fall, and if the storytelling at Fight For The Fallen is any indication, it’s going to be a very confusing ride.
Dr. Botch Baker
Britt Baker teamed with Riho to take on Shoko Nakajima and the debuting Bea Priestley at Fight For The Fallen.
Baker emerged as the winner in the first-ever women’s match at Double Or Nothing back in May, and Riho and Nakajima were part of the show-stealing Joshi match on that card.
Add to that the debut of Priestley, one of the top female talents in the world, and this should have been a very solid match. And it was.
Until Baker tried to tag the wrong Japanese wrestler. At one point during the match, Baker reached out to tag Nakajima, who was fortunately paying far more attention than Baker. She stayed in character and refused the tag.
Baker suffered a concussion at some point during the match, but that took place well after the botched tag.
This isn’t just Botchamania level stuff. That was embarrassing. Baker is going to be one of the standard bearers for the AEW women’s division, and she looked like an absolute chump.
It could happen to anybody, I suppose, and AEW should consider itself lucky that Fight For The Fallen is essentially a buffer show. It’s only AEW’s third show, and it’s an opportunity to work some of the bugs out of the product.
But this was more than a bug. This was a wrestler trying to tag the wrong partner. And, also to be fair, Nakajima and Riho were honestly wearing similar outfits. But that doesn’t excuse a wrestler not knowing which corner is hers.
Always Be Prepared
AEW president Tony Khan has tried to steer the conversation away from a “war” between AEW and WWE.
And, to their credit, WWE have been good sports about taking the, “Hey, it’s great that there are more options, good luck to them, etc.” approach.
But this is going to be a war. Anyone who says otherwise is lying, being polite, or simply stupid.
And stupidly — or, more accurately, naiively — is how Kenny Omega and Cody are preparing to fight that war.
Fight For The Fallen was, for all intents and purposes, a charity show. A portion of proceeds from the event went to various charities dedicated to helping victims of gun violence.
At the end of the show, it became clear that preparedness is going to be a struggle for AEW. For one thing, after the main event match that pitted the Young Bucks against Cody and Dustin Rhodes, AEW owner Shahid Khan and members of the roster came out with a giant check. But it came in the middle of a Dustin promo. Dustin visibly signaled for the music to be cut as he wasn’t finished.
The music wasn’t cut, though. Khan, Omega, and other wrestlers came on out. Multiple times, Omega and Cody — executive vice presidents of the company, I might add — kept saying they weren’t sure if they were still on the air or not.
Um. That’s a pretty big thing for a pair of EVPs to not know.
But then Cody kept digging the hole Kenny Omega started a couple weeks back when he posted a now-deleted tweet lambasting WWE for counter-programming Fight For The Fallen with the EVOLVE 131 special on the WWE Network.
The gist of Cody’s speech was that it was low of WWE to put a for-profit show against a not-for-profit show.
Cody? Kenny? If you think that was a low move, if you think that was as bad as it’s going to get, then you – are – not – ready – for – war.
It was a troubling look at how ill-prepared Cody and Omega, and perhaps a lot of the AEW leadership, truly is for the battle for buys, viewers, tickets, and merchandise that lies ahead.
Fight For The Fallen being countered by EVOLVE 131 is just the beginning.
Ultimately, Fight For The Fallen was a good show. That isn’t in dispute.
But as another glimpse of what AEW’s televised product might have to offer, it was definitely a troubling show.
The wrestling world looks at Vince McMahon as the devil. And, to a large degree, that isn’t unfair. But the devil’s in the details, and attention to detail was in shockingly short supply at Fight For The Fallen.
All images courtesy of AEW.