This Saturday, AEW presents Full Gear, a PPV it hopes will help refocus the company after a turbulent few months. The infamous CM Punk media scrum, and the subsequent incident with The Elite, shed light on the company’s internal troubles. But the Punk moment was just the tip of the iceberg. Tony Khan did an excellent job—a service, in fact—providing professional wrestling fans with a real alternative.
While WWE unloaded, Tony Khan relentlessly recruited. Sometimes less, is more. In this case, it’s become the law of diminishing returns. The Punk episode was the epoch of the problem. Since then, weekly TV has become lacklustre. AEW always had a vibe, a feel—and even when it was finding its feet—a sense of direction. We were all pulling in the same direction. Now, it feels a little lost.
AEW has always delivered when it comes to PPVs. These are the things that need to happen following Full Gear.
Get ROH Out of Here!
This writer was excited when Tony Khan announced he’d acquired Ring Of Honor. The pandemic made me venture to wrestling promotions (via streaming) I’d normally overlook. ROH being saved went well with that sentiment. It was good that their video library would be added to AEW’s (and not form part of the WWE Network).
Tony was obviously happy with his new toy and wanted to show it to his TV execs. That’s cool. Let’s help ROH get a TV deal. But that effort has become all consuming. Constant ROH plugging has suffocated everything that made AEW stand out. At one point, I’d have happily paid extra for a ROH Fite TV subscription. Now, I’m not sure I’d dive straight into a YouTube ROH stream. He’s over saturated his own product with another of his products.
If Ring of Honor had been the answer AEW fans were looking for, Tony would never have needed to create AEW.
Following this Saturday’s PPV, ROH needs to be quietly shuffled to one side and away from Dynamite and Rampage. Perhaps this means Chris Jericho should drop the title. He’s too big of a name to be pushing a promotion that doesn’t have a TV deal.
Make Dark and Elevation Relevant
Elevation isn’t the show we’d been sold. That’s long in the memory now, but the description from day one should have been: a slightly bigger version of Dark. The problem for casual fans is the Dark shows are primarily used to boost wrestler rankings (we’ll get to those in a minute) and help green performers get used to the industry.
There’s nothing wrong with either of those pursuits.
But there needs to be separation and purpose added. Dark should be the pure training show. Where new talents expect a squash but are given time to breathe, learn, perform in front of an audience (the studio is especially good for newcomers), and get used to the feel of a big promotion.
Elevation should be the place the performers go to compete for—don’t groan—the Dark titles. Men, Women’s, and Tag Team belts exclusive to the Dark brands. I know, I know, people think there are too many belts in AEW already. There isn’t: they’re just mismanaged. And if we get rid of ROH gold on AEW TV, the number of AEW titles is okay.
We all begged for Trios Titles and the All-Atlantic has the potential to become something more than a simple secondary title.
Dark needs titles to give matches more meaning. And the rule can be added that once a wrestler has appeared on Dynamite or Rampage a certain amount of times within the last six months, they are ineligible to participate for the Dark belts.
Bring Back The Rankings
A simple one: just bring back the rankings. It was a unique feature that made every match mean something. Let’s not have eliminator matches or convoluted round-robin tournaments. Let’s just use the rankings ladder. (And start a separate rankings and match record for ROH so they can’t appear on AEW shows.)
Bring Back The MIA Talent
At the end of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is told: “Everything you were looking for was right there with you all along.”
Tony, everything you needed was with you all along. You didn’t need to sign every former WWE free agent (to be fair, he passed on a few), you didn’t need to buy another company [enough on the ROH digs —Danny], there were enough AEW originals that were ready to flourish. Some of them were, only to be pushed aside or allowed to stagnate. When Orange Cassidy beat Jericho, it should have made him headline a PPV by now. Hopefully, holding gold now is the start of that journey.
There could have been more Britt Bakers, MJFs, and The Acclaimed type natural breakouts.
The talent that saw AEW as the light and made the switch haven’t been rewarded. Miro and Malakai Black being the obvious examples. It’s time to get back to focusing on what made AEW great for the majority of its three+ years.
We want to see the AEW faces that have been sidelined because of over-acquisitions and meandering storylines. With the pool of talent at Tony’s fingertips, we shouldn’t have so many repeat matches. And we should never see Jeff Jarrett in front of the camera or Jay Lethal (who is a top talent) wrestle on what feels like every show, every week.
Spread the airtime, build new stories.
AEW will be fine.
There have been many positives, even in the turmoil. Jon Moxley has matured into the focal point and person capable of lifting a company onto his shoulders and running with it. He’s had help from Jericho and Bryan Danielson. William Regal (who will probably betray him this weekend 😂) has been stellar. Proving, some signings really have worked out. The women’s division keeps getting stronger and has a depth of talent now unrivalled anywhere.
Following Full Gear, AEW needs to get back to doing what it does best: simply being AEW.