When AEW began they did so to general acclaim. Though go back now and you’ll see in 2019 that the referees were already made to look incompetent and there were questionable #1 contender matches (Darby Allin vs Jimmy Havoc anyone?).
But it didn’t matter.
Because the company enjoyed the fans’ goodwill. After all, a new company was bound to have some teething problems. Such as in the original rankings system. There was a belief that the company were giving their best effort to give fans what we wanted. And that any issues would be ironed out.
Zip to 2024 and the recently reintroduced rankings have within days (hours in some cases) drawn criticism from the Torch, the Observer and other prominent podcasts. Because that same goodwill has been eroded, partly by a resurgent WWE but partly by AEW themselves.
When asked why John Silver and Alex Reynolds were the number two-ranked team, Meltzer replied that it was because they’d been winning in Ring of Honor (to be clear – he was critical, he wasn’t trying to make excuses for AEW). Which is just hilarious right? Legitimately laugh-out-loud ridiculous.
Because it doesn’t make any sense.
For the same reason NCAA tournament winners aren’t guest-passed into the NBA Playoffs. But more importantly because it highlights a total lack of consistency among the rankings in general. Those two are included based on winning in a different company; no-one else is.
Current ROH Trios Champs Bullet Club Gold are included as contenders; other champions are not. That’s probably for storyline purposes. Still needs ‘splaining. Especially on week one. Similarly, maybe/probably/possibly ROH World Champion (it’s in there somewhere in that confusing mess of a Continental Crown isn’t it?) Eddie Kingston is included as a champion; BCG and Athena are not.
There’s a further list of issues as numerous as Tony Khan’s announcements.
It’s part of a trend within the company. Lack of attention to detail. A caller to the Torch who’d attended last Wednesday’s Dynamite said no-one had told fans in attendance that the opener was ‘anything goes’.
Because it wasn’t.
It was a ‘lax’ – in Excalibur’s words – rules match because the term ‘hardcore’ was reserved for the main event and presumably no-one could (or, let’s face it, probably even tried to) talk Jon Moxley out of wanting to use a pen on Jeff Hardy’s ear.
That same caller noted fans were excited to see Mox though because they hadn’t known he was going to be there.
A continuing lack of attention to detail which generally sees AEW failing to promote anything even a week ahead of time (get your tickets to Adam Copeland’s one-man show this Saturday fans – as of the last Collision, he’s speaking for two hours).
Bringing us back to further issues re: the rankings and match stipulations.
Proving Grounds matches are supposed to be capped at ten minutes. With the obligation on the champion to defeat the challenger or risk a defence. But aren’t, making them confusingly exactly the same as…
Eliminators, both of which will this week have seen winless wrestlers Bryan Keith and Red Velvet* jump the queue. With no explanation as to why.
And with Keith’s losing effort painted as a ‘career-defining performance’. The new signing would do well to speak with Darby Allin about how to go about building off a close loss to a star. Because every other example has fallen by the wayside due to, well, falling by the wayside, such as:
- Dante Martin against Adam Page
- Dante Martin against Adam Copeland
- Lee Moriarty against Bryan Danielson
- Lee Moriarty against Adam Copeland
I highlight these two because the pair’s clashes with Page and Danielson came almost exactly two years ago; their clashes with Copeland within the last two months. There’s been no progress. Because there was no follow-up. No plan. No attention to detail.
Then there are the guys who fell by the wayside after wins. Beginning with Orange Cassidy who defeated Mox at Full Gear then mostly disappeared off tv for the rest of the year.
Or Will Hobbs. Who poor Paul Wight gave his already battered body to. And must now be sorely – in every sense – regretting his decision. Or Hobbs’ teammate Takeshita, who in the past five months has beaten Kenny Omega and Darby Allin – inarguably two of the company’s top ten stars – yet finds himself no better off.
Then there’s Dante’s buddy Action Andretti.
But by far the most glaring example is Wardlow. Who finally broke away from and defeated MJF. And… creative had nothing for him. After a two-year storyline. One might consider that ample time to formulate a plan.
I’m beginning to believe some of the reported reticence to do ‘jobs’ is understandably because performers believe the momentum will be wasted anyway. Wrestler X would be well within their rights to point to any of the above examples and say, in the words of Jon Moxley, ‘I ain’t doin that shit’**.
Particularly when there are also reports of performers not knowing on a Monday whether they’re needed at a Wednesday tv. Workers struggle to find motivation when their workplace is disorganized. I’m sure we can all relate. It must be frustrating for them.
Because it’s frustrating for us too. We want things to make sense. More importantly, we want wins and losses, rules and rankings, to matter.
We’ve seen very clearly in the past week how ‘passionate’ wrestling fans can be when they are behind and believe in a performer. But the opposite is also true. Teach us it’s not worth getting attached. And we don’t.
Take Takeshita beating Darby Allin on the year’s first Dynamite. Speaking for myself, they got me. Again. So now when the Japanese presumably beats Chris Jericho, all I’m expecting is for him to disappear from tv for a month. Again.
While next time they want us to accept that the latest elongated squash has extra stakes because of the rankings, we might rightly point out that the loser might well pop-up in an Eliminator match next week anyway.
Then whenever the latest young thing goes close against a star, we’ll know it doesn’t mean anything. They’ll be doing the same thing a year later so aren’t worth getting excited about.
And that’s without getting into the similar lessons taught by the whole Devil storyline. The devil is, after all, in the details. Or not in this case. Which they’ve just zoomed on from in the hopes we’ll forget the months of tv which went into it.
Back in the day, Steve Austin had a motto: ‘DTA’. Don’t Trust Anybody. AEW’s needs to become ‘ATD’. Before fans decide they Don’t Trust AEW.
*Yes, she won on Collision, the Eliminator match was set beforehand
**To be clear, he said this on tv about a Stadium Stampede match, not at being asked to lose