The Main Event Vol. 101 – AEW Thoughts From A WWE-Exclusive Fan

Hello and welcome to another edition of The Main Event. I am your host, Don Franc, back with another column that you will all hopefully enjoy. Long introductions aren’t really my thing so let’s get right to…

THE UNDERCARD

Chris Jericho recently said in an interview that he believes Roman Reigns would be extremely over if he were to ever go to AEW. According to Jericho, AEW would bring the cool factor to Reigns. I have disagree with Jericho. It’s quite possible that Roman would be booked as more of a badass in AEW but there’s also a strong possibility that the fans would absolutely shit on him. The reason for this is that every wrestling fan knows that Roman Reigns is the golden boy of WWE and because of the stigma attached to that label I doubt he’d even be given a chance with the fans of AEW. Of course we will never know for sure, but that’s just what I think would happen in this scenario.

Joey Janela has stated that every AEW PPV feels like Wrestemania. Another AEW wrestler that I find myself disagreeing with. AEW’s PPV’s are very good, to say the least. However, I don’t think their PPV’s come close to the spectacle that is Wrestlemania. However, with that being said, I’ve only ever watched one AEW PPV so what do I know. What is AEW’s biggest PPV of the year in any case? Is it All In? It was their very first PPV so it would make sense. Nevertheless, I don’t believe that any PPV that has been produced by AEW has come close to that of Wrestlemania, especially not in terms of buyrates. Maybe one day, if AEW gets bigger we can revisit this conversation. However, if all AEW wrestlers get the Wrestlemania feeling from their PPVs then it’s a good thing. Because all that means is they’d wrestle their hearts out like it’s the main event of Wrestlemania.

The Maryland State Athletic Commission is reportedly investigating AEW over the “Unsanctioned Lights Out” Jon Moxley vs. Kenny Omega. Apparently the match went against their rules of blading and bleeding in a match. I didn’t even know these rules existed! Did Cody know these rules existed? I thought the onus was on the wrestling company when it came to blading. I had no idea a commission like this even exists. This story has been very interesting to me due to my lack of knowledge on this subject and I intend to keep a close eye on what comes next.

THE MAIN EVENT

This is the first column that I’m writing about AEW. I couldn’t write about AEW before as I wasn’t watching but I’ve finally found a way to watch and I’ve now watched all episodes of AEW since Dynamite’s inception (including Full Gear) and I think it’s time I share my thoughts on the show. As a WWE-exclusive fan since 2001 I haven’t really dabbled into other promotions. I’ve watched some Wrestle Kingdom matches and caught a few episodes of Impact but my ventures outside of the WWE realm hasn’t really been significant. AEW is the first non-WWE promotion that I actually watched with the intent of following the brand and I must say I’m enjoying what I’m seeing.

In fact, since I started binge-watching AEW I haven’t watched any WWE programming at all. It’s been over a month now and I can honestly say I don’t miss WWE. This is not to say that AEW stole my fandom from WWE, it just goes to show how burnt out I am from their product (column about this coming next week!). Therefore, I feel like watching this alternative and skipping WWE while doing so has really done wonders for my wrestling fandom as a whole. Nevertheless, you’re not here to hear my burnt out thoughts on WWE (I’ll get to that next week). Let’s talk about AEW and there promotion as a whole and what I feel about their show as a WWE-exclusive fan all these years.

Wrestling Takes Precedence

AEW is a show labelled “where wrestling matters”, and I couldn’t agree more. From what I’ve seen, AEW has started every episode of Dynamite with a match. The structure of their shows dictates that wrestling comes first and I like it. They don’t do alot of segments except for truly important matches. The longest segments I’ve seen was the Cody promo before Full Gear and the contract signing. Everything else is wrestling related. I must admit that at times I feel like they lack in the story department but they try to make up for that by putting competitiveness at the forefront of their brand. Other matches don’t get moved forward by lots of promos but by brawls, sneak attacks and promos of a more direct nature. I can certainly appreciate that. And if the matches are good then the wrestling has no reason not to be the highlight of the show.

The Matches

If this is what the independent scene brings to the art of wrestling then I think I’ll really enjoy that form of wrestling. The matches are exciting and almost every week that I’ve watched Dynamite I see a few moves I’ve never seen before. Nobody likes to watch the same type of match week in and week out so the matches on display in AEW are really refreshing. Now, don’t get me wrong. Compared to the stale nature of the WWE style at times, the matches on AEW are way different but watching anything long enough can cause it to become stale and repetitive. For now, because these types of matches are so fresh to me, I’m enjoying them immensely. However, with the wrestlers of AEW wrestling these types of matches every week they’d have to be more inventive and creative each time out to not become stale. Therefore, it would be advisable for their wrestlers to tone it down every once in a while. Overall, I can honestly say I love the matches.

The Wrestlers

Firstly, going into AEW the only wrestlers I’ve seen before were Chris Jericho, Cody Rhodes, Jon Moxley, Jack Hager and Kenny Omega. That’s it. Every other wrestler was a new experience for me. Luckily, it didn’t take me long to get invested in their wrestling style and characters. That was something I was afraid wouldn’t happen what with me being invested in different wrestlers on a different brand. Nevertheless, I think alot of them bring unique attributes to the table. Sometimes their wrestling styles can feel similar though. I thought Adam Page was a non-flip dude who was a born and bred heavyweight type wrestler but he’s pulling out moves that cruiserweights do. That was a bit disheartening because I just don’t think all the wrestlers should have a moveset of a similar ilk. Overall I enjoy the wrestlers that AEW have on their roster and I look forward to seeing more of them in the future.

Womens Division

I think it’s become somewhat of a cliche to talk down on AEW’s Womens Division but the fact of the matter is that I actually agree with alot of what has been said of the division. First and foremost, they have some good wrestlers in this division but I always find it lacking. I don’t buy Riho as champion either, but she can go in the ring so I’ll give her a pass for now. There’s too much lacking in this division to make it standout. At Full Gear Riho faced her mentor but because it lacked more story to it there was no feeling that it was important. The lack of depth also really hurts the division. They introduced a couple more women in the later weeks but yet something still feels empty in the division. Competitive nature is the only thing on display in this division therefore it’s lacking a certain bite. A certain aggressiveness. A certain reason to care. I hope AEW has better plans for the Womens Division moving forward.

Commentary

The team of Tony Shcavione, J.R and Excalibur is a respectable team. Although, I wish they didn’t go with the three-man booth. It’s just too much at times. I was very surprised by how much I actually missed Good Ol’ J.R on commentary but he was as passionate as always. Excalibur is a good edition as colour commentator. However, AEW should really think about making it a two-man booth. I quite enjoyed J.R and Excalibur’s commentary at Full Gear and think that should be the permanent booth moving forward.

The Referees

AEW puts alot of spotlight on their referees and I must admit I like it. Their names are mentioned before the matches and it makes their authority feel more legitimate. I also like how they have a female referee and she actually works alot of main-event/title matches. The best part is that it seems that AEW puts their trust into their referees as they are allowed to referee matches at their discretion, depending on the severity of any given situation. I really dig the refereeing structure of AEW.

Picture-in-Picture Commercials

This is great when there are big matches on Dynamite. Sometimes you don’t want to miss a second of the action and this can definitely help with that. Although, I must admit that sometimes the commercials are distracting and I end up watching the commercials instead of what’s happening on the show! Still a good idea though.

Time Limits

This is a pet-peeve of mine and it’s something that I feel all wrestling promotions should add to their brands. The way AEW goes about handling their time limits also comes across as very professional. The standard time limit for matches are 20 minutes and they even make an announcement every ten minutes to let the crowd know how much time is remaining. I love that on Dynamite the time limit for the main event is “tv time remaining”. That’s just brilliant to me. I have always loved the concept of time limits and I must say that I’m very happy that AEW brings it across to such an awesome degree.

More Adult-Themed

Because AEW is aimed at the hardcore wrestling fans there is no need for them to make their product family-orientated. They know their target demographic so they know that alot of them are part of the IWC. So it comes as no surprise that they’ve negated WWE’s kid-friendly product and made their product more adult-themed. Their matches are able to be more hardcore because of this and allows them to show a bit of color in their matches. Besides that, the language is definitely not meant for kids. These days saying bitch on a live wrestling show seems like a big deal but they take it to the next level, which I like. Hell, the overall presentation of the environment even comes across as dark. I like this more adult-orientated product as I have grown a bit tired of the cartoonish world of WWE. Hopefully this doesn’t change, even if their promotion gets bigger.

Legitimate Sports Feel

Because wrestling is so prevalent in AEW, it comes across as a legitimate sport. Unfortunately that is something wrestling has been lacking for years. They put so much emphasis on stats that even the wrestlers on the roster comes across as people who absolutely care about wins and losses in this predetermined sport. I loved how upset Moxley got that his match with Omega wouldn’t be official therefore it wouldn’t count when it came to his record. That’s how much importance AEW puts on the win/loss record of their competitors and at then end of the day that is what matters the most in real sports. Big thumbs up to AEW for making their brand feel like a legitimate sports environment and taking the win/loss records so seriously.

Tag Team Division

Holy shit! I can honestly say that in my entire time as a wrestling fan I’ve never seen such a great Tag Team Division. WWE has had great divisions at sporadic times throughout the years. In fact, they even have a great division now that they do not use to their full potential. And that’s where AEW trumps any and all competition in this department. To me the Tag Team Division feels main-event worthy and because I love tag team wrestling that is a big bonus for me. Not to mention the talent they have in their ranks! Talent wise WWE can definitely compete with AEW in this department but the way AEW executes this division with focus, importance and exciting matches is the key to the success of their division. That and The Young Bucks are EVP’s so of course this division was always going to be heavily featured. The array of talent is great with Private Party being my favourite of the bunch. Phenomenal job with this division.

Overall I really enjoy this promotion as you can see by the good things I’ve said above. They are not a perfect promotion by any stretch of the imagination and work still needs to be put in. I still think they need to find a way to add more story into their feuds without allowing the wrestling aspect to be neglected. But because I find their shows enjoyable they have converted this WWE-exclusive viewer into a bonafide fan.

DARK MATCH

The Elite

I really like how The Elite operate the show. In all honesty I thought that they would make sure they’re at the top of the card at all times. I thought for sure that because of the power that they have they would book themselves into champion roles on the show. I’m super happy that is not the case. Most wrestlers in their position would have booked themselves as unstoppable. We’ve seen it before with guys like Hulk Hogan, Jeff Jarrett and Triple H, to name a few. It just seems like once they have that power it goes to their heads and they always book themselves in a position of prominence.

It’s so easy to fall into that trap so it’s refreshing to see The Elite dealt with their power in a professional manner. Yes, they book themselves in prominent spots on the card but they don’t do it ad nauseum. Yes, they main event alot and always have a good spot on the card but not to the detriment of other wrestlers. The biggest example of this was The Young Bucks putting over Private Party in the first round of the Tag Team Tournament. Nobody thought that would happen but they decided to put over the new, exciting tag team on the block.

I sincerely hope that they maintain this level of professionalism throughout the AEW journey. I’m not saying that Cody, Omega and Page shouldn’t be World Champions, but at least maintain the idea of putting other wrestlers before themselves. They’ve managed to do a good job of doing just that and I hope they continue to do so. So kudos to The Elite. They’re exemplary of how wrestlers with booking power should handle themselves.

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And that does it for another edition of The Main Event. What are your overall thoughts on AEW? How long do you think they can maintain the hype? What do you think of The Elite? Please leave a comment in the black box below. Alternatively, you can pop me an e-mail at donfranclop@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter @donfranclop. Any and all feedback is always much appreciated. But until next time folks…

This is Don Franc signing out.

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