Recently, my output for reviews for AEW have been slowing down. Part of that is because I’m trying to finish this novel I’m writing and I’ve overshot my self-imposed deadline of both November and December. But the other part is that I have been finding their recent shows draining and I simply repeat myself week-after-week on the same issues that crop up. Sometimes, I would prefer just to talk about the ongoings rather than the specifics of the matches because that seems to be far more interesting than the show itself. But I’ll put up a review for this show since there were a few interesting events worth noting and a few things where I felt emotionally invested enough to write about.
Hangman Page Vs. Bryan Danielson Part 2
Once more this was for the world title. And once again they didn’t put this as the main event. So my once again criticism is that Tony Khan doesn’t understand how putting your world title match as the main event with your top stars pretty much not only devalues the title, the stars but shits on the rest of the show. But that’s a digression for what happened.
I’m not going to go over everything that happened here. There’s just too much. But I was disappointed in the quality of this match compared to their first one. One of the stipulations for this match was having three judges in Mark Henry, Paul Wight and Jerry Lynn. I have no idea what made these three qualified to rate a possible 60 minute match. But it didn’t matter because none of them played a factor outside of Bryan once in a while trying to get their attention.
The way this match was “structured” felt as though it was Hangman Adam Page’s turn to get creative control. Where their first bout together had an excellent sense of pacing and build, this match fell apart early on. There was no sense of build and they spent too much time on the outside. More than that, there were a lot of nasty spots that felt as though there were no real payoffs except for a backdrop driver type of move that Hangman executed on Bryan towards the end.
Both men bled especially Bryan. And Bryan tried to work over Adam’s wound a bit but again none of this really felt like it was leading anywhere. Now, one could argue that when Bryan got busted open, fatigue started to set in towards the end of the match where he couldn’t kick out of the Buckshot Lariat. However, the backdrop driver focused on Bryan’s neck where Bryan got struck pretty hard again, which had more logic than blood loss fatigue playing a part.
While this match went a while, it didn’t quite have the drama of the first match because the pacing was off. I felt the early on moments with going to the outside and Hangman especially hitting flashy moves like his corner top rope moonsault onto Danielson ruined the pacing and build.
My real complaint was the clean finish. It felt like that they wanted to do more and that there was a lot of expectations going into this match. However, it felt like they should’ve done a draw again given the judges at ringside. Instead, Hangman went over for Bryan’s first loss in AEW. And that loss is huge because I feel that he’s going to get pushed down so that CM Punk and/or MJF will get the next opportunity to face Page. The problem is that again like I mentioned before, I feel the money Khan is putting into these ex-WWE guys is going to be wasted. And I’ll write a lot more about this aspect later. For now, I’m going to just say that this result was the wrong one to make.
The Acclaimed Backstage Promo
They’re going to make a music video about boomer Sting. So what? How can you put a stupid segment like this right after your main event spot? I’m sorry but you’re chasing off viewers.
MJF Vs. Shawn Dean
Poor Shawn Dean. Seriously. This guy was used as a jobber two weeks in a row in embarrassing defeats. In this case, MJF didn’t even have a match as CM Punk decided to run into the ring to interrupt the match. Then Punk gave Shawn Dean a kick to the gut and his GTS so that MJF got the DQ loss. Tony Khan is painting this as a win for Shawn Dean but it’s not a win. It’s a burial because the poor guy didn’t get to do anything. Worse yet he was made to look like a sucker by CM Punk. Last time I recall Shawn Dean was a face so why is he jobbing like this?
This whole deal transitioned into the meat of the matter where both CM Punk and MJF gave dueling promos. Quite honestly, I didn’t care for either guy here. I felt the segment was lame because you had a guy who barely is used with no heat just trying to earn a living getting a cheap “win” that actually looked like a loss. I wonder because of the whole Big Swole fiasco with Shawn Dean speaking out if Tony Khan decided to Vince McMahon the poor guy. Either way this segment did no one any favors.
Chris Jericho Segment
Ugh. He’s back….. This was painfully unfunny. You had 2.0, who aren’t bad, except just bad comedy with Chris Jericho thinking he’s now a comedian. I’m not sure what’s worse: Jericho thinking he’s a rockstar or that he’s funny. Either way, he goes to grab a bat and predictably Daniel Garcia comes to the ring to try to make the save, which equally predictably Eddie Kingston, Santana and Ortiz make their run down to the ring. And despite the fact that Kingston and Jericho had some heat between each other, nothing else happened between them once Kingston came down. There’s very little I can say about this outside of my increasing apathy towards AEW on a whole because of dumb, unimaginative segments like this.
Adam Cole, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly Backstage Segment
Cole tried to explain the whole situation from the previous week where he knew that Kyle O’Reilly’s kick was an accident and that the Bucks’ attempt at interference was for the good of the group. And the whole thing is supposed to pull us along until the end of time (well partly because Matt Jackson got COVID-19 so we’ll have to wait until he recovers for this angle to move forward with the rest of the Bucks). Neither Fish nor O’Reilly looked impressed about the situation.
Now, a lot of people are expecting Cole to eventually turn on the Elite/Super Clique so that he focuses on the Undisputed Era so that they can have a feud. But really does anyone care at this point? I feel like Fish and O’Reilly’s face just say, “I’m glad at least I’m getting a paycheck since NXT is done.” Because I just don’t see how this is going to end well for them. Again, more on my overall thoughts later on about the former WWE (NXT ahem talent) coming in.
Wardlow Vs. Antonio Zambrano
Worthless match, waste of time. We get the point. Wardlow is dominant. But he’s been facing jobbers. Next week he’s finally facing a some body in CM Punk. So I’m wondering given Tony Khan’s piss poor booking history and the way Shawn Dean was jobbed this week if MJF doesn’t interfere somehow on Wardlow’s behalf so that Wardlow gets a gratuitous victory just to say he was the first to beat CM Punk so that Tony Khan can brag, “We make stars!” No, you kill stars. Again, I’ll address my ex-WWE people issues at the end.
Jade Cargill Vs. Ruby Soho
This was for the inaugural TBS women’s title. I had a lot of fears going into this match. Part of it was because of the Big Swole debacle and what I’m going to call Affirmative Action in pro-wrestling style booking. Honestly, after reading the results, I did not want to watch this match. I strongly believe that this should have been Thunder Rosa vs Ruby Soho. For whatever reason (outside of the Big Swole debacle), we got this. And it was not good.
First off, let me say this. Jade Cargill is super hot. I love her Storm cosplay. She looks fantastic. I personally feel she is the most attractive woman in AEW. She has the physical gifts; she’s tall, she exudes confidence, she has a fantastic body and probably the best abs in pro-wrestling.
But I can’t buy her as champion. Her matches have been bad, she’s awkward in the ring because she doesn’t know how to shift her weight around, up close you can see there’s anxiety, etc. I think the biggest problem is that they’ve made her into a heel but that shouldn’t be her character.
If she’s going to be Storm, make her into a super babyface. Make her into Hulk Hogan, not Goldberg. Have her watch Hulk Hogan to be the super hero type of babyface in his mannerisms. That way she’s vulnerable. I think she wants to be dominant and be that monster heel, but after the Big Swole debacle, it’s going to be hard to fix this situation unless they take my suggestion.
Also, if she learns to be a Hulk Hogan style super hero babyface, she can learn to sell. If she learns the selling part, she might do really well because I bet she would be a good role model for young kids. And I am absolutely sincere about that. She has a good look to her and she’s taken after the best X-Men (sorry, I’m super biased towards Storm). So be Storm. Don’t be this weird person in character purgatory. Be an inspiration.
Oh and get rid of that dumb ass fake lawyer. He’s worthless. She doesn’t need him. She should be crafting her own promos rather than having him get her cheap, bad heat.
Jim Ross Sit Down With Serena Deeb
I like Serena Deeb and it’s cool that they gave her some speaking time. But my god was this bad. Her rhythm in her interviews is just so forced. It doesn’t seem natural. And I think the reason behind the scenes she’s in this endless feud with Hikaru Shida is because they probably enjoy working with each other. So it’s hard for me to get behind these interviews when I can’t believe them.
Malakai Black Vs. Brian Pillman Jr.
Once upon a time, there were two guys who were kind of over. One guy had tons of momentum coming in. He had a great debut and started off in a hot feud. Over time, his gimmick got dumber, and dumber and dumber. Now, it’s just plain bad where my apathy for that gimmick equals that of my belief in the politicians trying to fix COVID-19 and all these other issues surrounding the world.
With the other guy, he had a great story on a major TV show that made him such a wonderful babyface. Little by little, people would forget about the story, forget that whom his father was and forget why we should care about this guy because of how bad the booking has become in turning what could’ve been a supreme babyface into another random jobber.
And here we have it today. Two people with all the potential to be the stars of now and the future with an audience that couldn’t give two shits if they were forced fed Taco Bell for a year straight. I can’t remember anything about this match besides the general apathy except for a single spot that I couldn’t tell if it was intentional or not. But poor Pillman Jr. tried to execute his Air Pillman top rope lariat move and seemed to have slipped. Because Malakai Black executed a kick right after, I almost want to believe it was intentional. Nonetheless, it put a lot of egg on Pillman Jr’s face.
Oh yeah, there was poor little Julia Hart. Where the hell was Griff Garrison in all of this? Hart was sporting a pirate’s patch though. Maybe she’ll do that weird fad in Japan where you had all these onara girls with their eye patches thinking it was kawaii.
Anyway, she tries to help Pillman which causes Black to return towards the ring. Then the Lucha Bros come out and we have the lights go out. I’m guessing that the Lucha Bros were going to feud with Malakai Black next but that probably won’t happen anymore as I’ll go into some detail in their main event match later.
Ruby Soho Backstage Interview
Ruby tries to give an emotional interview with Schiavone, but poor Schiavone, replacing Marvez, is handling all the interruptions during these segments. So Britt with her entourage enters and a brawl predictably occurs. Out of somewhere Riho shows up and there’s a match made for Rampage between Britt and Jamie Hayter vs Riho and Ruby, which will inevitably lead towards this Saturday’s not-PPV show between Riho and Britt (where Britt will win since Riho got the win over Hayter to trade wins in this meaning back and forth non-competitive environment and most likely give us Ruby Soho vs Britt Baker 2 since apparently Mercedes Martinez will be facing Thunder Rosa after an attack during the TBS title match that I forgot to mention because I couldn’t care less)
QT Marshall and Aaron Solow Get Air Time
QT Marshall here has managed to sneak in some airtime for himself so that they can talk about the Rampage match that is being set between Hook and Solow. So I guess Hook is being turned face and they’re doing something weird where Taz at least is still being treated as a heel because QT Marshall etc respect him but not Hook. WTF is this?
Lucha Bros. Vs. Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus
This was for the tag team titles. Sadly, I want to admit that the Lucha Bros, for their style, worked a lot better with Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus than FTR. But that doesn’t mean this match was any good. It just was the typical sloppy Lucha Botchers stuff that ended in a very ironic manner.
For whatever reason in the match, Alex Abrahantes set up a table so that they could send one person through it. They did a few tease spots with Luchasaurus leading to him choke slamming Rey Fenix from the apron. In a split second, you could see Fenix’s arm split and him calling for someone to check upon him. It was pretty gruesome but they didn’t linger thankfully on what happened. But that pretty much took both guys out (thankfully) so that Jungle Boy and Penta could do some spots before Jungle Boy got a anti-climatic roll up for the win.
Afterwards, Christian Cage returned to give both guys a hug, especially Jungle Boy. The rest of the tag team heels came out to signal that they all want a piece of the action now that the Lucha Goofs are probably going to be shelved while others were in the box seats. Like Jericho, what looked like Santana or Ortiz (or maybe both) and….Malakai Black? That was so stupid because you wouldn’t think someone like him would be watching. It’s like taking the Undertaker and giving him one of those opera seats with the little eye glass things.
What a disaster of a show on so many levels. The booking is completely deflating but I finally understand what the thinking is and I want to give a long rant about all of that.
So the ratings has been pretty subpar. Tony Khan, in his reality distortion bubble, can justify to himself all he wants about how things are great. But they aren’t growing. The momentum that they had brought in with CM Punk’s debut followed up with Bryan Danielson, Adam Cole and Ruby Soho now has been deflated ever since their peak at the Arthur Ashe Stadium show. And a lot of it is the criticism of the booking Tony has put on in terms of the people that these mainstream wrestlers have been given over time.
Some people have said things like well they should make CM Punk someone used infrequently. Same with Bryan Danielson. And because now we’re seeing them all the time, all their momentum is being lost completely.
That isn’t the issue. The issue is that these wrestlers have (had/past tense) a large following from the WWE. That following wants, in my estimate, to see their heroes on top. Once they realized that the top guys were facing mostly jobbers, all that build up was lost. It’s like if Hulk Hogan had come to WCW only to face Brad Armstrong in his debut. No one wants to see that. You bring in a top guy to face top talent. CM Punk vs Darby was fine and I’ll even give Powerhouse Hobbs his due. But then Matt Sydal, aka the Brad Armstrong of AEW?
Same thing with Adam Cole. He’s in the prime of his career. And he joins the Bucks so that they can do…bad comedy? And now he’s facing the job jokers of the Worst Dorks with the guy wearing sunglasses? The idea of going from one promotion to another when you’re the one in control should be that you negotiate to be with the top people. Otherwise, it’s not an elevation.
Here’s the analogy I’m going to use. Let’s say you have a senior engineer coming into a start up. There’s a bunch of inexperienced developers and a bunch of bad outsourced developers from overseas. The senior engineer has 20+ years of experience, can architect, can manage, knows how to fix all the technical issues if he’s given the reigns. Instead, they relegate this guy to fix shitty bugs that he’s overqualified for.
That’s exactly what’s going on here.
The problem partly is that Tony Khan wants to avoid the mistakes of WCW. I think he sees one of the major criticisms in WCW as being the more common narrative that the WWE at the time was selling as “well, they aren’t creating stars.” Also, the people at the main event level weren’t considered good workers.
But here’s the thing. Outside of having this huge flood of people on top, the one thing WCW did in that situation was that the people coming in from the WWF were put in roughly the correct pecking order of things. What did Nash and Hall do upon arriving? They went after Sting, Flair, Savage, etc. In short, all the people the mainstream audience had been taught for years were WCW’s top stars. They were usually featured on last where the final 10 minutes of Nitro were the most important because all the real angles were setup then. So you watched an entire show, getting to know the newer people that had potential such as Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio Jr, Chris Jericho while you waited for those whom you had cared about previously.
In AEW, you have the local talent being displayed as on par with these incoming people. But the mainstream audience have no clue whom Orange Cassidy is or Chuck Taylor or Wheeler Yuta. But hey, I guess because the boss is friends with them, they get the “rub” from poor Adam Cole rather than Adam Cole making an impact by going after the top stars to demonstrate that he was worth more than what we had seen from his NXT run.
And as I’ve said in the past, the local talent being “helped” drags the bigger stars down with them because they’re perceived as being equal and thus de-value guys like Cole in the process. None of these indy people have any momentum going for them outside of a few vocal people on reddit that enjoy this stuff.
But Tony Khan is so desperate to say, “We’re making stars”. What stars have truly been made through all of this? Just because your local talent gets a one over on some guy from the bigger brand does not mean that you’ve created a star. That’s horseshit.
Here’s an example. Let’s say Wheeler Yuta faces Adam Cole. Wheeler Yuta might be an up-and-comer, he might be perceived in the industry as a good worker, but who is he in the scheme of things? More importantly, what chance does he have against Adam Cole, who probably has the better contract? So why should anyone ever believe that Wheeler Yuta can beat Adam Cole or that the match is something attempting to resolve an interesting question that people are willing to pay to see or tune in for?
But now this is where I’m beginning to see what the real deal is. He’s paying these people who are leaving NXT in droves to be the on-the-job trainers so that they eventually will get replaced by Tony Khan’s friends and his EVPs’ yes-men. In some cases, like with Punk or Danielson, it might not matter because of the size of their contracts I’m guessing. So they might actually want to help even though the type of help they’re providing isn’t as good as they believe. But you get the Ruby Soho match after the whole Big Swole debacle and I can’t help to think that Tony Khan did that as his form of an apology. I mean, who knows since it kinda looked as though they were heading that way regardless. But it’s just another double example of Tony Khan bowing to the wrong type of pressure.
Like if Wardlow actually beats CM Punk next week, I’m going to refer back to this post about how the wrong moves are being made. Wardlow might be a star but he’s not even at Sid Vicious’ level back in 1990.
But yeah, if you’re running away from the WWE (or ROH even), you might think twice before signing an AEW contract because most likely you’ll be fodder for their so-called homegrown green as grass “talent.” I guess getting a contract is better than nothing though unless you have dignity.
Next thing I want to talk about is that Rey Fenix incident. Oh boy. When I heard about it, it didn’t surprise me. In seeing it, I wasn’t surprised. You had two of the sloppiest guys in the match trying to do a spot that was completely unnecessary. Now, one guy might be out for months if he’s lucky and pretty much we won’t see the Lucha Bros for quite a while. But I keep thinking when I see things like this how the true motivation in having a 100+ person roster, which is unheard of, is that these idiots keep getting injured. It’s just fortunate that the titles ended up changing hands (not sure if this was by design or divine intervention) because keeping those belts on the Sloppy Bros was just going to end up with what people saw that night.
And from what I heard their newest ex-WWE runaway (or rather booted out) already got injured in his 2nd match. What the hell is going on? I read about the spot and it just sounded overly complex which is why it probably got goofed up. Jake Roberts was interviewed recently and he said some profound things, most notably about doing 5 things right. It went along the lines of “just nail down 5 things because if that 6th thing looks like shit, you’re going to make everything look like shit”. And that’s what these indy goofs can’t figure out.
Like Rey Fenix’s stuff just looked bad in general. Bad timing, no psychology, no rules, just does whatever he feels like. It’s no wonder why he ended up breaking his arm. It’s almost like karma. And when you get an injury like that (and this isn’t the first time this guy has been shelved for a long period), you have to re-think your strategy. No one buys a ticket to your match because they think you’re going to get chokeslammed through a table (minus the breaking the arm part). And these modern wrestlers need to get out of that mentality.
I’m not saying having a table break should never happen. But it should be a pay off spot rather than a gratuitous spot just so that the modern brain dead fans can masturbate at ring side with ketchup while chanting something nonsensical.
And people might go, “Well, Keith, those wrestlers put their bodies on the line. You should be more forgiving and grateful for what they do.” No, I’m sick of seeing people injury themselves and sometimes killing themselves for no good reason. I’ve been to live shows where I would watch these untrained, young girls botch moves for less than a few hundred people. I got disenchanted after Eddie Guerrero’s death and started to hate wrestling when I heard about Benoit murdering Nancy (she emailed me back in college once). I think back to Misawa Mitsuharu’s untimely in ring death where he took a side suplex and never would wake up because officially he was “decapitated”. I can’t think of being part of that audience seeing my hero die.
And there’s been plenty of deaths in wrestling. Many of the people I loved watching from my youth are gone. Yeah some of it wasn’t necessarily the bumps, but part of it was dealing with the lifestyle of pro-wrestling. I pretty much gave up on pro-wrestling for a long time because I just got so tired of watching bad angles, bad matches and general stupidity. It really hurts because I love pro-wrestling.
But what I’m seeing these days isn’t pro-wrestling. I can’t even call it a circus show because at least in a circus show, Disney on Ice, etc. people are trained, they have routines that they practice and they don’t flub. It’s just a bunch of people doing stupid things. That’s the best way I can describe it.
And there’s no cathartic pay off to most of these matches, spots and stories because the people involved don’t really understand good story telling and good drama. It’s more like mind numbing nonsense where you begin to believe that this is just another prime example of the human race reversing all intellectual development.
Also, there’s zero art to this. I tried to watch that tag team street fight girls match on Rampage from last week after people raved about how good it was. It wasn’t even remotely good. It was flat out embarrassing and awful. Same story. No build, just random illogical spots, blood for blood’s sake, all the tropes of bad wrestling rolled up into one so that the people involved and promoter can claim, “Our women are the best!” No, they suck because they have to disguise how bad they are with gimmicks.
And guess what. There’s going to be more street fights. Why? Why do we see stipulations on top of stipulations every fucking week on free TV? How are these stupid matches that draw no ratings supposed to differentiate themselves and give people something unique as an experience? They don’t have any issues that people give a shit about either. The justification is always, “It’s personal.” If it’s personal, why should anyone besides the two wrestlers care? If these idiots want to kill each other, why not find some place in the wilderness where no one can see them and bring shotguns so that they can resolve the personal issue?
This isn’t like Bruno Sammartino wrestling as a representative of the Italians in New York in Madison Square Garden against Ivan Koloff when we were in the midst of the Cold War. Or Pedro Morales for the Puerto Ricans. Or Hulk Hogan for the entirety of America as the ultimate super hero in the 80s that represented the physical Reagan-esque defender of American pride.
And I know why this problem exist. Tony Khan can fuck off if he ever wanted to. If one day, the wrestling business pisses back on him to the point where he says fuck it, he can take the rest of his money and do something else. He has nothing to worry about and never had to deal with being insecure. So he’s completely protected when it comes to real issues that the mainstream audience faces, which is why he can’t figure out how to book.
Instead, Tony Khan likes “good matches” which is basically the formula of spots per second. Somehow, people have convinced him that a good match is that formula. What they failed to tell him was how mentally that formula has an entropy variable which is directly related to the diminishing returns of seeing the same spot or types of spots over and over until people become numb to the effect. It’s a dopamine scenario. The spots give people that temporary high feeling. But eventually it goes away because of entropy.
That’s why you can’t make wrestling about the moves, ironically. You make wrestling about the emotional investment into the people and the issues for having a match. And the issues need to be representative of a subconscious problem in society that can be addressed in a cathartic fashion as represented through a person symbolizing that issue.
Orange Cassidy, as I’ve stated in the past, represents what? Being a dead beat? Being anti-work? Doesn’t that gimmick just subvert itself? Shouldn’t his whole schtick be about losing because he doesn’t want to do anything? But do you really want a character like this representing something that should be competitive in nature? I mean, my example of the only burning question in a match is whether or not he’s going to insert his hands in his pockets. That’s what I get out of him. The rest looks like gunk.
Next, someone might go, “Well, that’s what the Lucha Bros were for! They wanted to represent the cultural aspects of Lucha Libre to the American public!” I get that but their matches sucked. I’m sorry. It looked fake, bad, contrived, sloppy and now because of those things, the younger brother has a broken arm. I mean, how is it that Rey Mysterio Jr can still do what he does and has been what I consider the standard for that style but so many others just don’t get it when they wrestle up here?
Either way, I’m not sure if I’m going to write up more reviews in the future as long as things continue to stagnate. I’ll write a review if something is really good or worth saying. Otherwise, I just find the situation to be demotivating and draining my energy/time from what I need to accomplish.