Five things for AEW to build on as it steams toward Year 2
AEW began its run as the #2 pro wrestling company in North America in earnest last October with a show a couple of hours up the road from us in Washington, D.C.
I was on hand for the live event, which opened with Cody taking on a guy that I’d admittedly never heard of, Sammy Guevara, and finished with this no-name kid joining a new clique called The Inner Circle alongside a pair of former WWE champs, Chris Jericho and Jake Hager, in a beatdown of The Elite.
I turned to a buddy who made the trip with me ahead of a six-man tag match featuring members of The Elite earlier in the show and said something along the lines of, Dude, can you believe that we’re about to see Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks in person?
Omega ended up brawling with Jon Moxley, who would go on to win the AEW title from Jericho in February.
Omega was on his way to a long run with “Hangman” Adam Page as the tag champs.
The Young Bucks have yet to hold any gold in the new company, and Omega, #1 on the PWI 500 in 2018, hasn’t been a contender in the singles division since his loss to Jericho way back in May 2019.
Moxley has done a good job as the guy carrying the ball through the pandemic, taking over the top spot in the PWI 500 in the process, and as the world peeks its collective head out of the COVID-19 hole, Tony Khan and Co. seem to be on track to picking up the momentum that had been building before the public health response put everything on the kibosh.
Where might things be going from here?
Omega will finally get his push as a singles star
I get why Khan was reluctant to put the company on Omega’s back out of the gate. The hardcore fan base that followed Omega and The Bucks from New Japan is going to be there regardless, but at the outset of a new company, you need to give the more mainstream fans some names and faces they’re familiar with.
The idea of going with Jericho and Moxley, and their high Q ratings from their runs in WWE, was oriented at drawing in those fans, and the strategy seems to have paid off.
TNT extended its deal with AEW early into their partnership, and that long-term commitment means the upstarts are going to be around long enough to build toward the future.
That future is Kenny Omega.
The tag team with Page, another building block guy, was meant all along to end with the breakup that happened at last week’s “All Out” pay-per-view, which saw the Omega-Page team lose the tag belts to FTR (more on them later).
A singles feud between Omega and Page that ends with Omega going over would have him primed and ready for a run at the AEW world title for the “Revolution” pay-per-view next February or the “All In” show in May.
The only question to me: who will his dance partner be?
The slow build: FTR vs. The Bucks
I like the way Khan teased tensions between FTR and The Young Bucks by first having them work as nominal allies.
The two have been building anticipation toward a dream series for years on the internet, but you can’t assume that the folks tuning in each week on TV know everything the smart marks from the IWC know in terms of backstory.
This feud has the potential to be the 2020s version of Rock ‘n Roll Express-Midnight Express.
In the meantime, each gets to work with dance partners like the Lucha Brothers, Best Friends, Jurassic Express, SoCal Uncensored, Dark Order, Private Party.
It’s printing money, basically.
The doctor is in
Britt Baker is the unquestioned building block in the women’s division.
Talented, photogenic, glib, it’s a little frustrating that she keeps getting jobbed out, but I can sense something in the way of what happened in WWE with Becky Lynch in the works for Baker.
She’s that good on the mic, which we only discovered when Khan had the epiphany that led him to turn her heel, unleashing her from having to be the business face of the AEW women’s roster.
Baker is still not 100 percent from a gruesome knee injury suffered earlier in the year, but once she is, expect to see her go on a hot streak on the way to a run with the women’s title.
Three words: Maxwell Jacob Friedman
The scene with MJF and Jericho that cold-opened last night’s “Dynamite” was a hint at where Khan is thinking with the young guy.
He’s a future main-eventer, almost entirely because he’s Jericho-level on the mic.
Khan has done a great job building and protecting MJF, giving him the win over Cody back at “Revolution,” then the march toward the main event at “All In,” with what was only his second loss of 2020 coming with Moxley using the stip-banned Paradigm Shift, portending a possible future rematch opportunity.
More talent itching to sign on
Miro, the former Rusev in WWE, made his debut on “Dynamite” last night, and don’t assume he’s the last guy you’ll see from the E making his way to AEW this year.
Khan has positioned the company to be a destination because he’s made it a point to treat the former WWE stars on his roster well.
Which is to say, he’s not trotting anybody out on TV in a ridiculous costume, punish-jobbing guys to try to make the stupid point that his homegrown talent is better, basically, not doing the kind of things that Vince McMahon does because Vince McMahon is Vince McMahon.
Jon Moxley, the former eternally frustrated Dean Ambrose, is the AEW world champ. FTR, the former eternally frustrated Revival, are the tag champs. Brodie Lee, fka Luke Harper, is doing expert Mr. McMahon send-ups as the head of the Dark Order and your new TNT champ.
Matt Hardy, Matt Cardona, Jake Hager, all used well to date.
Shawn Spears has languished.
We’re wait and see on Miro, for obvious reasons.
Do well by the talent, and you get access to a deeper well of talent.
Something to build on for Year 2.
Story by Chris Graham