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Off the Top Rope: Something isn’t clicking with AEW

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AEW posted another nominal ratings win over NXT this week, drawing 947,000 viewers to “Dynamite” on Wednesday night, outpacing the WWE show’s 721,000.

This week’s “Dynamite” set the stage for the upcoming Feb. 29 “Revolution” pay-per-view, which is headed toward a main event pitting AEW world champ Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley, a grudge match with Cody and Maxwell Jacob Friedman, and an intriguing soon-to-be-former friends rivalry between Kenny Omega and Adam Page.

Something seems off, though, with the product, and it starts at the top.

Actually, no, not the very top. Jericho, as champ, is doing what needs to be done, giving the company mainstream legitimacy, and reinforcing his status as an all-time great with his moonlighting in New Japan.

The booking last month that had Jericho going to a 10-minute draw with Jungle Boy Jack Perry, for example, brilliant, elevating the youngster by showing he can hang with “Le Champion.”

Good stuff there.

The issue is with The Elite in All Elite: Omega and The Young Bucks.

It’s almost as if the booking is being done with the idea of proving to the critics that, OK, we’re not here to put ourselves over with Tony Khan’s money.

Omega, as recently as 2018, was the world’s best wrestler, after a year that saw him win the IWGP title from Kazuchika Okada at the conclusion of the best one-on-one series since Ric Flair-Ricky Steamboat back in the late 1980s.

And The Bucks, arguably, are one of the best two, three tag teams on the planet, and they began their AEW run working a series with one of the other two, the Lucha Brothers.

The booking that has had The Bucks serving to put over teams like Private Party and Santana & Ortiz is fine if you’re thinking long term.

Same with having Omega lose to Moxley and PAC.

I can see where things are going. Eventually, Omega is going to go on a long winning streak as the buildup to a match with Jericho, where he goes over and wins the belt, and The Bucks, same, though probably not with SCU, more likely Santana & Ortiz.

Long term, though, might be a ways off, especially as far as having Jericho drop the belt, maybe as far out as “All Out” later in the year.

In the meantime, what do you have? The three guys who are your guys basically being .500 wrestlers.

Ideally, the effect would be to boost the likes of PAC, Page, Private Party, Santana & Ortiz, SCU, MJF, and when you get to where you want to be, you have yourself a stable of stars.

Thing is, you have to get there.

We don’t know the extent of the commitment of Khan in terms of longevity with the product buildout.

The business approach, from the outside, seems smart. The company is running just the one show per week, not taxing its capacity trying to run house shows outside of the TV taping, doing just one pay-per-view event per quarter.

That should slow the money burn as the product builds an audience.

We don’t know the commitment of TNT to the weekly broadcast of “Dynamite.” Indications are that the show is pulling viewers above what the early expectations had been, and as long as that is the case, the network should be all in with the slow-build strategy.

The viewer numbers are off from the 1.4 million for the premiere back in October, but they’ve been holding consistently in the 900,000 range the past few weeks, so, that’s probably good, at least in the sense that they’re not trending downward.

They’re not trending upward, either, though, and the lack of focus that comes with just having a quarterly big pay-per-view event is beginning to show.

Titles aren’t changing hands on a random Wednesday night. The flow of surprise appearances seems to have slowed to a trickle.

The matches themselves are largely better than anything WWE puts on its three TV shows on a weekly basis, which is a plus.

The announce team, particularly the grouping of Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone, far better than anything WWE can offer.

Omega and The Young Bucks are also better than anything WWE can run out on TV on a weekly basis.

And right now, they’re 50/50 guys.

AEW isn’t going to take off until they’re the guys.

Story by Chris Graham

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