All Elite Wrestling is coming, and they're coming on strong.
As of the very moment I type this, we're a mere five days away from the new promotion's television debut, and their buzz seems to grow stronger every day. They are arriving on the scene at the perfect time, as more and more WWE fans are looking for a viable alternative to what they've been watching.
I'm excited for it, but what exactly am I excited for? What do I, personally, want to see from AEW moving forward? Well, I'm glad I asked, because I just happen to have all the answers to my own question. Like many of you, I have a wish list for AEW, full of things I want to see them do (and not do) as they attempt to become that viable alternative that I previously mentioned. Again, this is my own personal wish list, so fret not if it doesn't quite match up with what you would include on your lists. I'm going to run through things in no particular order, so with that out of the way, let's get things cracking, shall we?
A Focus On The In-Ring Product: This would be an especially major point if AEW were going head-to-head with one of WWE's main roster shows. As it is, they're squaring off against a show that puts a lot of focus on action, but AEW needs to keep that up. That's easy to say, of course. I'm not saying we need two hours of in-ring work in a two hour show. If you want to stand out in a crowded televised wrestling market, staying away from WWE's (and, at times, Impact Wrestling's) formula of having lots of talking, promos, backstage segments, and a focus on the "soap opera" aspect of things would be greatly beneficial. If you go up and down the AEW roster, you'll see a ton of tremendous workers, many of whom are being seen by the "mainstream" wrestling fans for the first time. Show those workers off. "Wow" those new viewers.
Edginess: I'm not saying we need a true blue return to the Attitude Era. I merely want to see some "realism" in my wrestling. For example, if you're going to have a promo, why not make it sound natural and not overly scripted and geared towards a younger audience? I understand having sponsors on a show that don't want f-bombs dropped left and right, but I can't get drawn into a story if Wrestler A is supposed to be super duper mad at Wrestler B for some dastardly deed that Wrestler B did, only for Wrestler A to cut a promo and say he's going to kick Wrestler B's "butt." I'm sorry, but that's just not how the average adult speaks when they're angry. The madder you are, the more "colorful" your language usually is. Now, I will readily admit that too much of that vulgarity also sounds unnatural, as you'll hear that from a lot of indy wrestlers, who sound like they're cursing to sound "cool" more than anything else.
That edginess should also be seen in the in-ring product. If you're watching a crazy fight between two people, do you know what you're likely going to see at some point? Blood. That's what we should be seeing in wrestling, too. I'm not calling for five matches on a six-match card to feature high marks on the Muta Scale (Google it, kiddos). I even get it if you want to save blood for very special occasions. That's perfectly fine. I'm just saying that it happens, and should be allowed to happen. It's bordering on ridiculous to see certain match types in WWE happen time and time again without a single drop of blood. Realism. That's the key word that I mentioned at the beginning of this entry. I just want realism. Lord knows there are enough people already on the roster who are willing to get some of that color to further a story along.
It's being reported that AEW Dynamite will have a TV-14 rating, which is a good sign for those looking for something different. Time will tell, though.
Managers: How simple is that? I know I'm old and all, but I miss the days when pro wrestling had Managers at ringside. Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, Miss Elizabeth, Mr. Fuji, Paul Bearer, Jim Cornette, Jimmy Hart, Teddy Long, Gary Hart, JJ Dillon, Luna Vachon, Sunny, Paul Ellering, Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman), Sherri Martel, Armando Alejandro Estrada, Francine, Bill Alfonso, Beulah McGillicutty... the list goes on and on. Managers and valets once played a very important role in the business. Sometimes, they'd be the "mouth piece" during promos for wrestlers who didn't have the best mic skills. Sometimes, they'd be there to interfere in matches behind the referee's back to give their clients a better chance at winning. Sometimes, they'd be there for a motivational boost, pounding the mat or leading the crowd to chant, giving their clients that little bit extra they needed to dig down deep. Hell, sometimes, they'd just be there for eye candy. They all served a purpose, though. For whatever reason, WWE has largely done away with that in this "era" of wrestling. That makes it a prime opportunity for AEW to stand out automatically.
Avoid The "Austin vs McMahon" Temptation: Look, ever since "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Vince McMahon made approximately 38 septillion dollars feuding with each other, professional wrestling promotions all over the world have tried to replicate that by doing "worker feuds with boss" story after story. WWE has tried it almost non-stop with the McMahon family and/or the Raw and Smackdown General Managers through the years. None of it has ever been as good as the original. Wrestling fans are tired of it now.
This is a little different for AEW, though. We all know that, outside of President and CEO Tony Khan, every "boss" that AEW has is a full-time in-ring performer. Cody Rhodes, Brandi Rhodes, Kenny Omega, and the Young Bucks are all in positions of power within the company, and for good reason. This is their "baby" and they should be able to do more than just wrestle. That's fine and all, but I don't need that to bleed into the on-screen product. I don't want to see, as an example, a heel Cody Rhodes feuding with a face Jon Moxley and making Moxley's life a living hell simply because he can. No stacked decks. No Moxley has to wrestle matches with hand picked refs of Cody's choosing. No handicap matches to "teach a lesson" to someone. If Cody's going to be a heel, just let him be a heel without having to remind us that he's in charge of things. If Cody's going to be a face, just let him be a face without having to remind us that he's in charge of things. AEW will not be able to replicate the magic that was Austin and McMahon, so why even try?
Statistics: We've been told that wins and losses are going to matter in AEW. I'd like to see that played out with statistics like win/loss records and streaks. We all know the business is scripted, but this is a step for realism that doesn't hurt anything. I want to know that Chris Jericho's record is 9-1 with AEW. I want to know that Joey Janela has won his last five matches on Dynamite. I want to know that Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy have lost their last two shots at the Tag Team Titles. Stuff like that helps to make everything important, even when nothing appears to be on the line at face value.
New Stars: When Chris Jericho became the first AEW World Champion, I saw a lot of people that were upset, thinking that AEW was going down the bad road that WWE likes to go down when it comes to pushing their older talent. Jericho, who turns 49 in November, should have "done the job" for the 28-year-old "Hangman" Adam Page, they said. Personally, I understood the move. Jericho is, obviously, the bigger "name" of the two, and that's what you want when you begin your time on television and are trying to pull in new and/or lapsed viewers.
Other than that, though, one of the most important things AEW can do is to create new stars. As I said earlier, there are a lot of people on their roster that the average wrestling fan has never seen before. Someone like Pentagón Jr can become huge if given the right opportunities. Same goes for Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy. Same goes for MJF. Same goes for Orange Cassidy. This is such a huge opportunity for people like that. I'm not saying that Jungle Boy should be the World Champion on the first episode while the likes of Kenny Omega and Cody Rhodes are competing in dark matches, but how about giving fans a little something fresh and building for the future?
Make Dynamite A "Variety" Show: If you think back to the Monday Night War between Raw and Nitro, what did Nitro initially do to take the ratings lead? They had a little bit of something for every type of viewer to enjoy. If you liked the huge stars that were past their prime, but were still larger-than-life, WCW had you covered. If you liked the exciting, fast paced, high flying action, WCW had you covered. If you liked smash mouth, hard hitting, "hoss" battles, WCW had you covered. You had Hulk Hogan and the nWo, but you also had the guys like Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio, and Dean Malenko. You had a great tag team scene, world class Cruiserweight scene, star-studded main event scene, and a loaded midcard. It was just fun, must-see television every week.
Dynamite needs to follow that formula. When you watch some independent wrestling shows, everything begins to blur together. Every match features people that look the same, performing the same moves. That's tiring, but it's fine for one show. If every show is like that, you're eventually going to stop caring and you'll find something else to watch. AEW already has a lot of variety, but they could use more. Someone like a Brian Cage or Jeff Cobb that can tear your head off and throw you all over the ring, maybe. Perhaps some working relationships with promotions in Mexico and Japan, bringing in more unique talent that none of your competitors can feature. Overall, the AEW roster is relatively small at the moment, with 39 male and 11 female workers. Yes, the company is still in its infancy, but when you consider that at least some of those names won't be appearing every week, it makes the roster look even smaller. For the sake of comparison, a total of 31 workers made some sort of appearance on the latest episode of Smackdown, so it's possible to have 50 workers look very thin before too long. Like I said, add some different types of workers and styles, and they could/should be golden.
No Motion Sickness: This one is cheating a bit, because nobody but WWE's main roster does this, all thanks to Kevin Dunn and/or Vince McMahon and their stupid ideas. If I'm watching a wrestling show, I don't want to have to look away from the screen every so often to prevent myself from throwing up because of camera cut after camera cut after camera cut and zoom in and zoom out and zoom in and zoom out and zoom in and zoom out and shake and shake and shake. It's asinine, and there's a reason nobody else does it. As long as AEW doesn't adopt that production style, I'll be fine.
This is a wild and crazy time for wrestling fans. AEW making their television debut, going head-to-head with the newly televised NXT. Smackdown moving to Fox, who seem like they want the company to pull out all the stops to make the show the best it can be. Impact Wrestling moving to AXS, where they will potentially have the ability to have more eyeballs on their show every week. The options are seemingly endless. If you're not excited for what's happening, I'm not sure you can even call yourself a fan.
We all have our own wish lists for what we want to see AEW accomplish. You've read my list, so now, I want to see your lists. As usual, hit me up on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage) or in the comments section below and let me know what you're looking forward to.