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Some Thoughts on AEW in 2023

Joe Bob Briggs said, “… the only sin a movie can commit is to be boring.” When it comes to pro wrestling, I believe the only sin it can commit is to be predictable.

When AEW launched in 2019, I returned to watching weekly wrestling. I honestly didn’t think that day would ever come again, after the destruction of ECW and WCW in the early 2000’s. But I loved it. AEW was new and exciting, it offered an alternative and felt different. My TV was filled with wrestlers I didn’t know or didn’t know well, and it felt like anything could happen.

Jon Moxley could show up and throw Kenny Omega through a table.

Cody Rhodes could tell the world that we weren’t in WWE anymore and there was no glass keeping the wrestlers from leaving the ringside area as he stomped up the steps to a press box.

Joey Janela could tear the house down with Kenny Omega in a lights out match.

It was so unpredictable and I absolutely loved it.

Even my wife, who was not a wrestling fan, couldn’t help but find herself drawn into the weekly battles. The company walked a fine line between wrestling and sports entertainment, but consistently positioned itself as something different than the bright lights and shiny graphics of the WWE.

Then the pandemic happened, and it seemed like all would be lost. How could a brand-new company deal with a situation that televised wrestling had never dealt with before? There wasn’t a team of experienced wrestling veterans running the show, just one man, Tony Khan, who was a wrestling fan first, then a promoter. But he surprised us all, as pandemic AEW may have been the best AEW. Each Wednesday I had something to look forward to as fantastic matches and storylines were written. Wrestling was cool, fun, and exciting again and I hoped it would never end.

But… wrestling seems to come in cycles and that high that AEW was riding did lower. The influx of WWE wrestlers, producers, and backstage members slowly brought a change to the feeling of the show. It began to feel more and more like a cross between NXT and Raw every week. The show got a bit shinier, the smart comments like invisible walls weren’t mentioned, because suddenly they were there again. The influx of Joshi wrestlers, who were originally planned to work as crowd hype matches like the Cruiserweights in WCW, didn’t come to pass and instead we got to see the latest WWE release taking up screen time.

Joey Janela became a jobber and his only big matches found him being dominated by Chris Jericho and soon he was gone. The unpredictability of the show ended, as a quick glance at the card it was easy to predict the winners and losers sometimes even the way the loss would happen. My wife could sometimes call a title change based on the tights the wrestlers were wearing. If someone was in their home town, they will win.

All the incredible NJPW stars that were brought in, along with any free agents for a single match, were jobbed out to AEW stars immediately ruining any excitement for their arrival. And as this started to occur, I began to remember why I quit watching the WWE twenty years ago. It was predictable.

That’s not to say AEW doesn’t still have great matches or interesting angles, in fact, I feel like they are on a much better path now than they were six months ago, but it’s still more of the same. It’s become sports entertainment. Predictable backstage segments and interviews, the same ones WWE has been doing since the 90’s occur on every show. Feuds go on way too long and anyone who gets involved with Chris Jericho doesn’t a positive rub, instead he seems to suck all of their hype and momentum out of them.

Pro wrestling is a little bit dumb. I’m a lifelong fan I can admit that. That’s part of the charm of it all. But if it’s so dumb it feels like it’s insulting the wrestling fans, then it’s time to turn it off and well… I watch AEW occasionally, now. I might catch the opening match or skim through it after it’s aired, but it no longer has my attention and that really stinks. I miss that feeling of excitement each week as I had no idea what to expect. I miss the connection that gave me to other wrestling fans and the anticipation for when I could attend a show live. Luckily, wrestling does come around in cycles, and I really hope one day AEW will get back to what made it so amazing just a year or so ago.

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