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Reflections as AEW turns five.


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Posted (edited)
21 minutes ago, Curt McGirt said:

A good question is what would the wrestling landscape look like if AEW HADN'T shown up.

That's a great question.  Some speculation off the top of my head:

  • Punk probably doesn't come back to wrestling
  • NJPW is maybe stronger but that's a tough call.  Covid and Japan's economy issues hurt the company as much a people leaving did
  • NXT is probably still HHH's super indy.  It only changed stemming from its failure to beat AEW.
  • Cody isn't the top babyface in WWE 
  • WWE isn't doing nearly as well; I think competition forced it to get better just as much as Vince leaving allowed them to get better
  • A ton of wrestlers are still relying on the indies to get by.
  • Eddie Kingston is retired from wrestling and is an iron worker. 
  • Various indy streaming services are getting my money.
Edited by Technico Support
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50 minutes ago, StuntmanCrowley said:

One of my favorite things about AEW is the ballad of Hangman Page.  He went from completely unknown to me, to one of my current favorites.  The guy always brings the goods.

Definitely!  Hangman's 2+ year struggle to win the title after losing the inaugural title match to Jericho, and everything that came with it, was tremendous.  It's a shame they took it off him to give it to Punk.  Going from the heart of the company to the ass of the company.  I feel like going from the rumored first four champions that Tony had planned out, to the mayhem of Punk-Moxley-Moxley-Punk-Moxley really derailed the company for a good while.

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Other "what if AEW never existed" scenarios:

FTR is in their 4th year of dressing like jesters

Jon Moxley still left WWE; he walks the earth like Cain in Kung Fu wrestling for every indy and doing odd jobs from town to town, getting in adventures.  Sad music always plays when he leaves town, like he's Dr. David Banner.

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2 hours ago, Technico Support said:

Definitely!  Hangman's 2+ year struggle to win the title after losing the inaugural title match to Jericho, and everything that came with it, was tremendous.  It's a shame they took it off him to give it to Punk.  Going from the heart of the company to the ass of the company.  I feel like going from the rumored first four champions that Tony had planned out, to the mayhem of Punk-Moxley-Moxley-Punk-Moxley really derailed the company for a good while.

I couldn't agree with this more.  Punk didn't need to come close to the belt, at all and a victory over Punk would've cemented Hangman more than he already was.  I said in another thread that if Hangman beats Punk, we're probably talking about Hangman as the best AEW champ of all time.  Only reason Punk got that title was "he's CM Punk" and depeding on what rumor mill you believe his refusal to lose to Hangman.  I hate Punk and think he's never been in the top 10 of any company he's been in, let alone best in the world,  so i'll keep my bias opinions to myself, but i believe the above sentiment bias or not.

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Derp. Octo-Ramble on the first five years

 

The Rise and Fall of Cody

Going into AEW and the first few years, Cody Rhodes was hand down the face of the company. Jericho was the veteran to legitimize the brand, Mox was the defecting star, Omega was an artist attempting a potentially interesting storyline, The Young Bucks were a tag, and Hangman was the future. People were red hot for Cody. It really seemed like he could do no wrong. I remember him walking up to the press box to punch Jericho through glass with DDP. He just felt like this new version of an old school face. He wasn’t quite the awe shucks  SUPER DUPER STAR he became in WWE, but he felt cool and something we haven’t seen in a long time. I remember him in a limo with a briefcase of money and even writing that it seems like a heel thing but it wasn’t. The slow burn of bad decisions back to back to back turned a super face into a kinda meta heel but wants to be a face but the fans just started to really hate him. The Codyverse became a joke. He was striving to be liked by jumping through a flaming table. I’d say it was sad but things turned out so well for him. His AEW run from the ups and the downs need to be studied. 

 

The Transition of Who Represents the Company

At the start of AEW, it felt like the spirit of it was a combination of Dusty’s Lineage’s Revenge, the successful profitability of Indy Wrestlers creating a big brand, and the New Japan influenced work-rate. It’s interesting to think of when the focus of how we refer to AEW  transitioned from Cody and the EVP’s to this is Tony Khan’s toy box. Of course he was always the owner, but him being so highlighted as the brand or representative wasn’t initial.

 

The Art and Arguments of Storytelling 

For a company that gets shit on (understandably) for its booking, AEW had some of my favorite feuds and arcs. The Hangman Saga was very possibly my favorite in wrestler. Punk and earlier Cody vs MJF we’re both phenomenal. Hangman vs Swerve was very well done. The Continental Classic was perfect and if they can replicate it’s success then it’ll be an absolute triumph. The wackiness of the current Elite shenanigans took my from depressively on the brink of taking a break from the company to still keeping up. There are a lot of turds and mishandled moments and angles. Things that go on for too long to have a specific payoff date or even over-fixing a oversight of a visa issue, it can be wildly inconsistent. But let’s be real, there hasn’t ever been a company that has been. That’s not saying we shouldn’t comment on what we don’t like, I’m more rolling my eyes at all the tik tok comments I have read. 

 

CM Punk and the End of the Era of Goodwill 

I’m not going to rehash all the drama we’ve covered repeatedly. I’m also not going to take sides. I’m just going to say that the CM Punk run and all the hoopla involving and surrounding it was absolutely fascinating. I think his entering the company was such a historic high note that how everything turned out was wild to follow along in real time. When he went down and we had several other wrestlers also get injure and/or suspended at the same time, we started to slowly see the benefit of the doubt and built up equity with the fans slowly dissipate. Personally, it was cool seeing Mox solidify himself as Mr AEW / the Ace of the company. But with the negativity and divisiveness we saw from reports and just awkward attempts at solutions, AEW was no longer the fun company. The singing we see in WWE audiences used to be in AEW. Now the arenas are half filled.

 

American Dragon

Thank you, God, for this Danielson run. These past however many years he has been with the company is something I’m going to regularly go back and watch. Bryan is my GOAT and this was what really edged him over my other contenders. 

 

Title Turnpike

I’m fine with the amount of titles they have. Don’t fucking add more though. As long as the right people hold the belts and the matches/ stories are good, I’m happy. Kingston being awesome made me like the Continental Crown/Belt/Fondue set. Okada now having it makes it feel really important. I thought that being a belt would be stupid. Same with so far all the titles. Currently, I’m fine. It’s clearly a thing that isn’t going to change, so just do it well. They are currently well. 

 

The Saviors

Who were wrestlers that came through when the company really needed it? I mentioned Mox. Samoa Joe recently just had the presence of strong and no bull shit when the company desperately needed that. Danielson was maybe the only person that could fill in for a recently exited Punk. Any others come to mind?

 

AEW Specific Gimmick Matches

I love when companies have their own special match up that you can only see there or it somehow feels different. Like the Royal Rumble in WWE or Ultimate X in TNA. Anarchy in the Arena is so fun and nuts. Blood and Guys feels so much more violent than WWE War Games. The AEW cages even feel taller. Having the weird card based battle royal with a special Joker at the end is a thing. MIMOSA MAYHEM!

 

An Open Universe

It is so cool to see other companies acknowledged and even represented. We got Kingston vs Jun Akiyama. Forbidden Door is such a cool show. Oh sweet, CMLL guys are here. I remember watching Danielson vs Suzuki and just being blown away that it happened. 

 

——-

I’ve been typing this off and on. Lil Octopus has been having tough nights. So I won’t spell check and I know I forgot 3 or so other things I’d bring up.

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If AEW had never existed, Brodie Lee's legacy in Wrestling would be "talented but underutilised". But in his short time in AEW, he really showed everyone that he could be both a credible top level Monster heel, and also that he could be utterly hilarious in a comedy segment.

Not to disrespect the other wrestlers in the Dark Order, but the fact that the stable was dying on it's arse before he showed up, and has lost more and more momentum the further we get away from him being there, really shows how he was the spark they needed.

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Octo-inspired derp. Five years already, my god. 

I’ll try to keep this mostly positive. This is not a perfect entity, but we should largely be happy Tony could be bothered to invest his time and money into this. I find AEW deeply flawed, more so than ever. But anyone putting this much effort to try to put on a viable, high-profile weekly wrestling product on national TV is a benefit to us all. When WWE was the only game in town at that level, there was nothing worth scrutinizing with any vigor because who cares, certainly not the person most responsible with authoring that product. But Tony cares, which makes his product’s qualities and flaws worth engaging with.

Speaking of engaging with a product, AEW has given me many posts here and elsewhere worth engaging with mentally. So I’m thankful for that. Matt, Gordi, and the Octopus jump out immediately, but there are many I’m sure I’m forgetting. And I guess Casey is also part of the brain trust for being a strong CM Punk fan and a man of good taste. 

I’m more tired of Bryan Danielson than I’ve ever been. The string of good matches for the sake of good matches he’s been on does little for me. Part of that is I just think a result of me being busy and checked out and looking for other things. But I’m happy it’s happening and Tony is willing to indulge him. Someday there’ll be a nice rain day fund of “bangers” for me to enjoy with some distance.

I mostly believed pre-AEW Cody talk about him just being “three star Cody.” AEW solidified him as a fave. What a weird run. At its lowest, people took it like it was the worst kind of adversarial 2010s WWE booking at times, but it was so much more the that. Special stuff. I both think the idea that the “Codyverse” existed was nonsense because everything is kinda pocketed off because of the dumb way Tony formats his show, and at the same time I miss the Codyverse. Pearls before swine situation. 

I’m happy I was able to change my mind on Orange Cassidy. The benefits of having a product worth engaging with. I’m happy I was open to the people who made the case (well) for him. 

AEW solidified the case that CM Punk is going to be my favorite wrestler of all time. I think part of that case is a matter of him being formative, in that catching his early ROH stuff shifted my fandom down a road that nobody is likely to do again at my (relatively) advanced age. Part of that is his recent shit being so good and me waiting so long for it. Part of that is me getting to enjoy his controversies contemporaneously. I’m all out of formative experiences now, and no historical footage can hit as hard as shit lived then. I think Punk has the crown locked up, for better or worse. Thank you Tony for bringing him back, regardless of how it turned out. 

Dax vs Tommy Billington was weird. Happy to have a company at this level just do that. Feels like it almost challenges the industry leader to work with Bloodsport or TNA to maintain credibility in the new guy’s “era.” AEW is good for everyone. 

Happy five years. Please retire, Chris Jericho.  

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Octopus said:

The Rise and Fall of Cody

Going into AEW and the first few years, Cody Rhodes was hand down the face of the company. Jericho was the veteran to legitimize the brand, Mox was the defecting star, Omega was an artist attempting a potentially interesting storyline, The Young Bucks were a tag, and Hangman was the future. People were red hot for Cody. It really seemed like he could do no wrong. I remember him walking up to the press box to punch Jericho through glass with DDP. He just felt like this new version of an old school face. He wasn’t quite the awe shucks  SUPER DUPER STAR he became in WWE, but he felt cool and something we haven’t seen in a long time. I remember him in a limo with a briefcase of money and even writing that it seems like a heel thing but it wasn’t. The slow burn of bad decisions back to back to back turned a super face into a kinda meta heel but wants to be a face but the fans just started to really hate him. The Codyverse became a joke. He was striving to be liked by jumping through a flaming table. I’d say it was sad but things turned out so well for him. His AEW run from the ups and the downs need to be studied. 

I'll always assert that Cody booking himself into a "if I lose, I can't challenge for the world title" angle was an equal parts genius and supremely carny ploy to remain the 1b to the world champion's 1a.  TK already had his first four champions, so the company's first three years, planned out, and Cody wasn't in those plans.  So he'd either be jobbing to the world champ or ultimately jobbing to contenders for the forseeable future.  Making him unable to challenge, in theory, kept him hotter, the company's uncrowned champ, the asterisk on every champion's reign.  I think it backfired, though, creating the Codyverse where everything he did existed in this weird, tone-deaf space outside the company proper.  "What if none of that had happened?" is absolutely fascinating to consider.

Edited by Technico Support
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2 hours ago, Technico Support said:

I'll always assert that Cody booking himself into a "if I lose, I can't challenge for the world title" angle was an equal parts genius and supremely carny ploy to remain the 1b to the world champion's 1a.  TK already had his first four champions, so the company's first three years, planned out, and Cody wasn't in those plans.  So he'd either be jobbing to the world champ or ultimately jobbing to contenders for the forseeable future.  Making him unable to challenge, in theory, kept him hotter, the company's uncrowned champ, the asterisk on every champion's reign.  I think it backfired, though, creating the Codyverse where everything he did existed in this weird, tone-deaf space outside the company proper.  "What if none of that had happened?" is absolutely fascinating to consider.

I think that’s very possible. It’s tough (and kinda fun) that Cody is so delightfully a bull shitter. So much so that the positives and negatives I don’t have an ability to have a definitive read on what would have or wouldn’t have happened. 

I think the stipulation was a bad idea. A positive that did come from it was it being MJF’s first big villain moment that created the framework of how manipulative and cunning he was. Whether Cody himself said know to the title by overthinking the potential Dusty comparisons or was already never going to win the title, I’m not entirely sure. 

I’m also not sure of when the four champion plan was put in place. That was either the Khan-concept since conception (or Khancept-tion) or came later. I recall the EVPs and Tony having a super booking meeting at the end of the first year when Dynamite did a best-of show. I think that meeting was later on attributed to setting up the Hangman Saga, but I could be completely wrong. 

To comeback to my uncertainty of the Truth of Cody: we have no idea if he’d ever actually turn heel or not. He said he didn’t want to or was happy with this weird meta Cena/Roman aura cosplay. But I can’t trust him. The weird which tunnel was he going to use moments and the long promo segments of being a good guy is something I could see an obliviously aligned Heel doing. It even fits into the meta of being meta. We have no idea though because they couldn’t come to an agreement when his contract expired. I fantasy book him “saving” AEW by going back on his word and BSing his way to a win. Honestly though, I like his WWE run better than that.

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On 5/25/2024 at 11:37 AM, Curt McGirt said:

There is an elephant in this thread that I think we're overlooking, and that's that Tony used to post here and we knows he knows his shit and he's gonna book accordingly. That is an attraction that I think is almost subliminal in a way with us. 

I think I started watching AEW after learning that the owner/booker had been a DVDVR poster. Before then, I had occasionally watched one of the NJPW weekly syndicated shows they did, and a couple of Royal Rumbles at bars, but not a regular viewer since the late 00s.

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Orange fucking Cassidy. When I first started watching, he was mostly a joke wrestler and I needed to have his whole deal explained to me. But starting with the Yuta turn, his character started realizing that he actually did care about what he was doing. And then, when he got the International title, he became the fighting champion who took on lots of random people and showed what an incredibly talented wrestler and storyteller that he actually is. He’s probably my favorite current wrestler, because he learned that you can be cool and care about things, and that there are lots of things worth fighting for.

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12 hours ago, John from Cincinnati said:

 

AEW solidified the case that CM Punk is going to be my favorite wrestler of all time.

Who are the Five John Favorites?

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Posted (edited)

AEW really helped us through the Pandemic. Dark and Dark Evolution were GOLDMINES of wrestling. Monday and Tuesdays were my favorite days of the week, just to see what kind of treat we'd be in store for. We were introduced to some really, really unique wrestlers, and it was a period that I don't think could be matched again.

The main takeaway I'd say about AEW's past/first five years was that it made wrestling FUN AGAIN. WWE was really, really stale, and I found myself watching more and more stuff from the 80's (not that that's a bad thing) because everything was just so....boring and predictable.  I liked that I got to know new people, either ones that I had heard of before but never seen or some completely new to me. I liked that the company was slightly meta about things (still is to a degree). I like that it made wrestling enjoyable again.

Edit: Another thing I wanted to point out was the storytelling. It did such a great job of actually giving us reasons why we should care about their wrestlers and their individual stories, some lasting still to this day. I'll NEVER forgive Hangman for how he treated The Dark Order, for example.

Edited by The Green Meanie
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10 hours ago, The Green Meanie said:

AEW really helped us through the Pandemic. Dark and Dark Evolution were GOLDMINES of wrestling. Monday and Tuesdays were my favorite days of the week, just to see what kind of treat we'd be in store for. We were introduced to some really, really unique wrestlers, and it was a period that I don't think could be matched again.

The main takeaway I'd say about AEW's past/first five years was that it made wrestling FUN AGAIN. WWE was really, really stale, and I found myself watching more and more stuff from the 80's (not that that's a bad thing) because everything was just so....boring and predictable.  I liked that I got to know new people, either ones that I had heard of before but never seen or some completely new to me. I liked that the company was slightly meta about things (still is to a degree). I like that it made wrestling enjoyable again.

Edit: Another thing I wanted to point out was the storytelling. It did such a great job of actually giving us reasons why we should care about their wrestlers and their individual stories, some lasting still to this day. I'll NEVER forgive Hangman for how he treated The Dark Order, for example.

Speaking on Hangman and The Dark Order......I personally think it was an egregious booking mistake to not have Hangman/Silver/Reynolds as the inaugural trios champs.

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On 5/30/2024 at 6:30 PM, StuntmanCrowley said:

Speaking on Hangman and The Dark Order......I personally think it was an egregious booking mistake to not have Hangman/Silver/Reynolds as the inaugural trios champs.

The AEW moment that still makes me scratch my head was when they had the big 5-on-5 elimination match between the Dark Order vs Elite, and Hangman just ate the last pin and went away for a bit.

Now we know Hangman was getting some paternity leave, but it just made no sense at all, and it pushed the Hangman title win back a PPV cycle, when Kenny was being held together by duct tape and chicken wire. 

 I would've wagered that the plan for that match was for the Elite to ultimately go over, but the "big moment" was going to be that Page was going to kick out of the OWA, and cause Kenny to start to doubt himself, while Page grew more confident. When Page just ate the pin I pulled a Taylor Twellman and said "What are we doing?!?"

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Posted (edited)

I joined the fun in early 2022. At the time, I already had what I wanted for pro wrestling in NXT and NXT UK, until those were ruined. AEW replaced those very quickly and I haven't exactly felt like missing out. I've branched out to TNA and every now and then ROH since last year, but this has still been the most enjoyable time watching pro wrestling I have had since my childhood or early teens. Whatever one considers to be AEW's peak era, I'm still enjoying the shit out of each week, and that's saying something since way more often than not, I'm watching these episodes sober.

Edited by Shartnado
typo
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You have to believe there was a long term plan for the 'Cody can't win the world title' gimmick to intersect with the 'MJFs the champ and his contract's up'  gimmick. 

If I could change one thing in the history of AEW it would be Hangman going over Punk at Double or Nothing 22. You would've cemented Page as the guy for beating Danielson and Punk, MJF's an even bigger heel when he does what Punk couldn't and beats Hangman for the belt (in Chicago no less) and you can run Punk v MJF again later with Punk chasing. 

That or maybe not keeping ROH around. Buy the tape library, keep a couple of contracts, unify the belts. That's it. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

One thing I do want to highlight during AEW's run is those kind of happy accidents, like Jamie Hayter getting over and becoming a top star. Also Rusev of all people striking gold with his whole Redeemer thing. It didn't last that long, but there was that short stretch where it finally felt like Rusev was back where he needed to be.

Also, Eddie Kingston probably one of the most genuine and believable guys on the roster. I think Eddie Kingston coming in to answer Cody's open challenge and managing to earn his spot in AEW was pretty incredible.

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