wrestling / Columns

411 Wrestling Fact or Fiction: Has AEW Stopped Being Cool?

October 13, 2023 | Posted by Jake Chambers
Tony Khan AEW Dynamite Image Credit: AEW

Welcome back to the 411mania Wrestling Fact or Fiction. I’m your host Jake Chambers.

We’ve had one big event after another for the past few months in AEW… and it’s almost exhausting trying to find a place to stop and discuss without something new happening before the column can even come out! But we’re going to give it a try today with 411’s AEW PPV preview phenom: Ryan Ciocco!

And for fun, since I know he watches it all, I also threw in a couple Bonus WWE statements at the end.

Without further ado, let’s collide with the rampaging dynamite!

Statement #1: Having Adam Copeland in AEW is better than having CM Punk.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – Like it or not, CM Punk brought a lot of attention to AEW. It gave us all tons of stuff to speculate on and argue about. And on top of his outside of the ring “controversies” he also had easily AEW’s greatest rivalry with MJF and had a bunch of pretty awesome matches without having to dip much into nostalgia. As great as Edge is, he’s unlikely to bring these X-factors to the table. He seems like a nice guy who wants to be a team player, put on some good matches, and have one likely mediocre old guy retirement match against his best friend in a few years. All of this will be good, maybe even great to watch, like he’s always been – but it won’t be as intense or weird or as frustrating as whatever CM Punk would have done, like he always has in his headline making career.

Ryan Ciocco: FACT – Sorry but I’m going to have to be the one who says it, and for those who follow the NFL, this is basically the equivalent of the Green Bay Packers moving on from super talented (but also super malcontent) Aaron Rodgers and replacing him with Jordan Love. The man we used to know and cheer for (and boo loudly) as Edge is in a fantastic landing spot upon his arrival as Adam Copeland, and it was destiny that he would find his long-time best friend Christian Cage upon his debut.

Moreover, and this one is equally as important, the backstage demeanor and experience that Copeland brings will prove to be invaluable to the roster, especially those younger wrestlers who want to pick his “Rated-R” brain for information. While it has been documented by the dirt sheets that CM Punk was more cordial in his second run with the company, the bottom line is that it took another backstage incident to see him gone, and I don’t believe that Copeland will be that kind if guy for the company. At the end of the day, while Copeland may not win titles or get all the main event matches on TV, he’ll be equal parts backstage help and main event good hand for the company, and you can never say no to that.

Statement #2: After 3 PPVs in less than 2 months, AEW ALL IN was actually the least memorable despite having one of the biggest live audiences in history.

Jake Chambers: FACT – The only thing people wanted to talk about after ALL IN was the true attendance numbers or the backstage fight between Punk and Jack Perry, not either of their actual matches, or much of the other matches on the card. Was there anything on the show remotely comparable to the main event of SummerSlam ’92 at the same venue that people still talk about to this day. Meanwhile, ALL OUT a week later had all the good singles matches that would have made the Wembley show more memorable, and WrestleDream had one of the greatest technical wrestling singles matches of all time, featuring a British guy wrestling more of a British style than all the matches in ALL IN combined. Sold a lot of tickets, sure… made a lot of memories, nah.

Ryan Ciocco: FICTION – If I’m understanding this to include All-In, All-Out, AND WrestleDream, then I will have to respectfully disagree and let it be known that All-Out was the least memorable of the three shows, and it wasn’t necessarily its fault per se, but it was just the victim of bad timing and last-minute (literally) match booking.

For some time in the wrestling portal, we knew about All-In, and the company’s intention to break records (whether it did or not is a moot point, as it still turned out to be an ambitious effort from Tony Khan and team). Likewise, we all knew about WrestleDream a good bit of time out in advance as well. The big difference between those shows and All-Out was that a good portion of the matches for All-In and WrestleDream were known well in advance of the show airing on PPV. Seemingly, until the final weekend, the only solid matches for All-Out were Luchasaurus and Darby Allin for the TNT title, and the hoss battle that was Powerhouse Hobbs and Miro. That the International Title was the main event of that show (as opposed to, say, the AEW World Title at All-In, or the big match feel of the 2-out-of-3 falls match for the TNT Title at WrestleDream) was less a knock on the belt and more a feeling that it was mailed in. So, no, I am going to go with All-Out here, and I hope for much better results next time.

Statement #3: There are too many title matches in AEW.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – I know it’s popular to knock AEW for this, but I like that there are so many titles that almost everyone on TV is in a match for a title or is at least one degree of separation from one. Titles are fun. They look good visually, they make a wrestler seem important symbolically. When you’ve got 6+ hours of TV a week, plus now seemingly a 4+ hour PPV every month, it must make everything a lot easier to produce when it’s all about a variety of titles. It’s a short cut to making a match feel important, and I’m okay with that. The alternative is asking for more bulk creative storytelling, which – no offense – few wrestling companies are truly able to do with that much blank space to fill each week.

Ryan Ciocco: FICTION – The answer to this question is quite simple; if you have a lot of titles, you are going to (or should) have a lot of title matches. Now, be it far for me to ever complain about the influx of other title belts from talent outside of the company (such as CMLL and NJPW), and it’s rare that I will complain about said titles being defended on an AEW show, but it’s the inclusion of the Ring of Honor titles that perhaps muddies the waters some. I get that the show is supposed to be their own entity, but it seems like ROH title matches outnumber AEW title matches on their own shows sometimes, especially on Rampage and Collision.

However, I feel like a statement such as the one above is valid because of one simple show that probably should be shelved, and that is Battle of the Belts. Ever since Khan and company came up with the idea for it, the show has featured little to no intrigue in who would win (spoiler alert, it’s the champion), and is barely promoted. If you take that away, then it takes away a good chunk of the filler title matches, otherwise, no, never too many title matches.


Statement #4: The best wrestling storyline of the year is the MJF and Adam Cole feud / friendship.

Ryan Ciocco: FICTION – You know, it REALLY pains me to have to say this, but it’s not the best storyline in wrestling this year IF we include other companies. In fact, I’m not so sure it is the best one in AEW this year, as I’d have to say the ongoing storyline involving Christian Cage (which now has come to include Copeland) has been just a little bit better.

Although, to be fair to Adam Cole and MJF (or as we have come to know them as, Better Than You BAYBAY) it has been quite a fun ride for them up to this point in time. It’s just a shame that a serious ankle injury will put this one on hold from an in-ring perspective, although they have shown the ability to include Cole in out of the ring stuff so far.

Jake Chambers: FICTION –  It’s definitely the softest storyline of the year, if you like hugs and tears and bad comedy bits and getting weak-looking old school wrestling moves over. I think Gunther alone did all of this stuff more hardcore in one match this year. So yeah, I’m not a fan. But 2024 was the year Sami Zayn and Bloodline came to a conclusion, or the Briggs & Jensen / Henley & James NXT stroyline, so take your pick.

Statement #5: You understand and enjoy Toni Storm’s new gimmick.

Ryan Ciocco: FACT – Oh, not only do I understand the gimmick, but I feel like it can be a lot of fun for her, as Toni has shown the ability to emote well and has a flair for the dramatic. That they decided to turn her back decades and make her essentially Marilyn Monroe of the wrestling ring is only a bonus to her repackaging as TIMELESS Toni Storm!

And, if I am also being completely honest, it makes sense to give someone who has so much experience in the ring and in the business such as Storm this type of gimmick as she can make it work, like it is a second coming of her time in AEW. I mean, it could totally be worse (at least she isn’t getting pie shoved in her face), but at the same time, it couldn’t be anymore suitable for a real wildcard like Storm, and I’m very interested to see how far this goes and what kind of shelf life it really has.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – I definitely don’t get it. I think if she’d been introduced with a whole new gimmick with some context, like when Dustin Rhodes became Goldust, okay, maybe. But, what, has she just gone crazy overnight and is now living a gimmick? I don’t enjoy this, and I like most of the stupidest things in wrestling history, so something is off.

Statement #6: AEW is no longer “cool”.

Ryan Ciocco: FICTION – The personification of “cool” may be warped just a little bit, as it tends to change with trends and what later millennials and Gen-Z kids tend to think is “cool”. Nevertheless, I don’t feel like, if AEW was no longer “cool”, that they would be able to attract new talent, keep the interest of Warner Brothers Discovery, and certainly wouldn’t have people interested in it enough to buy tickets, merchandise, and keep a loyal fanbase.

The most important reason, however, that AEW is still “cool” is because you get to see many new things, such as second careers, in a sense, for a lot of in-ring veterans, including but not limited to the likes of the Hardy’s, Jeff Jarrett, Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, Bryan Danielson, Christian Cage, and now Adam Copeland. On the opposite side of that spectrum, a lot of younger wrestlers such as Sammy Guevara, Darby Allin, Daniel Garcia, Hook, Orange Cassidy, and Jack Perry have either come of age within the company or reached their first serious level of major league success. So yeah, AEW is still cool (even if it isn’t Carlito Caribbean Cool but really, who can be?).

Jake Chambers: FACT – We all remember the time before AEW, whether you were a perpetrator or observer, of the Bullet Club hype, with all the merch and men feeling comfortable “too sweet”-ing strangers in public. There was something “cool” in the culture about this super-indie wrestling-verse, that included Kenny Omega and Cody Rhodes, and a slew of now much less zeitgeist-y acronym wrestling companies. It was so “cool” that it took a hypothetical concept and sold out an arena for a random wrestling PPV. Wrestling fans were energized that they were part of a movement that was going to change the landscape of pro-wrestling by showing out so strongly that this one PPV would become an entire mainstream promotion where all these cult-level stars (by WWE standards) and misused mid-carders would make wrestling legit cool (no quotations) again.

Except, once you start dealing with billionaires and million-dollar rights deals, and hours of commercial television, and weekly ratings breakdowns, all of a sudden that grassroots movement became the mainstream. Is it cool to wear an AEW shirt like it once was to wear a Bullet Club shirt? Is anyone shameless enough to hand gesture in public to stranger over any corporate AEW trend? You’ve seen everything the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega can do, in every situation, in multiple matches now… and none of that toppled the WWE and probably shines a little less on the big stage than it had before. Disgruntled mid-carders from the WWE are still mid-carders in AEW. There’s just nothing really “cool” about AEW.

AEW absolutely puts on some great PPVs, and presented a ton of awesome wrestling over the past 4 years, but is it ECW in the mid-90s, is it the Attitude era, or ROH in the mid-00s, or even the “yeah/boo” Cena era of 2010s WWE? Nah. It’s not even close. It’s a formulaic, algorithmic, pro-wrestling show for pro-wrestling fans that’s about to get lapped creatively by the NXT it trounced and purged many years ago. And then in a few years, it’ll come back around and be a little more popular again. But I don’t think it will ever be “cool”.


Statement #7: “Main Event” is a patronizing nickname for Jey Uso since he has not been in many significant main event singles matches and has rarely won any.

Ryan Ciocco: FICTION – Although it is true that Jey Uso hasn’t seen as many “main event” matches as he has in the past (and, to contradict my original answer completely, he was the opener on this past Saturday’s Fast Lane PLE), we simply cannot forget that this wasn’t just a moniker given to him by someone completely random and for no reason at all. If everyone will recall, Jey stepped up during the THUNDERDOME Era of Smackdown Live when his brother Jimmy was injured, and he had some very high-quality main event matches for the blue brand. That the nickname was given to him by our Lord and Savior the Tribal Chief was only the cherry on top of that metaphorical sundae that had become the singles run for Jey Uso.

It’s just that well, you know, I was hoping that “Main Event” tag would come with this big single push and not winning the tag team titles AGAIN with a completely different tag team partner, but you know, such is life.

Jake Chambers: FACT – I guess “Main Event Jobber to Roman Reigns” doesn’t fit on a shirt.

Statement #8: LA Knight can maintain his current popularity without ever being in an excellent wrestling match.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – I think we’re looking at the second coming of Zack Ryder unless LA Knight steps up big time in his next few marquee matches.

Ryan Ciocco: FACT – I’m going to ere on the side of FACT here, because as I believe any long time WWE fan can attest to, we have seen quick, meteoric rises for some talent, and faster, crash-landing falls for some as well. When it comes to LA Knight (YEAH!), it seems to me that he can maintain his momentum unless he is horribly derailed by some bad booking or some unfortunate turn of events, such as an injury. There’s no question that Knight has a natural charisma, has fantastic mic skills, and is an above-average wrestler in the ring, so he’s got the makings to remain popular and in the thick of main event storylines (and heck, maybe even a title) for some time to come.

Now, whether the writers continue to put him in position to capitalize on this remains to be seen, but rest assured if anything heads south, I don’t think we’ll be blaming it on L…A…Knight (YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!).

Thanks so much to Ryan Ciocco for going in-depth on the state of AEW, and be on the look out for his next PPV preview – always an excellent read!

And we’ll see you back here next time for more elite FoF debate!