wrestling / Columns

AEW Losing Momentum, Full Gear Needs To Be Elite

November 8, 2019 | Posted by Justin Watry
Chris Jericho AEW Dynamite 11-7-19

One month into the AEW on TNT era, I believe it is fair to make this statement:

All Elite Wrestling has lost momentum.

In terms of actual numbers, it is hard to deny that. They are clear as day. Just look at the above tweet for all the evidence you need. In terms of the lovely ‘trends’ on Twitter, that is also true. In terms of engagement and excitement, I actually felt the buzz die down just the second week of them being on Turner. In terms of pay-per-view numbers, those are hit or miss depending on the source but once again, interest is down. I even gave All Elite Wrestling preference viewing over NXT a few weeks ago…that has not happened since.

Here is what has happened to get us to Full Gear this Saturday night.

Jon Moxley showing up was a big moment. It was expected yet shocking. It was cliché yet different. It was a new star but a veteran. It was everything that AEW and its’ fanbase wanted. He was going to be their big ‘get’ for the company. That was the Lex Luger/WCW jump that would turn the corner and hook viewers going forward. The problem is that moment happened months before debuting on TNT. by the time Dynamite premiered in October, Moxley being in AEW was kinda old news. Not real ground breaking or newsworthy anymore. We saw him wrestle and heard him speak on WWE through social media and other platforms.

Luckily, we all assumed TNT would indeed have a Lex Luger/WCW moment up their sleeves for the Dynamite premiere, and they did! Well, kinda. Former World Champion Jack Swagger showed up at the end of the episode and immediately grabbed headlines. The signing had been rumored in the leadup, so it was not necessarily a surprise hire. What made the jump so surprising though was he was the exact kind of guy people did NOT want in AEW. He was pretty much considered a WWE cast off, a failed main event act, an older dude in the business, a part-timer due to his MMA career, etc. I have actually defended him multiple times and still do…but in AEW, he needs to stay as a bodyguard kind of guy or it may get ugly. Still, whatever momentum AEW had from their premiere ratings on TNT, the lasting impression was the ho hum former WWE star jumping ship and standing tall.

Now who did fans want? Obviously, CM Punk. That was never in the cards. If you had been listening to the 411 Foresight Wrestling Podcast for the last few months, you would know WWE has the inside track on signing him. Long before we had all the FS1 reports, I was speaking on this. Again folks, podcast. It’s all in there. For many, it was CM Punk or bust. When that didn’t happen, All Elite Wrestling really could not follow up.

That welcomed in four straight weeks of viewers dropping off. Why is that? Well, I have mostly enjoyed the product personally. I say as such on the 411 Foresight Wrestling Podcast that we could nitpick a million things but by and large, it has been good.

Two big things that have hurt them in my eyes is the women’s division going absolutely nowhere and too much randomness on the show. Filler, if you will.

I don’t watch their YouTube series nor do I care to. Same with Dark. I am not watching. Sorry, if you can’t tell the story to me on your flagship program, then I don’t care. I have zero intention to watch the supposed executives goof off on Being The Elite and tie it into story lines. Darby Allin going from bum to World Title main event to invisible, Dark Order garbage, Brandon Cutler even being on TV, Riho coming and going as the wind moves, non finishes, brawls, Rick and Morty, Jay And Silent Bob, The Chairman spinning his wheels, etc. All legitimate critiques and takes you out of the viewing experience.

Same with the women’s division. I thought Allie was signed. Who knows what happened with Kylie? Nyla Rose is nowhere to be seen after being in the first title bout and winning a major battle royal. If somebody can tell me what the heck is going on with the title feud heading into Full Gear, I am all ears. In a world where wins and losses (apparently?) matter, it sure has been odd. We were promised a much improved women’s division and all these brilliant story lines. I am still waiting.

The main event stuff and tag team tournament has been great. VERY entertaining. The filler segments and pointless 10 minutes matches, eh. Not so much. It has shown in the ratings and lack of pay-per-view hype for this Saturday night. There have indeed been a few big tiem hiccups along the way, everybody can admit that.

Speaking of, this is the point of the column: AEW has a chance to get back on track.

As noted in the opening, it is hard to deny that they haven’t lost at least SOME of its charm dating back to October 2nd. That night was MUST SEE going in. Since then, either NXT has had my initial viewing or I just watched both the next day. Not quite the much anticipated ‘war’ we envisioned.

Here is the Full Gear card and what the company can do to make Wednesday night must see again.

Britt Baker vs. Bea Priestley – Did this get any build on television? Rather than The Chairman and Cutler dragging through ten minutes of valuable television time, how about a PPV promo with these two women? I think the world of Baker and believe she is the cornerstone of the women’s division. Has it all which needs to be capitalized on now. Don’t think for one second a cushy WWE/NXT contract isn’t in her future. It is. Bea? Jury is still out. Here is what I would do. Britt Baker wins easily and challenges Riho to a title rematch. Something along the lines of “I was going to work my way up the ladder, but let’s be honest, you got lucky last time. Not this time.” Boom. A little bit of an edge to her and skips all the nonsense in between. The fact that this is even happening on the Buy In portion of the PPV says a lot.

AEW Tag Team Titles: SCU vs. Lucha Bros vs. Private Party – I would not have had SCU win the tourney. We all have our suspicions on why they did, but we can ignore those for now. In my world, The Lucha Bros are top notch characters, have a unique look, are different enough from every other pair in the industry to stand out and can back it up inside the square circle =-those two are your champs. I make them ‘must see’ and have a weekly open challenge segment where Dynamite has Lucha Bros vs. ??? every Wednesday night. Go back to the John Cena United States Championship Open Challenge as an example. AEW claims to be THE place for tag teams, so let’s see it. A 15-20 minute classic every week with great action; that I will watch!

PAC vs. Adam Page – Yeah, the whole Hangman thing didn’t click. That was disappointing to see. Going from main event future star to taking a random pinfall loss in a tag bout, ouch. This one is easy. I have PAC win and leave The Hangman a bloody mess. Even if the Lights Out Match will likely feature color, I bust it out here as well earlier in the show. PAC, in my opinion, is headed for a main event AEW World Title match sooner rather than later. He is one of the wrestlers I am building All Elite Wrestling around. Doesn’t have the WWE stink, doesn’t have the executive Elite stench and has been kept super strong.

AEW Womens Title Match: Riho vs. Emi Sakura – It would have been nice to learn more of this student/mentor relationship. Throwing it at us three days before their PPV match is not going to cut. On the same night where the NXT women’s division is crushing it, you have to do better than that. Go back to the Britt Baker scenario for more. By the way, where is Nyla Rose? Another one that has come and gone in a flash. Riho is a fine choice to be the inaugural champion. Now AEW needs to show us WHY that is the case.

The Young Bucks vs. Santana/Ortiz – I am not sure I would alter too much here. As mentioned above, All Elite Wrestling has plenty of tag teams to showcase. No reason why the SCU guys are holding the straps. The Young Bucks and the artists formerly known as LAX may feature 500 super kicks on Saturday night. However, that does not take away from the fact that the live crown will be loving every minute of it. Santana and Ortiz SHOULD win here and be the main heel tandem in the company. Lackeys to Chris Jericho in the Inner Circle is a good spot but not a great spot. Deserve more.

Lights Out Match: Kenny Omega vs. Jon Moxley – I want to hear more from Moxley. He has to be able to let loose on the mic every few weeks. Every week would become redundant. It was a darn shame and a big mistake to not give him a live mic on the TNT premiere. Kenny Omega? I’ve only seen a few matches of his and am not sure what all the fuss is about. This feels a match that could go either way. It will surely be a wild clash and go all over the arena. In the end, Moxley and Omega are both top stars in AEW and can interchangeably move up (or down) the card at the drop of a hat. I would have Moxley win…yet at the same time, it feels like a loss is headed his way. Tough call. Suppose it doesn’t matter though as the official “rules” are thrown out anyways. Nice cop out AEW.

AEW World Title Match: Chris Jericho vs. Cody – First of all, excellent promo by Cody on Wednesday night. Great stuff. I loved it.

The judges stipulation I don’t care for. The sixty minute draw teases I certainly don’t care for. What I do care for is Cody vs. Chris Jericho for the top prize in the company. Their segments have been the highlight of Dynamite. I could nitpick about the contract signing being official and adding a stipulation a week later, but that is so minor to the bigger picture. Jericho was picked to be the first champion for a reason. Cody was picked to be the challenger at Full Gear for a reason. There is a reason this matchup is happening folks. While my original prediction was Jericho retains, that feels like a bad idea. Cody is THE MAN in All Elite Wrestling right now. With the added stipulation and Chris Jericho detouring back to Japan soon, it feels like a little of the bubbly (Dumb and Dumber quote) will not be popped after Full Gear. Cody gets his moment, and we begin the slow burn to MJF getting jealous and long-term story telling to grab viewers on Wednesday nights.

Ultimately, that is what this weekend is all about. AEW can have a wonderful three hour pay-per-v, but for fifty bucks, you need more than that. For a show going up against a near perfect NXT product, you need much more than that. All Elite Wrestling can no longer be just solid or good.

AEW Full Gear needs to be elite.