aew, two years in: part 1 (the bad)

I had originally planned on doing a review of last week’s Double or Nothing, but then it hit me: Double or Nothing 2019 was AEW’s first show ever, making this the second anniversary of the companies’ existence. So instead, I thought I would do a year(s) in review. Two years in, what’s good about All Elite Wrestling? What sucks total ass?

Let me be clear here, before I begin: at the end of the day, no matter what amount of shit-talking I do, I’m still a fan of the company. No fucking joke, WWE got so fucking bad that I stopped watching wrestling for years. AEW is what got me back into it. So, if not for any other reason, I’ll always give AEW that.

Now then, let’s start this post a bunch of negativity!

The Bad

Riho being the first AEW Women’s Champion instead of Nyla Rose

Am I still bitter about this one? Absolutely! Even looking past my very obvious bias of wanting to see a trans woman be the first women’s champion in a promotion with a world wide audience, giving the title to Riho is still such a mind-boggling decision. Maybe, because I’m not actually in the business, I don’t get it, but I feel like your first champion being crowned on your first episode of your first TV show should, I don’t know, actually work for your company? Riho isn’t, or at least wasn’t, part of AEW’s roster! She was on-loan from Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling! If you’re not going to book Nyla as your first champion, then why not someone else on your active roster? Because as it was, Riho won, barely showed up, then AEW fixed the mistake they made by having her lose the title to Nyla. The most Riho did to benefit AEW during her run was serving as a tangential catalyst to Britt Baker’s heel turn.

 

Still treating the women’s division like an afterthought

Let’s keep on the subject of women, here. Specifically, the women’s division still sucks. It doesn’t suck because of the women involved, far from it. Two years in, and it’s still one women’s match per show. Pay per views still have a women’s match on the pre-show, and one women’s match on the actual event. Now, you can get plenty of women’s matches on the YouTube exclusive shows, Dark and Dark: Elevation, but that’s another problem. Myself, other fans of my generation, as well as the actual wrestlers of this generation, have all been told one thing multiple times when it comes to wrestling: if it doesn’t happen on TV, it doesn’t count. As such, either AEW needs to start putting women on their shows more, or make it real fucking clear that they want to break from tradition using their YouTube events.

Small credit where it’s due: 2021 has gotten slightly better in terms of promoting their women. But it’s still only one match per show, and it feels like the booking begins and ends with whoever is in the title picture. Hopefully, the upcoming AEW Rampage show will alleviate this issue, what with giving the company an extra hour of TV time. But if AEW doesn’t fix this, NXT is going to have a much bigger women’s division in the next year or two. I mean, they’ll be booked like shit in WWE too, but at least they’ll be on TV. The women of AEW are way too talented to be squandered the way they are.

 

The downfall of Cody Rhodes

Two years ago, Double or Nothing 2019, Cody Rhodes was the man. On a show that had Adam Page, Kenny Omega, Hikaru Shida, Chris Jericho, The Young Bucks, and Rey Fenix (among many others), he had the best match on that entire show. Him and his brother Dustin spent half an hour beating the shit out of each other and bleeding all over the place. The tearful promo Cody did after the match was incredible, and I would consider it to be one of the few genuinely emotional moments in the history of wrestling.

Since then, though, Cody has been slipping more and more. In 2021, he is the worst part of any AEW show by a mile. Barely coherent interviews about hanging out with Rosario “physically assaulted a trans man” Dawson. Serviceable matches attached to terrible feuds (his Dog Collar match with the late Brodie Lee being a notable exception). I hate his ludicrous entrance. I hate how he gets his own entrance-way. I hate his never-ending feud with QT Marshall. I hated that ooh rah I love America feud he had/has with Anthony Ogogo. Yeah, Cody was going to save America from the evil foreigner! Here’s his shitty promo where he starts crying talking about how his unborn daughter, who is half-Black and half-white, by the way, will grow up and end racism forever. Unlike that slimeball Ogogo, who himself is also half-Black and half-white, and absolutely did not do anything to showcase Black excellence like, say, winning an Olympic bronze medal in Boxing back in 2012.

Like, dude, draping yourself in the American flag? Getting your own special entrance? Talking about hanging around with famous people? That’s heel shit! But Cody’s not a heel! He’s a fucking weirdo that I’m supposed to cheer for. Maybe when he leaves to go be a dad, he can come up with some good ideas, and we can see the return of 2019 Cody, and not whatever the fuck this boring, cringe character is now.

Also, maybe you should have announced your Pride t-shirt after the actual LGBT members of AEW did.

 

The continued employment of Jake Hager

Jack Swagger was a guy in WWE who was actually pretty good at wrestling, but he had very little charisma to speak of. His closest run at the top was his time as a “Real American,” a xenophobe who blamed Mexicans and “illegal immigration” for his ridiculously long losing streak. Even then, his Wrestlemania match played second fiddle to Vince McMahon wanting to piss off Glenn Beck, who Swagger’s character was a parody of. Then he did fuck all after that, then left WWE.

Then we all found out that, oh no, actually, Jake Hager hating Latinos was not a work. He was a shoot piece of shit, rather than a worked one.

Somehow, he got hired by AEW. Dude was liking and retweeting Candace Owens going off on yet another tear about trans people the same day he debuted on the first episode of Dynamite, which, you guessed it, also had Nyla Rose on the card. Dude clearly has issues with Latinos, and is in a stable with three of them.

Aside from being a bigoted dickhead in a company that promotes itself on the concept of diversity and “Wrestling Is For Everyone,” he provides nothing to any show he’s on. Quick, name me a good Jake Hager match. How about a stellar Hager promo? Actually, can you name a Jake Hager match at all? One where he’s by himself, not in a tag team with the other members of the Inner Circle? Chris Jericho might be a right-wing weirdo whose wife and mother-in-law stormed the Capitol Building, but at least he can wrestle! Jake Hager can’t even do that anymore! His in-ring skills have plummeted pretty bad since his days as “The All-American American.” He has zero business being in AEW. All he’s doing is helping Jericho drag down Santana, Ortiz, and Sammy Guevara. Please, let him go back to Bellator, where he can feel like a tough guy beating up plumbers and mechanics where I don’t have to see him.

 

Jim Ross

Twenty years ago, Jim Ross was the undisputed voice of professional wrestling. Nobody else came close to being in his league. Tony Schiavone, at that time, was the epitome of being checked out. He clearly did give a single fuck about WCW at the end of its existence, and it showed every Monday night. JR was the exact opposite. The passion that he had for wrestling was evident; he could make good moments great, and great moments into a permanent memory. Granted, in recent years, he hadn’t been as good as he used to, but you could maybe chalk that up to being chewed up and spit out by the industry. Perhaps being the lead announcer for AEW would be a career resurgence.

It is not.

Jim Ross is a legend in wrestling, so I will put this as gently as possible: his commentary in AEW is completely fucking abysmal. He’s only there for a paycheck, and it’s obvious. He openly hates the show, to the point of openly hating it while he is still on the air. He’ll go on his terrible podcast and shit-talk the AEW wrestlers as being nothing more than a bunch of high-spot indie geeks who don’t know how to sell, then when said “indie geeks” actually sell on an episode of Dynamite, he’ll then straight up give them grief for not immediately getting up and pinning their opponent. “Don’t know why he’s not shrugging off the fact that he’s been in there, full-tilt, for fifteen minutes and needs to recover from hitting a big move after being beaten up and exerting himself the whole time! Hell, why’s he even going for a pin? He should go for a count out win, like it’s season mode in WWF Attitude for Nintendo 64, bah gawd!” He’s one of those assholes that is intentionally not going to be happy, no matter what kind of performance you put out. The only difference between him and Jim Cornette is an ability to remain employed.

Never mind all the fucked up shit he says when he isn’t grumbling about the damn kids these days, or hating Chuck Taylor. Calling Emi Sakura an “Oriental.” Making Sonny Kiss matches completely unwatchable because he could not stop himself from making gay jokes that even the edgiest 14 year old would roll his eyes at. Suddenly “forgetting” Nyla Rose’s gender during her matches. Being a creepy weirdo about Anna Jay.

At risk of going to bat for the large company owned by a billionaire, it is pretty fucking insulting of JR to act like this. AEW has bent over backwards to accommodate him. He only calls Dynamite and PPV’s, so he doesn’t have to do Dark or any “B-shows.” He gets his own entrance at the start of every pay per view, something that Excalibur and Tony Schiavone do not. He is referred to as a legend on TV every week. On top of all that, AEW has never openly mocked his disability.

Really, think about that. WWE has repeatedly made extremely shitty “jokes” about Jim Ross’ Bells Palsy. They even did a segment that felt like an hour long mocking the fact that he got life-saving colon surgery, a segment that literally nobody liked or found funny, except for Vince McMahon (of course). They’ve done storylines solely designed to embarrass him in his hometown. They’ve fired him multiple times just because. After all that, Jim Ross would rather put more into a company that treats him like shit, instead of one that’s a step away from worshiping him.

His commentary, at best, adds nothing to matches. At worst, he can take really exciting stuff that the talent is doing, and make it worse. I mean, I remember him very blatantly reading from a script during an MJF match; pronouncing an ellipses as “dot dot dot.” That is the definition of not giving a fuck. I get wanting to hire him, because his name can provide legitimacy, but it’s been two years, and AEW is legitimate enough. Let his contract run out, and let him ride into the sunset, where he can be free to complain about millennials and sexually harass comedians on Twitter.

 

That’s it for part one of this post. Come back later, maybe tomorrow, where I talk about all the good things AEW has done in the last couple years. It is significantly more positive!

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