Steve Cook takes a look at potential major flaw in AEW, the company that doesn’t want to overexpose ex-WWE talent: overexposing ex-WWE talent.
I’ve seen people out there trying to float the idea that Jon Moxley’s AEW Championship reign has been a failure. Unless you want to be completely facetious and claim that he’s the reason that AEW isn’t selling any tickets right now, I don’t see how one can make that argument. TV ratings are down, but he hasn’t been on every episode and it seems pretty clear that no-crowd wrestling isn’t drawing eyeballs no matter what company is putting it on. Moxley’s drawing power as champion can’t be judged by anything going on right now. He’s not on the hook for it.
With that being said, it’s fair to look at certain booking patterns.
Any promotion that wants wrestling fans to take them seriously needs to have a solid heavyweight championship scene. They need to be able to present compelling contenders that look like they could be a viable champion at any given time. If you don’t have that, you have a gigantic hole at the top of your card. That’s not a hole that’s easy to cover up.
Fortunately, AEW had the perfect person to be their very first champion. Le Champion, in fact. Chris Jericho is more than worthy of holding any title pro wrestling has to offer. He’s already held most of them. He adds value to any belt that he holds. If you’re looking to launch a championship with a big name, Chris Jericho is a damn good one to go with. As much as we all love “Hangman” Adam Page these days and wouldn’t mind him winning every championship, Jericho was the obvious choice to get the strap back in August 2019.
Who did he defend the championship against after beating the Hangman to win it? Well, that’s easy enough to look up, so let’s take a look.
- Darby Allin
- Scorpio Sky
- Jon Moxley
That’s an interesting mixture of wrestlers with different styles & backgrounds. Allin’s biggest exposure prior to AEW was EVOLVE, while Sky made it to ROH eventually after having a nice little WSX stint eons ago. Cody & Moxley were proven commodities, but Allin & Sky were guys that AEW built up to get a title shot, and both provided entertaining matches & mini-feuds with Jericho.
Moxley winning the title was the right move at the right time. Unfortunately the world changed right afterwards. However, we can assume that the general booking plan wouldn’t have been too different had things proceeded as planned. Maybe a Jericho title shot would have been mixed in, Instead, we’ve seen one Moxley title defense and a build for the next one at Double or Nothing. Who were they against?
- Jake Hager
- Brodie Lee
Two guys that we know mostly from their time in WWE. Sure, Hager has some MMA cred, and Brodie wrestled all over the indies back in the day, but most people watching AEW shows know them as Jack Swagger & Luke Harper. It looks like AEW bringing in guys that WWE mis-used and claiming they can use them better. I think they have used Hager better as Jericho’s heavy in the Inner Circle faction. The jury’s still out on Brodie’s Vince McMahon impression.
We’ve seen this before.
We’ve complained about it before when it came from a #2 promotion. Remember TNA? They’re still in business actually as Impact Wrestling. They’re not #2 anymore, but might be #3 depending on how much you love Sinclair Broadcasting’s Ring of Honor. I have no time for such debates. What I do have time for is pointing out one of the major criticisms we all had about TNA for uears and years. TNA had this nasty habit of signing everybody that left WWE and pushing them right into their world title picture.
Their NWA Champions:
- Ken Shamrock
- Ron “The Truth” Killings
- Jeff Jarrett
- AJ Styles
- Christian Cage
Styles & Abyss were the only two that didn’t get their first major exposure in WWE or WCW. I only include WCW because of Sting. Kurt Angle was the first man to win the TNA Championship once the NWA pulled out of the company.
Listen, I know WWE puts pretty much every wrestler in captivity under contract at some point. Featuring their former wrestlers in title matches isn’t a terrible idea…as long as you plan on building some other people up that weren’t in WWE at some point.
AEW hasn’t reached that point yet. That doesn’t mean they’re a failure by any means. But it’s worth pointing out. If we’re still talking about this type of thing years down the road, it’s a big problem. AEW has some names on their way to this level. MJF could be there pretty soon. Sammy Guevara, Jungle Boy, the aforementioned Allin are all guys that stand to be top contenders in the future.
Hopefully that future comes sooner rather than later. If not, AEW risks becoming the latest fed to live off of WWE’s leftovers. That’s probably the last thing they want, but they need to take action now to keep it from happening.