With only 2 television shows for 3 hours, how can AEW fit their whole roster into compelling stories? Tommy Starr explores this question.
The scope of All Elite Wrestling’s roster has drastically changed in two years. They have rapidly signed some of the biggest free agents on the market; they have accumulated more recognizable names, such as Sting, Christian Cage, Matt Hardy, etc., just to name a few. Now with the recent signings of CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, and Adam Cole (and possibly not too far off the grid with Bray Wyatt), it appears that AEW has taken a different approach with the overall structure of their roster. Two years ago, AEW’s approach banked more on bringing in lesser recognizable talents from the independent circuit in order to give them mainstream exposure; all the while, their main stars mostly centered around names like Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, and Cody. And even by that token, the only name there that may have had any real mainstream appeal would have been Chris Jericho.
As AEW’s roster grows, a very important question continues to escalate, “How is AEW going to be able to effectively feature, promote, and get over the talents they have under contract?” There is a laundry list of ways they could go, but it is important to layout as many scenarios as possible.
1). Easy enough, AEW Needs to Cut Talent:
AEW seems to be following Eric Bischoff’s WCW approach of the mid-late 90s, where the idea is to sign as many people as possible, cultivate a larger roster to have plenty of material for multiple shows, and ensure that “match repetitiveness” does not become an issue. It seems like a good model in theory, but it is also important to remember that, even though WCW assembled a giant talent pool during the hottest period in pro wrestling history, a great number of those talents were either jobbers and under card talents from the Power Plant system or potential stars that never got to live up to their full potential, because of the stars above them that made it impossible for those wrestlers to reach that potential (i.e. Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, etc.).
At this point, AEW would probably not benefit from the territorial approach of having a subset of main event talents, mid card talents, and under card to rotate their roster around; they have too much programming now. Although arguably, it would make it easier for them to narrow their focus on trying to get over a specific number of guys at a given time. That said, Tony Khan has a very different perspective on talent cuts than Vince McMahon does; Khan would rather let wrestlers ride out their contracts and decide whether or not those talents are needed after the fact. Regardless, “roster gutting” would be an effective measure for AEW to restructure their talent pool, prioritize who they want to feature, and help with saving costs in the long run.
2). Roster/Brand Splitting
A lot of AEW fans seem to oppose this idea, and it is difficult to understand why. With the amount of programming the company is trying to feature at the moment, AEW could benefit from centering particular talents and stories around those designated shows. If AEW ever wants to grow their audience– and that should be priority number one if this company ever wants to succeed, they need to give fans as many incentives to watch the shows as possible. Moreover, the shows need their own identities. Who are the top wrestlers on the programs? What are the key stories Rampage focuses on, as opposed to Dynamite? Why should fans have any vested interest in AEW Dark? What if AEW made the women’s division exclusive to Dynamite to give that show a unique, distinguishing contrast to Rampage? What happens if “Hangman” Adam Page and Kenny Omega are contractually separated to wrestle for different programs in order to prolong their eventual feud? What if CM Punk becomes the main face of Dynamite, while Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson become the main faces of Rampage?
If AEW ever decides to introduce six-man tag team championships (God forbid), what if those belts are mutually exclusive to the YouTube shows? That way, it gives fans an incentive to watch those shows to see if the belts will ever change hands. Again, this would make it easier for the company to anchor itself down on effectively building storylines and making sure that they are not cramming in too much material into one given show.
3). Cutting out Meaningless Filler
One of the main issues with the crash TV/Monday Night Wars booking mentality is that, while it does make for compelling and unexpected viewing experience, the reality is that it does not provide for the best form of television. Professional wrestling has always been primarily viewed as a male soap opera drama, and while the sports element to wrestling is very important, the storylines and booking are equally as important (if not, more). Discounting fan bias, AEW struggles with time management on their shows, especially when it comes to video packages and backstage skits. How many times have we seen hastily thrown together skits with a thousand different things going on at a given time, too many people trying to get over at once, and we have no idea what is going on? How many random brawls do we see between wrestlers that we had no idea were feuding in the first place? How many interviews do we see where promos do not have the time to sink in and resonate with the audience, because they have to quickly cut away to something else? How many video packages do we see that are cut down for television time, despite having longer versions of them uploaded on their social media platforms?
All of this can be avoided if AEW simply limited the amount of content they feature from week-to-week. Not every wrestler needs to have a story at a given time, not every wrestler needs to be on screen in some capacity each week, and not every skit needs to end in some chaotic brawl just so you have a reason to get “bodies” on television. Cool your jets! Instead of including backstage skits and promos that already scream “WWE Lite” to begin with, what if they took WCW’s approach with how Mean Gene Okerlund conducted interviews? Have Tony Schiavone or Jim Ross by the entrance ramp, have them set exclusive parts of the show to bring out wrestlers for promos, or have follow up interviews with wrestlers before and after their matches. That way, wrestlers can have their matches, get their points across, and you can present a distinctive method of promo delivery that counteracts what “the other organization” is doing.
Overall, the swift changes with AEW’s roster are really changing the course of their direction in monstrous ways. The ultimate question is, “How promptly are they thinking of these changes?” These are important questions going forward, especially if AEW is going to continue to follow the hiring spree method of sucking up as much talent as they can. Whether or not it is a good idea can be debated, but it can not be argued that they need to have a game plan. The last thing the company needs is for all of these new attributes to get lost in the shuffle (i.e. Andrade el Idolo, Malakai Black, Ruby Soho, CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Adam Cole, etc.). Or worst case scenario, they lose sight and focus on their younger stars at the expense of their newest “flavors of the month.”
King: Plotting The Return Of Randy Orton To WWE
Chris King is back with his look at the best scenario to bring Randy Orton back to WWE, and the perfect opponent for his first big match back.
Chris King is back with his look at the best scenario to bring Randy Orton back to WWE, and the perfect opponent for his first big match back.
I wanted to bring everyone’s attention to a superstar that’s being overshadowed right now, ‘The Viper’ Randy Orton. After RKBRO lost the Raw Tag Team Championships to The Uso’s, Orton vanished from the company. There was speculation about his serious back injury and, it wasn’t until The Viper’s wife herself posted a candid picture of Orton after successful surgery.
While the focus in WWE right now is either on The Bloodline, Bray Wyatt and Uncle Howdy, or the returning Cody Rhodes, I felt this was a good time to start plotting The Viper’s return to WWE.
Randy Orton’s Return to WWE
On the Raw-After-Mania ‘The American Nightmare’ opens the show after a tough battle over Roman Reigns to win the WWE Championship. Rhodes with tears in his eyes is giving an emotional promo about his family’s legacy, and how much this title means to him. The WWE Universe is chanting “You Deserve It,” and out comes Finn Balor flanked by The Judgement Day.
‘The Prince’ starts by congratulating the new champion for dethroning ‘The Tribal Chief’ but, now he wants his title shot. Rhodes being the resilient hero accepts Balor’s challenge for the main event. The American Nightmare and The Prince are putting on a clinic of a match, delivering multiple finishers but unable to put the other away. Judgement Day starts to interfere when Orton’s music blares throughout the arena. Orton takes out the heels and helps his former protege. Rhodes capitalizes and hits Crossroads for the 1.2.3.
The former Legacy members are celebrating and embracing with a hug as Rhodes goes to raise his newly-won title. In the blink of an eye, The Viper strikes and takes out Rhodes with an RKO Outta Nowhere! The champion is knocked out as Orton hoists the title above his head while trash-talking his now rival. Orton violently throws Rhodes out of the ring and delivers a nasty-looking draping DDT onto the floor.
The Build–And Culmination–of Randy Orton vs. Cody Rhodes
Orton stares giving 2009 vibes as Rhodes’ head raises, so The Viper runs and delivers a punt kick. WWE officials come out and break things up and the champion is stretchered out of the arena. The show closes with Orton grinning over the destruction he has caused to his former protege. Over the next few months, Orton and Rhodes enter into an extremely personal rivalry over the coveted prize. We finally make it to SummerSlam where both men agree to raise the stakes and do war inside HELL IN A CELL!!!!
This is how I would book The Viper’s return to WWE. If you feel like this should be written differently, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
AJ’s Phenomenal Opinion: Bray Wyatt
So everyone loves Bray’s return right? Right? Well the McDonald’s Sprite spicy opinions of AJ…may feel differently.
Well, just because my work schedule changed, doesn’t mean I’m not going to drop some opinions of mine, of which, I haven’t done too bad with. I got Three out of Five for my returns right a few months back and this is going to be about the last entry on that previous list. I knew for a fact that Bray Wyatt would return to the WWE in some way shape or form and time for some… controversy.
As my favorite ratings winner of 83 Weeks once said, Controversy Creates Cash and boy HOWDY… Do I have something to get off my chest here so sit back, order some Chairshot Merch and lets get on with Adam’s… Rants for a bit.
Bray coming in and making a return to the WWE was an inevitability. Death, Taxes and I guess WWE Returns are always guaranteed anymore and maybe we could get some new creativity with a supernatural gimmick. Bray has always had that supernatural to him ever since he had the Wyatt Family in Erik Rowan, the late Luke Harper and in the end, Braun Strowman. The Wyatt’s had a control like no other and were beloved for a moment in the WWE.
Bray did a lot to make sure things were in motion but for some reason any massive feud he had, he failed. Following a bunch of injuries to the rest of his family and even releases later on, he seemed to at least get some traction going for him. WWE Champion, somehow got Randy Orton with him, Universal Championships and got those big match wins that eluded him in the Wyatt Family beginnings. Let me also say this as well, I actually liked the Firefly Funhouse Match with Cena as a “This is Your Life” match of sorts. I was tickled and entertained… Then much like Bray in character, something changed.
Dark and Terrible Lurk with Fiends
We had a lot to figure out during the Pandemic. Like A WHOLE HELL OF A LOT. Through it all though, WWE figured it out but the person that helped these types of ideas, soured them drastically. Lets go back to the WWE Championship run in 2017. Randy Orton won the Royal Rumble that year and he wouldn’t betray Bray, right? Well he does and Mania for the two is set, Orton against Wyatt for the WWE Championship and it was… terrible. Random images of maggots and decay (Not the IMPACT Stable) popping up into the ring as the match goes on and Randy still wins. Through head game attempts, Bray comes up short in the big match moment. That’s odd but maybe it will be a bigger pictu– and Jinder Mahal wins the Championship. Okay.
Wyatt returns as this Mister Rogers character and has a darkness inside of him with The Fiend. Now we had this amazing theory or maybe that’s what happened but the story was, anyone The Fiend fought, they revert back to their best selves. The Miz returned to be the A Lister, the guy who grabs a microphone that you love to hate. Finn Balor doesn’t have the Demon Gimmick anymore because after his loss, he’s the Prince again. The cocky guy that walks around because he is the best, he gives no care in the world. Seth Rollins, who he took the WWE Universal Championship from, went from a dorky sweetheart back to the asshole taking every opportunity that he could get because he’s that much of a weasel and when he lost… He lost to Goldberg. The one guy that has been the same since 1997. Drums, Pyro Bath, Spear, Jackhammer, “Who’s Next?” and during that time, he sucked at points. One of those Rollins matches was in a Hell In A Cell match, the red cage with the red lighting. Match ending with a Stoppage from the referee… INSIDE OF A HELL IN A CELL (I think Sean Waltman said it best… Why did the match stop? It’s supposed to be Hell?) and it’s one of the rare times that I agreed with wrestling’s favorite Uncle… That was Negative Stars for a match.
After Goldberg, he didn’t have a commanding presence. He recruited Alexa Bliss who was already over whether she was a Heel or Face and made everything so unbelievably… boring. Alexa had to carry that idiotic demon gimmick and doll, not having anything really supernatural. Just some wrestling and Brock Lesnar cleaning up everything faster than a Chop Shop in main events and segments. He tried to return and make his grand return, beating the Universal Champion Braun Strowman at Summerslam just to falter a literal week later to Roman Reigns, who proceeded to never look back from that win. Bray gets fired after and no more supernatural ideas. Undertaker isn’t around really and retires, Kane is a mayor. Paul Bearer is no longer with us and everything is just… normal.
Wyatt’s Six (Reasons I Tune Out)
In 2022, Vince retires seemingly from everything and Triple H is at the helm, could he bring balance to everything? He makes a bunch of returns that people love seeing. Johnny Gargano, Dakota Kai, Tegan Nox, Bronson Reed, Dexter Lumus just to name a few and of course, the big one that everyone wanted. Bray Wyatt.
Bray makes this heartfelt return and everything seems great. We get him as him, he makes this weird build to a Wyatt 6, assuming we think it’s the Firefly Funhouse and he’s just talking, building. Alright well who is going to be these six figures because they are more than just puppets this time around. A masked man named Uncle Howdy that people think is Vincent Marseglia or maybe a bearded Bo Dallas who is Bray’s real life brother and he……… pops in and out to confuse people. Okay… (1)
Alexa might return to the 6 because of all the segments and gets darker and a heel. Alright that is perfectly fine but, WHY IS VINCENT DALLAS HERE AGAIN TO JUST INTERFERE WITH RANDOM THINGS? Okay… fine. (2) Alexa has a Women’s Championship match against Bianca Belair, that will make sense of thi– it’s a clean finish… Why is it clean? No Howdy, No Wyatt just a random VHS tape like I’m watching The Ring about her being dark after the match. Okay…… (3)
Oh Wyatt finally gets a feud for his return. I almost forgot about that! Who will be this first victim? LA Knight.
Maybe this will be good. They are both great on the microphone, maybe Bray has new moves that he can do and I know all too well how good LA Knight is, I have been an Eli Drake/Shaun Ricker fan for years. This could be a great match that they have, they announced it for the Royal Rumble so it’s going to be big and it’s a… Pitch Black Match presented by Mountain Dew.
The Royal Rumble is upon us, the Men’s Rumble starts the show and we all have adrenaline in our soul for it and now is this weird Pitch Black Match and it’s not a cinematic match. It’s in the ring, No Count Outs and No Disqualifications. LA Knight comes out in his iconic Yellow Attire and Wyatt is talking… with a mask on. The lights turn off and the ropes are glowing a neon greenish-yellow… with an announce table spot that… has Nickelodeon Slime inside of it when they break it? Okay fine… I knew the match was going to be dumb and gimmicky from the Mountain Dew Sponsorship. Bray wins, yay. LA Knight comes back with a Kendo Stick and… we get invulnerable Bray again… they don’t hurt. Lets go to this crash pad and Bo Marseglia shows up from somewhere and just elbow drops him from maybe fifteen to twenty feet with pyro and the Firefly Funhouse Puppets appear at the top, to watch a fire… And there is number six…
Actual Thoughts on Current Bray Wyatt, Post Rumble
I absolutely hate it.
This was awful. You build whatever insignificant thought process of the Wyatt 6 has going for it when Uncle Howdy does the best Cap’n Shane O elbow drop for a hellfire effect. At least the pyro was better than the AEW Explosion Match I guess…
Regardless, how does LA Knight come out of all of this moving forward? He lost an idiotic gimmick match and looks presumed dead. This just makes me think that whoever in whatever interview said Bray Wyatt is a creative mastermind needs to put whatever they have down before we hear about their T.O.D. posted somewhere. This Pitch Black Match is somehow worse than that Rollins Hell in a Cell Match and that takes talent. At least a good amount of alcohol lulled that from my brain but this made me remember that and enjoy the thought of that match happening with its finish. The best way I can picture how this was pitched was Burnt Dogshit, wrapped in a Kerosine Blanket with… sorry had to look at what I wrote, not putting that on websites but… people saw a Creative Quesadilla and when we got the actual product, it gave Salmonella poisoning and E Coli at the same time.
I really don’t want to see another Bray Wyatt match… again. Whoever gave him creative, take it away immediately. As much steam as Bray Wyatt gets in promos or possible matches in the past, the only steaming he gets at the end, is steaming piles of shit. You can say, he’s getting paid millions where I’m a little troll on the internet with typing power and I really don’t care but to me, Triple H… you finally got your first failing grade with something in your leadership role in WWE.
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