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Opinion

Starr: How Can AEW Effectively Feature its Roster?

With only 2 television shows for 3 hours, how can AEW fit their whole roster into compelling stories? Tommy Starr explores this question.

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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.

Conclusion:

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.”


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Opinion

AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns

With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

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With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.

With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.

1. Johnny Gargano

Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?

WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen  the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.

2. James Storm

This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.

Watch your Money and your Alcohol.

Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”

3. Big Cass



Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.

Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.

4. Bronson Reed



The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.

Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?

5. Bray Wyatt

And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.

To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.

– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!


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Opinion

King’s Greatest Hits Of Jeff Hardy

As he battles his demons, Chris King looks at some more positive moments in Jeff Hardy’s career!

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Jeff Hardy WWE Smackdown

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the disturbing news that former WWE superstar and recent AEW signee Jeff Hardy, was arrested again for multiple charges including a DUI.  Hardy has had a hard and tragic road of recovery throughout the years in multiple wrestling promotions.

Not too long ago, Hardy walked out on WWE after they were rumored to have offered the former world champion to go to treatment for his substance abuse issues. Hardy refused and said that he was better but, as we saw the demons are still lurking and got the best of him again.

I have seen some nasty comments and even some distasteful memes about the AEW superstar and felt compelled to go against the grain. Instead of kicking a man when he’s down, I’m going to put together a greatest hits for the “Charismatic Enigma.”

Jeff Hardy & The TLC Match

Everyone can say that Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon helped innovate the iconic ladder match and you are right, but Jeff Hardy and his death-defying stunts changed the concept of the match forever. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian and their iconic TLC match should have their wing in the Hall of Fame. The risks all six superstars took for the adoration of the crowd could have ended all of their illustrious careers. In the words of Vince McMahon, It’s such good shit!

Jeff Hardy Earns The Undertaker’s Respect

On the July 1st, 2002 episode of Monday Night Raw, Hardy delivered the performance of a lifetime nearly winning the WWE Undisputed Championship from The Undertaker in an incredible ladder match. The young up-and-comer was faced with his greatest task yet, challenging for the most prestigious title in sports entertainment. Hardy showed that without a shadow of a doubt he deserved to be in the main event scene, but came within minutes of defeating Taker. At the time of the match, Hardy was still finding his footing as a singles competitor and earned the respect of the champion and legend.

Swanton Bomb From The Heavens

When I think of the daredevil Jeff Hardy, I can’t help but think of this one crazy-as-hell stunt. At WWE One Night Stand 2008, Hardy faced off against the juggernaut Umaga in a falls count anywhere match. This match was so insane as both superstars fought into the parking lot. Hardy is one of the craziest and bravest superstars, hit a Swanton Bomb off a damn stage truck onto Umaga. It’s one of the wildest things you’ll ever see.

Hardy Wins The WWE Championship 

In 2008, Hardy finally made his way to the main event title picture alongside partner Triple H. HHH was Hardy’s mentor in some sort of way which led to the daredevil achieving his lifelong dream of becoming WWE champion. At the 2008 Armageddon pay-per-view, Hardy would face HHH and longtime rival Edge in a triple-threat match for the title. In what was a great match between all three superstars, Hardy delivered a Swanton Bomb to Edge to win the illustrious championship.

Straight Edge Problems For Hardy

The following year, Hardy found himself in the way of young-up-and-comer CM Punk who is looking to make an example out of him. Punk had won the Money in the Bank briefcase for the second year in a row and took advantage of Hardy to win the world title. What started as mutual respect between both superstars changed drastically, when Punk started throwing jabs at Hardy for his drug and substance abuse real-life issues. Punk would form his infamous stable known as the Straight Edge Society. This is a very underrated feud and you should go back and watch it in its entirety. The promos are gold.

The Hardy Boyz Return To WWE

Both Matt and Jeff Hardy found success in multiple other wrestling promotions including Ring of Honor, and TNA during their time away from WWE. Both brothers were struggling with their vices and made poor life choices but straightened up their act over the years. In 2017, the Hardy Boyz would face longtime rivals The Young Bucks in ROH. The following night the adored tag team would make their incredible return to WWE at WrestleMania 33. Matt and Jeff would be named the final team in the Fatal 4-way ladder match for the Raw Tag Team Championships. The pop these two received was insane and very much deserved. They would go on to win the match and win the titles to capitalize on their momentum.

Jeffery Nero Hardy Makes AEW Debut

From 2017-to 2022 Jeff Hardy would find himself pigeonholed in the mid-card title picture. He would have feuds with a plethora of superstars including Samoa Joe, and Randy Orton. Orton and Hardy had a nasty Hell in a Cell match back in 2018. Earlier this year, Hardy was seen running around after the 24/7 Championship, which was disappointing to see. After being genuinely unhappy in WWE, Hardy would make his AEW debut on the March 9th episode of AEW Dynamite. Hardy would come to the aid of his brother and longtime partner.

This week news broke that Hardy had been arrested for multiple charges including a DUI. While it’s easy to beat a man while he’s down, how about we uplift and try to encourage him to get the help he needs.

As a longtime wrestling fan, I have the utmost respect for Hardy and wish him the best of luck in his battle with addiction.


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