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Starr: Who Are AEW’s Actual “Four Pillars?”

The self-proclaimed AEW Four Pillars discussion has made its rounds amongst the wrestling media. However, are they AEW’s real Four Pillars?

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The self-proclaimed AEW Four Pillars discussion has made its rounds amongst the wrestling media. However, are they AEW’s real Four Pillars?

Multiple sources have weighed in on MJF’s “four pillar” promo from the 9/29/21 edition of AEW Dynamite.  During they early stages of his promo, MJF labeled the following four individuals as the standard-bearers and foundations of All Elite Wrestling: Jungle Boy, Sammy Guevara, Darby Allin, and MJF, himself.  As stated in his promo, these four have carried the torch of AEW’s company since its early inception and have continued to carry that torch as the company has grown in popularity and has gained more recognition to the public.

What makes this story rather intriguing is the manner in which Tony Khan responded to MJF’s promo on a recent podcast episode with Brandon Walker on Barstool Sports.  From MJF’s point of view, the general label of AEW’s Four Pillar athletes seems to reflect that of All Japan Pro Wrestling’s critically-acclaimed Four Pillars of Heaven that set the standard for the best overall in-ring wrestling product throughout the 1990s.  Those four wrestlers consist of: Akira Taue, Kenta Kobashi, Toshiaki Kawada, and Mitsuharu Misawa.  This original discussion of the “four pillars” idea revolves around the consensus that these four men were the best “in-ring workers” throughout All Japan in the 90s, having garnered more five-star ratings according to the Dave Meltzer Star Rating System than any group of wrestlers in history.  And while a subjective star rating scale seems murky when trying to define what constitutes as a company’s “top megastars,” there are a couple of key issues that come into play when comparing All Japan Pro Wrestling’s “Four Pillars” with All Elite Wrestling’s “Four Pillars.”

The first issue comes from the fact Tony Khan neither accepted, nor refuted, MJF’s statement of AEW’s Four Pillars.  Rather, he seemed to treat it as a subjective idealism with the recognition that MJF merely comprised an opinionated list as to whom he perceives as AEW’s four future guys.  However, Tony acknowledges, “There’s more than four pillars… we talked about Orange Cassidy, Dr. Britt Baker– we can talk about until we’re blue in the face.  Ricky Starks and Hangman Page.”  As the President of a major wrestling organization, acknowledging your top talent should be a crucial element of driving home the idea as to why people should pay money to see your product.  While Tony Khan recognizes Jungle Boy, Guevara, Allin, and MJF as the “building blocks of the company,” that does not necessarily translate to the vision of them collectively representing the future of the company.

The second issue with MJF’s definition of AEW’s Four Pillars is that it generally reflects the preconceived notion that Jungle Boy, Guevara, Allin, and MJF are all on an equal playing field of main event star caliber.  And while there certainly will be room for growth as these four men mature and develop as talents, the only thing that these four men have in common at the moment is a relative ring skill.  Excluding MJF from the picture as the one standout that seems to exemplify all the tools when it comes to being a major superstar in the industry, Jungle Boy, Darby Allin, and Sammy Guevara lack a lot of the “five-tool elements” that are commonly expected of top of the card, main event performers.  Discounting “ring ability,” their promo skills are mediocre at best.  Their levels of charisma vary according to their characters, but they do not currently emanate anything closely resembling a young Stone Cold Steve Austin or The Rock (whereas, a guy like Ricky Starks does).  Their “looks/physiques” are generally good, but detract by their lack of height and body mass.  And most importantly, with the exception of Guevara, there has not been much exploration with their versatility as characters.  Can all four men effectively flip between roles of babyface/heel?  Are they able to diversify their personalities?  Are they able to diversify their ring style to accommodate those character roles?  Even with a guy like Sammy Guevara (who has played both sides of the aisle since his debut with the company), he has not truly shown a variation in his ring style appropriate to his work as a heel and babyface.

A final issue with this assertion of AEW’s current Four Pillars is that, on a pointblank analysis of these four men on paper, how do these men all standout and differ from one another?  A successful wrestling company should be able to culminate and craft a roster of broad skills, looks, and ability in order to garner attention from casual, mainstream markets.  AEW has a large talent pool of young athletes, many of whom come in different shapes, sizes, and skills; a brief overview of this alleged Four Pillar system for AEW lacks two of these three key marketing tactics.  Again, excluding MJF from the picture– who by the way, is not a relatively “big guy” by his own right, Jungle Boy, Darby Allin, and Sammy Guevara are all very small and frail, weigh well under 200 lbs., and wrestle very similar styles.  And while it may seem unfair to judge these men’s physiques by today’s wrestling standards, when AEW has younger men under contract that exude charisma and potential like Powerhouse Hobbs, Ethan Page, Wardlow, and even “Hangman” Adam Page, why would these men not be included as part of AEW’s Four Pillars?  Why would they not diversify their alleged Four Pillar system by including someone that exudes main event level charisma, someone that works a different style, and someone that brings something different to the table?  This is not to offend Jungle Boy, Allin, Guevara, or MJF, but if the only precedent that is being set for AEW’s future generation consists of similar looking wrestlers that wrestle similar looking styles and lack many of the other tools of what it takes to be a “top guy” in the business, there is a major dilemma at hand.

Of course, the benefit for individuals like Jungle Boy, Guevara, and Allin is that they are young and can take the time to work and master the elements they are missing in that key tool system.  That said, there also has to be a recognition that, perhaps, there are other guys that may be better suited to fill those roles.  The self-proclaimed AEW Four Pillars, as per MJF, may hold water in the eyes of the modern wrestling audience, but it may be putting the cart before the horse to acknowledge all of these men as the “be all/end all” of AEW’s future generation.

Sources:

The Fabulous Rougeau’s . (2012, July 11). 5 tool wrestler. WrestleZone Forums. Retrieved November 16, 2021, from https://forums.wrestlezone.com/threads/5-tool-wrestler.221501/.

Mutter, E. (2021, October 15). Tony Khan responds to MJF listing the “four pillars” in AEW. Wrestling Inc. Retrieved November 16, 2021, from https://www.wrestlinginc.com/news/2021/10/tony-khan-says-there-are-more-than-just-four-pillars-in-aew/.

Podgorski, A. (2017, July 26). All Japan’s four pillars of heaven set the standard. Slam Wrestling. Retrieved November 16, 2021, from https://slamwrestling.net/index.php/2017/07/26/all-japans-four-pillars-of-heaven-set-the-standard/.


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News From Cook’s Corner 1.17.22: Gory Self-Mutilation

AEW tried to catch lightning in a bottle for the second time. Did it work? What other news struck last week?

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Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! We’ve got a short column for you this week, which most of you were probably expecting when the Cincinnati Bengals actually on a playoff game. Nah, I didn’t party too much, just had an allergic reaction with my eye again. We’ve done this before. This time I’m pretty sure it had something to do with cleaning my bookshelf and rearranging my books. Hadn’t done that in awhile, so there was a ton of duct. Sitting down and looking at a computer screen sucks, so we have to limit it as much as possible.

There’s still a couple things that warrant discussion though, so let’s get to it.

WWE On The Offensive

Looks like this week’s top stories are about WWE trying to do things to undermine wrestling promotions. We start with Major League Wrestling, who has filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against WWE claiming that WWE has interfered with their ability to make various media rights deals.

Some of the highlights:

-Former WWE executive Susan Levison allegedly warned an executive from VICE that Vince McMahon was “pissed” they were airing MLW programming. MLW claims that WWE had leverage over VICE due to the Dark Side of the Ring series often being focused on WWE subject matter.

-MLW alleges that when WWE found out about their agreement with Tubi, WWE threatened to stop doing business with Fox. The fallout from the Tubi agreement falling through led to a drop in ticket sales & event cancellations & delays.

-As an example of WWE’s anticompetitive behavior, MLW cited AEW being held out of two arenas in the Cincinnati market due to pressure from WWE. Jon Moxley wrote in his book that the Heritage Bank Center on Cincy’s riverfront refused to book AEW due to WWE influence. I don’t know the other, could be the BB&T Arena across the river on the campus of Northern Kentucky University where WWE has held house shows. AEW wound up running the Fifth Third Arena on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, and outdrew the Raw taping held at the HBC just prior.

-Apparently starting in early 2020, WWE started trying to poach MLW wrestlers that were under contract, and aired footage of an MLW wrestler without MLW’s consent. (Somebody would have to fill me in on this one, I haven’t the slightest idea who this would be.) MLW also claims that WWE sought to prevent wrestlers from working with MLW by refusing to hire wrestlers that had worked there, and that one MLW wrestler demanded to be released early from his contract so he could join WWE.

Do I think that at least some of these allegations are true? Having followed pro wrestling for over thirty years and having read up on the history of WWE…you betcha!

I don’t think there’s a question that WWE has resorted to any means necessary to drive potential competitors out of their market. They’ve been doing this since taking most of the territories’ top stars back in the mid-1980s. It’s been a monopoly for nearly two decades for a reason. The main question I have: Will a judge actually care, or will they throw it out of court because it’s silly pro wrestling?

How do you think WWE slips under the radar on things that other media companies & sports leagues actually have to deal with? People have been trained to not take WWE seriously. As much as people like us obsess over the rasslin’ business, people that don’t “get it” are happy to ignore it. Vince McMahon can do any darn thing he wants, and the reaction from folks outside the wrestling bubble will be non-existent. It’s wrestling! To outsiders, the whole damn thing is an outlaw mudshow.

AEW = Gory Self-Mutilation

The Toronto Sun did an article on All Elite Wrestling over the weekend, talking about their status as a competitor to WWE. They asked WWE for comment & got one:

“If you look at the gory self-mutilation that bloodied several women in the December 31 event on TNT, it quickly becomes clear that these are very different businesses. We had an edgier product in the `Attitude’ era and in a 2022 world, we don’t believe that type of dangerous and brutal display is appealing to network partners, sponsors, venues, children, or the general public as a whole.”

A few notes here:

1. I’ve been doing this stuff longer than I care to admit, and I never thought of asking WWE for comment on something. Should I start asking people for comments on topics I’m writing about? I doubt I’d get any answers, but it might be worth a shot.

2. This has been WWE’s strategy when asked about AEW for some time now. We remember Vince McMahon using the phrase “Blood & Guts” to describe the promotion on a conference call. They know that people get squeamish about blood, especially when it comes to blood coming from women. The Fabulous Moolah never busted anybody open on television, and she trained most of the women for years. People aren’t used to seeing it, and they often get uncomfortable with things they aren’t used to seeing.

3. Most people find other people bleeding pretty gross. There’s a reason why deathmatch wrestling is a niche produxct. People that love it really, really love it, but it’s a very small percentage of the marketplace.

4. WWE’s belief is that advertisers & media companies aren’t big on blood, so they make sure to mention AEW’s apparent lust for the red stuff whenever the subject comes up. Their hope is that advertisers will shy away from advertising with AEW, and media companies won’t give AEW big money when their current deal with WarnerMedia is up.

5. Thus far, whenever Tony Khan is criticized on something, he doubles down on it. So there’s a pretty good chance that we’re going to see even more matches with female bleeding. AEW’s female workers seem happy to do it.

6. WWE could be called out as being hypocritical on this front, but there aren’t many people that will hold them accountable.

It’ll be interesting to see how this goes. All I know for sure is that the smack talk between these two promotions and their fans is just beginning. Think it’s tocic now? Wait a couple of years.

Welp, that’s all for this week. Thanks for reading! Join me later in the week for some Divisional Round picks. Until then, keep your stick on the ice.

In Memoriam: Pete was a longtime reader from back in the day. From my dealings with him he was a kind person that knew how to use his head. When you’ve written things on the Internet as long as I have, you learn that’s a rare thing. From what I’ve read from people that knew him in real life, he was the same way off the computer. Sadly he passed away from cancer on Friday night. Pete was always about serving others, as he was a U.S. Air Force veteran & a regular blood donor. He will be missed.


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Opinion

NXT 2021 Year in Review: NXT UK!!!

With the OG NXT rebranding and losing a lot of credibility, at least NXT UK has been consistent! Brad brings his NXT UK awards!

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Let’s give out some special awards to the very best hour on the entire WWE Network.

Mark Coffey

Honorable Mention Most Improved: Mark Coffey

Most Improved is one of my favorite awards. I love watching wrestlers get better. This year, Mark wasn’t just decaf Joe. He showed his personality. Playful little bugger seems like the kind of guy you’d want to have a pint with. Even got a short run as a singles guy. Mark’s growth was definitely one of the highlights of the best overall year in the history of NXT UK.  

Oliver Carter is just getting started in NXT UK: WWE Exclusive, Aug. 28, 2019 - YouTube

Most Improved Male Wrestler: Oliver Carter

When Carter first showed up, it was obvious why he was in a tag team, eating all the pins. I don’t know who the trainers are in NXT UK, but someone put in overtime with Carter. Every week, he’s hitting new and exciting moves in the ring. He’s showing more fire on the mic. It’s only a matter of time before Ashton Smith gets jealous and turns on him.  

Stevie Turner NXT UK - Diva Dirt

Most improved Female Wrestler: Stevie Turner

Her first few matches made me wonder what anyone saw in her. Now I see it. She’s a real loony character, a female Dean Ambrose. She gets rambling about the Fourth Dimension and I’m not sure even she knows where that boat is sailing to. Add to that a significantly increased move set and Turner has legit championship aspirations. 

Kenny Williams | WWE

Most Underrated: Kenny Williams

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. If Williams was built like Drew Mcintyre, he would be on RawDown yesterday. I appreciate a smaller guy who doesn’t rely entirely on the flippy dip and acrobatics. Williams is a big bully in a small man’s body. The Scum of the Earth is ready to infect 2022.

Sam Gradwell – Online World of Wrestling

Best talker: Sam Thunderstorm Gradwell

Gradwell might be the best promo guy in all of NXT. He’s solid gold on the mic AND Twitter. He tweeted that WALTER versus Dragunov II is “Unruly Baboon versus Deadly Panda.” I still don’t know which is which, but it sounds fabulous. Now get on that, you bunch of yogurts!

WWE Women 🎊🍾 — ⭐ Isla Dawn and Emilia McKenzie ⭐

Best Character: Isla Dawn

I prefer personality over character. I don’t want SNL skit rejects. I want to believe there is no separation between who they are in the ring and outside of it. Isla Dawn is the exception. She goes into a trance. She’s collecting trophies from her opponents and doesn’t even care about wins and losses. I’m inclined to believe she’s not a witch in real life, but you never know.    

Noam Dar is ready for the Finals: NXT UK Exclusives, Sept. 16, 2021 - YouTube

Best Sidekick: Sha Samuels

With just a dry erase board & marker, the East End Bookie adds so much depth to Noam Dar, an already amazing personality. Unlike the terribly awkward pairing of La Familia, I get the feeling Dar and Samuels really are best buds. They seem to bring out the best in each other. I can’t wait for them to go after the tag team titles.       

Hamilton's NXT UK Review 10.14.21 | 411MANIA

Best Announcer: Andy Shepherd

He’s not just the best in NXT UK, he’s the best in NXT. Period. He takes everything Nigel McGuinness throws at him and he throws it right back, but he does it with an understated eloquence not typically found in rasslin. Shepherd earns the highest praise I can give an announcer: he sounds like a fan watching the show, shooting the shit with his buddies.  

 

Blair Davenport challenges Meiko Satomura: NXT UK Exclusive, Dec. 9, 2021 - YouTube

Most Improved Division: The Women’s Division

NXT still has the best women’s division. It’s now a little further east. In the past, it was Kay Lee Ray. That’s it. Not anymore. The addition of Meiko Satomura and Blair Davenport. The growth of Amale, Stevie Turner and Aoife Valkryie. The Nina Samuels Show. The steady veteran presence of Jinny and Isla Dawn. The division is not deep, but every week they continue to grow and put on quality matches. It started as obligatory, because you have to have a women’s division. They have since earned their spot. Much respect to the women of NXT UK. 

 

Up next, saving the best for last: 2021 NXT Matches of the Year


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