Welcome, and thanks for joining me at Geeks+Gamers! This week I discuss AEW, Tony Khan, Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, AEW Blood & Guts, and more!
A couple of years ago, the planets looked to be aligning for a fantastic shift in the realm of pro-wrestling. Talk of a smashing new promotion with a television deal and “serious, sport-based wrestling” was on everyone’s lips. Finally, the modern wrestling fan’s life of “eating shit and learning to love the taste” was over. Or was it? Meet me here every Thursday to pick apart the actions of the daft, the dangerous, and the desperate in pro-wrestling… well, in AEW anyway.
The optimistic part of me had hoped that we wrestling fans wouldn’t have too much to be upset about in 2021. I was, sadly, wrong. I didn’t rush to this decision either; I stuck with AEW for well over a year before stepping back and refusing to watch it religiously each week. Getting through the show was difficult enough; trying to converse with others online about it was even more irritating. It seems that the loudest, most hostile AEW fans refuse to look at the promotion or its “talent” critically. I’ve written about this before, well, at least twice, and love-blindness in a fanbase ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Constructive criticism is a valuable tool, not a personal attack.
There’s no need to melt down and have a tantrum because the rest of the world doesn’t think your favorite indie star is the best in the world. Hell, I’ve even observed industry “journalists” that are adamant this is the best pro-wrestling ever and that everyone involved deserves a bucket of gold stars each. I honestly thought that I was one of those desperately craving a decent alternative to WWE’s over-manufactured, sterile “style” of wrestling. That was, of course, until I realized I wasn’t going to be spoon-fed this crap either. I also saw what happened when you tell some people “no.”
AEW might not be into the dying days of WCW mode just yet, but it has been wading through the sewerage that was the Hogan/Bischoff era of TNA/Impact for a while now. With that said, it’s not all bad wrestling! Now and again, a nugget of quality can appear and surprise us. So who knows? If there’s something that warrants it, I’ll even talk about some good wrestling at the end!
Whether you like to admit it or not, AEW is another version of WWE/Sports Entertainment. They very obviously and painfully try to emulate what they’ve seen on a Monday night. So, AEW also is to pro-wrestling what the XFL is to the NFL. Sure, they may look similar at a glance. Their fans may also bleed over a little, but it still suffers the same fate: a buffet table of pillaged creativity, hollowness, and disappointment.
The most painful example of this tactic that I can think of is Dragon Ball Evolution. Someone with a bit of coin saw something with a pre-installed fan base, took a small handful of recognizable/marketable elements, and thought they could do a much better job of it themselves. It was one thing to think they could get away with selling it as their own creation, but expecting the pre-existing fan base to swallow it whole with no questions was dumb. Even Vince McMahon struggles to get away with this, to an extent. So it’s no surprise when it happens to other people in different companies and even separate industries!
At least WWE is honest about what they are, kind of. They may be stuck with “wrestling” in their company’s name, but at least they say “sports entertainment” every ten minutes or less… as well as drilling home many other mood-killing slogans and catchphrases. AEW are the ones that claimed they were going to be an alternative to this wayward style and that a “serious, sport-based product” was on the way.
Cue the pyro!
Okay, okay. Enough jokes for now. Let’s send in the proper clowns!
To many, little Tony Khan started off as the new savior of wrestling. I suppose he still is to some, even if his number of disciples is a fraction of what it once was or what it might have been. Tony has a super-rich father and has access to more money than he does common sense.
When he announced that he would run “his own” wrestling promotion, people thought that was a good thing and that he meant it in a business sense. Once it became evident it was more of a “his own playground for him and his friends, not for the rest of you starving wrestling fans” thing, hopefuls began to lose faith and interest.
Awww, look at Tony’s little chicken wings. Or maybe they’re angel wings*! Even Cody Rhodes found it tough to hide his glee in the early days. Just look at that face. He knows exactly which way to rub Tony so the money falls out. (*carny for money-mark)
Khan said AEW was going to be serious and sport-based. Yet, we’ve had more self-indulgent comedy segments, botch-fest matches, and schizophrenic story-telling narratives than I can count without taking my shoes and socks off.
It was also claimed that AEW wasn’t going to get into petty back-and-forths, taking shots at WWE/NXT; that didn’t last long. Khan also reckoned that protecting the health and wellbeing of his talent was paramount. Recklessness could have killed Matt Hardy when he took that fall onto concrete, and they continued the match. Making excuses for Cody Rhodes taking that unguarded chair shot to the head made Tony look a bit silly too. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s “Booker of the Year” gets away with waffling shite once more, and enough people lap it up.
And Tony The Tit doesn’t just allow all the untrained wannabes to go out and injure people live on TV. Khan also green-lit bringing a dog out into the arena (to then scare with pyro), a horse to walk through a live screaming crowd (which it obviously did not enjoy), and for Jake Roberts to stumble over and stand on a snake.
For “some” reason, everything’s about the destination in Tony’s world. 90% of the time, watching the show is like watching people rush through a dress rehearsal. There’s no love for (or understanding of) the journey. It’s high-spots galore, fast-forwarding through to “the good bits” and leaving no time for anything to sink in and be enjoyed. Everyone does all the same stuff as everyone else, regardless of their size, shape, or style.
I was going to say it’s all about the explosions, but AEW couldn’t get that right either. Shameless Tony did a horrible job back-peddling about the non-exploding ring at the media scrum after the event, saying it was all part of the storyline. I still feel awful for Eddie Kingston having to sell that wet fart of a firework display.
It’s been two years now, and Tony has only just thought that production meetings are a thing that should be considered from time to time. It’s never too late, but AEW has set a precedent that the TV shows are just two hours’ worth of individual random skits. Jackass and Dirty Sanchez managed to stitch two hours of narrative together a couple of times; I’m sure you can too!
I honestly hope I’m wrong with this, but looking at how Tony has changed in the last couple of years, I’m concerned someone’s going to discover him bollock naked, covered in baby oil, and battering the piss out of his office furniture sometime soon.
I honestly don’t know where to start with this fool. Years and years ago, I heard rumblings of “a dude that’s like Seth Rollins, but not spoiled by the WWE.” When people said this, I misunderstood what they meant, or they misunderstood what they were saying. When they said Kenny Omega hadn’t been “spoiled,” they actually meant trained… by anyone. Having this guy at the top of your promotion does no favors for any claim of seriousness or sport-based anything. Give your head a wobble!
I’m not saying he can’t do some of the moves; he’s one hell of a gymnast and so obviously can. But there are so many other elements of his work that are just frustrating to watch. Comments on his awkward facials, finger-pointing, jazz hands, child/blowup doll matches, and happy feet are pretty common knowledge nowadays, so I’ll try and keep those to a minimum. His body language is atrocious too. With zero intention of portraying someone in an actual fight, he’s like a kid on an improv stage, constantly looking for a spotlight to bust out a Hamlet monologue or a backflip.
Omega was initially given charge of booking the schoolgirl…b*ahem*, the AEW women’s division. He enjoyed seeing Riho scratching and clawing away from Nyla Rose (in front of a very uncomfortable crowd) and then moved on to dressing Hikaru Shida like Tifa from Final Fantasy VII and making her his new favorite. I admire how Omega’s always been subtle about the fact he loves the most commercial (but nowhere near the best) Final Fantasy game! </sarcasm>
As well as this, he managed to deflate any kind of momentum Hangman Adam Page had built when the two teamed up and then feuded briefly. Page looked like he was on the way to being one of the home-grown, stand-out stars of the promotion. Still, certain people weren’t having any of that, and now Page is stuck at the bottom of the barrel with The Dark Order and their shenanigans.
Omega winning the TNA/Impact world title didn’t really do as much as they thought it did either. I do understand that Impact appreciates the exposure and that AEW wants to be seen as a promotion that’s happy to step into the realm of other wrestling companies, but I get a huge whiff of something else.
I see Omega/AEW as that balding guy that’s so self-conscious about his hairline he makes best friends with someone that’s entirely bald; this works for nut-cases, tubers, and uggos, too, of course. At least when standing next to Impact, AEW looks like the pinnacle of professional wrestling promotions. For his part, Kenny Omega looks like John Wayne taking out all the crooks and outlaws of the Wild West. I’ve said to keep giving him enough rope, though. The ten minutes of talking he did at Blood and Guts showed his inability on the mic. Ten seconds would have been sufficient, so thanks for that!
Omega’s “style,” or lack thereof, is the pinnacle of AEW’s video-game style of wrestling. The problem is, no matter how much any involved wish it to be, this isn’t the fancy, intricate-plotted, epic thriller that will leave people guessing and committing every moment to memory. This is Super Smash Bros. for two hours every week, and with no story mode and no heels and faces, there’s no depth or reason for anyone to invest long-term. I honestly wish I could tell Kenny to feck off back to Japan, but for some reason, they won’t have him back in the country! Skeletons in the basement?
I’ve gone on long enough, so here’s some love for people that I always keep my eye on. I know how good all of these guys can/could be if dealt with properly/seriously, and I’m crossing my fingers they take up time from the mud show in the future. Stay tuned!
That’s it for this week! Hopefully, I’ll have the chance to say nice things about AEW next time, but I’m not holding my breath. Blood and Guts was a rush to the finish, but that’s nothing new. They’ll eventually run out of fingers to cut off while trying to hit that one million mark!
Background Artwork Designed by Rachael Hope.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to get in touch on Twitter, and/or check out everything else I write about over on:
I’ve watched bits and bobs of smaller promotions too. I’m not a fan of the cinematic style featuring as heavily as it does in some. TNA and ROH had moments in the sun years ago, but nothing consistent enough to get enough attention long-term.
It was such a shame NWA played silly buggers and sacked Jim Cornette. That overreaction raised a flag and it was never the same for me; not even after he who chucked JC under the bus was outed as being a less than nice individual himself. The noisy BHLW sidekick in the office left after that too. Maybe I’ll give it another go down the road.
I’m optimistic that someone will get it right and find the proper balance between the over-sanitised ad-space of WWE, and the incoherent chaos of AEW/most others.
Sucks that AEW really turned out this way. AEW reached its peak way too early in its existence before it started going downhill, and it still hasn’t recovered. Before the pandemic I used to watch AEW and CMLL consistently (WWE, AAA, and MLW occasionally) and I could tell you AEW was easily the most exciting and entertaining wrestling show at the time, but after the pandemic started that was no longer the case. After the pandemic started I really had to take a break from wrestling as there wasn’t many wrestling shows that I had interest in or that were doing shows, WWE was the same just without the crowd, AEW continued to go downhill, and the rest of the promotions I watched weren’t doing any shows. It wasn’t until this week when I watched Smackdown that I thought “Not bad”. This wasn’t Ruthless-Aggression era good but it was still good by standards of today’s state of wrestling. I had heard that smackdown was actually doing pretty good especially compared to both AEW Dynamite and RAW. I’ll have to see if this is true so I will start watching Smackdown consistently (this being my first wrestling show to watch consistently since the start of the pandemic) but it wouldn’t be hard to believe it is actually doing good when they have Paul Heyman, Roman Reigns, Usos, Cesaro, Seth Rollins, etc. If Smackdown is as good as I’ve heard people say it is then I hope it continues to do well and continues to improve. Right now Smackdown is the only wrestling show I see as a sign of hope in wrestling. I also hope AEW wakes up soon and starts making the changes they need to be a better promotion but sadly I don’t think our good old friend Tony Khan will do any of it, if anything I just see him getting worse. How he went from a chill businessman to delivering that “9 days from now” promo is beyond me. Anyways we’ll see what happens.
The points you made about crowds was a factor in me stopping watching so much on a weekly basis too. AEW was nowhere near brilliant before the pandemic, but there was a hell of a lot more to be hopeful about on there.
Again, I’m optimistic -someone- will get it right. Jim Cornette and others feel like AEW is the last chance of a decent alternative to WWE in this generation. Jim and Vince McMahon are too used to TV being the only option for getting your shit out there, which isn’t the case anymore. I’m not as pessimistic in that respect, someone will come up with something! :)
You must be logged in to post a comment.
I’ve been mostly watching Lucha Libre AAA and other pro wrestling companies in Mexico. But mostly Lucha Libre AAA on Pluto TV 24/7. That’s the only pro wrestling that gives me hope right now. AEW airs Dark: Elevation and Dark on Youtube monday and tuesday. I know when he won the Lucha Libre AAA Mega title, it was pretty big. Impact, not really much. I know I don’t watch Dynamite anymore since I don’t have cable. Especially when my late friend Brodie Lee died(I was able to watch the tribute and -1’s birthday before getting rid of cable.) But there will be old companies that will be coming back soon. Question is, will it be good? WCW and Lucha Underground are coming back. So I am curious to see what they will do to bring those two companies back.