I wanted to give my opinion on the big topic of the new year: All Elite Wrestling. I'm not in the know in terms of facts and figures concerning the owners or the talent its centered around. I don't know what their income is or what they're worth or any of that financial stuff. Similarly, I don't have any scoop on which wrestlers or other performers are going to sign with the company. It doesn't seem worthwhile to post any of my opinions or suggestions in the AEW topic on the main forum. This is more about my take on the whole thing rather than news or debate.
It feels that everyone is really excited about all of this because it's a pretty big shake up. Three pretty big wrestlers who worked for ROH and NJPW have branched out on their own and are getting even bigger friends (Omega & Jericho) to join them in their new company. Along with them are some more prominent Indy wrestlers as well a couple more friends from Japan (CIMA and I'm guessing Ibushi (who's Independent) will work with them). Oh how exciting!! It certainly is a bit of a shake up since everyone who's never listened to a shoot interview from the Bucks or Omega thought that they'd go to the WWE. Or at least that's what the YouTube channels wanted us to think. That seriously would have been a creative blunder on their parts so, it's neat to see them go it on their own. But, I don't know what people are expecting. That is to say, I don't know IF, from a match quality standpoint, they are expecting anything different than what PWG has been doing for about a decade. And I don't know if they are expecting angles, stables, arcs, and feuds either.
At Jump, I have a couple rhetorical questions: OK you've tentatively got Kenny Omega, the #1 wrestler that everybody wants. But who are they going to have him go up against? Who's out there on the market that he could work a engaging program with? Is Penta and/or Fenix available? And for how long? Cody has more competition on his level but, is this really interesting anyone? What about the Bucks? They can work with anyone but, the problem is that they've already worked with EVERYONE. It seems to me they have one genuine superstar and then A-B level talent in Cody & the Bucks. Jericho is there but, for how long and in what capacity? Now ponder for a moment - what if WWE/NXT didn't buy Ricochet, Adam Cole, reDRagon, Roddy Strong, Keith Lee, and Walter like the 2nd coming of Eric Bischoff in WCW...then this AEW thing would have some teeth, no? It'd really have some fangs if they could get guys to jump ship from the 'E to AEW. Supposedly there's talk of the Revival going over? That might be something... what's Kevin Steen, Devitt, KENTA and the rest of the 205 Live Roster doing nowadays? PAC is a start, right?
Truth be told, this really has similarities to old Japanese groups like UWF and SWS especially. I know AJPW at the turn of the 90's better than what happened in UWF but, I'll get back to them. SWS had a big money investor get a bunch of top talent from AJPW and a couple from NJPW to start a company. Tenryu and Yatsu were big F-ing deals in 89-90 AJ. You've got your #1 heel/rival to Jumbo (Omega to Okada) and then Jumbo's tag team partner leaving. In NJPW terms, perhaps its like an Ishii or Goto leaving. Then, Nakano & Takano who were the face "junior" tag team against Kawada/Fuyuki's Footloose. Even Fuyuki left too! They got Naoki Sano from NJPW. Cody, Young Bucks, PAC and Adam Page sounds similar to me. Then you had older guys like Ishikawa & Great Kabuki and other guys who were past their prime at the time like George Takano & Kendo Nagasaki. I won't say Jericho here but, CIMA seems like a decent fit (since read that Daniels, Kaz & Scorpio Sky are on board and I think they are applicable here). Then, you had up and coming juniors like Asai (Ultimo Dragon to be), Masao Orihara, Katayama et al. This sounds like your Joey Janela and other independent guys and girls. Of course the big difference, SWS had the support of the WWF and their stars from the get-go. It wouldn't last BUT, it helped them get a foothold. With AEW, they've burned some big bridges on BOTH sides of the world with this move.
Now we come back to the UWF. The company had to fold within a couple years due to differences between Maeda & Sayama as well as the larger financial problems. SWS folded too but, WAR came out of that. We know how NJ worked with Tenryu and his company throughout the 90's and 2000's. Omega is Tenryu level here. So, NJPW has historically been forgiving if they can make money so that doesn't cut things off for them completely.
So if the Elite boys are smart, they will try and be like WAR from the get go. They can do this by not going into business to directly compete with the big dogs AND by not focusing on the money. Seriously speaking, I see this as means to put on monthly shows that are PWG like dream cards but in much larger venues. Dream shows once a month, internet based everything (probably no DVDs or Blu-ray), and tee shirts. I could see them touring as well but, a relaxed schedule like ROH. The indy guys and girls make up most of the card and the "Elite" do 6 man matches to lead into the BIG shows. YouTube free matches/shows or streamed service TV shows of these matches is very likely to keep costs down. Perhaps if they book angles or story arcs, a studio show like TNA Asylum/Impact Zone could be there instead or if a TV deal is there. Honestly, I look at this AEW as a vanity project. They probably do too. I don't think they're looking to get richer but, just do WHAT they like-WHEN they like and pay the bills. I can certainly admire them for that. Now who knows what that means for the Adam Pages, Joey Janelas, and the younger folks of the company? The bleeding heart fans, like myself, are excited at the prospect of the performers receiving unbiased wages and health care. I think that those hopes are quickly being dashed against the rocks from what I've seen though. I do think it'll be more PWG-wrestler owned & operated than NJ, ROH, or WWE.
So, beyond that, what does AEW hold for us fans? What can they offer us that's new & exciting? Are they going to fall back upon the allure of the Dream Match OR do wrestling with good stories and good booking? Honestly, I think AEW is taking the PWG mentality and product to a national (international?) level. Its not that it'll be anything new BUT, it will be more accessible and more visible than the insular PWG. I'd love to see genuine drama in wrestling and perhaps Jericho will be called upon to book (which would be the very best use of him). They have the resources to do it so, it is a possibility. And finally the larger implications of this company and it's possible success: If it's around for a few years, I wouldn't be surprised if they take ROH's spot as NJPW's US partner promotion. And like SWS/AJPW it may create a situation in NJPW, where they decide to elevate some guys and create a whole new generation of stars for the 2020's. Yeah, it is exciting. Guess we just have to wait and see...
Thanks for reading!