It’s no secret that 2023 has been the company’s toughest year yet. From backstage drama to countless injuries, AEW’s onscreen product has suffered quite a bit. That’s not to say there haven’t been good to great moments because there has. AEW is still consistently putting out quality product, but its hard to deny there is a specific feeling missing from their shows. Lets take a look at some of the things they could do to get this special feeling back.
6. Create a more distinct divide between AEW and ROH
It seems clear that Tony Khan cares about Ring of Honor very much, but the AEW fans don’t seem to carry the same investment. Buying the company was good for the business. It prevented another promotion from disintegrating, but what it is right now is not much better. Fans leave before the tapings start. There’s very little discourse about any of the stories outside of Athena, and the titles have no credibility. Having so many belts from so many companies dilutes the importance of the titles and what it means to be on AEW programming. AEW fans want more AEW, not more ROH.
If the company was its own entity, when the two rosters converge it would feel much more special. There is far too much content to keep up with in just AEW alone. Why would people feel compelled to watch ROH when it already drags their favorite show down?
5. Keep forward momentum for specific stars
This is a problem that has been addressed directly by the company, but it still persists. How many times have wrestlers become the hottest act in the company only to be completely cold in a few weeks? People like Hook, Wardlow, and Daniel Garcia, and many others have all fell victim to this. People want to see their favorites more often, and AEW wants to have them in meaningless subplots to keep their plate spinning until they’re actually ready for a storyline. Hopefully the pushes for people like Swerve can prove to be the rule and not the exception.
4. Less Comedy Skits in the Main event
I’ll put it like this. If you are a gourmet chicken restaurant, you wouldn’t create a drive through to appeal to McDonald’s customers. If you were a gourmet chicken restaurant, it’d be even dumber to do this when McDonald’s is the most popular its been in years. What got AEW hot in the first place? It was being a true alternative to WWE. AEW promised to be a buffet of wrestling, but this is not what people wanted. Skits where Adam Cole moves in slow motion is the entire gag was NOT part of the vision. Comedy has its place in wrestling, but it is meant to add levity among the serious programs. When the entire show is comedic, it takes away the importance from anything.
3. Focus on wrestlers people want to see
Listen, I understand wanting to build up new people. I understand wanting to have a future that people can rely on when guys retire, but people want to see top stars in important stories. We don’t have Kenny Omega or Bryan Danielson for very long. They both have expressed the want to put people over and elevate talent, but when you have them on your roster, they should have a bigger role on the show. Hopefully through the continental classic Danielson will have a bigger role, but Omega seems to only be relegated to tag matches. These are only two specific examples, but for far too long have guys that are less than elite been given spots above their ability.
2. Whatever is going on with the Women’s division
This increasingly feels like a problem AEW will never solve, but it should be continually harped on until it gets fixed. Women are put in the same spot on every show. They rarely get time for their matches. There is virtually never any character development. They have talent people like so their old excuse of “lack of stars” isn’t viable anymore. Look at NXT which has, despite all odds, become a growth product. They are easily the U.S promotion with the most focus on their women’s division. I’m not saying the booking is great, but their is no coincidence that it continues to grow. Women can and will draw if given the chance.
1. Slow burn/ Long term development outside of the main event scene
Long gone are the days of the Hangman saga or the MJF/Punk feud. Many people often get pelted for wishing for the “Good ol’ days of AEW”. Most of the criticism of this sentiment comes people asking if things like Nightmare Collective or OG Dark order is what is missing, but that is in bad faith. What people miss is the clear direction of each character.
Things like subtle foreshadowing, and intricate character development is sorely lacking. Undercard stories like the creation of the pinnacle, Wardlow’s ascension, and the slow burn to Orange Cassidy’s first match are never told anymore. Much of the undercard feels aimless and without a long-term direction. Even the MJF/Adam Cole storyline seems to be spinning its wheels until Cole is healed. Granted, we don’t know what the plans are behind the scenes, but the confidence to “let it play out” has slowly been chipped away at over time.