Don: Today I have a special guest on The Main Event. He is a fellow columnist, 10 time column of the month winner and Lords of Pain legend. The one and only, Mizfan!
Thanks for joining me Mizzie! It’s a real pleasure to have you.
Miz: Hey, glad to be here Donnie! How’s this pandemic business treating you?
Don: Not good man. I feel like a prisoner in my own home, even though it’s for the better good. How about things on your end?
Miz: Damn, sorry to hear it my friend. Hang in there, we’ll get through it! Not so bad on my end, I prefer to stay home even when I’m not avoiding rampaging viruses, though I do make a point to at least get some fresh air each day. And of course, wrestling helps me get through anything!
Don: Wrestling certainly has that effect, doesn’t it? Speaking of wrestling, I’m starting to feel like Kenny Omega has become a caricature of what he was in NJPW. So much so that I feel like he is the weak link in The Elite. How the mighty have fallen, eh…
Miz: I thought he was kind of dopey in New Japan too, to be honest, but the style put very little emphasis on his personality so it didn’t matter as much.
Don: That makes sense. But yet AEW are doing what WWE does and thats not working to a wrestlers best strengths. He’s really fell off as far as performing to his overachieving levels because AEW doesn’t allow him to do so.
Miz: The weird thing in this case is Omega has a huge amount of say in what he’s doing, so it’s hard to blame the company. I have a weird feeling that Omega prefers to be a wacky weirdo instead of a super wrestler, and left to his own devices this is the stuff he wants to do.
Don: Then he is a wacky weirdo because super wrestler is what he does best. It actually slipped my mind that he books himself, or at least has a major say in how he’s booked so it’s quite concerning that he’s choosing this route.
Miz: For sure. Reminds me of the creator of Dragon Ball Z, reportedly he always wants to write comedy side plots and has to be persuaded by his editors to write battles and main plot. Some folks need the be pushed in the right direction!
Don: Well at least the comedy in DBZ is kind of funny like naming Vegeta and Bulmas kids Trunks and Bra. But yet Omega should take better care of how he is booked/books himself.
Miz: I think what we’re really discovering is that Omega is not a guy who should be booking himself or others. Some great wrestlers are not good bookers, and I’m guessing he’s one of them.
Don: Agreed. Like Hogan, Nash etc. in WCW he likely falls into the same trap. On a side note, do you believe AEW has been around long enough to be judged? I’m asking because I told myself I would give them time. It seems like a lot of people are still in the honeymoon phase despite AEW being on air for six months.
Miz: I think it’s definitely fair to judge at this point, though I also think they’re still growing into what they will eventually be. Personally I think they’ve done quite well, not perfect but all in all my experience has been quite positive. You?
Don: I think their show has been fantastic. Like you said, they’re not without their flaws but I enjoy what they have to offer despite a growing concern of mine. It would be a shame for AEW to go down the TNA route. They won me over with fresh talent. I don’t want to see WWE rejects. What’s your thoughts on that aspect?
Miz: I think it’s a mindset that’s very overblown. The WWF built the Attitude Era on “WCW rejects” like Steve Austin, the Undertaker, Mick Foley, Triple H, basically everyone except the Rock.
Don: I agree with you to a tee. However, I find it ludicrous that I have the fear factor of AEW turning into TNA. They’ve just signed Matt Hardy and Brodie Lee and they’re already seemingly making Hardy a main-eventer.
Miz: I’m not saying Matt Hardy is the next Steve Austin but I also don’t think they brought him in to main event PPVs. He’s a big name and a known ally of the Young Bucks so he makes sense for Blood & Guts, but what will his role after that be? Then we’ll know more.
As for Brodie, I don’t know if there was a more underutlized guy in the whole WWE. AEW was always going to need both home grown stars (which they’ve done a great job of making so far) AND names known from other places in order to succeed.
Don: With regards to Brodie Lee, I only saw his true potential once in that match against Orton but WWE never capitalised on that. But AEW brought him into the company in a fantastic way and I’m excited to see where things go for the Exalted One, despite his videos coming off as cheesy at times.
As for Hardy, time will tell the importance of his role. In your mind what would be the perfect role for Matt Hardy once Blood & Guts concludes?
Miz: Well, I don’t believe they’re running Blood & Guts anytime soon, I believe they postponed it until they can get fans back in the arena! So we may have to wait a little longer to know what Matt’s AEW run is ultimately going to look like. Ideally, I think he’s a good mind to consult for creative content, and in the ring he’s best served as a big name who can put over hot midcarders on the rise. If his body holds up better than expected or if his popularity catches fire again maybe he can do more, but I think that’s probably the best position for him.
Don: I totally agree with that notion. Hardy is at a point in his career where he no longer has to challenge for titles. He should be used as somewhat of a jobber to the stars. That role suits him perfectly. There are way too many stars AEW brought to the mainstream that needs to be put ahead of him. Speaking of which, who are favourite “homegrown” AEW stars?
Miz: Defining “homegrown” as somebody who never had a significant stint on TV elsewhere, I think in the first months we have three major standouts.
MJF has shown that everybody who had faith in him was right on the money, as he has been killing it consistently with promos and character work. His in ring style may not be as flashy as some people would like, but I appreciate the simplified style that emphasizes timing and personality over jaw-dropping spots.
Darby Allin has fast become an enormous favorite of mine and I think has already cemented himself as one of AEW’s hottest rising stars. There’s something about his physicality, the very way he moves, that sets him apart from just about everyone in wrestling right now. And everything he does is driven by his personality, which I really appreciate.
A guy who I think has just recently joined the very top tier is Sammy Guevara, who has grown tremendously even in just the few months that the company has been running. He’s become a guy who is guaranteed entertainment every time he shows up on the screen, whether he’s wrestling or not.
And that’s not mentioning guys who have raised their stock a lot since AEW came on the air, including Adam Page, Jungle Boy, Luchasaurus, Nyla Rose, Riho, Private Party, Joey Janela, and most of all Orange Cassidy, who may end up being the most popular and successful out of them all based on his current reactions. And that’s just the start!
Don: Your thoughts echo mine almost exactly. I heard a lot about MJF before I started watching AEW, and he even had a few doubters. But that guy is classic heel in every sense of the word. He is so good at being a heel that I believe he is one of those guys who should never be a face.
And Darby Allin? Boy, there’s just something special about that guy and the crowd absolutely loves him. For such a small guy he brings so much intensity into the ring its hard not to root for him. I can definitely see him holding gold in the future.
You also mentioned Sammy Guevara who I enjoy watching tremendously. From what it looks like, Jericho really likes that kid and is taking him under his wing, and not just from a storyline perspective. Do you also get the feeling that Jericho is extremely high on Guevara?
Miz: I absolutely do. I’ve seen folks compare Sammy’s current run to Jericho’s ’98, the year he really broke out as not only a good wrestler but a great character. That’s a very high bar in my opinion but Sammy’s jumping for it, and I think Jericho sees that and loves it. Jericho’s been a great influence for AEW as a whole, better than I ever thought he’d be. He’s in the middle of one of the best periods in his career right now, which I never expected but am totally loving.
Don: That’s what I see when I see the two of them. Jericho absolutely loves that guy. As for Le Champion himself, he is aptly known as the Master of Reinvention. His character work is bar none and he is arguably the most over wrestler on the entire roster. Although, he has seen many criticisms as of late because he has lost a step. Well, you’d think anyone his age who does what he does would lose a step.
Miz: The secret about Jericho is the “step” that folks like to say he’s lost is a step I don’t think he ever had. He’s always been very good in the ring, but he’s never been the best. He was dwarfed by contemporaries like Benoit, Guerrero, and Mysterio judging solely on ring skill, and these days you can find a better pure athlete than Jericho ever was on pretty much any wrestling show you can think of. But his ability to create a character and tell a story has lead him to his greatest successes, and this is no different.
Don: Oh I can totally get with what you’re saying. However, I feel the “step” that most people refer to is not his wrestling ability but his agility. He is less agile now but that can only be contributed to age and that is no fault of his own. He makes up for that by adding his character to the matches he wrestles in and the heat he can bring to matches. Therefore I don’t feel like Jericho is being criticised fairly. Besides Jericho though, there are plenty of other guys who have also reinvented themselves during their stint in AEW. Guys who came from WWE and all of a sudden had renewed energy about them.
Miz: The way they’ve reinvented Jon Moxley, Cody Rhodes, and PAC shows me a lot of promise. And the fact that they quietly dropped Shawn Spears down the card when he wasn’t working shows me that they won’t push a guy long-term just because he worked in WWE.
Don: That is something that I can truly appreciate. Besides Mox, Cody especially just has this air about him that screams “top dog”. He had some great moments in WWE but I never thought he would have the capability to completely change my perception of him. That is extremely rare.
Miz: Agreed. I’ve been a fan of Cody for a long time, since the Dashing Cody days, and I always thought he was underutilized. But there was a sense in between leaving WWE and AEW starting up where people thought maybe he was in over his head, something I wondered about as well. But my faith has been rewarded, Cody’s been on fire since that bloody bout with Dustin last year. Some might say it’s easy to look like a star when you control the booking, but to that I ask everyone to check how Jeff Jarrett’s star fared in TNA. He came out looking like a joke to many people (sorry nony!). For a more modern example, we were just talking about Kenny Omega, who also has a lot of say in his own booking, and it’s not going so hot for him. The fact that Cody has both the power AND the skill to present himself as a star is to his credit, not against it.
Don: Good point you made about the Jarrett comparison. He certainly has that “IT Factor” to him these days. Talking about the “IT Factor”, you mentioned Orange Cassidy earlier as one of the rising stars. Boy, how popular has he become? I’ve heard a lot about him but now witnessing his shtick firsthand I must say that he has converted me into a fan. I had no idea he was Fire Ant from your beloved CHIKARA promotion until you told me over in the Forums. He has made a real impact and the fans absolutely love the guy!
Miz: I couldn’t be more pleased that not only is the world being exposed to Orange Cassidy at last but that people are loving him as much as I always have. I’m always hesitant to peek under the masks of CHIKARA but I don’t suppose it’s any big secret, and it certainly proves that besides having a gimmick that’s perfectly in tune with the modern fan, he’s also been a top tier in ring performer for over a decade already.
Don: I had no idea he’s been around for so long. His gimmick is definitely a hit. Although, I have to admit that I don’t see him ever being in the main-event. Not for lack of talent, but he doesn’t necessarily fit the main-event mould. That’s just my opinion. But there’s nothing wrong with that. Not everyone can be a main-eventer and we do need hot acts to keep the midcard entertaining as well.
Miz: I don’t think a main event run is out of the question. Just based on his popularity, he’s clearly one of the most over people on the show, he’s got the skills, and I think he resonates a lot with fans today. With so many problems in the world today I think it’s easy to feel burnt out, lacking energy, apathetic, and yet I think we all deep down want to believe if we really tried we could be great. Orange Cassidy could be the wrestling symbol of our age! But then again, I don’t think it’s a lock and I don’t think it’s a must. Orange is great just the way he is, in my book.
Don: I like the comparison to modern day lethargy. But as much as I love Mr. Freshly Squeezed I just don’t think his character is meant for that role. Either way I enjoy watching him work, no matter where he is on the card. Riho, on the other hand, I don’t enjoy watching at all. She just doesn’t seem believable at all. Sure, she has a few good strikes but I just can’t seem to buy into her. I can’t really buy into the entire division for that matter.
Miz: Mileage will always vary. As far as Riho goes, I was interested to find out that by breaking down the quarterly ratings Riho pretty much always gains viewers, particularly amongst women, so perhaps the appeal is stronger to that often neglected group of wrestling fans. Personally I like Riho fine, particularly her matches against Nyla Rose. I like most of the division in fact, besides a select few like Britt Baker whom I can’t seem to get behind. The biggest issue so far is the lack of booking for the division. The only detailed storyline I can think of so far has been the Nightmare Collectively, which was shut down quickly because it was quite unpopular (at least they had the wisdom to pull the plug based on fan reaction though). By all accounts Kenny Omega is heavily involved in booking the women, which unfortunately is another count against him from a creative perspective. I absolutely believe he has a lot of respect for women’s wrestling, but that doesn’t mean he’s any good at writing for them. The roster itself is stronger than people realize, in fact I’d say it’s very strong, and I hope the booking catches up to their talent soon.
Don: Just like how you can’t get behind Baker is pretty much how I feel about Riho. I do enjoy Baker’s work myself so I’m interested to see where her heel turn goes. Maybe Riho will grow on me one day. But you’re right, AEW has great talent in their division, with Kris Statlander being my favourite.But it’s the lack of focus on the division that’s being detrimental. They get no real booking so nothing interesting is ever happening there. It’s just boring. And with great talent like that it has no right to be. If done correctly/with better wrestlers, the Nightmare Collective could have been an interesting angle and added some much needed story to the division.
Miz: I entirely agree. I’m obviously a fan of AEW but I don’t have a problem calling them out if they’re dropping the ball, and right now they’re dropping the ball on the full potential of their women, without a doubt.
Don: Yeah, I think AEW needs to be called out if they’re catching on shit. They need to be kept on their toes as not to become complacent. Something new they’ll be implementing is the TNT Championship, which is essentially a midcard title. I’m honestly not convinced that this title was necessary.
Miz: Are any titles “necessary”, at the end of the day? It’s all about how effectively they use the belt, in my opinion. I think it’s worth creating something that guys who aren’t in a tag team or ready for the main event can fight over. My original thought was that it would be a perfect fit for MJF, but since he’s not in the tournament (by design or because of isolation, we’re not sure), I’m pulling hard for Darby Allin or Sammy Guevara to take it home.
Don: True, I suppose it does depend on how the titles are booked. I’m a big fan of prestige so if a belt gets treated prestigiously it’s always a bonus for wrestlers to compete for a belt. I’ve read many comments that a Trios Championship should have been created in place of the TNT Championship. What are your views surrounding that?
Miz: They have a lot of trios that could compete for it. SCU, Death Triangle, Strong Hearts, Inner Circle, Elite, Best Friends/Cassidy, probably a lot that I’m forgetting. Again, it’s mostly about how they use the title, but if they’re prepared to put some work into booking the division, I’m all for it.
Don: Perhaps one day they will introduce a Trios Championship and based off their Tag Team Division, I’m sure they’ll get it right. I’ve taken enough of your time, but before signing out I have to ask… Do you think AEW will ever truly compete with WWE?
Miz: Never say never! It’s a tall task but they’ve already accomplished a lot of things that many said were impossible, so I won’t be the one to bet against them.
Don: That’s a wise choice. But man, it’s been really good to have you here today and thanks for taking the time to let me pick your brain.
Miz: Anytime my friend, it was a pleasure!
Don: Great stuff! Looking forward to having you on The Main Event again in the future. Thanks for joining us folks. I hope you enjoyed our little AEW conversation. And don’t forget to sound off in the comments below! But until next time, this is Don Franc (and Mizfan!) signing out.
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