Well that was a weird weekend of wrestling.
You might be asking why I didn’t post my real-time thoughts on WWE Clash At The Castle this past weekend. Well, funny story there. I was settling in to watch the show, and I Googled it real fast to find an image for the article header. And upon my searching, I found out that, OOPS, the show had ALREADY HAPPENED.
Accursed timezones. I guess I forgot that the show that they KEPT ADVERTISING AS BEING IN THE UNITED KINGDOM was in the United Kingdom. And, hence, was run on UK time. So yeah… turns out I completely missed Clash At The Castle due to my not understanding how clocks work. But hey, at least I went to bed at 9:00pm on a Saturday night like a really cool dude.
Then you might be asking why I didn’t bother to cover NXT Worlds Collide. Well, that one was easier: my family had a cookout.
A cookout I did not even get to eat at. I will explain.
So I showed up at my family’s house at noon and we hung around and talked all day. And then at 4:00pm, I mentioned, Oh hey, I have tickets to a wrestling show tonight; I need to head out by five o’clock. So I started helping everyone get food ready (it was corn on the cob and already-cooked fried chicken!), and then more family showed up who weren’t expected until the evening. So preparations ground to a halt, and finally at 5:20, I was like, I gotta go, sorry!
So I drove my wife home, then headed to the movie theater to see AEW All Out.
(Yes, I bailed on my family to see wrestling at a movie theater, but hey, the ticket was $25 and I had been there for five hours, so they’re fine, it’s fine, I’m FINE)
Was this just the second AEW PPV I’ve ever seen? I attended Full Gear live in 2019 with a friend, and I’m not sure I’ve watched a PPV for the company as it aired since then. Wild. We need an AEW Network for this stuff. I’d totally pay $9.99 a month.
Anyway, I left AEW All Out feeling… things. I spent the twenty-plus minute drive home talking out what I had just watched to myself because it felt like a show that needed processing. So here I am, the next morning, and I still have thoughts, and I’d like to share them with you and see if this is a ME thing or if maybe I’m onto something for once.
(Obviously, much of this will be subjective and based entirely on my own feelings. If you disagree, that’s great! Let’s talk it out in the comments civilly! I’m not saying your interpretation of anything is right or wrong. I’m just Sounding Board-ing here, and you deserve to be heard as much as I!)
First of all, let’s say this: All Out was a terrific Pay-Per-View. Did I enjoy watching it? Obviously. The match quality and storytelling were phenomenal, and you know what? Ringwork and storytelling are barely ever my problem with AEW; they excel in both of those areas. There were a handful of legitimate Match Of The Year candidates from this show.
I really had a blast watching All Out. Spectacular show! Okay? Don’t get me twisted here.
And let’s start… at the end.
Maxwell Jacob Friedman has returned to AEW as we always knew he would, and he’s about to engage in a world championship program with CM Punk, and I have to admit a feeling of, what is this? Massive underwhelm-ment, let’s say.
MJF and Punk? We’ve seen this. Both men are immensely talented, and I’m positive that they’ll make this new chapter energized and exciting, but still… I’ve seen this. I’m not hot for this at face value.
I have to assume that if Punk had not gotten injured, we would still be here. I believe that this was always the plan, except without the Moxley interlude when Punk got the boo-boo foot. And to AEW’s credit, that was some real making of lemonade, because I loved the Mox/Punk storyline. And, like I said, it feels like this is where they wanted to take us anyway, so… it’s a win, right?
But I don’t know. I’m still not interested in this. And I started thinking last night… would it be better if, when Punk went down, AEW had placed the interim title on Wardlow? And the main event last night was Punk/Wardlow, seeing Wardlow unify the titles, only to be faced with MJF as his next challenge?
The idea got me excited. A lot more excited than another extended Punk/MJF story. Wardlow’s arc with MJF felt like it was cut off at its knees by the whole “MJF Is Leaving” story. And now that MJF knows Wardlow can destroy him, he has retooled and found a new gallery of ne’er-do-wells to help him go after the monster. A reinvigorated and reloaded MJF vs Wardlow for the world title… that’s what I want.
(And I’m pretty sure that’s what we’ll eventually get, though likely with the champ/challenger roles reversed)
I actually had to think in the wake of All Out… what IS Wardlow doing? Oh right, he’s killing time with the TNT Title. I had forgotten about that entirely because AEW has essentially put Wardlow on the cooler for the time being, having thrown their secondary strap on him and letting him kind of… exist.
Is this a bad thing? It kind of sucks right now, but I don’t think so. I think AEW knows that Wardlow is beloved and over, and they can let the big guy cool off for a while. They (probably rightly) think they can push the Wardlow Button whenever they want, and it will be like no time at all passed since this past spring when he blew up during his babyface turn.
But I feel like AEW has way too many pointless champions right now, and Wardlow is one of them.
Let’s be honest… AEW has FAR too many title belts as it is. A bullseye complaint of WWE for ages now, this is something their competition is also suffering with. Too many belts, too many of which are being used as little more than props. The aforementioned TNT Title long felt like the Intercontinental title of the 80’s and 90’s. I feel like since Sammy Guevara unified it against Cody, it has started feeling more like the modern Intercontinental Title. Sammy turned heel, lost it to Scorpio Sky, who lost it to Wardlow, and it just kind of… sits with Wardlow, reminding us he matters, even if he isn’t really doing anything. He has a belt after all!
The same thing is happening with the AEW Tag titles. And the ROH Title. And the ROH TV Title. It feels like AEW signed Keith Lee, Claudio, and Samoa Joe, but never really had an agenda for them. They just added more main event level names to a roster stacked with main eventers and high-ceiling up-and-comers. So AEW just… gave those guys belts that don’t really mean anything at the moment as a kind of… “See, they are CHAMPIONS here! They are important!”. But are they?
When you have so many titles either directly associated with or being regularly defended in your company (let’s see if I can do this all off the top of my head: AEW Title, TNT Title, All-Atlantic Title [holy shit, why did we need this belt?], FTW Title, Tag Titles, Trios Titles, Women’s Title, TBS Title, ROH Title, ROH TV Title, ROH Pure Title [WTF does that even mean?], ROH Tag Titles, whatever the other tag titles that FTR carries around but aren’t the AEW Tag Titles for some reason…), they can’t ALL matter.
(Did I miss any? I’m surprised I remembered the All-Atlantic and FTW Titles exist)
That’s a lot of titles! Too many titles! And that’s why, I think, the TNT Title and the AEW Tag Titles, which used to be the benchmark for non-world title competition belts, now feel like WWE’s IC and US titles where I have to sit and think “Wait, who holds those belts again?”. I love Keith Lee. LOVE HIM. Don’t understand how all companies in the known universe don’t look at him and think “This guy needs to be the face of our company”, but I watched the tag title match last night and wanted The Acclaimed to win JUST because I want Lee to move on to something that feels like it might mean something more than being put with another dude the same color as he is and given a participation trophy.
You know what oddly feels like AEW’s most meaningful title, outside of the World Championship? The TBS Championship. I don’t love Jade Cargill, but they invented that belt with the full intention of using it to launch her to the moon, and they are doing it, by god. I’m invested in the “Who Will Take This Belt Off Of Her” story! I really wanted Athena to do it–I’m a HUGE fan of hers–and when she didn’t, I was deflated, but in that “Oh no, the dastardly heel still has the belt! Who will save us?” kind of way. The GOOD way. The 80’s Pic Flair way. I want her on TV. I want her feuding with people. I want to feel like maybe the NEXT challenger will do it. And when she doesn’t, I want to feel that maybe the NEXT NEXT challenger will do it.
Cargill has a long way to develop, but AEW has a plan for her, and I am invested in it!
You know who doesn’t make me feel that way, though?
Full disclosure? Bryan Danielson is my favorite wrestler of all time, and I think he could be doing a lot more for AEW than he currently is. I’d rather have seen him win the Interim Title than Moxley. I’d rather he was near the top of the card. But he isn’t, and he’s not a young man. Maybe he WANTS to put over and build up young talent like Daniel Garcia. If so, good for him. He’s had a marvelous career of which anyone would be envious.
But Jesus Christ, if Chris Jericho never wrestled another match in his life, I sure wouldn’t miss him. There are two things I can’t believe about AEW Chris Jericho:
-He’s STILL an omnipresent nigh-unbeatable annoying heel three-plus years into his AEW run despite being OVER 50.
-That AEW hasn’t come out and said something like “We’re sorry, you were never supposed to take the Judas Effect seriously; it’s clearly the worst finisher in wrestling history. This was a rib that went too far”.
Like… go away, Chris. I say that as a LIFELONG fan of yours. Conspiracy Theory Jericho? Honest Man Jericho? Wow, great history there! I love you. But please, go tour with Fozzie for a year or seven or something. With Jade, I want to see her get her comeuppance. I want to see what is next for her. With Jericho, I just want him to get his go-away-ance (I made that up, it’s okay). I can’t believe this guy is still on the fringe of the main event and going over more people than not!
AND YET, is this one in particular just me being far from the pulse of the people? Because I watched All Out in a movie theater, and when Jericho beat Bryan, the theater POPPED. Which was weird to me because it was the most predictable result of the night.
(Also, the arena at All Out was desperately cheering Jamie Hayter, so watching AEW shows often makes me feel like the mayor of Crazytown where I’m like, “You guys are cheering for WHOM again?” Okay, I guess; you do you!)
As for the last, and by far the least important, thought I was left with from All Out, after the SIMPLY AMAZING Ishii/Kingston pre-show match, I could have gone all night long without seeing any more knife-edge chops. But they kept cropping up, most notably in the aforementioned Bryan/Jericho match.
Speaking of which, that match featured Bryan doing his signature “grab your hands and stomp your face” move, as well as hammer-and-anvil elbows to the head.
Then both of those spots got repeated in the Mox/Punk main event, and I just had this niggling sensation of “Wait, we’ve see all this”.
(Nevermind the dozen or so tope suicidas we saw throughout the entire card)
I’m not married to classic wrestling standards or anything. I’m not the kind of guy that says “It used to be done this way, so that’s how it should always be”. But across those moments of the program, I did think “Isn’t it not considered a good thing to reuse spots throughout a show?”. Like, Ishii and Eddie gave us a PRE-SHOW MotY contender where they did a fantastic chop segment. All the other chops throughout the night just reminded how much I wished that match was still going on.
WOW, this turned into a 2000+ word rant, and I did NOT intend that. And again, I’m not trying to besmirch All Out. If I gave it a score, I’d give it a 13 out of 10. I don’t know; I hate scoring wrestling by numbers like that. I loved the show; I think it’s one of the best PPVs I’ve seen all year, if not THE best.
It’s just… THIS is the stuff I was thinking about on the drive home. Not “How do I choose a favorite out of the Ishii/Eddie, Trios Title, Tag Title, Danielson/Jericho, and Mox/Punk matches that were all exceptional?”. I was thinking “Why are we getting Punk/MJF again when MJF has an unfinished story with Wardlow and a hundred other guys he has not feuded with yet? And why does Keith Lee feel like just a guy like he was in WWE?”.
So it’s weird.
I think I’m just thinking too hard. We all like to sit around and fantasy book and imagine we can do better, right? I think that’s where I am. I’m in “Well, if it were ME…” mode when I should just be enjoying the ride.
But I am curious if it’s just me. So, let me know:
-Are you excited for Punk/MJF Feud #2?
-Do you think AEW has too many titles? And do too many of them not matter?
-Do you think AEW is using most of its people in the right ways?
-Am I being too stubbornly old school on the repeated spots moments?
I want to have a discussion here, so let’s hear it. Again, I loved All Out itself, but I don’t know that it made me excited for this week’s Dynamite or whatever. I feel like AEW does that to me a lot; I adore their shows in a vacuum, but I am not sure I always care about what’s next. Does that make sense? How do YOU feel?
Until next time, everyone… take care!
(Oh, and if you are asking: did Stew pop at all in the theater like a geek? Yes, one time: When Stokely Hathaway revealed himself as the guy that pulled down the chip. I thought we were going to get Stokely in a world title feud, and I was AMPED because that dude is entertaining as hell. I’m still happy he is set up to be main event adjacent!)