AEW’s Full Gear PPV was outstanding. Too long, but lots of great matches and big moments. Plenty of resolution, too. That’s the advantage to having quarterly PPVs, not monthly. You can do legit builds that merit meaningful payoffs.
One of the best matches was the opener: MJF vs. Darby Allin.
MJF is best known for his talking. He channels Roddy Piper. That’s different than imitating, and it’s done to great effect. But he can really go, too. That can be obscured by his verbiage.
Allin is different. Good different. He looks like he couldn’t beat anybody in a real fight, but his suicidal tendencies and perverse skate-punk charisma make him legit. Great look, too.
After Full Gear, Allin had an interesting quote: “No matter who comes into AEW, the AEW originals are going to steal the show.”
That might have raised some eyebrows in the AEW locker room. Mostly because Allin is 100 percent right. He has to be.
Take it from somebody who saw WCW rise and fall up close and understands why it happened: AEW needs to remember what butters its bread.
AEW brought in C.M. Punk and got massive buzz. AEW brought in Bryan Danielson, which lines up a bunch of dream matches. (I like Danielson as a heel, if only because it revives, “I have until five.” I pop every time.)
But AEW’s audience didn’t increase. In fact, it dropped a bit.
I’m not knocking Punk and Bryan. They’re legitimate stars and excellent, charismatic performers.
But Punk is 43, Bryan 40. They’re the same as when they were in WWE. They haven’t changed. They’re recycled.
The premise of AEW is to provide an alternative to WWE. When you recycle older ex-WWE performers and put them in top spots, you remind viewers that WWE is the real show.
Sometimes it takes a while for the marks to remember that, but they will. Believe me, I know.
AEW already had superstar veteran anchors in Chris Jericho and Matt Hardy.
AEW Dynamite is the only wrestling program I watch from beginning to end. Here’s why:
*The so-called “Four Pillars”: MJF, Allin, Sammy Guevara and Jungle Boy. Average age: 26. None ever appeared in WWE. Each has ability, the look, charisma, everything. They have kid appeal, a rare commodity. (Well, maybe not MJF.)
Guevara’s recent work suggests he’s already one of the industry’s best all-around performers, the heir apparent to Eddie Guerrero at many levels. (I do not say that lightly.)
*Hangman Page. He’s the new AEW world champion. Just 30, he’s a legit headline act. (There are less of those than you think.) Never appeared in WWE.
*Britt Baker. AEW doesn’t have a strong women’s division, though Tay Conti and Anna Jay have potential to break through. Baker is polished enough to prop it up, though. She’s 30. Never appeared in WWE.
*Performers who haven’t been overexposed in American wrestling. Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks, who mostly made their rep in Japan. The Lucha Brothers from Mexico. Those who got underutilized in WWE, like FTR, Adam Cole, Andrade, Pac and Malakai Black. Guys who came from smaller promotions or the indies: Santana & Ortiz, Ethan Page, Scorpio Sky, Wardlow.
That’s what makes AEW an alternative. That’s what makes AEW seem young and vital.
Recycling dilutes that. Recycling won’t grow the audience. (In fact, it isn’t.)
Punk and Bryan are excellent. AEW will do great things with them. (But not right now: In their next TV matches, Punk wrestles Q.T. Marshall and Bryan wrestles Colt Cabana. When Kevin Nash and Scott Hall invaded WCW, they didn’t wrestle Buddy Lee Parker and Glacier.)
But, moving forward, AEW doesn’t need Bray Wyatt, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn or any of the other rumored defections who are out of contract with WWE or will be soon. (If AEW hires anyone, it should be Impact’s Ace Austin. He’s great, 24, and fulfills what AEW’s criteria should be. Josh Alexander fits the description, too, although he's 34.)
AEW already has 20 pounds of sugar for a 10-pound bag. There’s not enough TV time to go around. (Whatever happened to Shawn Spears? He might as well be Tye Dillinger again. "Ten! Ten! Ten!")
Rotating talent off TV sounds good by way of keeping everything fresh. But great talent doesn’t need rotated off TV, and especially not to make way for lesser talent.
Again, this isn’t knocking any of the performers AEW doesn’t need. But AEW doesn’t need them. They’ve got enough guys they don’t need.
Wrestlers on Twitter wet their pants whenever WWE has a new round of talent cuts: “IT’S NOT FAIR!”
If you expected fair, you came knocking at the wrong door.
If you demand fair, unionize. But that requires risk and looking out for the greater good, something wrestlers are wholly incapable of. They posture like it’s a brotherhood. It’s not.
If you got fired, there’s always barber college. Not every marginal talent deserves to make a living in wrestling, let alone be on big-time TV.
I know. I went to radio. Did OK.
(I am co-host of Ric Flair's podcast, WOOOOO Nation Uncensored. It drops every Wednesday. Check it out via the usual podcast outlets and on YouTube. #WOOOOO)