WTF is AEW doing #137

After hearing about, and then seeing the visuals of Chris Jericho defeating Cesaro Claudio Castagnoli for the Ring of Honor World championship on AEW Dynamite on TNT TBS, that was the first thing that I said: wtf is AEW doing?

Then I came to the realization that I say this almost on a weekly basis, because the promotion is always doing some weird questionable things on a weekly basis except for the precise single AEW taping that I was physically present for, where absolutely nothing substantial occurred except an amusing squash match between Brody King and Darby Allin. 

Ordinarily, I’m typically in favor of most things that benefit Chris Jericho.  Notwithstanding his unfortunate political alignment that has increasingly come to light over the last few years, I can still (mostly) separate the wrestler from the guy, and it’s safe to say that I’ll be able to say that I was a fan of the performer, his impressive body of work and his timelessly impressive ability to be creative, inventive and stay relevant no matter the decade.

And with an official ROH title reign now in his pocket, Jericho joins an extremely exclusive club of guys that have held gold in WWE, WCW, ECW, NJPW and ROH, with the only other guy being to my knowledge, Bubba Ray Dudley.  Jericho may never have held TNA/Impact gold before, but Bubba has also never held an AEW title before, so it’s kind of a push for being the most decorated champions of all time.

But maybe it’s because it’s AEW and it never seems like there’s ever an endgame in sight for their seemingly random booking, but I’m more left with the feeling of wtf is AEW doing, over trying to analyze the rationale for having Chris Jericho defeating Claudio for the ROH World title.

Traditionally, logic would say that Claudio is getting a push by dropping the ROH World title, as ROH is unfortunately seen as a tier below AEW, so alleviating him of a second-tier championship frees him up to pursue AEW’s bigger and grander prizes.  But AEW doesn’t seem to know what to do with their World championship, since CM Punk can’t stop being a diva or trying to sabotage the company, so it just keeps ending up on Jon Moxley’s shoulder and is barely worth its weight right now, so it begs the question on whether or not it’s even worth pursuing.

Giving it to Jericho makes a little more sense, because it gives him one more notch on his mantle, of being the most decorated guy in the business, but at this current juncture of his career, where Jericho is seemingly content to be a star-maker, the hope is that the ROH brand will get a young technician to grow and rise to challenge Jericho for the ROH World title, to where Jericho can do good business with. 

However considering ROH still has no television and is completely reliant on AEW programming to advance their stories, it’s probably not going to be nearly as good as the potential of it is on paper.  My guess is that ultimately it’ll be Daniel Garcia vs. Chris Jericho, but it’ll come at the expense of imploding yet another Chris Jericho stable, and the likely alienation and scattering of a bunch of decent workers in the process.

Such a narrative is one that requires logic, something that AEW doesn’t seem to have.  With its World championship in the shitter because their long-term investment went berserk and got into a physical altercation with three executives who were also three of the boys, which was never a good idea in the first place, who also happened to immediately tank the six-man championship that the entire promotion was building up for since day one, the company’s entire main event picture was decimated in a single night.

And for a company with like 15 titles in active circulation, you’d think some of these guys would actually get some television time with them right?  Take PAC for example, the guy is hands down one of the top-3 workers in the entire promotion, is holding the brand new, All-Atlantic Championship, is also co-holding one of the brand-new Trios blets, you’d think he’d get some screen time right?  No way!  After winning the title in June, he doesn’t make his first televised appearance with it until August, and that’s on Dark, and literally this past Wednesday was his first-ever Dynamite defense of the title.  The belt has literally been seen more at non-AEW shows than it has been at AEW shows.

So I suppose with such a tumultuous roster, something’s gotta happen somewhere, so why not start with this, but damn if it just doesn’t seem like something interesting as much as it’s wtf is AEW doing, again?

New blets are probably going to be inevitable

I haven’t watched much wrestling over the last weeks months years, but when I heard about the latest NXT Worlds Collide show, I made a point to carve out an evening to watch it.  After finding out that NXT UK was being folded in preparation for the coming of NXT Europe, I was kind of sad because I actually really grew to like NXT UK in its short lifespan.  Their show really felt grassroots, and the roster size led to quick and exciting stories, and when they started doing their own Takeover events, they were always full of real quality matches, with always at least one broadway on them.

The rise of Jordan Devlin, Walter vs. Dragunov, and Kay Lee Ray vs. Meiko Satomura were some of the best things about NXT UK.  Even their midcard guys like Noam Dar and A-Kid were starting to really shine, and for a while I’d have said that NXT UK was my favorite program within the entire company; granted it didn’t hurt that everything else had moved to cable tv and I didn’t watch it, but still.

Anyway, none of the matches ended in any real surprises; Ricochet wasn’t going to win and take an NXT blet away from the show, same with Nikki ASH and Doudrop.  Pretty Deadly unifying the tag titles was a little surprising, but if the UK scene needed to have anyone thrown a bone to it, it was obviously the tag team championships, because in spite of how much I was hoping Tyler Bate was going to win, it didn’t seem likely that any of the Americans were going to lose the respective men or women’s NXT championships, which is exactly what happened.

But the thing is, Worlds Collide kind of acted as something of a bookend to me as far as all the NXT UK and even the NXT blets are concerned.  Obviously, the UK blets all have to go since the brand is effectively dead now, but it also doesn’t mean that the existing blets in NXT also aren’t on the chopping block either.  Save for some coloration being added to the plates, all of the blet designs were carried over from “old” NXT, and the designs of the blets don’t match the Cosby sweater new logo of 2.0.

Of course when NXT Europe drops in 2023, it’s inevitable that they will get an array of their own titles, that I hope will look great so I can get them, but also hope that they don’t look great, so I won’t be tempted to get them because I haven’t really been chugging out surveys like I used to, so my blet monies have basically evaporated into nothingness now, and I wouldn’t really have the spare cash to get them.

But I also anticipate that NXT 2.0, within the next 12 months, will probably debut some redesigns of all their existing blets, because with the unifying of their UK counterparts, now seems like as good as any of a time for them to drop the old Hunter-era NXT logo’d blets, and debut some brand new, 2.0’d blets.  Especially since the WWEShop really has caught up to every single active blet being available, and they need something to drop to keep blet nerds like me wet.

I guess I should get back on the survey train and start trying to earn back up some more blet money, because I feel like we’re on the cusp of some new shit being available sooner rather than later.

Why it’s hard to take AEW seriously sometimes

I was watching some highlights from the latest Dynamite, because I was interested to see who won the match between Bryan Danielson and Daniel Garcia.  But during the match I couldn’t help but notice that the turnbuckle pads had something other than an AEW logo on it, and at one point, I had to scrunch my brow when I realized that it was literally the crest for House Targaryen.

Why was the House Targaryen crest on turnbuckles of an AEW wrestling show?

Well, the answer wasn’t hard to determine, because outside of any shot that wasn’t zoomed in to where you could see the turnbuckles, pretty much everywhere else in the West Virginia arena was like an explosion of Game of Thrones branding.  Since TBS is a Turner Network and Turner bought HBO and HBO owns the rights to Game of Thrones, naturally it was decided that AEW Dynamite would be the perfect venue to cross-promote the impending premiere of HBO’s House of the Dragon prequel series.

So instead of continually pushing awareness for AEW, or their shop’s website, or perhaps promoting any upcoming pay-per-views, all through the entire night was Game of Thrones shit, all over the place.

If I didn’t know what AEW was, and I was flipping channels and landed on Dynamite, I probably would’ve thought that some mega nerds* had created a wrestling promotion based on Game of Thrones, and I was watching some LARP of some Dothraki slave pit fighting instead of professional wrestling.

*I realize this is kind of an oxymoronic descriptor to describe Tony Khan, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks

But this is a good example of why it’s hard for me to take AEW seriously sometimes.  No matter how genuinely good their wrestling product is capable of being, they just do so much shit on the business side or over social media or their performers, that just pumps the brakes on the progress they are totally capable of making, if they just didn’t get in their own way so much.

AEW’s entire show was completely hijacked by Game of Thrones this week.  A few weeks ago when I went, the entire show was completely hijacked by Discovery/Animal Planet plugging the ever-living fuck out of Shark Week, to where they had a match where Jericho’s cronies were suspended in a diver’s cage.  And a little while back, just about every AEW show was paintbombed by Draft Kings logos all over the place.

I’m not sure if it’s Tony Khan’s choice, or if he’s being strong-armed by Turner Ben Afflecks, but AEW is basically this cheap vehicle to promote other things, completely sacrificing their own brand identity and integrity whenever they do.  They’re like a Tesla Model S, with a vinyl wrap for Juan’s Paint and Windows, and they’re required to drive it around in prominent communities and log a substantial amount of miles to justify the ad space. 

If it’s TK’s choice to allow his pet promotion to be pimped out to plug shit that isn’t his, then shame on him.  If it’s Turner being Turner and fifteen old white guys with VP titles are all jabbing their fingers into the AEW pie to try and make their mark, then that’s really nothing out of the ordinary for Turner’s modus operandi, and we can continuously count the days before AEW copies WCW in another manner; being managed to death by Turner.

But the bottom line is that it’s really hard for me to take AEW seriously when they participate in shit like this, and it’s got to be hard for even them to continuously try to declare themselves the alternative to the WWE, when they’re constantly being handcuffed by shit that makes it hard for people to take them seriously.  As much as the WWE is so often seen as this corporate soulless entity, they take their brand seriously, and they almost never cross-promote with anyone or anything, not without at least some substantial benefit to them. 

There’s absolutely zero benefit for AEW when they help plug Shark Week, House of the Dragon or Draft Kings, and until the company can grow a backbone and push back on bullshit orders to cross-promote, they’ll never be taken as serious as they should be capable of commanding respect.

A new metric for the vernacular: A WCW

One of my friends in a group chat turned me onto this keen observation, and I found that I liked it so much, I believe it’s worth integrating into my general lexicon, to casually drop into conversation and low-key hope to have the opportunity to mansplain it to anyone who risks questioning what I mean by it when I use it.

In 2001, Vince McMahon bought the crumbling remains of World Championship Wrestling for an estimated $4.2 million dollars; a tremendously far cry of a bargain, considering the company was about $30 million in the green just two years prior.  Fairly recently, in spite of my own general ambivalence towards the subject, there’s been a lot of hullabaloo over a WWE scandal in which it was revealed and continues to unearth, that Vince McMahon has shelled out over $20 million dollars over the years in hush money to hide his and his inner circle’s general sexual deviancy.

Frankly, it’s no shock or surprise that it turns out that Vince McMahon and his cronies did any of the things they’re being accused for at a rapid pace these days, because they’re rich, they’re white, they’re old money, and they’re in an industry where there are literal Playboy-caliber women that come and go.  As much as I respect Vince McMahon’s business acumen, I’m not the least bit surprised that he’s an asshole who wields his money and power for sex, because an endless parade of men in similar circumstances have been doing the same for eons now.  But when the day is over, there’s a whole lot of murky water in the sense that the money was accepted by their recipients, and in my legally uneducated opinion, I have to ask, what crimes actually occurred?

Regardless, the silver lining to it all is that the HeAT has forced Vince McMahon into the retirement that wrestling fans have been calling for, for years now, to actually occur, and in the aftermath of it, same with all of his cronies and stooges who were all implied to be complicit to his bad behavior, if they weren’t accomplices to begin with.  And with it, ushers in a new era of WWE, helmed by his more progressive daughter Stephanie McMahon and with her, Triple H is back into the fold, creating optimism and hope, considering his popularly lauded work with NXT over the last decade.

Obviously, most wrestling fans know that we’ve not seen the last of Vince McMahon, but as long as this scandal is continuing to unfold, we know there’s plenty of time for the company to move and evolve without him so frequently aboard the main cabin.

But anyway, back to the point of this post, the takeaway of it all is that the analogy was made that to date, Vince McMahon has paid out the valuation of 4.7 WCWs, in hush money for his sexual indiscretions.  WCW has become a noun, which is definable as an analogy for approximately $4.2 million dollars, and is applicable as metric in dannyhong speak moving forward.

  • Lionel Messi’s salary for 2022 is approximately 9.76 WCWs
  • Tiger Woods reportedly turned down anywhere from 166-190 WCWs from the Saudi-run LIV golf organization
  • Juan Soto rejected a 15-year/107.14 WCW contract from the Washington Nationals before they traded him to the San Diego Padres

Yep, metric checks out. Once the greatest threat to the WWE, now a unit of measurement to ironically measure stupid amounts of money to something more humorously.

The Inevitable Unveiling of the AEW Trios Championship

On the Dynamite before the one I got to see live, the AEW Tag Team championship changed hands in a pretty exciting triple threat match.  The Dynamite I got to see live was a relative clunker with no championships defended or any surprises of any sort.  So naturally, it would be the Dynamite after the one I got to see live, AEW debuts the Trios six-man championship that everyone and their mother knew was inevitably going to happen because it was probably in some contract at the inception of the promotion that there would one day have to be a title in which the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega could hold all together.

So no real surprises here, but obviously if there’s any blets involved, it piques my interest because I am a connoisseur of belts awarded to sweaty men for choreographed meat slapping.  Eventually, AEW would have to unveil some blets that I didn’t think were silly and/or looked crappy enough to warrant me to possibly want one for my collection, even if it meant inflating their general count of blets shown on AEW programming to 28 different blets but considering their roster is like 156 people, they kind of need them, even if they only have three hours of actual television programming to show any of them.

Anyway, the Trios Championship: yeah, not really that impressive, design-wise.  Better than Ring of Honor’s Six-Man Tag Championships, but only mostly because gold is nicer looking than silver.  Red Leather, the designer of all of AEW’s titles to my understanding, clearly has an aesthetic that harkens from the old NWA/WCW days, and there’s kind of this retro-feel to it that’s kind of cool, but at the same time, it’s basically a massive spooge pattern of swirls and embellishments that don’t really make much sense other than fluff and artificially ornate.

The font selection of World, Trios and Champion looks odd to me, and I think I would’ve went with a sans-serif font, but considering the pattern around the rest of the design, it kind of trapped them into using it.  Like, of all of AEW’s native blet designs, I still like the Tag Team ones the most, because it feels bold and modern, but between the All-Atlantic not-Intercontinental, the surprisingly quick redesign of the women’s and the Trios blets, I have a feeling that they’ll nix the only cool blet design in order to be more cohesive aesthetically across the board.

It’s hard to make out the side plates, but it kind of looks like a silhouette of the Young Bucks delivering their 69th superkick of a match.  Which means the silhouette in the middle is most definitely Kenny Omega, and it should be of absolutely zero surprise that the side plate design would be of the Bucks and Omega, considering these blets were basically created for them.  To some capacity, they’re basically a trio of Taz’s FTW blet during his ECW heyday, where he just introduced his own title and then it somehow made its way into the circulation.

Overall, the design of the blets isn’t horrible, but they’re also not awe-inspiring either.  They’re safe and vanilla, but definitely not something I see and think oh shit, I need to get that for the collection.  The pattern work will make them extremely hard for Pakistanis to counterfeit, and if AEW wants to actually manufacture and sell replicas, they’ll probably be way too much for what I’d be willing to spend, so all in all, I’d consider this another flop in the blet portfolio of AEW, destined to become lost in the shuffle, and once it’s not being held by a member of the Elite, relegated to being defended on Dark: Elevation.

However, until that happens, there are bound to be some really fun matches to be had while this is in its honeymoon phase.  Inevitably, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks will be Trios champs, and they will collide with Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish, and that match will undoubtedly be a fun one.  Death Triangle and the House of Black will also make for some top tier trios, but once the honeymoon phase is over, it’ll be some rando mish-mashes of singles guys trading the blets around like 1999 WCW all over again.

Thoughts on my first ever AEW live event

Despite the fact that I don’t shy away from criticizing AEW, when the opportunity arose for me to get to go to an AEW taping for free, I was excited and didn’t hesitate to commit to it.  When the day is over, going to a live wrestling show with good company is always welcome, and I was hoping that the live experience would be different in-person than what I see on clips of the internet because I don’t have the time to watch AEW or any wrestling for that matter anymore.

I’d heard from those who have gone to them before and general internet scuttlebutt that the events had the tendency to become long-winded, depending on the nature of the agenda; AEW has been known to tape multiple shows in one evening, and contrary to popular belief among wrestling fans, I do believe that there is such a thing as too much wrestling, especially the older one gets with responsibilities commensurate to age and state of life.  But at the same time, if the show(s) were going good and the quality of the matches were strong, then it shouldn’t feel like such a drag, and considering AEW had made much of their name throughout the years of being a place where surprises and highlight matches happen fairly regularly, I was hoping that I would be privy to seeing some cool shit in person.

However, it would be just my luck that the show I went to was kind of a clunker, with no title matches save for one FTW Popeye’s Championship defense by Ricky Starks, despite the fact that the company has about 17 belts floating around.  There were no trademark Tony Khan surprises at all, no shock debuts, no mind-bending swerves or former WWE guy appearances.

Mind you, this particular evening featured a taping of Dark: Elevation, followed by a live episode of Dynamite, which was then followed by a taping of Rampage, so there were plenty of opportunities for some interesting shit to happen, but like I said, it would be my luck that I would be at a show where basically nothing of any importance happened.

If I had to name any particular highlights, it was probably the really drawn-out squashing of Darby Allin, at the hands of Brody King; I kept telling my friends that Brody was getting all of the offense so he looked strong, but would still job to some surprise defeat because Darby is one of the protected pillars of the company, but then Brody would just beat the shit out of him and then pin him after a brutal looking Greetings From Asbury Park-looking driver move.  And as someone who’s never been impressed with Darby or his accused deviancy, I was satisfied with that match.The main event of Dynamite was a painfully predictable blow-off match between Chris Jericho and Eddie Kingston, and I knew in two seconds after not seeing Sammy Guevara get put into the Discovery® Shark Week™ cage, that Jericho was 100% going to win with the assistance of Sammy.

I was really hoping to see guys like Pac and maybe a defense of the not-Intercontinental title, but nope no Pac.  Cesaro Claudio Castagnoli cut a promo on Jonathan Gresham but didn’t wrestle.  No Thunder Rosa and the women’s title, Jade Cargill and the TBS title were mired in tag-team action to further hide Jade’s green-ness, Keith Lee and Swerve the new tag team champions were in a comedy segment and didn’t wrestle, and the AEW interim champion Jon Moxley was also mired in tag team action, teaming with ROH Pure Champion, Wheeler Yuta.  It really was astounding that a company that has so many titles in play managed to chew up four hours with not a single one of them actually defended.

And much like many have opined before me, by the time we got to the taping of Rampage, a third of the crowd had left, and my company was getting tired or bored or concerned over the time in which the show would be over, and we actually ended up leaving early.  We stuck around for one more match as we were planning on leaving because it was Britt Baker, and she’s still relatively in a class of her own within the company as someone who can work, entertain and have presence, and it was a pleasure to see her live, but then we bounced immediately afterward, because most of us were dads, and we all had jobs, and staying out until midnight on a school night just didn’t seem like a very good idea.

One amusing-to-me observation I made, was that it really seemed like the event stacked all of the women’s action into Dark: Elevation, as the first three matches we saw that evening were all the women performers, working on their D show, even quality talents like Toni Storm.  Owner Tony Khan got into a little warm water with accusations of his misogyny when he threw a poor-optics hissy fit over the money he invested into NWA: Empowerrr the women’s-only event, and front-loading his taping with all the women’s matches as if to get them out of the way doesn’t help the optics of his perception of women’s wrestling.

So overall, my thoughts on the AEW live experience weren’t that impressed.  I think I caught a real dud clunker when the company has set a general bar that every episode of Dynamite should expect some surprises, bangers, and/or title matches.  Either Atlanta isn’t as AEW rabid as the company hoped the home of WCW should have been for them, or they just got unlucky, but when I left that evening, I was kind of disappointed.  Sure, the injury bug has hit AEW pretty hard, taking guys like Bryan Danielson, Adam Cole and ReDragon, Kenny Omega and other notable names off the table, but the promotion has a roster of nearly 120 talents, that someone should be able to grab a ball and run with it.

I was hoping that my friends and I would’ve experienced a killer show, to where I could gain a little better perspective of the charm and appeal of AEW, but as I walked out of the arena and to my car, I was left with no real change in opinion, and for a company that so many on the internet think is this savior of the business, I think they’re nowhere near as mistake-proof as the WWE is.

Would I go again if they’re in town and I’d have a hookup for free tickets again?  Absolutely.  But I definitely would temper my expectations a little bit lower, because even the fresh and supposedly mistake-proof AEW is more than capable enough of throwing up a clunker too.

Liv Morgan and what I still enjoy about wrestling

For the first time in my life, I went to an Impact! Wrestling show, as they had dates in Atlanta, and were also taping out of Center Stage, which is a fantastic venue to watch wrestling, and has a lot of history within the industry.  The tickets were cheap, and I was able to get seats basically three rows behind the ring, so it was a no-brainer to go see what is basically the #3 promotion in America.

And it was a pretty decent show, all things considered.  I got to see a lot of guys I’d mostly just heard of or seen just clips of, like Josh Alexander, Mike “Speedball” Bailey, Chris Bey and Ace Austin, and there was no shortage of names that I already knew from their days in old TNA or former WWE talents, like the Motor City Machine Guns, Mike Bennett, Eric Young, the Good Brothers and Mickie James.  Despite the general lack of respect Impact! gets, the promotion has a degree of polish that is missing from a lot of the lesser-known indy shows I’d been getting into over the last few years, and when the night was over, I was very pleased with my evening and money well spent.

I came home that evening and remembered that the WWE had a, well, pay-per-view event the same night, and considering the ease of being able to watch a replay on Peacock, I figured I’d try and watch at least the Money in the Bank ladder matches, while I still had no idea who won them yet, and before the internet would spoil the fuck out of them if I went on any social media channel.

Despite the feeling that I had a prediction that she would win, like my old Wrestling Oracle™ days, I was still very pleased to see that Liv Morgan won the women’s ladder match.  Admittedly, I bought into the Liv Morgan story of the diminutive underdog who has persevered throughout the years, and in spite of the support of the fans, just couldn’t quite reach the top of the mountain.  And by virtue of winning the Money in the Bank briefcase, Morgan was basically a shoo-in to eventually become a women’s champion, as the women’s short history of the briefcase has yet to have a single failure.

A little surprising to me, was the fact that WWE Creative didn’t wait long with Liv, and had her cashing in immediately, the same night.  I say I was surprised, because just the way Morgan had been established, I didn’t think there would be any real hope for her to have any chance of beating either Bianca Belair or Ronda Rousey, seeing as how she’s undersized and overwhelmingly out-powered by both of them.  But I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, seeing as how women’s MITB winners have held the contract collectively maybe a total of like, three days over the last four winners.  And despite my skepticism of how Liv Morgan would topple either champion, I was still very pleased and happy to see her pin Ronda Rousey and become the new Smackdown Women’s champion.

And thinking about this moment, and some other isolated moments within the last year, made me come to the realization of why I still enjoy watching wrestling, even though it probably seems like I have an endless amount of criticism and complaining to do about the business: I really enjoy seeing when wrestlers I respect, and have admiration for their work ethic, actually succeed and get the hard-earned spotlight.

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