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.

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.

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.

Continue reading “Liv Morgan and what I still enjoy about wrestling”

The AEW All-Atlantic Championship hurts my brain

As if AEW needed any more blets to clog up their roster of 189 men and women, they went ahead and introduced a new, not-an-intercontinental championship, called the AEW All-Atlantic Championship.  It’s first title holder will be crowned at the AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door show later in the month, by virtue of a tournament, which I’m sure will be decent, but Tony Khan just can’t stop dipping his fingers into the cake to make everything so convoluted.

The best part about the whole tournament is the fact that of all eight of the guys in it, only two of them, maybe four if you consider Mexico and the Netherlands as actual Atlantic-facing countries, with Rusev Miro, Buddy Murphy Matthews, and two TBD NJPW all coming from the very Atlantic Bulgaria, Australia and most likely Japan.

Interestingly, there are no Americans in this tournament, which is probably Tony Khan’s insistence, to really drive home the fact that this isn’t an intercontinental championship, as if there were something actually wrong with it, considering the IC champs in both WWE and NJPW are usually the best workers of the respective companies. 

But make no mistake, this is very much the AEW equivalent of an intercontinental championship, and it’s fitting that it showed up after Cody Rhodes left the company, because he was always so adamant that there would be no such things as “mid-card” titles in AEW, because they were all important, from the bullshit non-sanctioned FTW championship, and all of the Impact, ROH, IWGP and NWA titles that have gotten screen time on AEW programming.

And it will be vied for by mid-card talents, since the actual AEW World championship is really reserved for those willing to play ball with the Elite, which has remained a very tight-knit circle since the inception of the entire promotion.

As for the design of the blet itself, seeing as how I am an aficionado of professional wrestling blets, it’s pretty mediocre, at best.  The plates are too tall, and anyone who knows anything about blets knows that vertical plates are typically frowned upon, because it makes the blets very difficult to wear, most notably the old ROH Television championship being the prime example; the height of the center plate dug into the abdomen as well as the crotch of anyone who tried to wear it and do any sort of bending at the waist.

I’m very perplexed by the incorporation of the Chinese and Japanese flags, as they are so very much Pacific countries, and what they’re doing on a blet claiming to be All-Atlantic.  And then there’s not one, but two lions from the UK’s royal coat of arms, which is again confusing considering the true crest features one lion and one horse.

The font of “All-Atlantic Championship” is the exact same one used in the old WWE US championship, adding to the irony of how this isn’t supposed to be an intercontinental championship, considering the US championship basically was WCW’s equivalent to the IC title too.  The font selection is also funny, because the V2 of AEW’s Women’s championship used the same font as every IWGP championship blet, adding more fuel to AEW’s blet creator’s lack of imagination.

And speaking of the AEW Women’s championship, it’s hard to not notice that the All-Atlantic is kind of a larger scale of it, primarily because of the large four circles at the corners of the center plate, as well as the overly tall plates in general.  Granted, it’s a large improvement over the original Women’s championship, but now it’s starting to look like AEW’s blet maker has created a template in which all future AEW blets will be based on, so when they inevitably introduced the Trios championship they keep churning the rumor mill about, I’m sure it’ll be a derivative of these two.

Overall, everything about AEW’s All-Atlantic championship is about as sloppy and poorly thought out as much of the promotion’s general booking.  It’s kind of a perfect metaphor for the promotion itself; kind of borrowing a lot from rivals and predecessors while trying too hard to be unique but making a lot of embarrassing mistakes in the process.  But the blet is shiny and new, and much like Chris Jericho once said about Ultimate Warrior promos, it (looks) cool, so… yaaaayy will be the general feedback from casual fans and AEW diehards.

As for predicting the title’s first holder, of the eight men vying for it, I think it’s ultimately Neville Pac’s to lose, and he’ll defeat one of the mystery NJPW guys for it.  Although it would tickle me pink if an actual Japanese guy from NJPW were the first guy to hold a new AEW championship, and it’s not an outlandish outcome, considering the working relationship between the promotions, it would be a good time for AEW to scratch NJPW’s back for a change and let them walk off with one of their blets, considering how strong NJPW has been booking AEW talents over the years.  But it would be funny if a Japanese guy were to be the first holder of an All-Atlantic blet.

Frankly though, I feel like there is a possibility that MJF is walking out with the All-Atlantic.  As murky as they’re trying to make the waters with MJF’s nuclear promos, I still think it’s a work, and somehow and some way, MJF is walking out of Forbidden Door with a championship.  He’ll be “fired” by AEW for his recent worked shoot conduct, and then immediately “hired” by NJPW and enters the All-Atlantic tournament under their banner, and does his usual schtick of using the Dynamite Diamond ring to cheat to win the All-Atlantic blet, where he can rub it in AEW’s face for being the first holder of it.  He also strikes me as a guy who was probably fan of all the intercontinental champions of history, and would love nothing more than to build his own legacy with AEW’s own intercontinental blet.

Not a bad place to start while he bides time for his contract to end so that he can go be a jobber in New York.

Pretty sure the Hardy Boyz are the only thing keeping JNCO jeans alive

Of the little bits of wrestling that I actually catch here and there, usually through what social media spoon feeds me, I know that the Hardy Boyz are back together, in AEW of course, where seemingly all older WWE talent seems to go to finish out.  Naturally they can’t use the Hardy Boyz name, but the point and brand is still fine, when they’re referred to as just The Hardys.

I admit that back in 1999, I was a fan of the Hardy Boyz, when they were repackaged and paired up with Gangrel.  I remember thinking, aren’t these those two jobbers who wore plaid?  But then Jeff Hardy is doing these picture perfect swanton bombs, and next thing they’re upsetting the Acolytes and they’re tag team champions, and I was kind of sold.

But that was 1999, and a few years after that, after the memorable and outstanding classics that they did with all the ladder and TLC matches.  Throughout the passage of time, they were broken up, reunited, repeat, numerous times, Matt left, Jeff left, Matt came back to feud with Edge over the Lita cheating scandal, Jeff showed up in TNA, Matt went to ROH, Matt went to TNA, both went to ROH, both came back to WWE, split up, Matt went to AEW, Jeff was relegated to 24/7 segments, left and then went to AEW and here we are.

I could also mention the 20+ times Jeff was busted for substance abuse in between all that, but all anyone has to do is Google the Jeff Hardy vs. Sting to get the big picture.

Anyway so the Hardys have been at it for well over 20 years at this point, and good on them to try and squeeze one last substantial run at a place like AEW where they’ll likely have a better shot at it than in the WWE.  That’s not the point of this post, to be one big retrospective on the Hardy Boyz, what served as the impetus of this post is the fact that over the last 20 years, and regardless of the fact that JNCO jeans basically died 20 years ago, it appears that the Hardy Brands® seem to be the only thing alive that’s keeping the clothing company intact, based on the fact that they still wear them or some knockoff variation of them, as their ring attire for the last two decades.

Sure, lots of long-time wrestlers establish a look and maintain them throughout the duration of their careers; the Rock ‘n Roll Express are both well into their 60’s and still bust out the tights and tassles, but the thing is, they’re still wrestling in wrestling gear.  The Hardy Boyz built their brand on pretty specific 1999, Avril Lavigne/emo boy street mallrat festival fashion, and for the last 20 years, they’ve stayed more or less the same, the whole time.

In one hand, good on them for consistency and really sticking to their guns, and establishing their brands.  But in the other hand, I just have this scenario in my mind, where I’m imagining Matt Hardy at his home, packing his rollaboard luggage for his next tour, hollering out to his wife, baby, have you seen my JNCOs??  With his heavy southern drawl and how he hangs on words like a real southern boy.  Matt Hardy is currently 47 years old, and is still going to work in JNCOs.  Jeff Hardy is 44 and is basically the creepy old guy at a My Chemical Romance concert.

I make myself laugh with this thought.

Anyway, good for the Hardys for always being fearless in the face of change, as far as their career directions go.  But from a branding standpoint, guys like Chris Jericho are immortalized for their creativity and ability to reinvent and repackage themselves.  Sticking with JNCOs for the last two decades seems more amusing than entertaining to me for some reason, and I have a hard time taking them serious as all-time greats as long as they continue to do so.  And I admit that I had, maybe two pairs of JNCOs myself; but that was in 1999, and by the time I started college, they were already relegated to the bottom of the closet, before quietly being thrown out when it was all but confirmed that the style was dead.

AEW and the importance of storytelling

Despite the fact that I probably come off as someone who hates AEW and and think WWE can do no wrong based on how much criticism I have for AEW, I don’t hate them at all.  It’s just that they do so much weird shit that makes me scratch my head, and if there’s anything at all about the promotion that I really don’t like, it would probably be Tony Khan, because he just comes off as this privileged mark with money and means to have created his own toy promotion, and is running it wackily but under the guise that it’s for the fans, and unfortunately a lot of people have gotten drunk off the Kool-aid.

In all fairness, I think WWE is pretty putrid these days, and I’m kind of the living embodiment of the popular meme that nobody hates professional wrestling more than professional wrestling fans, based on how it really does seem like I have nothing good to say.  However, I am willing to post about the shit that I do like, it’s just that there’s not a whole lot of it these days, unfortunately.

Anyway, mostly through scuttlebutt, I’ve been casually following AEW’s progress through the year, and aside from purchasing Ring of Honor, they are making some impactful moves and making a lot of noise in the industry.  The AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door show they’re going to have is going to be a pretty major deal for better or worse, and despite the fact that I will probably not see it seeing as how I have zero intentions of actually paying to watch a pay-per view anymore, I’ll still be very interested to see how the show shakes out.

The thing is though, as much as the internet seems to think it’s going to be the biggest show since the last Wrestlemania where they made up numbers to make it sound like the largest in history, there’s a ceiling to just how good Forbidden Door is going to be.  It’s going to be the same ceiling that hindered Double or Nothing, or pretty much any other AEW show since its inception: the sheer lack of comprehensive storytelling throughout the promotion.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t any storytelling at all, but rather it’s the fact that AEW doesn’t have much quality storytelling, save for a few exceptions where it’s clear that all available attribute points are put into a single arc; usually ones involving Kenny Omega or the Young Bucks, exhibiting nepotism at its most flagrant, seeing as how they’re still VPs of the company, no matter how much power Tony Khan has allegedly stripped them of.

Matt Hardy once was on record talking about how AEW doesn’t have any writers, and that much is very obvious considering how paper thin and lacking in any substance the vast majority of the promotion’s storylines end up being.  But it also verifies the weakness and validates the importance of quality storyline, because week after week, a promotion can’t slap together these repeatedly inane 5- or 6-man team matches full of big names in an attempt to give as many members of their horrifically bloated roster tv time, and actually expect anyone to care when there’s no story behind it.

Like CM Punk just won the AEW World championship from Hangman Adam Page.  How did that storyline materialize?  Punk got out of his feud with MJF and then one week after a match, he pantomimes he wants a belt.  Next thing you know he has a few face-to-face confrontations with Page, and a match is suddenly booked.  Seed planted, match had, title swapped, in less than three months.  Despite the rise of Hangman being one of the more interesting stories to have happened to the promotion, Tony Khan didn’t know what the fuck to do with him after he had reached the top of the mountain.  And unfortunately for Hangman, it’s his ass who has to do the job because of their lack of writing ability.

Taz’s son Hook, is a perfect example of the perils of not having writers, because here’s a guy that fans latched onto like gangbusters when he finally debuted, but instead of having him actually grow and make any progress in his character, or give him any meaningful storylines to embark on, AEW has paired him up with fucking Danhausen, whom I just don’t really see the appeal in because I’m old, but you’ve got this young silent killer paired up with basically a circus clown of a character, and somewhere it’s expected that Hook will actually grow from this?

To the fairness of AEW, they have demonstrated a legendary ability to open; talent debuts, seeds for stories, general ideas.  But that’s about all they can do, is start page 1.  I imagine Tony Khan is the kind of guy who has a folder on his desktop with like, at any given time, no less than 58 Untitled-1 (##) with ideas for storylines and bookings, but aren’t more than a paragraph.  But instead of actually hashing them out and trying to formulate some quality storylines out of them, he passes them onto the talent, tells them to start them up, and then wing it from there.  Last time I checked, professional wrestling and improv aren’t always mutually exclusive, but they also aren’t things that just anyone can do without experience.

Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland are good examples of guys who came in to a lot of buzz and impact for two seconds, but then absolutely jack shit was done with them since their debuts.  Worse off, they’re now paired as a tag team because the roster is so bloated, and now neither will really have any room to develop as singles guys.  Toni Storm and Ruby Soho are also good examples of acquisitions who came in to big pops, but are just treading water.

The bottom line is that AEW’s lack of storytelling is always going to be a hinderance, and isn’t helped by the sheer volume of the roster that needs some creative direction.  But good storytelling is capable of making diamonds out of one guy, or fifty guys, if it’s done well.  But seeing as how AEW has no writers, and the whole show seems to hinge on Tony Khan’s visions, the promotion will always have a ceiling that they’ll struggle to crack through, if they want to have any chance in the future of actually sustaining themselves in the battle to combat the WWE.