By Will Pruett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@itswilltime)
All Elite Wrestling is two shows into their existence. Both shows have been very good, with one of them being great. Both shows have featured top-notch production value. More than any upstart promotion in the last twenty years, All Elite Wrestling feels major league. It might shock you to learn AEW is in the midst of an identity crisis.
One only needs to look at the entirety of AEW’s two major presentations to see how their identity is fractured. Their pre-shows have been the exact opposite of their major specials. Instead of generating excitement for the show to come, an AEW pre-show is a chore. At Double or Nothing, AEW gave us a battle royal with high stakes, but very little backstory. It brought us a cavalcade of 22 humans with almost no time to get to know their characters.
If the Double or Nothing pre-show offered little character work, the Fyter Fest pre-show offered too much. The show was riddled with references to a pair of documentaries released, and in and out of the pop culture zeitgeist, months ago. The models and the tents may have seemed funny if this show occurred in January, but it was June. While the pre-show may have had the best match of the night, the crowd was quickly silenced by a weird librarian comedy sketch, a disappointing Leva Bates match, and a non-wrestler in a hardcore match for no reason.
If Fyter Fest had not been a free show, I would not have continued watching. This is no way to expose a new promotion to (hopefully) new and returning wrestling fans.
While Double or Nothing and Fyter Fest have been fun to watch, they still left me with a ton of questions. Both shows have relied heavily on blood and weapons-based violence. Fyter Fest, in particular, had Cody taking a nasty chairshot to his head and Joey Janela vs. Jon Moxley in an ultra-violent main event. When asked about this, Tony Khan vehemently denied that this is the kind of show we’d see on TNT, but what else do we have to go off of? While I understand his thoughts on pay-per-view (or streaming) being different than TV, shouldn’t AEW be focusing on what the unified feeling of their shows will be?
If they won’t be super violent and they won’t have a bunch of dumb jokes in the first hour, what will they be?
This lack of a unified vision is evident in their online presence as well. All Elite Wrestling was born out of the Being The Elite YouTube series. AEW has storylines, match announcements, and show announcements occur on Being The Elite, but the YouTube channel that show appears on is not AEW’s main outlet. If I’m looking for AEW’s excellent “Road To” specials to get ready for a show, I cannot find them on AEW’s main YouTube channel; they’re on Cody and Brandi Rhodes’ Nightmare Family channel. Even the Double or Nothing pre-show caused angst and frustration when I had to find TNT’s channel to watch.
Is the YouTube confusion a massive deal? Not really, but it could easily cause fans to give up on finding and watching AEW while trying to discover it.
All Elite Wrestling is a really good wrestling promotion thus far. The people in charge seem smart, particularly when it comes to garnering fan support. I’m hoping many of the weird inconsistencies in the promotion up to this point will sort themselves out once their weekly television show starts airing, but they still feel important enough to point out now.
AEW is a promotion figuring out who it is and at Fight for the Fallen, I hope we see a more unified vision and AEW’s next step.
Will Pruett writes about wrestling and popular culture at prowrestling.net. Of interest to him are diversity in wrestling and wrestling as a theatrical art form. To see his video content subscribe to his YouTube channel. To contact, check him out on Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.