Lutz’s Blog: First time AEW concern

By Jeff Lutz, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@JLutz82)

The best part of the first several weeks of All Elite Wrestling television was the lack of cynicism.

It was refreshing for a promotion to have no history of disappointing its fans, no wrestlers who were rejected by the audience, no main-event matches characterized as flops and panned by critics.

Just by existing, AEW earned trust and goodwill that has been missing from WWE for years. Now, in week 10 of AEW Dynamite on TNT, some of the good vibes are withering. AEW’s audience has dropped by more than half since its debut of 1.4 million viewers, and the reasons for that are easy to spot.

Before those criticisms, some disclosure. I’ve watched every Dynamite show in its entirety except for the Nov. 27 episode, which dropped to 663,000 viewers on the day before Thanksgiving. I’ve seen and enjoyed both pay-per-view events and became a fan of wrestlers I wasn’t previously familiar with, especially Santana and Ortiz (and particularly Santana). I am hoping for AEW to succeed in whatever way it defines success.

But week 10 of Dynamite on Wednesday highlighted some of the problems that have kept AEW’s audience from growing, both in the buildings it broadcasts from and on TV. Audio issues have persisted during the last several weeks and distracted from important matches and segments. And while I know it’s dangerous territory to critique the Young Bucks on the internet, their matches are becoming forgettable.

Wednesday’s six-man tag in which the Bucks teamed with Dustin Rhodes – the star of the match – against Santana and Ortiz and fellow Inner Circle member Sammy Guevara was not the kind of match the masses want to see. If they did, the masses would be showing up every Wednesday night.

There is no questioning the Bucks’ talent, athleticism, charisma and connection with the crowd. But their frenetic style, especially in matches that are supposed to be based upon deeply personal rivalries, is not fitting for fans who are accustomed to more psychological, emotionally based ring work. If every moment in a match is designed to be can’t-miss, it ultimately feels like it can be missed.

Maybe it was the start to Wednesday’s show putting me in a less accepting mood, but I wasn’t enamored of Cody’s promo, either. Giving all of his prized possessions to MJF, an enemy who said he wouldn’t wrestle you only three days prior, doesn’t seem like the best way for Cody to entice someone into a fight. It also felt like several steps were skipped on the way to Cody handing over $50,000 to a rival.

But that’s a small-picture grievance and not a deal-breaker. The more pressing Cody problem is that he can never wrestle for the AEW Championship, a stipulation he and the company insist is unbreakable. That means all of Cody’s feuds must be personal and fueled by hate, and that’s not always easy to achieve. It’s working with MJF, but who knows if or how the crowd will accept the next heel put in Cody’s way?

At least there are heels for Cody to avenge. In many matches, I’m not sure who I’m supposed to be rooting for. Few performers get meaningful promo time to establish who they are and what they want. And now many of the bad guys – and girls – have taken on dark, brooding personalities that are reminiscent of bad comic-book villains.

Though it may not seem like it, my complaints with AEW are minimal and they come from a good place. I am not close to giving up on the company and I trust Cody and his group of fellow executive vice presidents to figure out what fans want. In many ways, widespread criticism means AEW has finally arrived. Wrestling fans are difficult to please by nature, and fielding complaints is a rite of passage for any worthwhile company.

AEW is worthwhile, entertaining, and living up to its promise as an alternative to WWE. I don’t expect these complaints or any others to become lasting. If the lack of cynicism was the best part of AEW’s initial weeks, maybe immersing itself in the land of cynical fans and critics means AEW is on its way to cementing its legitimacy.



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Readers Comments (8)

  1. “And while I know it’s dangerous territory to critique the Young Bucks on the internet, their matches are becoming forgettable.”

    They’ve been forgettable for years. Now that they don’t have promoters trying to make them work like actual pros, with silly ideas like selling, they’re absolutely unwatchable for wrestling fans.

  2. Long game, I think when the day comes, far from now, that Cody turns, it might be by violating the stipulation. I think that might be the only way the fanbase turns on him? I’m sure there is a long game for this story, though.

    I’m still a fan, though. I still enjoy the product. I think they’re being challenged right now to build stars, but I think they’re succeeding.

    My opinion is WWE got nervous with their success, and made a very tactical decision to run the Club on a few NXT shows. Those guys are going to be popular with the same base. AEW just needs to find their angle to answer, and I believe they will.

    I don’t see the frenetic style of the Bucks as a negative though. If you tone it down, aren’t they then running the risk of being labeled another “WWE lite” promotion?

  3. I missed my first episode of dynamite this week. I just wasn’t in the mood for another week of missed spots and sloppy matches. I do think Jericho has been phenomenal, but it’s not enough to make the show can’t miss.

  4. There were concerns from the beginning. Everything from a battle royal with a loft of comedy gimmicks to determine one of the contenders to the World title to the still existing problem that you mention of not having clearly defined faces and heels. Naturally,there will continue to be growing pains. As you say,here’s hoping for the best.

    • I like the way they’re portraying more wrestlers as tweeners. I don’t want to be told who to cheer. Give me a story, and let me decide who I side with. This is something I feel they’re doing well.

      • You’re the only one.

        Fans are tuning out in droves, live attendance is way down, and despite the claims from the fanbois, the live audience is sitting on its hands quite a bit.

        Tweeners work in small doses withe the right people only. Most of the “tweeners” in AEW are spot monkeys who don’t have a character at all.

        • I don’t think a lack of fan response is true overall. I’ll admit that they haven’t done the best job at fleshing out a lot of the women’s characters so far, and I don’t think Britt has caught fire the way they hoped. So maybe there is some hand sitting there, and for a few of the men. There’s lots of talent drawing really good reactions though, too. And I mean you can literally go down the roster list of every promotion in the world and find a few talents that don’t catch, but that’s not always part of a larger picture. The tweener thing can work with a good story. A guy doesn’t have to pander to the crowd, or ride a white horse; or be a villain for no reason to get a story over. That feels like an idea from 1980 that some people won’t let go of just because that’s what promoters did. What’s wrong with something new?

  5. So you’re main complaints are the bucks are living up to the hype ( which I’ve thought for years) and that cody isnt …. wait what exactly was you’re complaint about cody??
    In an article titled first aew concern you fail to mention the mess that is the womans division.

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