McGuire’s Mondays: The great debate over Kenny Omega vs. El Hijo del Vikingo


By Colin McGuire, Staffer (@McGMondays)

I’m almost exactly two years to the day behind on my “83 Weeks” listening. I’ve done enough hand wringing and whining about all of Conrad Thompson’s podcasts in previous pieces, so we’ll skip that for now. Instead, for the first time in about as long as I can remember, Eric Bischoff said something that sparked a bit of thinking in me. Maybe it was because he didn’t use his faux-outrage voice, or maybe it was because it led to a longer, more interesting conversation between the former WCW head and the current King of Wrestling Podcasts.

At the center of the dialogue was the lack of storytelling seen in wrestling companies up and down the slate these days. It’s a subject that Bischoff tends to go on about at least once an episode, but for reasons I can’t explain, this time, his monologue somehow meant more than it did in the past. Insisting he wasn’t singling out only one company, he talked about how the lack of stories leaves him feeling cold while watching some of the current product. He even referenced his most recent WWE backstage run when talking about the discourse between the people who put the shows together, noting that some would argue things like, “We know we’ll get a good match out of those two,” while referencing a pair of wrestlers, even if it meant said wrestlers had no story behind the match.

This is old news to a lot of people reading this, of course, because, well, the “83 Weeks” episode is almost exactly two years old at this point. Plus, something tells me this might just be the beginning of the shift between The Before Times, when Bischoff was accepted into AEW Land, and The Current Times, when it appears Bischoff is not so accepted into AEW Land. The guy likes storytelling and he has a very specific way of defining storytelling. He probably doesn’t have to be as abrasive as he is about it, but … well, we are where we are.

Anyway, it might have been Just Another Rant About Wrestling Storytelling to most people, but it turned a key in my tiny brain this time around. Why? Because I actually have felt cold toward some of AEW’s product at times. And I also haven’t really been able to put my finger on why I’ve felt that way. “These are great wrestlers,” I’d think. “That was a fun match,” I’d conclude. “Why don’t I feel particularly moved by any of it?” I’d then ask.

So, Bischoff got me thinking. And, he got me thinking that I’m not so sure he was wrong – at least in this context. Bryan Danielson vs. Bandido had every expectation to be an incredible wrestling match. And, when AEW booked it, the bout was even in the context of a larger story between Danielson and MJF. But even though it had that main event tie-in, the match itself felt a tiny bit soulless to me because … well, where exactly was the issue between Danielson and Bandido? Granted, the lack of an issue wasn’t the biggest deal in the world to me, but it just, as I now view it in hindsight, might be why I’m not going on and on about the match two months later as some type of classic.

I find myself feeling that way more often than I’d prefer when it comes to AEW programs. Yes, I understand all the twists and turns and Easter Eggs and what have you when it comes to stories involving the Young Bucks or Kenny Omega or even a sizable portion of the top part of the card. I also don’t think there’s reason to throw the entire company in a bucket and say nobody there cares about storytelling because that’s lazy and reductive for all involved. But when Bischoff said what he said about this problem on that fateful episode, it was like someone made the picture less fuzzy in my head.

Fast-forward to this week, two years after that thing was recorded, and what’s one of the things fans find themselves debating across all the social media platforms? Kenny Omega vs. El Hijo del Vikingo.

Set to go down on this week’s edition of Dynamite, the match is being advertised as a dream match by AEW, which, to be fair, is almost like daring half of Al Gore’s Internet to lose its nuts when they see it classified as that to begin with, but I digress. Fans of AEW, international, and independent wrestling instantly jumped at the announcement, excited beyond belief that the match, which was supposed to happen a little while ago anyway, was going to actually get in the ring – and on U.S. television, to boot. Other AEW fans and non-fans of AEW, meanwhile, pushed back with the storytelling argument, reiterating what Bischoff said two years ago, noting that the bout has no build and AEW needs to stop just throwing two great wrestlers in the ring at will.

Me? I’m really sick of the debate. As in, really, really, really sick of the debate. No discussion has to be in a vacuum when it comes to pro wrestling opinions. If I had a dime for each time an AEW fan mocked the notion that some people might take issue with the purported lack of build for Omega vs. Vikingo, I could afford to buy a few of those weird MJF dress shirts. Conversely, if I had a dime for each time non-AEW fans mocked AEW for throwing yet another match in the ring with yet another set of flashy, uber-credible performers without much fanfare other than an announcement five days prior to the show, I could afford to buy a few of those Cody Rhodes weight-lifting belts.

The madness never ends.

Where I think both sides get twisted is the inability to believe two things can be true at once. Hey, a 45-second Vikingo video package chronicling the wrestler’s rise over the last few years couldn’t hurt, could it? Even so, suggesting as much is grounds for blowback and more fuel for whatever divisive fire paints parts of the pro wrestling landscape. On the other side of it, let’s be honest: AEW’s fan base is a very specific fan base, and it’s one that doesn’t need introductions or weeks worth of story to get super-pumped for a match like this. Those are two of the most respected and beloved performers in that sect of the wrestling medium these days. Why further delay a match that people were already craving months ago?

Still, one thing that isn’t being talked about as much throughout this discourse is … I don’t know … watch the match first? If Omega and Vikingo only get eight minutes and it makes fans clamor for a 20-minute classic somewhere down the line, go ahead and air your grievances accordingly. If they go 15 minutes and maybe it’s not as world-changing as some think it will be, then hey, maybe they aren’t the dream pairing most thought they would be at this stages in their careers. Maybe there are a few missteps in the match. Maybe the energy is off. Maybe the crowd sucks. Who knows how things will turn out. To immediately defend either the merit or the non-merit of something that has yet to actually happen seems silly and most often has little – if no – positive outcome. Why look for ways to be annoyed when there are so many things in this world ready and willing to annoy us on a day-by-day basis, anyway?

It is serendipitous, though, in my tiny world, that I came across the “83 Weeks” episode right as a debate like this fired up again. It’s even more peculiar in that A) Bischoff’s argument back then rages as healthy as ever a couple years later and B) It allowed me to pinpoint at least one of the reasons that AEW doesn’t feel like a perfect company to me. It also made me look inward when it comes to why, even when Tony Khan tries to tell elongated stories that have intricacies all their own, it sometimes still doesn’t do the job for this viewer.

Now, admittedly, when I looked inward, it only made me assess how many answers to questions I still can’t figure out how to ask. But one thing that stuck out above most others was – and I know I’m in the minority here – personality. Maybe I’m just at a point where I need to put pro wrestling down for a little bit in order to pick it up with a kinder view, but to me, there’s a low-key level of disconnect between fan (me) and performer (the majority of the AEW locker room). I objectively understand why Omega and the Young Bucks have the loyal following they have, but for me … eh? I don’t think they can do no wrong – even though I know they often do so right – but it feels like an opinion like that isn’t welcome for discussion anymore, so that probably puts me in a villainous light.

Every single member of the Jericho Appreciation Society could benefit from not being in the Jericho Appreciation Society (and that includes Chris Jericho), so they are kind of a turn off, if only because at least some of the point of the group is to be as caricature-ish as they can be and if there is a limit on winks and nods during a televised wrestling show each week, that group alone exceeds it. Jon Moxley? Well, as he continues down his path to devalue the presence of blood in wrestling, he’s kind of veered into caricature territory, too. MJF is so over-the-top with his insults and antics … yeah, “caricature” probably fits. Orange Cassidy? The word applies there, too, even if it’s done with both intention and pride.

My point is that you can’t have long-term compelling stories if you don’t have real-life, well-rounded, believable performers. You can craft stories with some level of drama and you can also be as Inside Baseball as you want with humor and snark, but can you really string together a consistent slate of feeling when your shows bounce from segment to segment quicker than a Jade Cargill squash? Is there emotional investment in people whose work has been pigeonholed into select categories that never combine to round out a single individual? Moxley brawls and bleeds. Omega is a world-class worker, but if he’s not attached to the Bucks/Elite at all, is he consistently telling emotional stories? MJF is just a dick who’s going to run out of line-crossing, shock-value things to do and say at some point. Powerhouse Hobbs is exactly what his name says he is … except now, plus QT Marshall?

In some ways, it’s smart. “You asked us for great wrestling; we’re just going to give you great wrestling.” There’s an audience for that, especially after how bad WWE drooled all over itself for so long with no competition, but things get tricky when everybody wants to shout, and nobody wants to listen. If someone claims AEW doesn’t tell good, long stories, there’s going to be a calvary of fans ready to yell about how brilliant whatever it is the Bucks, Omega and Hangman have done over the course of the company’s history. If someone claims AEW does tell good, long stories, expect to see a gif of the Omega vs. Vikingo graphic accompanied by some cynical emoji.

Who’s wrong and who’s right depends on a combination of perspective and subjectivity. Or, in other words, there is no real wrong or right – it’s all what you want it to be. As a fan, though, we lose when we shut others out. The inability to communicate makes things more obnoxious than they need to be in any walk of life; pro wrestling fandom is no different. I’m sure there are plenty of fans who simply can’t wait for 8 p.m. EST Wednesday night on TBS just to see Omega and Vikingo finally square off. I’m also sure there are plenty of wrestling fans who won’t even watch due to some incoherent bias that’s almost impossible to fully explain in any respectable manner.

The bottom line is, just give it a shot. Maybe you’ll like it. Maybe you won’t. Either outcome is OK. Does it bug me that there isn’t more time for the match to breathe before those two get in the ring? Not really. But did Eric Bischoff’s comments from a throwaway episode of a podcast taped more than two years ago make me sit up and say, “Hey, maybe that’s some of my problem here?” They did. Now, it’s up to me to decide what to do with that internal realization. Either way, it won’t get in the way of me sitting down to see what all this Omega/Vikingo fuss is about, come later this week.

My bigger question: How about you?


Readers Comments (3)

  1. The funniest part of all this is that he’s a 5’6 Viking!

  2. How is it even possible to use so many words without saying anything?

  3. TheGreatestOne March 21, 2023 @ 2:25 pm

    There is no argument. There’s the same handful of people who will pretend this is the greatest thing that ever happened, just like anything else Tony has told them to feel this way about, and everyone else won’t care at all.

    The best argument in favor of Mini-Viking is that he shows up in a Google search. He’s just another tiny stunt wrestler that can do flashy moves and can’t cut a promo in English.

    Maybe he provides a small bump in ratings for one week or maybe he doesn’t.

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