Sunday, May 26, 2019

An Old Nerd Grades AEW As A Company After Double Or Nothing

A lot of that isn’t makeup.
Rather thank talk about AEW’s inaugural show, Double or Nothing, on a match by match basis, I want to start by giving them a report card on what they’re saying they’re trying to do. 

POSITIONING THEMSELVES AS COMPETITION TO THE WWE: A+

There’s no way around it - from Cody smashing a very HHH-esque throne with a sledgehammer, to the final surprise of Jon “Dean Ambrose” Moxley destroying everyone, AEW made very clear that it was coming for Vince McMahon. There are those who would argue that AWE should simply be it’s own thing and compete on the merits and not reference WWE at all. Doing this would deny the reality instead of folding the reality into their storytelling, which is what good wrestling does these days.

REVOLUTIONIZING PRO WRESTLING: C

Lucha Underground was revolutionary. Double or Nothing was a wrestling PPV. It had an animated opening just like a WWE show, entrances just like a WWE show, cheating and run-ins and... it was a wrestling show. Nothing about the presentation or formatting was revolutionary. The one rule change they tried to harp on, ten seconds for tag teams to work together instead of five, diden’t come into play in any of the tag matches at all, because they didn’t follow it at all. This may change once they’re getting regular TV, but for now, it’s pro wrestling.

SHOWCASING YOUNGER, NEWER TALENT: B-

I get it, but most of the younger, newer talent lived on the undercard or the pre-show. The big stars of DoN were Cody Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes, Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega, and Jon Moxley. By far the biggest showcase given to “new” stars was for the Lucha Bros, whose match with the Young Bucks told you everything you need to know about them if you didn’t know them already. Second place would go to the stars of the women’s division, mostly all new faces.

TREATING TAG TEAM AND WOMEN’S WRESTLING WITH RESPECT: A/A-

Both divisions were given prominence, with two traditional tag matches, two trios matches (one for each gender) and one multi-women match on a nine match, nearly five hour card including the pre-show. That’s more than half the card devoted to tags, women, or tags with women. I hope this trend continues.

BEING DIVERSE: C+ (Men) / B (Women)

Again, I’m hoping this is a starting grade, and with time and a more regular TV presence, will improve over time. Their hearts are in the right place, or they’re saying the right things, or both, but the three biggest matches at the top of the card were seven white dudes and two Latino dudes. Throw in the title presentation and that number jumps to eleven white dudes (Bucks, Cody, Dustin, Jericho, Omega, Moxley, Page, Bret Hart, MJF, Jungle Boy, Jimmy Havoc). Most of the diversity ended up in the pre-show Battle Royal, where they got to show off maybe one sequence. The women’s division so far showed more diversity than the men, with Nyla Rose and Awesome Kong in the four-way, and all six participants in the Joshi-style trios match, but the finish of the women’s four way was still the two smaller white women.

PUT ON BETTER SHOWS THAN WWE: A+

Look. It’s tough to compare the apples you get seven of a week to the first of a new breed of orange that’s been carefully selected and curated to make the best impression of oranges it can. But Double or Nothing was a fantastic show. No dud matches, tons of drama, and the Cody-Dustin match was one of the most emotional, surprising matches I’ve ever seen. They’ve got at least three more PPV events before their TNT show starts - Fyter Fest in June, Fight for the Fallen in July, and All Out at the end of August. That’ll give us a chance to see what they’re like on a more regular schedule... maybe.

AFFORDABILITY/VALUE: D

This technically isn’t one of their stated goals, but it’s important.

They got away with charging $50 for Double or Nothing. And that was valid. First show, big show, historical, yadda yadda yadda. 

But ALl In was cheaper than that. And even ignoring Fyter Fest, they’re doing three major PPV events between May 25 and August 31. That’s a tough sell at $50 a pop when WWE is giving you four events plus regular programming over the same timeframe for 1/3 the price. 

I’m not saying AEW needs a $10/month subscription model. But they do need something better than a $50 every six weeks PPV pricing structure longer term. I can’t justify that, and I have a healthy amount of disposable income and enjoyed this first show a LOT.

OVERALL: B+

A very promising first outing by AEW. I just hope I don’t get promised “New, Diverse Faces” and then the company spends it’s first six months focused on Chris Jericho and Dean Fucking Ambrose. I don’t care how unshackled and motivated he is now, he’s still Dean Ambrose and needs to do more to surprise me than act Stone Coldy.



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