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How did AEW progress this week?

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After All Elite Wrestling’s historic debut on TNT last week, they followed it up with an event from Boston this past Wednesday. AEW scored a victory in the ratings in the previous week, drawing better numbers than WWE’s NXT counter programming. However, it’s much easier to book a specific top notch event than it is to book a continuous product that builds on a weekly basis so how did the project progress this week?

The show opened with a bout in the tag team title tournament with The Young Bucks vs. Private Party. The nearly 20-minute contest was a thrilling aerial bout that showcased both teams well. The surprising finish saw Private Party get the victory, eliminating Matt and Nick Jackson from the tournament. While it is understandable that The Bucks were considered favorites to win the first tag championships, I actually agree with the decision to put over their opponents in this scenario.

The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer claimed that this was the wrong call because The Young Bucks still need to be made stars to the national audience, but I completely disagree with this notion for a few key reasons. Most importantly, The Young Bucks are already stars and the fact that the Dynamite show could draw the ratings that it did was proof of it. Yes, I understand that part of the goal for Tony Khan and the rest of management is to make new fans, but let’s keep in mind that The Bucks making themselves stars prior to this through social media was part of the foundation that made the concept of All Elite Wrestling possible. One of the reasons that All Elite Wrestling as an upstart company has been able to sell tickets for a touring schedule is that there’s already a core group on the roster that have star power. Obviously, Matt and Nick aren’t as well known as someone like Jericho, but the fact remains, The Young Bucks are already a known commodity so I don’t think they need to be made on television.

Another major point to be made is that the Bucks had a thrilling match that can get over with the viewing audience, and they look like stars from the presentation on TNT, especially from the crowd reaction.

On the flip side, Private Party is more or less an unknown act that does need some type of credibility to be established to be considered a worthwhile team on a national level. I had vaguely heard of them because of their association with House of Glory, but they weren’t a well-traveled team on the independent scene prior to this so even diehard fans might not know much about them. They needed to be featured and made to look important, which they were in this match. Otherwise they could’ve been viewed as a ripoff of the Street Profits, a duo that has more exposure on RAW. Aside from this contest, I’m not sure how much the winning team brings to the table at this point. That’s not to take anything away from them, as they are both great athletes, but they are still relatively new to the sport in terms of national TV so it remains to be seen how they translate to that platform on a regular basis. Still, this match made Private Party more than just a team on the roster and gave them a chance to get themselves over as their run in the tournament continues on TNT.

The Chris Jericho promo that followed was just tremendous work and one of the many reasons that he remains such an important part of the industry after a 30-year career. The mic work introduced the name of the stable, the Inner Circle and thus solidified the faction as more than just a random group. Jericho being as smart as he is used the bulk of his mic time to put over his stable mates and thus put himself over as the leader.

Sammy Guevara is known among wrestling fans for some of his work in Mexico for AAA, but is still a new athlete to the national stage so his association with Jericho is a wise and important decision because it immediately puts a spotlight on him. It appears that Guevara has the skills to get over as well and will make the most of this opportunity. Sammy has the presence of a heel and his appearance with the expressions exudes arrogance. Plus, he can go bell-to-bell so it makes sense for Jericho to put some sizzle on the substance that Guevara brings to the ring. Further proof of how important the association with a known star is was the main event of the show where Sammy and Jericho were a tag team because by nature of his star power there will be more viewers on Jericho, and in this scenario, more viewers for Jericho gets more exposure for Guevara.

As Jericho continued, he mentioned the reasons he recruited Santana and Ortiz, the team that was known as LAX during their run in Impact Wrestling. More than the content of the promo, it’s great to see the pair get this chance on such a major stage because they have the skills and deserve it for all of their hard work up to this point. Remember, when Dixie Carter’s TNA was on the brink of collapse before it was rescued by Anthem Sports, there was much uncertainty about where that particular organization would go, but LAX was a bright spot during the rocky time for the promotion.

Despite the progress Impact Wrestling has made under the direction of Scott D’Amore and Don Callis, LAX are in the prime of their careers and deserve a bigger spot than Anthem Sports can offer right now. Plus, Santana and Ortiz always deliver quality performances, which is an extremely important asset for any company so you can expect to see stellar work from them under the All Elite banner.

The promo also reintroduced Jake Hager, the former Jake Swagger, to the audience. Again showing his brilliance, Jericho shutdown “we the people” chants and that gives Hager more of a chance to use this opportunity at a fresh start in AEW. As I mentioned in an article last week, I don’t know how much Hager brings to the table at this point, but if nothing else, this stable gives him a new coat of paint so to speak. It’s also possible that Hager’s role could be more of a body guard for Jericho than a full-time wrestler, which would be fine. Perhaps, the most interesting aspect of this whole situation is that AEW has made him look more important in two weeks than he did for most of his WWE run.

The women’s tag match was a little clunky and didn’t necessarily do anything to establish a new challenger for Riho’s title, but it might’ve been just a way to give the others in the match some air time as a way to establish them as members of the roster. That was followed by Darby Allin vs. Jimmy Havoc in a number one contender match. One of the few criticisms I will offer for this show is there wasn’t really any logic or reasoning as to why Allin or Havoc were scheduled for a potential shot at the championship. Obviously, the booking reason is to set up a title defense on television, which makes sense, but it’s not as though Allin or Havoc have a winning streak to justify the number one contendership. The decent contest saw Allin get the win to schedule him vs. Jericho for the belt next week. Depending on the championship match, this could allow Allin to get over if he shines against Jericho, even if the result is obvious with Jericho retaining the belt.

The Jon Moxley/Shawn Spears match-up was solid, which is valuable for both competitors. Similar to Hager, Spears, the former Tye Dillinger, has a chance for a renewed career on the All Elite roster. While there’s more to be done to get Shawn Spears’ new persona over with the crowd, the use of Tully Blanchard as his manager helps and has worked well so far with the limited sample size to observe. The Moxley/Kenny Omega confrontation that was interrupted by Pac was somewhat awkward and seemed to muddy the waters as far as the direction anyone involved is going after this. Moxley/Omega is scheduled for the Full Gear pay-per-view next month so it would seem that would be the feud to focus on until that show, but it appeared that PAC will somehow get shoehorned into this angle unless he has another match for the event.

The action-packed main event and the post-match brawl were overbooked, but sometimes that can be an effective way to present the “anything can happen” aspect of a live show. Similar to Jericho and Sammy, the team of Adam Page and Dustin Rhodes helps give Page some added credibility for his bright future in AEW. It should be noted that the Judas Effect was used for the finish and it’s very smart to continue to protect it as an established finisher. While this episode wasn’t perfect and every broadcast can’t conclude with a series of run-ins this was a very useful episode for the progress that AEW made for the company.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta

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