Five Ways AEW Can Keep Improving After Revolution
AEW Revolution has come and gone, and viewers felt there was a genuine problem with the build to the show. A cursory look at wrestling Twitter showed nervousness and anger among fans before the event for several different reasons. Fortunately, after the lights turned down and the show went off the air, Revolution was a revelation, almost feeling like a reboot for the company. Every match was better than many expected, and even the ones expected to be great were somehow even better. Rather than pile on with what fans worried about going into the show, let’s look ahead to Double or Nothing and beyond. There are changes that the company should make or have already made at the recent pay-per-view, that can help AEW ride this wave of goodwill and momentum to take the company back to the heights of its success.
The Limited Number Of Pay-Per-Views Isn’t Necessarily Bad
AEW only hosts four paid shows a year – Revolution, Double or Nothing, All In, and Full Gear. With only sixteen-ish hours of big event programming to work around, it can feel like the booking revolves around putting on the biggest matches on the biggest stage possible. A side effect of that booking tendency is that those shows tend to run long. That was one of the more popular complaints about AEW last year, and while adding 4-8 more annual shows seems like it could be a solution, Revolution proved that solid booking and time management could also take care of that issue. Revolution featured eight matches on the main card, including an hour-long Iron Man Match for the main event, and it still managed to come in under four hours. In that time, nothing ever really dragged or felt rushed — pacing was key.
However, this year already has some changes that should help things. Aside from Revolution’s promising booking, Ring of Honor is now its promotion, separated from AEW in 2022. They’ve already begun airing their weekly show via Honor Club and will continue running RoH exclusive pay-per-views. While AEW performers aren’t barred from competing on those shows, the distinction between AEW and RoH should allow for separate, deeper storylines to build — and for them to be featured on separate PPV events, limiting the required run time.
The Undercard Storytelling Needs To Improve
While AEW’s narratives have always been a target for the company’s detractors, they have certainly built their fair share of great stories in their short history. “Hangman” Adam Page, in particular, has had a few redemptive tales that have really allowed him to show range as a performer. Right now, though, there’s a striking lack of that type of drama on the rest of the card. While Hangman versus Moxley and MJF versus Danielson were interesting, the entire Revolution care should have had viewers giddy with anticipation. MJF and Danielson made an effort in the past few weeks to ramp up their promo work, and it helped the build to that match tremendously, but aside from some power outages in matches featuring the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega, there wasn’t a whole lot of reasons to care about their upcoming trio’s match. The match itself was an all-timer, but pro wrestling is about so much more than what happens inside the ropes. A company can’t get away with just setting up another tournament every few months.
That lack of storytelling only intensifies when you compare the second-biggest wrestling company in the U.S. to the biggest. WWE has been on a tear over the past couple of years, with the ascent of Roman Reigns and the Bloodline overshadowing most other wrestling narratives, both in that promotion and elsewhere. The introduction of Sami Zayn put the soap opera drama into overdrive, getting as far as to have fans fantasy booking Cody Rhodes out of WrestleMania to get Sami face-to-face with Roman one more time. AEW needs a central story that can dovetail into several other related offshoots. They’ve done it before with Moxley, Hangman, and Jericho. It’s just a matter of planning around the talent they have so much of and putting all the pieces into place.
The Tag Team Division Is Back On Track With The Return Of FTR
AEW was built off the backs of its tag team talent. Just look at some of the teams that were featured in the first few weeks of AEW Dynamite: The Young Bucks, The Lucha Brothers, Santana and Ortiz, Private Party, Jurassic Express, The Dark Order, Hangman and Omega, SCU. Since then, the division has grown exponentially, adding amazing talent like FTR, Swerve In Our Glory, the Acclaimed, and Top Flight while still finding room on the roster for almost all those founding pairs. These were some of the most anticipated matches on the weekly show – new talent would be showcased and frequently go over established teams in order to help build up the younger pairings.
It seemed odd to have the Acclaimed drop their belts just under a month before the PPV, at the height of their popularity and especially to The Gunns. The four-way tag team match booked for Revolution was really indicative of that odd booking – The Gunns, The Acclaimed, Jeff Jarrett & Jay Lethal, and a hastily-put-together team of Orange Cassidy and Danhausen felt like AEW used the random matchmaking button in a video game and went with it. But in the aftermath of that better-than-expected match, the unexpected return of FTR made the Gunns’ win make more sense. FTR gets to face off for the AEW Tag Team Championships against a team that made their name at FTR’s expense. The cocky heels will get their comeuppance, the best in the world will revitalize the championships, and things should get back to normal from there.
The Women’s Division Is Showing Improvement
The one women’s match per Dynamite and Rampage will always stick out because of its predictability. It generally happens as the second to last match on Wednesday, and there’s occasionally one storyline interview or vignette earlier in the program. What’s frustrating is that there’s talent on the roster, and plenty of AEW’s women have charisma and talent to spare (*cough*WillowNightingale*cough*), but they haven’t been used well. It’s too soon to expect an Evolution-type event, but adding one or two more women’s matches on the weekly TV shows would be a step in the right direction.
The current storyline featuring the ex-WWE talent and “AEW Originals” has been a step in the right direction. At first, it felt like a female NWO faction, but with the addition of Ruby Soho to the villains’ side, the story is starting to flesh out a bit. If AEW insists on only running one main women’s storyline at a time, this setup allows many different talents a chance to get involved. The joshi talent that helped build the division, women like Hikaru Shida, Riho, and Yuka Sakazaki, can be employed. Dominant TBS Champion Jade Cargill may have to step in. Former tag team partners like Ruby and Willow may end up at odds. And maybe, depending on how escalated these interactions become over the coming weeks, and how large these factions become, we’ll end up having to settle the battle in some kind of major match — like Blood and Guts.
Revolution Proved Young Stars Are The Foundation Of AEW
Of the 11 winners on the main Revolution card, eight shared a common thread. They’re performers the company is building up or building around, and they’re all under the age of 35 — Ricky Starks (33), “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry (25), Jamie Hayter (27), “Hangman” Adam Page (31), The Gunns (Austin, 28, and Colten, 31), Buddy Matthews (34), and MJF (26). Even the winners who are, by comparison, a little older aren’t out of their primes. Malakai Black is the elder at 37, Wardlow and Brodie King are 35.
The focus on these younger stars is a great choice and one that’s even more evident during WWE’s WrestleMania season when many of the company’s legends or older stars are trotted out for one last moment at the industry’s biggest show of the year. Promos and advertisements frequently refer to the “pillars” of AEW — Darby Allin, Sammy Guevara, MJF, and Jungle Boy, with Dr. Britt Baker occasionally added. The fact that Revolution was as well received as it was despite not featuring half of that talent while still focusing on the younger stars of the promotion says a lot for the longevity AEW should have if they can keep all these young wrestlers happy and under contract. With established veterans like Chris Jericho, Bryan Danielson, Christian Cage, and Jon Moxley willing to put these new stars over, All Elite Wrestling should be able to stay elite for years to come.
AEW Remains A Great Promotion With A Ton Of Potential
The roster, the production, and the feeling of Dynamite, Rampage, and the big four pay-per-view events are always impressive, and going strictly from an in-ring perspective; it’s one of the best shows in town. Revolution, despite the shortcomings in its build, was a fantastic event. It just seems like the weeks between pay-per-views highlighted the lack of cohesive storylines and star-building that plagued the promotion recently.
The thing is, they have the talent to overcome every one of the issues we’ve discussed. The trios, tag teams, and women they have on the roster are some of the best in the world, and many of them deserve to be champions in the future. The performers can deliver well-thought-out material if they have that material available. With some minor tweaks, All Elite Wrestling can undoubtedly return to the heights the company hit only a year or two ago and remain a force in American professional wrestling.