The film opens with two men in a wrestling ring. One, with a long beard and a tired look on his face, is Chris Hero, one of the stars of independent wrestling. The other, wearing a sports coat and slacks, is “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, an actor who is very famous from playing a professional wrestler on television. Hero pins Austin to the mat, and throws his arm over him to make the three-count. The referee, wearing a tuxedo, counts to three. Then he revives Austin, and the match continues.

The word “wrestling” may conjure up thoughts of semi-clad men rolling around on a mat, but in the world of competitive wrestling, there’s nothing campy about the sport. In fact, it’s a tough, technical, and highly athletic endeavor that focuses on clean, powerful moves and a strong grappling game. The U.S. Olympic Committee lists wrestling as one of the core sports, and the World Wrestling Federation (now known as World Wrestling Entertainment) is a global business that has hosted over 300 live events in the past year.

This Is Not Wrestling #1 : Serious sports product

Sport

Welcome and thank you for coming! A few years ago, it seemed the planets were aligned for a fantastic change in professional wrestling. Everyone was talking about a shiny new promotion with a TV contract and serious, athletic wrestling. Finally, the life of the modern wrestling fan, who had to eat shit and learn to love the taste, was over. Or is it? We meet here every Thursday to deconstruct the actions of stupid, dangerous and desperate people in the pro….. struggle. At least at AEW.

This is not wrestling!

The optimistic part of me hoped that we wrestlers wouldn’t have too much to look forward to in 2021. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I also took my time with this decision; I stayed with AEW for over a year before parting ways with it and giving up religious television every week. It was hard enough watching the show, but talking about it with others online was even more upsetting. It seems that AEW’s most vociferous and hostile fans refuse to look critically at the promotion or its talents. I’ve written about this before, at least twice, and fan love blindness is not a fatality. Constructive criticism is a valuable tool, not a personal attack.

You don’t have to get angry and throw a tantrum because the rest of the world doesn’t think your favorite indie star is the best in the world. I’ve even seen reporters claim that it was the best professional wrestling of all time and that every participant deserved a bucket of gold stars. I really thought I was one of those people desperate for a decent alternative to the sterile, overproduced style of WWE wrestling. That was, of course, until I realized I wasn’t going to get that shit scooped out either. I’ve also seen what happens when you say no to certain people.

AEW may not be in the aftermath of WCW yet, but they’ve been wading through the sewer that was the Hogan/Bischoff era in TNA/Impact for a while now. But not everything is bad in wrestling! From time to time, a quality sniffer may pop up and surprise us. Who knows? If there’s one thing it deserves, I’ll even tell you about the good fight at the end!

All Elite Wrestling

Whether you want to admit it or not, AEW is a different version of WWE/Sports Entertainment. They are clearly and painfully trying to recreate what they saw on Monday night. So AEW is to pro wrestling what the XFL is to the NFL. Of course, at first glance, they look similar. Their fans might bleed a little too, but the same fate awaits them either way: an assortment of plundered creativity, emptiness and frustration.

The most painful example of this tactic I can remember is Dragon Ball Evolution. Someone with a small fortune saw something with a ready-made fanbase, took a small handful of recognizable/sellable elements, and decided they could do it much better themselves. It’s one thing if they thought they could sell it as their own creation, but expecting the pre-existing fanbase to swallow it whole and without question was silly. Even Vince McMahon manages to get away with it to some extent. So it is not surprising that this happens to other people in other companies and even in other industries!

At least the WWE is honest about who they are. They may be stuck with wrestling in their company name, but at least they say sports entertainment every ten minutes or less … and they enforce a whole bunch of other mood-killing slogans and catchphrases, too. AEW is the one that claimed to be an alternative to this misguided style and that a serious, sporty product was on the way.

Pyro!

Very good, very good. That’s enough jokes for one day. Let’s send in the right clowns!

Tony Han

For many, little Tony Han began as the new savior of wrestling. I suppose it still is for some, even if the number of students is only a fraction of what it once was or could have been. Tony has a super-rich father and has more access to money than common sense.

When he announced he was going to run his own wrestling promotion, people thought it was a good thing and that he meant business. When it became clear that this was more of a playground for him and his friends than for the rest of the hungry wrestlers, hopes began to fade and interest waned.

Look at Tony’s little chicken wings. Or maybe it’s the wings of an angel! Even Cody Rhodes had a hard time hiding his jubilant mood at the start of the game. Look at that face. He knows exactly how to rub Tony to make the money fall. (*Karni for the money sign)

Khan said AEW will be serious and athletic. Still, we had more self-indulgent comedies, bad matches, and schizophrenic storytelling than I can count without taking off my shoes and socks.

It was also stated that AEW would not engage in petty feuds and make releases against WWE/NXT; this did not last long. Khan also felt that protecting the health and well-being of his talents was of paramount importance. A careless move could have killed Matt Hardy who fell on the concrete and they continued the match. The excuse that Cody Rhodes took an unprotected hit to the head with a chair also made Tony look a little stupid. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter Booker of the Year once again gets away with tirade nonsense, and more than a few people fall for it.

And Tony Titus doesn’t let all the untrained wannabes go out and maim people on live television. Khan also allowed a dog into the arena (only to scare it with pyrotechnics afterwards), led a horse through a screaming crowd (which he clearly didn’t appreciate), and made Jake Roberts trip and stand on a line.

For some reason, everything in Tony’s world is done on purpose. 90% of the time, it’s like watching people do a dress rehearsal. There is no love (or understanding) of the journey. There are many climaxes that pass quickly at the right moments, leaving no time to feel and appreciate anything. Everyone does the same as everyone else, regardless of size, shape or style.

I was going to say explosions, but AEW didn’t do a good job either. Tony waved away the unexploded ring in a press briefing, saying it was part of the plot. I still feel bad that Eddie Kingston had to sell those fireworks.

It was two years ago, and Tony was only now thinking about the fact that production reviews are something to think about from time to time. It’s never too late, but AEW has set the precedent that TV shows are just random individual two-hour skits. Jackass and Dirty Sanchez have managed to tell stories for two hours a few times; I’m sure you can too!

I fervently hope I’m wrong, but the way Tony has changed in the last few years makes me fear that we’ll soon find him naked, doused in baby oil, on the office furniture.

Kenny Omega

Honestly, I don’t know where to start talking to this jerk. Many, many years ago, I heard rumors of a guy who looked like Seth Rollins but wasn’t spoiled by the WWE. When people said it, I didn’t understand what they meant or they didn’t understand what they were saying. When they said Kenny Omega wasn’t spoilt, they were actually referring to training… someone. Just because he’s top of your class doesn’t mean you can’t demand respect or sportsmanship. Shake your head!

I’m not saying he can’t do certain moves; he’s a damn good gymnast and he clearly can. But there are many other elements to his work that are just not pleasant to look at. Comments about his awkward facial expressions, finger pointing, wobbly hands, child doll fights and happy feet are commonplace these days, so I’ll try to keep them to a minimum. His body language is terrible too. With no intention of playing anyone in a real fight, he’s like a kid on an improvised stage, constantly looking for a place to say Hamlet’s soliloquy or do a backflip.

Omega was originally responsible for booking the schoolgirls ….. b*ghh*, the women’s division of AEW. He enjoyed watching Riho scratch Nyla Rose (in front of a very uncomfortable audience), and then dressed up Hikaru Shida as Tifa from Final Fantasy VII to make her his new favorite. I admire the way Omega keeps subtly pointing out that they love the most commercial (but far from the best) Final Fantasy game!

He also managed to kill off any chance from Enforcer Adam Page as they teamed up and then briefly clashed. Paige seemed poised to become one of the local stars of the promotion. But some people didn’t like that, and now Paige is in trouble with the Dark Order and their machinations.

Omega’s win for the TNA/Impact World Title was also narrow. I certainly understand that Impact appreciates the opportunity and that AEW wants to be seen as a promotion that likes to enter the realm of other wrestling companies, but I feel something else.

I see Omega/AEW as a bald guy who is so aware of his hairline that he makes friends with someone who is completely bald; of course, that includes weirdos, clubbers, and gays. Besides Impact, AEW at least seems like the epitome of professional wrestling. Kenny Omega, on the other hand, looks like John Wayne, taking out all the crooks and criminals of the Wild West. I told him to keep giving her enough rope. His ten minute interview at Blood and Guts showed his inability to speak into a microphone. Ten seconds would have been enough, so thanks for that!

The Omega style, or lack thereof, is the epitome of AEW’s video game wrestling style. The problem is that, as much as everyone involved wants it to be, it’s not a quirky, intricate, epic thriller that keeps people guessing and remembering every moment. It’s two hours of Super Smash Bros. every week, and without a story mode, whether you’re in the front or back, there’s no depth or reason to invest in the long term. Honestly, I wish I could tell Kenny to go back to Japan, but for some reason they won’t let him into the country! Skeletons in the basement?

This is the fight

I’ve gone on long enough, so here’s some love for the people I always follow. I know how good these guys can be when they get it right/serious, and my fingers are crossed that they take their time at an upcoming Dirt show. Stay informed!

That’s it for this week! I hope I can say something nice about AEW next time, but I’m not holding my breath. Blood and Guts was an endless rush, but that’s nothing new. Eventually they will run out of fingers to chop off to reach the million!

Thanks for reading! Feel free to contact us on Twitter, and / or check out everything I write about:

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