Some may use this time of year to look back and reflect on the past 12 months. However, 2020 hasn’t been like most years and I doubt that many of us will want to revisit this period in history. Let us instead look forward to 2021 and some things that I’m most hopeful that AEW will feature in the new year.
5) More Cross Promotion
Time will tell how successful the AEW/Impact working relationship will be, but for now it has fans talking and is generating interest. This is good. Add in the already established connections with the NWA and Mexico’s AAA and the future is full of possibilities. The big get would be a relationship with Japan’s NJPW, but as of now that forbidden door will remain closed.
What is smart about these working relationships is while it can create fun surprises, AEW can also maintain a manageable roster size. Let’s say they bring in Nick Aldis to work a program. He can create some new storylines, work some fun matches, then go back to NWA full time and not get lost in the shuffle. Conversely you can take an AEW star and send them to work with another group to create interest for them. Tony Khan is clearly in the corner of AEW (as he should be) but he’s also a fan of pro-wrestling in general and wants to see everyone do well.
4) Big Time signings
AEW need to tread carefully when bringing in big names. It’s always exciting at first but plenty of past promotions have brought in a marquee name only to do nothing with them (ie Bret Hart in WCW) or to have the talent not bring anything creatively. For the next year it’d be nice to see one or two big names jump over to AEW, but anything more than that would be bloat. One name that always comes up, but I feel would be a mistake, would be CM Punk. I don’t think he’d have that much to offer and I feel that his salary requirements wouldn’t be worth it. Same goes for Brock Lesner. Sure it’d be exciting (Lesner vs. Wardlow would get a PPV buy from me) but again the initial salary investment may not be worth it in the long run.
So, who would be worth the money? While I haven’t watched WWE programming in over a decade (thanks Katie Vick!) I have heard nothing but good things about Kevin Owens and think he would do well in the AEW environment. Likewise, Rhea Ripley felt like a sure thing star just a year ago and has seen her momentum cut out from under her for no real reason that I can see. Seeing a star like Ripley join the roster would definitely lead to…
3) Stronger focus on the female division
Yes, yes I know. This point seems to be the default criticism of AEW’s product. It’s a fair point as the women’s division seems to be an afterthought on most shows. Things are looking up as storylines have been better and we’re getting more matches. One thing that would help, but Tony Khan has stated he’s reluctant to do, is inter-gender matches. During the Jericho Cruise there was a match with Omega/Riho vs. Sabian/Ford which felt like a preview of what AEW could work towards. Kip got heat on Riho and Riho got a fiery comeback that the crowd loved. The same thing could happen with any member of the AEW female division. Nyla Rose vs. Luchasaurus, Big Swole vs. Serpentico, and Statlander vs. Orange Cassidy could all be money.
2) First Time Gimmick Matches
With AEW being such a young organization, they have the opportunity for historical firsts. One of my favorite elements of pro-wrestling is the variety of stipulations or gimmicks that can be applied to any match. In 2021 we could get the first Hair vs. Hair match. My preference would be anyone vs. Joey Janela. We should get the inaugural Blood and Guts match this coming year. While it wont feature The Elite vs. Inner Circle, there are plenty of stables that have improved their standing. Team Taz, Best Friends, Dark Order, or the new Inner Circle could all make the double cage match work. A match that I’ve rarely seen but would like to see someone dust off is a double elimination. Not a 2 out of 3 falls match between two competitors, but a multi-man double elimination match. A great example of this was the first X-Division championship match on June 26, 2002 in TNA. Jerry Lynn (now a producer with AEW) was even one of the men competing in that match, ultimately losing to AJ Styles.
On the other hand, there are a few gimmick matches that I hope AEW is smart enough to avoid. Blindfold matches are always terrible as workers stumble around and engage in bad comedy. Anything on a pole matches just scream dying days-WCW and should be skipped. My least favorite gimmick is the scaffold match. Two men climb a scaffold and if one falls off they lose. They’re boring and are too much of a risk for injury. It’s a match that one would find in an amateur independent league and not a particularly good one.
1) Return to Live Touring
Pro wrestling is at its best when it can be in front of fans who can pop and boo and give that immediate validation of the effort being put forth in the ring. I’m sure that the crew and workers of AEW are excited to get back to normalcy along with the rest of the world. In a way it will be a second beginning for AEW as they leave the familiar territory of Jacksonville.
There are so many possibilities that a touring AEW can bring. I want to see Darby Allin get a hero’s welcome when he returns to Seattle. I hope to see Proud & Powerful, Diamante, and Ivelisse wrestling in Puerto Rico. The fans in New York/New Jersey deserve a great show after having Blood and Guts stolen from them by the pandemic. SCU are California’s best yet AEW has yet to have a West Coast tour. No one can say for sure when this will happen, all I can do is hope that the coming year will be better for everyone. Just everyone.