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AEW Men's Singles Power Rankings: June 2023

Welcome to another edition of AEW Power Rankings: Men’s Singles Division!

The most obvious programming note from the last one is that these are no longer decided numerically. It was a lot of math that I poorly planned as to how it would be reconsidered over the course of the year. Plus, with the phasing out of the Dark and Elevation programming there is a smaller number of wins to split across a month, so the data doesn’t have the same breadth. So these rankings incorporate wins and losses to a certain extent, but then for another more important extent, it’s all vibes, baby.

1. MJF (2023 AEW Singles Record: 3-0-1)

Has MJF won a one on one match since the last power ranking in March? Reader, he has not. And guess what? Doesn’t matter. Until someone beats you, you’re still the reigning champ. If that big gaudy belt didn’t tell you who was running the show, the Double Or Nothing feud sure told you something. After years of storylines designed around being the young pissant disrespecting the veterans (Danielson, Regal, Punk and so on…) he put himself in a feud where he got to be the decorated star, too much of a sure thing to lose. Most recently he’s got himself in a feud with Adam Cole where he can choose between saying the “I looked up to you!” and “You’re not on my level!” In the end he choose to go with both and walked out neither winner nor loser but definitely the champion. The world is MJF’s show, the rest of us are just trying to get an appearance fee on it.

2. Orange Cassidy (14-0, 1 Battle Royal Win)

The top 2 remains unchanged as OC continues to leave it all on the mat, elevating the International Title to a serious piece of gold. Now the intrigue is based on how long he can keep this going for. His whole body is slowly being covered in kinesiotape and his orange-punching fist is bandaged. He’s had to win with clever roll ups at an unsustainable rate. One of the oldest tricks in narrative storytelling is to give a character a code they follow and then put them in a situation where they must betray it, and this is what’s been done here. Orange has lived by the code of sloth style exerting as little effort as possible, but the desire to remain a fighting champ has accidentally turned him into the workhorse of the show. Eventually he’s going to come crashing down and remember that working hard is a scam.

3. Jon Moxley (5-2)

There’s a strong argument that all of the Blackpool Combat Club deserves a spot in this top 10. They’ve run roughshod over pretty much whomever they’ve wanted to. But the havoc they have wrought has largely been outside of the bells of singles matches, or in the case of Claudio it’s been a lot of ROH matches. So for that reason their obvious dominance is not respected by these rankings, except for Mox. Please do not stab me with a screwdriver.

4. Adam Cole (2-0-1)

The shake on Chris Jericho feuds is that you are in them for too long and they suck out your momentum. Unless your name is Eddie Kingston this isn’t really true, but perception is reality, and it really feels like Cole did the unthinkable by trampolining out of Jericho feud straight into making MJF don the gear for a TV crowd. You have to like that for a guy trying to reestablish himself as a main eventer. While he was impressive in his championship eliminator (ugh) match, crowd love doesn't buy you an Uber home, let alone five more minutes with the champ. With no obvious way for a rematch he’s going to have to readjust his trajectory for the rest of the summer. An obvious goal would be for him to defend his spot as the reigning Owen Hart Cup holder. But is that something that they want to set precedent as a thing you defend? And as the incumbent, would he better be served as a heel people are hoping gets dethroned? These are questions better answered by someone Tony Khan is paying to answer, because I have no friggin clue.

5. Wardlow (6-1)

Holding a singles title has to count for something, right? Last month, I was ready to be sick of Wardlow. He kept putting himself in situations to get his ass kicked by his much smarter opponents. Then he went to get help and the help he came back with was a man who hasn’t wrestled in 23 years. Then he chose a PPV match stipulation that would allow his opponent to cheat. Despite this matryoshka doll of stupid babyface moves, he won convincingly at Double Or Nothing in ways that made him look cool again. Now that he’s moved on past that feud he’s off to the new horizons of uhhh… potentially teaming with Brock Anderson. Well dang, can’t pretend like that was what I was hoping for. For now I will remain cautiously optimistic that 2 more hours of weekly AEW is just what he needs to get back on track.

6. Jack Perry (7-2)

It seems like right before Double Or Nothing there was a lot of souring on the Boy of the Jungle out there in the wrestling take-iverse. There was a feeling he needed a heel turn to stay interesting. Well he's about to face Sanada for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, so it shows what you know! I don't think the smarky calls for a gritty rebooted Jack Perry right now are totally wrong, it's just the wrong time and approach. We know that Hook will eventually be the victim of this turn, but I think we ought to wait until the end of the year. Jack said early this year he would be a singles champ by the end of this year, and we’ve already seen him compete for the world title and lose. Now he will lose at Forbidden Door. You have to be able to see how this should play out from here, right?Let him lose an International Title bout. Let him fall short of the TNT title. Then in a moment of desperation, let him turn on Hook to try to win the FTW title. It will be devious and cowardly but it will be something he claims to do for the fans, because he loves them so much and wants to keep his promise. A dark turn will get him halfway to heel, but a turn towards clueless self importance will put him all the way.

7. Jay White (2-0 + 1DQW)

As someone who doesn’t watch NJPW (not for any good reason other than I already watch too much domestic wrestling) I have basically no opinions on Jay White other than a lot of people seem to like him. But most crucially it seems like CM Punk likes him and is interested in starting a feud with him. That sounds like fun! This is where my lack of ability to evaluate wrestlers without a hefty sample size really starts to show because I’ve watched a handful of his matches now and I can’t tell you a single thing he does good or bad, but I enjoyed his matches. I think? Can we really be sure of anything we are perceiving? Maybe I’m just looking at the reflection of his matches on the wall of a cave and that’s what I think I like.

8. Sammy Guevara (6-1 + 1DQW)

The June 7 Dynamite served as an end of what I consider the low period of AEW. It’s not because of any particular booking decision, but simply because it’s the two-ish month window where their programming runs counter to the NBA playoffs. As a wrestling fan who tries to be normal, I like to diversify my interests and because sports need to be watched live, springtime Dynamites will always be something to watch when I get a chance. I say all of this not to evangelize for you to watch basketball (though I will advise not to join me in Celtics fandom, it is very frustrating) but to say that I think this is a time of year that AEW should recognize ratings will be down and do some experimenting. The most interesting experiment I think they did this year was around Sammy Guevara, someone who I would not have believed they could make a believable face, but the expedited turn from comedic lackey for MJF to Your Friend Who’s Gotta Get Serious Because He’s About To Be A Dad made me believe, and his potential feels higher than it has in about 18 months. Let this serve as a lesson to AEW 10 months from now: get weird with it! You never know what might happen, and worst case scenario I’ll just click forward through the TBS app.

9. Ricky Starks (7-1 + 1DQL)

If I had to bet on anyone in this list 2-10 becoming the next AEW World Champion, it would probably be Ricky Starks. But unfortunately he’s backsliding further from the summit with a loss to Jay White, who’s moving on to bigger and more advertised things. Sure, the loss was not a clean one, but that’s the type of late game chicanery that true champions are able to overcome. If the story being told is the one I’m hoping, there’s a lesson to be learned here for Ricky. Ever since losing to MJF in December, he’s let himself get into feuds that are very personal. Between Jericho and Bullet Club Gold, he’s starting to lose his effortless suavity and lean into being hot tempered. That’s not going to help him. At some point in this journey something is going to help him regain his composure and the Stroke Daddy will be reborn. If he wants to be as big of a star as The Rock he should listen to an early-Hollywood Rock critical flop and Be Cool.

10. Konosuke Takeshita (7-4)

Sure you could make an argument that Kenny Omega should be on this list. But Don Callis thinks Kenny Omega is old and busted, whereas Takeshita is new hotness. And who am I to doubt The Invisible Hand? Takeshita has been delicately placed outside of the Blackpool Combat Club but with a strong argument to be the top foe of the company’s top faces. Sure, most of the boos he’s getting are from Callis standing next to him, but that hardly matters if they’re both being drowned out by audience jeers. And that running knee very quickly goes from being a moment of triumph to a moment of treachery.

What surprises you with these rankings? What would you change? Let me know in the comments!


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