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AEW POWER RANKINGS POST-12/23
First and foremost we must begin by extending our deepest condolences to the family of Jon “Brodie Lee” Huber after the beloved wrestler passed away suddenly on December 26. Huber was a phenomenal professional wrestler and, by all accounts, an even better man and he will be dearly missed. But the world of wrestling goes on, as he no doubt would have wanted it to, and AEW continues to deliver one of the most consistently entertaining wrestling programs in the world. Let’s take a look at the top 10 wrestlers, teams and factions in the company as things stand…
1) KENNY OMEGA
It would take a herculean effort from another competitor to unseat Kenny Omega. The Cleaner has basically transcended normal wrestling characters as he has had so much success all over the world that his character is basically just himself. They say the best characters are a wrestler’s personality at Spinal Tap 11 and that’s what Omega seems to be right now. He talks fast (and not always intelligibly) he makes a hundred references a minute whether you get them or not and he’s infuriatingly talented. None of that is going to change soon and I don’t think Kenny Omega’s position in these rankings will either.
2) YOUNG BUCKS
I’m convinced the Young Bucks could drag a great match out of a lighting fixture and the Acclaimed are far better than that fixture. So when the two teams met, we got a glance at the future of tag team wrestling in AEW. I don’t mean specifically the Acclaimed will be the best team in the world in five years- they might be- but the more general structure of the AEW tag team division going forward will be all about unpredictability. Any team can have a great match with any other team and any team can win. I knew the Acclaimed weren’t going to beat the Bucks, but after a boom box shot to the head (in 2020 not even 1987) I caught myself wondering if we were going to see a title change. The Bucks will have a long legacy as the team that built a division in a sustainable manner for years to come. And they’re also great at wrestling. Let’s not forget that.
This spot for FTR is most likely temporary as Jon Moxley is due to return on the upcoming episode of Dynamite but I had to reward FTR’s phenomenal storytelling. As a proud science fiction nerd, nothing makes me mark out harder than long term, consistent characters and storytelling. FTR and the Young Bucks have been doing that for years and I love it. Everything about them is different: their wrestling styles, their characters, their promo styles, their attitudes on social media, hell even things they don’t control like their own booking has been diametrically opposed for years. And now that the Young Bucks have made it clear they are trying to bring up the next great teams in AEW, FTR is trying to put them all down. The Bucks take pride in the depth of the division, FTR wants the division to belong to one team. It is brilliant storytelling and it makes me even more excited for the inevitable rematch between the two tag giants.
4) JON MOXLEY
We now know Moxley will make his highly anticipated return on the upcoming episode of Dynamite. And with the announcement of the upcoming birth of his first child and the tragic death of a man he fought for the AEW World Title, he has more emotional ammunition than ever before. Moxley excels when he can make the fans feel the raw emotion he feels and it seems right now is time for Mox to dial up another one of his world class promos to bring us all to tears.
5) INNER CIRCLE
This is your weekly reminder the Inner Circle has mastered faction storytelling. Every character is involved in one or even several storylines, all of which are compelling. Their match with Top Flight didn’t connect at times and the segment with MJF and Proud and Powerful was a little too “inside baseball,” the announcement of Hager vs Wardlow is enough to make me mark out over and over until it happens.
6) DEATH TRIANGLE
Every match Pac is in is good or better in large part because he doesn’t have to change his wrestling style at all to fit his character. He somehow manages to come off as a sympathetic babyface even while remaining an unpredictable maniac in the ring. He’s a great promo but he doesn’t need to speak all the time and he’s one of the most compelling characters in the company. Oh and the Lucha Brothers… they’re pretty good too.
7) DARBY ALLIN
I hope commentary continue to put Darby over as the “face of TNT” because it’s exactly what he is. He’s basically impossible to dislike and, unbelievably, he’s remarkably relatable. On the surface he’s the opposite: he’s a brooding professional athlete who’s an incredible skateboarder and probably a little crazy to boot. But there’s something in him we all want to be. Whether we want to be more wild and crazy, we wish we were more athletic, we wish we were more stoic and cool, he’s all of those things. For the same reason a great heel is hateable because he is everything we want to be and he lets us know it *ahem MJF* Darby Allin is a great babyface because he is all those things but he never talks about it.
8) ORANGE CASSIDY
Cassidy has gone the opposite direction of most professional wrestlers. Most wrestlers need to build a character and a following from scratch and get more popular as they go. Orange came into AEW with a unique character and a huge fan base and now he’s developing his own skills as a more traditional baby face. And man is he doing a great job. This episode, he garnered sympathy just by being seen with Trent in an ambulance. He didn’t make it about him, he didn’t put his hands in his pocket or anything. He got into the ambulance with his friend and rode away. He appeared as a real person, not just a funny guy in a denim jacket, and you really want him to crash the Beach Break wedding in February.
9) TEAM TAZ
At this point, the repetitive booking of Team Taz is starting to overshadow the incredible talent of all its members. A typical Team Taz segment: Taz interrupts a babyface, cuts a promo saying Team Taz is going to dominate, Team Taz approaches the ring, a babyface stops their beatdown. It’s tried and true… but it gets boring and unfortunately we’re approaching that territory.
10) BEST FRIENDS
Great babyfaces garner your sympathy and have you frothing at the mouth for the moment they give the bad guys the beating they deserve. Great movie heroes like John McClain, Luke Skywalker and Inigo Montoya get beaten around for entire movies but they have that quality that makes you clench your fists to try to will them on to beat the villain. Chuck and Trent have that quality too, and while it says as much or more about the bad guys in the story, the Best Friends have been in this role since they came to AEW and they’re finally getting that recognition.