Wins and losses should matter and in AEW, they do and they don't.
Adam Page losing to Brian Cage to derail his journey to the World Championship matters. However SCU's multitude of wins to take them to a shot at the Bucks while they were champions did not matter because they all happened on Dark.
AEW fans do not tend to watch Dark as the matches on Dark tend to be squashes with a few lower card wrestlers clashing in 'main events'. Therefore, when these records pop up on Dynamite to back up the "challenger of the week's" right to challenge for a title, it's a case of taking the storytelling's word for it rather than it lining up with your experience of watching the product.
This week's Dynamite saw two huge matches for a shot at the World Title, nobody would be confused as to why they were on the card. However...
- Why is Jungle Boy facing Jay Lethal?
- Why is Powerhouse Hobbs being given an easy win?
- Why did Swerve and Lee have to defend their titles against such a strong team the week before defending against The Acclaimed who had the week off?
If a wrestling show is supposed to be a fictionalised sport, we need to have it presented to us with a sporting structure. New Japan, Stardom and other Japanese companies do this easily and present both pro wrestling conflicts; Tam Nakano vs Natsupoi or Jay White vs Kazuchika Okada, and with quasi-sporting structures; New Japan Cup or 5STAR Grand Prix.
All Elite Wrestling claimed to be going to do this. In fact they started off well, there were clear reasons as to why wrestlers got title shots. They weren't perfect but they showed promise... How then, three years later, did we get here:
To me, someone who would claim to follow the product really carefully, Athena lost to Cargill at All Out and was on the losing side of her team this week. However...
Do these results really deserve her being inserted into a title program at one of AEW's biggest events? But then again who does?
After two and a half years, AEW seems to have given up on a rankings system that wasn't really working. Anthony Ogogo had been amassing wins on Dark without it ever meaning anything and FTR had been the number one ranked tag team without earning an AEW championship shot since, seemingly, the beginning of time!
So that's the problem, in great detail! So what's the solution? As in the title of this article; a tiered system.
I would hope to see such a system by used flexibly within AEW and alongside presentation and development of other feuds and matches built on wrestler's interactions and conflicts. But this would be the main way title challengers are decided. It would also introduce a framework for plentiful sports-centric stories.
Wrestlers would feud over trying to claw their way into the 'Contenders Tier' and the A, B, C tiers. Wrestler's success or failure can then be used to tell more stories about individuals struggles and reactions to wins or losses, in the manner of Page vs Cage or even an irrate Kingston coming across Punk backstage.
It can also give structure to Rampage, Elevation and Dark. I'd make Elevation Tier D and Dark Tier E. So by watching Rampage, Elevation or Dark you get to see a different 'league' of wrestlers and their stories as they try to climb the ladder (pyramid). I wouldn't have this structure dominate any of these three shows either, there should still be space for more 'US TV wrestling-style' stories too.