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By Cory Strode on 2023-05-24 12:00:00

Yesterday was part one of this top ten list.  And yes, I am verbose.  You should know that from my recaps. 

AEW is about to start a huge summer for the company. With it’s PPV this weekend, a new Saturday show coming, a tour of Canada complete with another Forbidden Door show with New Japan, and the upcoming show in England busting their sales records, this look good on the surface. However, with stories of soft ticket sales for the Saturday show, and ratings are down year over year,. The promotion is not doing as well as many think it could. 

Since Top Ten Lists are a big internet thing and I watch all of their cable TV product, I have some observation on how they can tighten up the shows, improve the presentation, and grow the viewership.  Your mileage, as always, may vary.

Everyone needs to want something:  Wrestling is storytelling, and the rules of storytelling apply.  One of the most basic rules is “Every character needs to want something, even if it is a glass of water.”  There’s a reason why the old acting cliche is “What is my character’s motivation?” because that is the driving force of every interaction. Why is this person a heel?  Why is this person a baby face? What are they doing and why?

Mike Johnson says that every match should be about money, revenge, or a title.  I think you can add other motivations such as showing off, proving superiority, to get the crowd to love you, etc… but if we don’t know what the motivation is, we don’t care.  Steve Austin didn’t rise to be the biggest star of all time because he was a great wrestler, it’s because we identified with him fighting against a crappy boss.  Ric Flair was a great wrestler, but he was a heel because he took short cuts in order to stay on top, knowing that he couldn't have the life style he wanted without the title. 

Why were Vikingo and Kenny Omega fighting?  No idea.  But, if we got a promo of Kenny saying he’d heard how great Vikingo is, but he is the Best Bout Machine, and he’ll show why that is by beating Vikingo, people who don’t know anything about Vikingo are interested.  

Let things sink in:  This does happen from time to time, but it’s inconsistent to the point where it needs to be worked on. Too often, something shocking happens, and we’re off to the back for the next segment and the next match is up within seconds. Think about the big events in wrestling and how the announcers and show runners gave the audience time to let it settle in. A commercial break. A cliffhanger at the end of the show. The announcers discussing what happened. The interview in the back with someone’s reaction to the event. It cements what happened was important.

Because it’s a well known story, go back to Star Wars:  When Luke’s uncle and aunt are killed, we SEE the aftermath.  We see Like process what happened. We see the decision on his face to leave. We see Obi Wan explain what happened and why. We don’t just jump to the city where they are looking for a way to get off the planet.

Give your big moments time to sink in and they will mean more. And when they mean more, you don’t need to shotgun so many of them at a time. 

Too Much Blood:  On Rampage this week, Dustin Rhodes had the Crimson Mask in a match with Bishop Kaun.  It was a Main Event, but there was no build in any way, and it was a “Let’s give Dustin a main event in Texas”, which I am fine with.  Dustin, who has a history of doing so, bled all over the ring and the final audience for the show was less than 300,000.  Did Dustin bleeding do anything for the match?  It didn’t move Kaun up the card, it didn’t pay off a feud, and in the end, it didn’t matter. Dustin gave his forehead another scar for nothing. 

I was at an indy show years ago at a VFW hall.  The audience was around 100 people and one of the guys fresh from wrestling school was asking the promoter if he could be “busted open.”  I was chatting with a friend who was on the card before the show and they asked me what I thought.  What I said was along the lines of, why are you going to cut yourself in a match in the middle of the card for a tiny crowd for $50?  Is it for you or the match?

I don’t like blood in wrestling.  I think it’s outdated and overdone, especially in these days of “death matches” and other stupidity. But if you ARE going to pull that tool out, it should be when it matters, and not just because it’s a random Wednesday and Mox hasn’t made the ring in a mess in a couple of weeks. I believe it drives away causal viewers and the job of the promoter is to bring in causal viewers and make them fans. 

A plan for after a title win or loss: In serialized storytelling, you use the melodrama structure.  That means that as you move to pay off one story, you start another one. This is what soap operas do, what comics do, and what wrestling should do.  Winning or losing a title is the end of a story, but you also need to think about what CM Famously used to say:  Then what?

The Acclaimed got over HUGE with their feud with the Gunn, won the title and crowds wanted to do the “sing along” scissor and see them beat up bad guys.  Then, they lost the title so it could transition over to FTR.

Since then, they come out, do their shtick, have a match against a mid card tomato can and everyone cheers along, but the crowd reaction gets less and less vociferous every week.  Why?  Since they lost the titles they haven’t done anything but have the same match. No vowing revenge, no declaring they want their titles back, no saying they will go for the Trios titles, nothing. 

FTR won the tag team titles capping off their climbing the ladder after losing all of their titles and now they are….not on TV much.  Same with Wardlow’s first title reign. And so on,  When someone wins the title, the next challenger or story line needs to start, and should have been set up before the win. When someone loses the title, there should be a plan for what they do next, especially if you aren’t going to have them try to get those title back. 

More consistent use of talent on TV:  AEW has a massive roster, and people seem to come and go with no explanation or reason.  Jim Ross put over Scorpio Sky as a massive talent every time he was on the screen, but he’s been missing for months after being cleared back in December. I can list tons of talent who come and go, and since AEW falls down on introducing talent as if it’s someone’s first, all we usually get is “It’s Lance Archer! He’s been gone for months!” 

I get if talent have other commitments and that’s part of their deal. Or they have to spend time in their home country. However, some talents are just thought of “They are over, so we don’t need to do anything with them any more” is how it feels for people like Hook, who was pushed to the moon and then vanished only to show up as a background player in a Matt Hardy feud.

It goes back to having a plan for someone, establishing their character, giving them a goal, and then making sure the audience knows those things every single time they come to the ring. Until that happens, AEW will keep it’s hard core audience, and people who tune in due to the ads on other Discovery/Warner shows will watch for a bit, wonder why they should care about the people fighting, and move on to something else.

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