top of page
  • Writer's pictureMatt Dod

AEW Year One


In many ways. The second year of All Elite Wrestling had a heavy emphasis on introductions. The company looked to introduce itself to new potential fans and grow their viewership. This goal was undertaken with the introduction of new weekly programming and new pay-per-views.


The company also introduced a host of new championship belts, as well as pro wrestlers to challenge for them. I’d like to start this section of our story, with one of these very introductions.


ORANGE CASSIDY & THE FOURTH WALL


The fourth wall. A term used to describe an incident in a theatre production, piece of televion or film, where a character looks back into the camera lens and out into the audience. Breaking the viewers suspension of disbelief for dramatic effect. Often times this can allow us into the mind of a character who can tell us what they are thinking and feeling directly. It can also be used to fill us in on parts of a story we may not have known otherwise.


Breaking the fourth wall in a device which can be used in a whole manner of genre’s, such as Netflix’s House of Cards where we get to know the true intentions of Kevin Spacey’s character as his becomes the United States President.


Tyler Durden played by Brad Pitt in the film adaptation of Fight Club became a voice for teenage boys around the world with his take on the world. Jack Nicholson looks directly at the camera and almost into our souls in the Shining for a potent and chilling effect. And the massively successful Deadpool films use this technique liberally. Letting us know that the film has its tongue firmly in its cheek and to not take anything you see too seriously.


Through the centuries of use, through all of these various forms and for some many varying responses, never had the fourth wall been broken so expertly in pro wrestling. Until Orange Cassidy meandered onto the scene. Looking directly into the camera and letting us at home know that none of this matters. In a shirt, with a picture of himself wearing a shirt with a picture of himself on it. Cassidy immediately caught my attention as I first saw him make his way to the ring.


When he begun loading up some of the most hilarious weak and lacklustre low kicks I’d ever seen, I knew that this man was about to become one of my favourite wrestlers. What OC has managed to due has proven to be somewhat revolutionary. However, with anything new in an entertainment medium so steeped in tradition. Orange Cassidy’s antics in the ring, have shown to rub some fans the wrong way.


After all, aren’t we meant to buy into the reality of the pro wrestling we have laid out before us? We all know that the fights are choreographed, and the results predetermined, but don’t we all try and forget that whilst we are engrossed in a match. Well Orange Cassidy, in part, says meh to that, just like he does with everything else that he comes across. His character doesn’t care. He doesn’t get nervous before a big match, because to him it doesn’t matter. This sense of the aloof carries over to the way in which the character has seemingly no regard for the constructs of the very fictional universe he is a part of. This blending of the lines can drag you out of a match and for some this is a huge negative.


With his hands deeply in his pockets he is setting himself at a huge disadvantage, but it doesn’t matter. Because nothing matters. We see moments where we forget about the joke character of Orange Cassidy and see that underneath it all is a hugely talented pro wrestler and a man who through the restrictions of said pockets brought upon himself, has to be creative and inventing with how we performs his moves. For me, Orange Cassidy is living proof that even after all these years of pro wrestling, there is still so many ways in which to entertain a crowd and become a fan favourite, which have never before been fully realised.


And his emergence onto the scene during the inception of All Elite Wrestling was one of the major factors as to why I was so interested from the start. Sure, AEW offered some of the best pro wrestlers, in the most amazing matches, but so does New Japan and WWE. What originally stood them apart from the other major promotions in my mind was AEW’s desire to get behind the likes of Orange Cassidy and show that there is no guaranteed formula for success within the business and that just because you aren’t a 7-foot-tall ex-Olympian, doesn’t mean that you can’t become a star. One half-hearted thumbs up to you!


FYTER FEST JUNE


AEW’s second ever show sold around 5,000 tickets a number which was "great for a company with no television show, and above what house shows in markets that size are doing even by WWE." As described by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter


Fyter Fest took place on June 29th and continued to build on the success of Double Or Nothing.


On the pre-show a tag match took place, which kicked off the AEW Tag Team tournament to decide on the companies first ever champions. Best Friends Trent and Chuck Taylor, SoCal Uncensored Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky, and Private Party Marq Quen and Isiah Kassidy came together in a bout which showed not only AEW’s dedication to giving the tag division time to shine, but also that the roster was filled with excellent team’s who were just bursting to show what they can do. The Best Friends were the eventual winners and were given a place in a match at ALL Out.


The main show opened with a win for Cima against another legend of the industry Christopher Daniels. Showing that both these two men weren’t going to let a little thing like age get in the way of making an explosive start to the evening.


Nyla Rose played the beast in a match against two much smaller women, Riho and Yuka Sazaki. A great combination of speed and technique from the two lightning fast Japanese wrestlers, whose agility proved too much for the powerhouse Nyla as she was pinned by Riho in fantastic triple threat.


Maxwell Jacob Freedman cut a promo which really made me take notice before his fatal four way match against Adam Page, Jimmy Havok and Jungle Boy. Three of the men in this contest in Jungle Boy, MJF and Adam Page, for me, are the future of the AEW brand and showed just why I think that in this match. Four the young men, they all have so much experience and seem so capable of delivering an entertaining performance every time they step into the ring. Page won the bout by pinning Havok, something which MJF took great offence to, carrying on his moaning and whining as he made his way to the back.


The main event saw Jon Moxley taking on Joey Janela in an unsanctioned match. One which by it’s very nature was expected to be wild and dangerous. Both men have a history of extreme and hardcore wrestling and this was one which I personally wasn’t looking forward to. I find it too hard to watch these men sacrifice so much for our entertainment. Landing front flips through steel chairs. Slamming backwards onto wooden tables. Throwing each other through boards covered in barbed wire and liberal use of the always grotesque metal tacks. It’s not my taste, but it is somebodies. So for those of you sickos out there that enjoy this ultra-violence, then I think it’s great that AEW has something on offer for you.


The match ended with Mox victorious, but he was quickly set upon by the sprinting Kenny Omega, who made his way to the ring before the pair infused in a volatile brawl. Smashing each other all over the arena, clobbering one another with random items they managed to get their hands on. With Omega standing tall and Mox flat on his back with a big grin on his face, this segment cemented the fact that I would be buying into anything that AEW did next.


Cody Rhodes faced off against Darby Allin and although the young newcomer Allin put on a valiant effort, it looked as if Rhodes had secured the victory when he landed a wicked Cross Rhodes and laid Darby out for the pin. However, when the bell rang out at the end, it was not to signify Rhodes’ victory, but instead the end of the match due to the timer clock running down. An interesting end to a well fought contest, which made Cody look strong in his narrow miss of victory and protected Darby’s credentials as he did not technically suffer a loss. After the match, all hell broke loose.


Although another excellent showing from All Elite Wrestling, the most talked about moment from the show online, unfortunately was a negative one. Shawn Spears appeared and climbed into the ring behind Cody with a chair in his hands. Swinging viscously towards his former WWE colleague, Cody was on the brutal end of a direct chair shot to the face, living the American Nightmare in need of 12 surgical stiches and probably a rather nasty headache.


Most pro wrestling fans these days, and certainly the performers in the ring, understand the dangers involved and the long term detrimental effects, unprotected chair attacks can have on the brain. I certainly do not think that the shocking effects of these types of displays in pro wrestling are worth the dangers and I’d hope most others agree. This attack certainly showed a real sense of hatred between Cody and Shawn the chair took the violence to the next level. But I hope we see less and less of this kind of stuff in the future.


FIGHT FOR THE FALLEN


WWE has led the way in which pro wrestling can serve the greater good. Since the early days of WWF with Vince McMahon at the helm, the companies has provided media coverage, finances and awareness to a whole manner of good causes.


From trips to Iraq and Afghanistan to support the morale of military troops serving in war times, To Hulk Hogan, John Cena and The Rock being at the very top of the list for most Make A Wish meetings undertaken with struggling children. People may not always agree with the huge companies business or moral ethics, but even if WWE does align itself with companies such as the Susan G Coleman cancer charity in order to further spread their media exposure, they are still bringing in huge sums of money to help those in need.


So as All Elite Wrestling was beginning to emerge, it became clear that they felt the burden to help those less fortunate and follow on the path first laid out by WWE. On July 13th 2019, the inaugural Fight For The Fallen special event took place and aired for free on B/R Live in America and on pay-per-view elsewhere in the world.


The third ever AEW event was held inside of a boiling hot and packed Daily’s Place in Jacksonville Florida. Fight For the Fallen, although none of us knew it at the time, would serve as a test run and preview of the fact that AEW would eventually use the stadium as a homebase for much of it’s existence over the next few years.


Kenny Omega delivered a brutal One-Winged Angel to Japanese wrestling legend Cima to solidify a victory in a match which was allowed plenty of time to develop.


MJF, Sammy Guevara, and Shawn Spears defeated Darby Allin, Jimmy Havoc, and Joey Janela in a 6 man tag which was full of action, but little in the way on much character development with all six men struggling to work in their respective teams and bickering throughout. Shawn Spears got the eventual pin and victory for his team.


Angelico and Jack Evans faced off against The Dark Order and A Boy And His Dinosaur, the team of Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy, with Marko Stunt, the early form of what would go on to be one of AEW’s most popular teams in Jurassic Express. The winning team of Evil Uno and Stu Grayson were awarded with a first round by for the upcoming AEW World Tag Team Championship tournament.


For those wrestling fans who prefer a slow methodical pace shared between two technical submission-based athletes, this one would be a miss. But for me, it served as something different from the rest of the show and gave me a new insight into all 7 of the men featured. The pace was nauseating at times, but good god was it exciting.


During the match between Adam Page and Kip Sabian, a masked man showed up and assaulted Adam Page with a Judas Effect and Code Breaker finisher. It was obvious and then revealed that it was in fact Chris Jericho, who was kind enough to bless us with his presence and promised to win in the upcoming match to decide the first ever AEW World Champion. Later on Adam Page appeared and attacked his soon to be opponent. This certainly added to the building sense of anticipation and kept me wanting more from the two men at All Out.


"Tonight is the first time in 20 years that I've ever done a promo with no script, with no approval of what I say and really with no idea of what I'm going to say. I was just knowing that I have a point and some directions that I may or may not want to go. I think it worked out very well and of course I can do it, but we'd never, ever get that chance to do that in WWE. So it's the other side of the coin, if you want creative freedom, we can give you that in AEW. I think that's one of the reasons why there's such a buzz about the company, it's because the fans can feel that." Chris Jericho

Brandi Rhodes defeated Allie with the help of icon Awesome Kong, the highlight of the segment being the eventual face off between two giants of women’s wrestling Awesome Kong and her namesake Aja Kong the beast from Japan. As someone who was beginning to find myself more and more interested in the top Japanese female wrestlers of the past, this was somewhat of an informative moment in my journey of wrestling fandom.


The main event of the evening saw Young Bucks defeated by Cody and Dustin Rhodes, who at this time were loosely referred to as the brotherhood. The match was deserving of the spot atop the card, after all, three of the four men in the bout were instrumental in the very foundation of the entire company. However, many in the arena and watching at home would later comment on how they believed the final stages of the pay-per-view to have fallen somewhat flat, speculated to be caused by the head induced fatigue. Nether the less, I went away from this evening feeling jubilant. I had got to witness more from my new favourite wrestling company and had been further introduced to a host of performer’s who I was yet to have become familiar with.


A show which was originally created in order to raise awareness and funds for those affected by gun violence, the event has since gone on to signify AEW’s lasting support for several different causes. The second show in 2020 focused on aiding those in need of relief during the Covid Pandemic and the third fight for the fallen helped to support victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence.


All noble causes. And all reminders that sometimes when we as fans become submerged in this wonderful world of shiny tights and glittering face paint, it can be easy to lose focus of what really matters in this life. AEW have for three years in a row managed to put on a fantastic event full of exhilarating in ring action and memorable moments, all the while using their international platform to spread a positive message to the pro wrestling community and beyond.


At the end of the show a $150,000 check was signed and awarded to the Victim Assistance Advisory Council in the ring. A special moment of togetherness shared not only by Shadiq Khan, Cody Rhodes and the rest present in the ring, but for everyone watching around the world. A moment to remember that as a community, together we can achieve good and provide happiness to those less fortunate.


AUGUST ALL OUT


At Double or Nothing an announcement was made about AEW’s next pay-per-view. In August, almost a year exactly to the companies first show the aptly named All Out show took place and the foundations of what the company would become over the next 3 years were solidified on this night.


A moment for Tony Khan and the locker room to prove that the initial hype was warranted and the excellent outings last time were more than mere fluke.


The card for the event promised magic and as has become a trend for AEW, it more than delivered. With matches that had no weekly show to create storylines, it was clear that this was an event based off of pure in-ring wizardry from some of the most distinguished performers outside of WWE.


Kenny Omega and Pac showed that fast-paced, full-throttle action can still have a narrative. The two men lived up to their auras of wrestling prowess in bout which showed the pair letting loose and delivering to us fans a victory for Pac in an exhilarating contest.


The Young Bucks had spent most of the year sporadically facing off against the Lucha Bros, so by the time All Out came around, the chemistry was oozing from every pore.


The four men put their bodies on the line in a ladder match which used said elevating devices in inventive and brutal fashion. Gasps could be heard around the arena as Pentagon Jr collapsed Matt Jackson off of the ladder and through a well-placed table with one of the most impressive and dangerous looking Canadian destroyers ever attempted. The lucha bros were victorious in the end, but in a match where all four wrestlers shone so brightly, it’s hard to say that anyone came away from the ring a loser.


SANTANA & ORTIZ


At the end of the match, 2 masked assailants made their way into the ring and attacked the Lucha Bros and Young Bucks, making a monumental splash onto the scene. Once the disguises had been removed, the crowd exploded when they realised who had just made their debuts. Santana and Ortiz, two men who had earned much respect during their time in Impact Wrestling, were now here in AEW to put the tag team division on notice.


The main event pitted Chris Jericho against Hangman Adam Page in the companies first ever AEW Championship title match. The two men serving as a perfect metaphor of the brands ethos. A knowledgeable and war hardened veteran, going toe to toe with one of wrestling’s hottest young talents. The match itself found it hard to follow such a adrenaline fuelled card, but with the energy of the crowd constant throughout, it still served to solidify the importance of the belt.


Chris Jericho’s hand was held high at the end with the brand new AEW belt over his shoulder. Adam Page was dejected in his defeat, this moment serves as the start of his own personal journey, one which will lead Hangman on a path of self-reflection, loss and improvement over the next 3 years.


The aftermath saw Jericho’s ego explode to new heights. He grabbed bottles of champagne backstage and gave himself the moniker of Le Champion. Pushing away those who sought to congratulate him on his new title and sending a clear message to the rest of the wrestlers in the back.


AEW TITLE BELT STOLEN


So, Chris Jericho carried on celebrating, one bottle of bubbly then a little more. Another cork pops and before he knew it, he was suddenly sozzled and sitting with his beloved new AEW Championship belt, enjoying some well-earned dinner at a Long Horn Steak House. Life couldn’t get any better. And then Jericho realised, where was his belt?


As per the report by the BBC: “Yet just three days later, the 48-year-old no longer had his newly won title belt in his possession and reported it to Tallahassee police. Local police confirmed they are investigating the alleged theft. AEW had posted a response on their Instagram page, telling worried commenters that "authorities are working on it as we speak" and thanking them for their concern. But a few hours later Jericho released a video, calling the perpetrator a "low life scumbag" and promising to "launch a worldwide investigation" to find his missing belt.”


OCTOBER DYNAMITE


All Out was a triumph. A huge success by anyone’s standards and it had the pro wrestling community buzzing. At the show, fans were reminded that AEW would be coming to weekly television and would begin to air in October. Through the end of August and the whole of September the anticipation continued to build. There were so many unanswered questions from fans like me. Would the show be PG or continue on with it’s slightly more adult feel that we’d seen from the previous outings? What would the roster look like and who would be the shows top stars? Were we about to enter into a new generation of Monday Night Wars, with AEW’s weekly show going directly opposed to WWE’s Raw? It was an amazing time to be a wrestling fan, whilst we waited to find out the answers.


On October 2nd AEW’s first ever episode of weekly television aired. Dynamite colourfully splashed onto our screens and served as a way to hook lapsed WWE fans as well as to continue to build on the good faith earned from hardcore fans over their first year.

Tony Khan admitted in an interview that the reason for the name, DYNAMITE for his AEW flagship weekly television show, aside from the explosive and energetic connotations of the word. Is that as a young boy, Tony would sit around and dream up his very own wrestling shows, pitting his favourites against one another on a programme called Dynamite.


The show was presented by the commentary team of Jim Ross, Tony Schiovone and Excalibur. And it was clear that the chemistry was there right from the start. All three men, especially JR were a little rusty. But Excalibur’s enthusiasm and deep understanding of these former indie wrestlers proved to be the glue which held the trio together. JR fumbled a few lines and struggled to find his flow, to the point that many fans felt extremely negative about his involvement at the time. However, was just the beginning for the new commentary unit and before long all three men were firing on all cylinders and over the next 3 years have become integral to the programme’s presentation.


AEW declared their intentions to put more emphasis on women’s wrestling and pitted the diminutive Riho against her stories version of Goliath in Nyla Rose. The two displayed such different approaches to wrestling, their styles so opposed that the match flowed like a fine wine. I just wanted to drink more as I watched this tiny underdog attempt to fell the monster in front of her. Nyla proved to be more than just strong in the match, with the bout displaying both fighters’ positives expertly. When Riho managed the victory, her face told you all you needed to know. Just how much this meant to her and to all the other women on the AEW roster. At 22, she became the very first AEW Women’s champion in a match fitting of the newly minted belts future prestige and would go on to hold the belt for 133 days.


The main event saw Kenny Omega teaming with the Young Bucks to take on Chris Jericho and his newly aligned teammates in Santana and Ortiz. But for me the most memorable part of the match was the sudden appearance of Jon Moxley.


In one of the most beautifully shot moments in all pro wrestling history he manifests behind Omega and the pair continued their feud as they fought to the back. We will discuss my favourite matches of the year later, but for me this has to be the most memorable image of the entire 12-month period. The end of the match came when Jericho hit the code breaker on Matt Jackson for the pin. Sammy Guevara made his way out and joined in the continued beat down of the bucks.


Then Cody and Dustin Rhodes make their way to the ring to save the Bucks and it all devolves into a mass brawl. This is when the tide shifted, and another debuting wrestler was about to side with Chris Jericho’s newly forming faction. Jake Hager smashed his way through the men in the ring and stood tall at the end of the show. He didn’t need to say anything because his history speaks for itself.


With Chris Jericho at the helm, with Jake Hager, Sammy Guevara, Santana and Ortiz to back him up, the inner circle was born and became a dominant faction within the company, whom as individual members and as a unit featured heavily on almost every AEW show.


The launch of Dynamite coincided with WWE’s decision to take the NXT brand off of the Network online streaming service and put it on television to compete with AEW’s main show. WWE were confident in the appeal of NXT and knew that the same demographic of their fans who tuned in on a Wednesday to watch on the WWE network, would largely be the ones who would be interested in AEW’s Dynamite. It seemed like a simple way of clipping their competitors wings and at the same time give more exposure to it’s fantastic roster. However, as the weekly ratings would prove over the next year, this would serve as the beginning of the end for the current and most beloved version of WWE’s developmental brand.


DARK

It was around this time that AEW announced it’s very own Tuesday night developmental show, to be known as AEW Dark, where performers who weren’t featured regularly on Dynamite and pay-per-view would have a chance to improve and capture the audiences attention. The show would air for free every week on YouTube and became a place where lesser-known starts begun to emerge.



TAG CHAMPIONS


It had been a few months since Tony Khan had announced back in June that there would be a tournament to crown the first ever AEW Tag Team Champions. On the second ever episode of AEW Dynamite the official tournament got under way and would see teams over the month of October. The final took place on October 30th in Charleston, West Virginia and pitted the Lucha Bros against So Cal Uncensored as the final two teams. Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky came out champions and looked just as happy as the fans supporting them when they eventually got to wear the belts.


Both men having a long career through the independent wrestling circuit and times in TNA and Impact wrestling, where they both amassed a dedicated fan base as singles competitors. AEW making these two veterans the first tag team champs allowed for Kazarian and Sky to act as the gate keepers of the division, passing on their hard earned knowledge and wisdom to some of the younger teams on the roster. Although their run lasted a little under three months at 83 days, it will always and forever be in the history annals of pro wrestling that All Elite Wrestling’s first ever tag team champions were So Cal Uncensored.


The division chasing the titles was growing larger and stronger at this time. Kenny Omega and Adam Page had been contemplating the idea of forming a team with their individual stories taking them both away from the World Championship picture.


Pentagon Junior and Fenix are two of the most gifted luchadores on the planet today, bringing with them such a varied style from Mexico to pass on to the rest of the roster.

The Young Bucks have the wrestling mind. They know how the industry works and seemingly they understand how to deliver what fans want. Love them or hate them, having the Young Bucks being able to put on 5 star matches and then come backstage and help others do the same is nothing but purely positive for AEW.


Jurassic Express are fun and high spirited, bringing a happy atmosphere to their matches, whilst also being more than capable enough to deliver some stunning and match winning offence.


The Dark order are mysterious and as their name suggests, dark. Originally a menacing group of interfering villains, who, due to events which will unfold later in the story, will change the way in which they are accepted by fans in a huge way.


Private Party bring youthful exuberance and sheer adrenaline any time they step into the ring, the very nature of their naivety not only makes them fearless but also guarantees that they will continue to improve over time.


Santana and Ortiz bring with them a gritty realism and a sense of aggression not seen by many competitors in the division. Their ability to ooze charisma with little use of words always lets you know they are up to no good.


The Best Friends make me laugh. They are happy to be pro wrestlers and we should be too. Trent and Chuck’s interactions with one another never fail to bring a smile to their face and are always a refreshingly light-hearted break for any wrestling show. I just like watching two grown men hug.


The tag division at this time had such an incredible mix of varying styles, experience and personalities that it was a must watch part of the show from the very start. Watching as teams had to work in unison to achieve their joint goal stands tag matches out from the rest of the wrestling card.


It is a way of introducing new types of moves which would only be possible with multiple athletes in the ring to perform them. Tag Team wrestling has been a fundamental part of the very fabric of the industry since it’s inception, but in a world where singles competition is often the main way to create the forever chased mega star, sometimes the tag teams can feel like an afterthought for those responsible for organising the shows.


But in AEW, this has not been the case. It is clear that Tony Khan has fond memories of watching tag team wrestling when he was a child and has on multiple occasions paid respects to those important teams who paved the way for his very own multi-man division. With The Young Bucks in Tony’s ear, it’s obvious, to me at least, that for the foreseeable future the AEW Tag Team Championship is in safe hands.


NOVEMBER


November saw the re-emergence of the Dark Order. In the weeks that followed, cryptic video messages brought to us via a nameless spokesman confused and hooked AEW fans. Was this a new pro wrestling cult? What were their intentions and how did the Dark Order intend on fulfilling their own prophecies? Over the coming weeks John Silver and Alex Reynolds were recruited into the group as the four men and their mysterious spokesman begun illuding to the Exalted One. Their all-knowing and all-powerful leader. But who would that turn out to be?


November also saw MJF and Adam Page as co-winners of the Dynamite Dozen Battle Royal and pitted against one another the following week on Dynamite to determine a single victor. MJF proved the winner and was awarded with the first ever AEW Dynamite Diamond ring. The ceremony was presided over by who else but WCW and WWE legend Diamond Dallas Page and saw the veteran appear more frequently on AEW programming as a manager and advisor sporadically.


JANUARY


On January 15th AEW started the year off with more proof of it’s intentions for the future, with the announcement of it’s contract being extended with the TNT television network until 2023. This moment served to reassure fans that it was indeed worth investing your time in the long term storylines AEW had to offer, because they weren’t going away anytime soon. It also proved that whatever the company was doing behind the scenes was more than enough to satisfy the finances of their corporate overlord at the TNT offices.


Along with the announcement, many may have missed what was arguably the more exciting part. That at this point AEW had been green-lit by TNT to produce a second weekly TV show, which would begin to air on Friday nights and would be known as AEW Rampage.


KENNY OMEGA & ADAM PAGE


220 day run as tag team champions. For two men who have spent the majority of their careers as singles competitors, that is some feat. Something which many legendary ta-teams cannot claim is to have had such a highly regarded and lengthy reign as tag champions whilst also being able to fill said reign full of incredible matches and one of pro wrestling’s most captivating stories.


“The Anxious Millennial Cowboy” Adam Page was originally aligned with Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks during his time in The Bullet Club in Ring Of Honor and New Japan. Hangman was younger and less knowledgeable at the time, but Kenny Omega spoke about why he took the up and comer under his wing.


“We don’t just bring just anyone into our group. If there is one area where the Bucks and I have really honed in, it’s realizing the types of people that have potential for greatness in professional wrestling. This industry has no set of rules or a template for what creates a star. All you need is that raw talent, and it was clear Hangman had that. Hangman has a never-say-die attitude, incredible athleticism and a very clean slate in terms of major injuries. He had this southern cowboy-ish nature, and a personality behind the scenes—one that people now see on camera—of a very lovable human being. We knew this guy was going to be an elite performer. And once AEW came along, we knew this company was meant for him.” Kenny Omega


So, when the opportunity arose as part of Chris Jericho’s Rock N Wrestling Rager show – Hangman and Omega showed why they are both so highly regarded within the industry.


Page’s buck shot lariat sealed the victory with emphasis and was well received by those in attendance.


He then got the pin on Sol Cal Uncensored and on a boat in front of a rabid audience, Kenny Omega and Adam Page were crown as the new AEW Tag-team champions. This would be the first ever title change in AEW history. And even though they had seemingly worked so well in unison during the match, the final bell saw both men grab their respective belt as Page walked away, joining the celebrating crowd with a moment which will live long in the memory. As he takes a cup of beer from a member of the audience, Page is lifted up and carried away from the match, triumphant as a team, but clearly still his own singular man.


The two men showed that even if some animosity was brewing under the surface, their friendship and desire to win, would see them through. Through expert use of their own move-set and eventually a transition towards more traditional tag based manoeuvres, the pair retained their titles in several stellar match ups.


Against young and athletic performers such as private party. Omega was able to show that he can hang with the best of the highflyers. As well as their in-ring ability Page and Kenny brought something less tangible, but just as important to these kind of matches.


They are two of the companies top stars. And if AEW wanted to be seen to stick to it’s promises of keeping the tag-team division strong and consistent, then surely these 2 men would demand a larger portion of screen-time than perhaps a team such as Private Party would have otherwise received. Regardless, private party put on an excellent showing in defeat at the hands of the tag champions and showed why they deserve a place on the roster.


Against teams who are focused more on the entertainment side of pro wrestling, such as the dark order. Omega and Page had a chance to show off their story telling skills. Showing another side to the team, whilst also maintaining a high level of performance physically. The match was won when, like in so many of their victories, Omega and Hangman combined both of their most devastating moves in order to all but ensure a win.


The buck shot lariat, powerful, lighting fast and visceral. Made all the more impactful as Kenny comes from behind with a patented knee to the back of the head. This acts as a dead stop. With the opponent trapped and impacted from both sides.


The moves performed in the ring for both Kenny Omega and Adam Page are usually the most memorable part of both men’s performances. However, it was with the coming together of these two very separate elements, that the pair were allowed to explore the more emotional sides of their characters. This was only the start. And for now we must leave this part of the story behind, but trust me. The friendship and eventual rivalry we are about to witness may be one of the single greatest story lines in all of pro wrestling history.


“Both of us have put a lot of heart and soul into this. We haven’t been handed scripts or sat in production meetings to build this story. A lot of this comes from reality. Maybe we’ve sensationalized some of the details, but there is a lot of truth to the story we’re telling. There is real-life emotion attached to this clash.” Kenny Omega

FEBRUARY


In early February, on an episode of Dynamite Nyla Rose finally got revenge for her loss in the first ever AEW Women’s championship match, getting the better of Riho to capture the belt. In a contest that was just as fast paced and action packed as the initial meeting, we saw a more aggressive style from Riho which saw her use more than just speed and agility to out manoeuvre her larger opponent, but also a level of aggression not before seen from her in AEW.


This still proved to be not enough however as Nyla Rose claimed the victory to become AEW’s second Women’s champion and the first transgendered woman to hold a world title belt in any US based wrestling promotion.


What I liked most, is that the story of the match was not about how Nyla was born a different gender, or how hard her life must have bee. Yes those ideas are important sure, but Nyla rises above that as a performer. She shows that at the core she is a fantastic pro wrestler and a force to reckon with inside of AEW.


ACTION FIGURES RELEASED


There are countless milestones which a pro wrestler may strive to achieve throughout their career. Making a debut on the show which they grew up watching or winning a major belt perhaps. Some dream of main eventing Wrestlemania or standing tall inside of the Tokyo Dome.


But for me, when you know you have officially made it in the pro wrestling business, is when a toy company takes a photo of your head, casts it into plastic and puts you into one of those ooh so tempting see through boxes. In February, it was the chance for some of the AEW roster to achieve this illustrious milestone as the Wicked Cool Toys company produced their very first range, including Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks and both Cody and Brandi Rhodes. Setting off a whole new niche of pro wrestling collectibles as fans of action figures across America clambered to get their hands on them.


AEW REVOLUTION


Another first for AEW occurred on February 29, 2020, at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago. The AEW Revolution pay-per-view saw the inner circle as a major driving force behind many of the stories going into the show, with Jake Hager making a victorious debut against Dustin Rhodes. Sammy Guevara competed in an excellent and brutal losing effort against Derby Allin on the midcard.


Kenny Omega and Hangman Adam Page’s excellent run with the tag belts continued. As they feuded with long-time friends and fellow members of the elite in Nick and Matt Jackson. In a contest which critics praised as "one of the greatest tag matches of all time" the four men used their intimate knowledge of one another, to tag the very idea of tag team wrestling, to the next level. A back and fourth affair allowed for both teams to show off their mastery of in-ring technique.


Dave Meltzer awarded the match 6 stars and called it "the greatest tag team match in history".

The match between the four men was awarded with the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Pro Wrestling Match of the Year, Pro Wrestling Illustrated Match of the Year and Voices of Wrestling Match of the Year awards. Showing that the hype felt by fans around the wrestling world at the time was warranted. If you haven’t, please go back and watch this match, it’s as close to perfect as it gets.


The show also featured in the main event, the culmination of a feud between Jon Moxley and Chris Jericho, during which Mox had suffered a horrific eye injury at the hands of the inner circle.


At the end of the match, Moxley revealed that the eye patch he had been forced to wear was a trick all along and that his vision had perfectly recovered. Leading to a heart pumping sequence, ended with a paradym shift from Mox and the declaration of a new and second ever AEW Champion.


The most memorable moments of the night came during a heated match between Cody Rhodes and his former protege MJF. Leading into the event, Maxwell Jacob Freedman had avoided confrontation at every turn, hiding behind he henchman Wardlow.


Cody was so desperate for a match at Revolution, that he agreed to MJF’s sickening terms. Cody was forced to receive 10 lashes from MJF in the middle of the ring. A segment which is still hard to watch to this day. Suffice to say, the story leading into this match was far more than sheer sports competition.


The pair’s hatred and distrust felt palpable as Rhodes made his way to the ring accompanied by the live version of his theme played by Downstait. MJF played the role of the villain expertly, showing why so many in the wrestling industry see him as one the businesses biggest future stars. He worked to quash any momentum gained by Cody and drew hatred from the crowd with every precise and evil move he made.


Cody fell into a fit of anger during the fight and removed his leather weight belt, delivering retribution for the lashings he had received at the hands of his former ally. MJF put the heelish cherry on top when at the conclusion of the bout when he grabbed his Dynamite Diamond Ring and landed a crunching blow on his adversary and the pin.



MARCH JAKE THE SNAKE ROBERTS DEBUT


In March another former WWE legend made their way onto our tv screens. This time, the immortal Jake The Snake Roberts interrupted Cody Rhodes on an episode of Dynamite and received an overwhelming reaction from wrestling fans, old and young alike. Cody had been complaining about his recent loss to MJF and the veteran Jake The Snake came out to give Rhodes a dark slice of reality.


DAILY’S PLACE & PANDEMIC ERA


As the world continued to lock down at the start of the pandemic, it became clear that large crowds at entertainment shows, including pro wrestling events were to be temporarily banned. This meant that AEW and all other wrestling companies were forced to make a decision on how to proceed. Tony Khan made the decision to move the companies television tapings and eventually their pay-per-views into Daily Place and only allow other wrestlers and those running the show to be allowed to participate.


For many, this looked as if it could have signalled the end for AEW. The company had only just begun to really start gaining traction as it’s viewership slowly increased.


Fans and the atmosphere of the event are such an integral part of my and so many wrestling fans enjoyment of a show, surely without that element, AEW would fizzle out. But no. With wrestlers and backstage staff sitting ringside, banging on the protective plastic shielding and doing their utmost to retain a positive atmosphere, the pandemic era of AEW saw the company handle the inevitable about as well as it is possible.


In hindsight, yes there is no comparison between a wrestling show with thousands of rabid fans singing and chanting their way through the evening, but when faced with the alternative of not running any wrestling shows at all, AEW made the right choice.


The pandemic era has such a strange feel. We’ve never lived through anything like this before and the crew, camera people, those in charge of the lighting and the sound engineers had to work miracles to still present the weekly shows in a way which wasn’t just a stark reminder of the pain that was being felt by everyone around the globe at that time.


THE EXALTED ONE


The first show of the pandemic closed arena version of Dynamite saw two huge arrivals on March 18th. Talk of the Exalted one had continued to circulate as the Dark Order continued to promise their leaders arrivals. Fans around the wrestling community were certain of the role being played by Matt Hardy, so when rumours arose that Hardy had been seen around the arena before the show, it was all but confirmed.


However, in an excellent piece of expectation subverting, Matt Hardy did indeed appear on the show, but in his own quirky way via a message sent by drone to announce his arrival. But no mention of being exalted or indeed the Dark Order.


This is because the leader of the group was revealed to be Brodie Lee. Former Wyatt family member in WWE under the name of Luke Harper, this twisted and powerful presence was the perfect choice for the Exalted position.


Brodie Lee was terrifying to look at. A powerhouse in the ring with years of experience on the big stage and the indies. He cared deeply about the business and clearly wanted to be a large part of the potential he saw in AEW. He was eloquent and charismatic, and all of this played into his role as cult like leader from the start.


FANS


As this part of the story comes to a close. I want to take a look at the one thing that stood out most to me over the year. Through all of the spectacular in-ring action, the gripping and satisfying storylines and the monumental championship victories, there was so much to be thankful for as a fan of All Elite Wrestling at this time. As I pondered over the best matches and most memorable debuts, I was left constantly reminded of what brought it all together.


The fans. The title victories would mean so much less if there wasn’t a crowd there to magnify the atmosphere. A surprise debut is elevated to iconic status only when the audience reacts with gasps and cheers. As a life long pro wrestling fan, I’ve always had a strong emotional bond to this mad cap world of glitter and violence and in huge part thanks to the way in which crowds react to special moments. Wrestling fans get a bad rep nowadays, losers and geeks like me who argue on the internet about a form of entertainment which reached it’s prime almost two decades ago. But with the success of AEW in it’s infancy period, I believe that pro wrestling fans reputation should already have changed. The way in which those who attended these shows brought every ounce of enthusiasm, celebration and hatred with them to the events only served to make them more memorable and for that I believe the fans should gain more recognition.


SUMMARY OF THE YEAR

We end this period of time with AEW in a position that most detractors would have never believed possible. I have been a fan since the early seeds were beginning to be sown, but even I was doubtful that this young upstart could explode in the way that it has. We have Jon Moxley as AEW Champion heading up a male roster with an unbelievable mix of talent. Over the past year the likes of Derby Allin, MJF and Hangman Page have all made massive strides towards meeting their future potential. Chris Jericho and his band of merry men have kept us entertained and frustrated with their antics in pursuit of collective glory. Nyla Rose is dominant as the AEW Women’s champion and looks to be leading the charge for female athletes within the company. Veterans have maintained composure and guided the younger generations through to huge improvements behind the scenes, whilst drawing in older fans to their new home inside AEW on screen. Every pay-per-view has been both financially and critically successful and even heading into the depths of the pandemic, the company looks set to continue to go from stride to stride.

Tony Khan initially promised a more sports like feel to the presentation of AEW, which is something which many fans felt was lacking in their first proper year. The company assigned wins and losses to all competitors and regularly reflected these wins when deciding who should act as number one contender for a title shot. However, beyond this, most of the way in which AEW feels on television is still very much sports enertainment first and real sports contest second.

The company feeling more similar to WWE in it’s melodrama and action, than New Japan and it’s unbridled realism. But for me, it felt like the perfect blend. I feel like my time and attention is being rewarded each and every time I tune in. I feel like the in-ring displays are some of the best I have ever been lucky enough to witness, with some of the most captivating and inventive matches blowing my mind during this period.

But at the same time, I love to sing along to Chris Jericho’s theme and Orange Cassidy was a stand out. The man is the very definition of fourth wall breaking. But I don’t care. I love it. This is why I watch pro wrestling. And it is in my opinion the perfect foundation as this story progresses over the next 2 years.


"When we started, we were a challenger brand and an alternative. Now we're just a large wrestling company.” Tony Khan

Comentários


bottom of page