All Elite Wrestling has hosted three live professional wrestling events.: Double or Nothing in May, Fyter Fest in June and Fight for the Fallen in July. The next event on the calendar is All Out on August 31, which will feature Chris Jericho vs. "Hangman" Adam Page and the crowning of the inaugural AEW world champion.
A wrestling fan's reaction to AEW depends on their patience; how long are you willing to wait before seeing something as refined and cohesive as WWE's NXT brand? It's hard to know whether to like AEW and what it stands for because the promotion itself is defining that identity in real time and hasn't found it quite yet.
But there are some aspects of the promotion that all fans agree on. First, MJF is an uncommon, rising star. Granted, he's been featured in less-than-ideal spots on the show, but he's been a consistent bright spot of the show. He cut an incredible heel promo at Fyter Fest. During the Battle Royal at Double or Nothing to name a contender for the AEW World Championship, his solid ringwork and psychology stood out against a lot of distractions.
Speaking of the Battle Royal, it showed, more than any other match, that AEW is still figuring out what it wants to be. Tonally, it was all over the place.
It had a butt-to-face spot with Tommy Dreamer and Sonny Kiss, a staple gun spot with Joey Janela and a comedic interlude with Orange Cassidy, who fought with his hands in his pockets. It had Michael Nakazawa use baby oil to squirm away from this opponents. These sorts of spots were clearly aimed at an indy wrestling audience who already knew who these people were.
Unfortunately, it was inaccessible to the vast majority of fans who might have been tuning in to non-WWE programming for the first time and didn't understand all of the inside jokes. If AEW has mainstream aspirations, the commentary team needs to do a better job of hyping who these people are, what their schtick is and why we should care about them. That might be a task better suited for weekly television.
Future AEW feuds would benefit from more gradual narrative builds. In his appearance at Fyter Fest, Jon Moxley redebuted his hardcore persona in an unsanctioned match against Joey Janela. But the tone of the match and the abject violence on display (at one point, Moxley dropped the bottoms of Janela's feet directly on to thumbtacks) felt forced.
Why do these two people hate each other so much? What awful thing happened that the violence reached this level? There has to be a reason for something as extreme as thumbtacks and barbed wire unless the promotion wants to assume that as its central identity and take it as a given. It's fine for a one-off. But it's going to get old.
AEW is trying to be everything for everyone: the hardcore crowd, the lapsed Attitude Era fans, the indy smarks and the WWE fans who are curious and want to check out what's going on. But it's easy to imagine each of those crowds liking the show in brief interludes rather than overall. And by including something for everyone, AEW risks pleasing no one.
The main event talent AEW has is undeniable. Kenny Omega is a consummate performer. Cody is showing the type of spark that WWE underutilized for years. The Young Bucks pull off some jaw-dropping stunts in the ring. But they also need to pace themselves; their matches are consistently long, complex and dangerous.
They're trying hard to show off what they're capable of, which is understandable. But this pace, on a weekly television show, is unsustainable. And in the process of showing off all their tricks, they are not leaving anything for a follow-up. Not everything has to be epic. Not everything has to be five stars; they should build towards that, on the big shows, instead of making it the goal 100 percent of the time. Less is more.
The overall response to AEW from wrestling fans has been cautiously positive. And it's best to continue grading the promotion on a curve as it grows and develops. Polishing takes time. And for the fans who are willing to stick around to see what AEW becomes, the dividends could be huge.