New Year’s Resolutions for WWE and AEW Heading into 2020
With a new year comes new hopes and ambitions for WWE and All Elite Wrestling, the two most prominent organizations in the sports-entertainment industry. Though the promotions spent 2019 providing fans with unforgettable matches and moments, there is still plenty for them to do to maximize the opportunities the new year brings with it.
From roster usage to creative directions, the promotions must look toward 2020 with fresh perspective, fix the issues that plague them and reap the rewards doing so will provide them.
What are the New Year's resolutions for Vince McMahon and Tony Khan's company's, respectively, and how might they benefit by adhering to them and putting in the effort to realize them?
WWE: Take More Creative Risks
The wedding of Bobby Lashley and Lana may have been the most wild, asinine thing in WWE in years, but at least the writing team took a risk with something out of the norm. There were vengeful exes, teased lesbian relationships and a wild brawl to close it out, leaving fans buzzing on social media.
Some may have been complaining about how stupid and incoherent the storytelling was, and others were perhaps dumbfounded by WWE's portrayal of same-sex relationships in 2019, but at least it was a concerted effort to break up the monotony.
In 2020, WWE should take more risks, have more fun with their storylines, and if they fail miserably, at least the result was an entertaining product that broke free of the restraints that bound it for the last decade or so.
WWE can be mindful of its censors and sponsors while still experimenting with bold storytelling, and in the process, it can win back some of the fans disenfranchised by the "promo-match-promo-match" formula that had pulled the once-fun industry into the doldrums.
AEW: Take a Walk on the Brighter Side
Can we stop with the dark, demented factions already?
The Dark Order, The Nightmare Collective, and The Blade, Butcher and Bunny have all popped up on AEW television with no real explanation or character development. All three teams look like they stepped out of a 1990s Hot Topic store, having taken full advantage of a two-for-one sale. They are meant to seem cool, but in reality, they are caricatures of the occult, a smart mark's take on the gothicism that made Undertaker cool three decades ago.
There is nothing inherently interesting about them, and for acts supposed to be menacing, they seem to get their asses kicked more often than not.
Then there is Brandi Rhodes, who, for as smart and engaging a talker as she is, too often comes off as though she is reading some overzealous fanfic from her teen years. The Nightmare Collective is a group of women who attack other women and steal their hair...why?
If AEW is going to introduce those types of acts, it must realize that quality trumps quantity. Story and character development is key to them getting over with the masses, and actually letting them win from time-to-time doesn't hurt either.
If not, they come across as talented enough wrestlers who haven't figured out Halloween has come and gone.
WWE: Evolve the Women's Division
Imagine having a wealth of talented performers at your disposal and signaling out just four of them to highlight consistently.
For WWE Creative, that became a reality last year as it relied far too heavily on Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair at the expense of the other women on the roster.
The original horsewomen of NXT were a crutch on which the writing team leaned on while patting themselves on the accomplishments of the division, including the first-ever women’s main event in WrestleMania history.
In doing so, the creative team stunted the growth of its other female performers. Women such as Lacey Evans and Nikki Cross experienced moderate success, but rather than building on their momentum, the focus returned to the Four Horsewomen.
For WWE to successfully continue implementing its much-discussed, much-celebrated women’s evolution, it must move beyond those four and focus on developing characters and stories for the other performers on the roster.
We have already seen the women’s tag titles de-emphasized, unless the rivalry involves one of the chosen four. We have seen talented competitors such as Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan, Dana Brooke, Ember Moon, Naomi and Natalya relegated to the sidelines due to the writers’ inability to craft something compelling for them.
There is no denying that Lynch, Flair, Banks and Bayley make up the core of the division, but at some point, they must be better utilized to help elevate the talent around them. Unless that happens, 2020 will be another year of underwhelming results. That it is kicking off with the same Lynch-Asuka match that kicked off last year’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view is indicative of the stale holding pattern the division finds itself in.
AEW: Present Those Fresh Faces You Have Compiled
One look at the AEW roster provides fans a glimpse at one of the most diverse, energized and fresh-faced collections of talent in the industry. So why is it, then, that it feels like the same handful of wrestlers end up on Dynamite every week?
Yes, Chris Jericho, Cody, The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega are the foundation of the roster, but would it kill them to appear in a pre-taped segment or in a backstage promo while Kip Sabian, Penelope Ford, Sonny Kiss, The H2 and Bea Priestley benefit from screen time?
What about Joey Janela, who might be the most organically over and self-made of all the AEW talent? The Bad Boy has appeared so inconsistently that it is easy to forget he is part of the roster.
As the new year approaches, the company should resolve to provide outlets for its lesser-utilized, incredibly talented stars beyond the storyline-less AEW Dark. Otherwise, it becomes less of an alternative and landing spot for young talent and more of a destination for friends of The Elite.
WWE: Stop the Pettiness
Sure, the idea of a billion dollar wrestling company having self-esteem issues may seem a bit ridiculous, but one look at how it handled Superstars requesting their releases throughout the year suggests otherwise.
Luke Harper, Sin Cara, Mike Kanellis and The Revival were all Superstars vocal in their desire to be released or seeking freedom once their contracts ran out. They were also all Superstars who had their careers toyed with by a company desperate not to let them escape to the open arms of AEW.
WWE is the biggest, most recognizable and financially stable wrestling promotion in the world. It is home to talent AEW, Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro-Wrestling and any other comparable company could ever dream of housing from top to bottom. If the company had any confidence in itself whatsoever, it would let the disenfranchised walk and focus on building stars based on the talent it already has under contract.
Vince McMahon and Co. should recognize the embarrassment of riches WWE currently possesses and not hold the careers of hardworking men and women hostage for unnecessarily petty reasons.
AEW: Focus on Yourself
May 2020 bring AEW the realization that taking shots at the competition only reminds fans that there is, in fact, another show they could be watching if they were tired of, disenfranchised with or unimpressed by the product.
On one hand, you have Cody breaking the proverbial throne as a shot at Triple H and Co., and on another, you have the executive vice president of the company talking about the toxicity of social media and pitting AEW and NXT against each other. The hypocrisy, considering the constant digs and insults are fueling the brand warfare among fans, is off the charts.
In the new year, AEW must stop making cutesy remarks and taking digs against WWE and focus on its own product. It should right the wrongs within the women's division, continue to prominently feature tag team wrestling and push fresh faces.
Stop being petty, realize your own worth and provide fans the true alternative wrestling product they believe in you to deliver.