The Top Highs and Lows from AEW's First Year

Haris KruskicContributor IMay 26, 2020


It's been just over a year since All Elite Wrestling hosted its first event, Double or Nothing, at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. Since then, the company has put its best foot forward to convince curious fans that they should tune in week in and week out.

Let's take a look at areas where they excelled and others that still need to be improved on in Year 2.


High: Being a true alternative to WWE


This was the one thing AEW absolutely had to get right in its first year—and it did.

A portion of wrestling fans had become tired of WWE's product over the last few years and were hoping for an easily accessible alternative. And in walks AEW, run mostly by current professional wrestlers who feel more in touch with the wants of fans because they deal with them directly every time they compete.

The new company noticed an opportunity to fill that void and did so by not only offering some of the world's best wrestling but also by differentiating itself with a TV-14 rating, an emphasis on sports-centric themes such as records and rankings, and allowing its talent to come up with compelling promos and storylines without being hampered by management.

Once its deal with TNT started last October, there was a new weekly wrestling program on a national network that could directly compete with the WWE for the first time in almost 20 years. More importantly though, it's a product that makes a clear attempt to stand out from its competition.


High: Building new stars


Although AEW has relied on well-known talent such as Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley and Cody for the top of its cards, we saw less established roster members emerge over the past year and become some of the most entertaining aspects to many shows.

Young stars like Darby Allin, MJF, Sammy Guevara and Britt Baker used the largest platform of their careers to become staples of the AEW product in its first year. They'll be faces of the company sooner rather than later if they continue to get the kind of reactions they have been.

Oh, and don't forget Orange Cassidy who is quickly becoming one of the most marketable people at AEW.

Meanwhile, wrestlers like "Hangman" Adam Page and Lance Archer, who were draws at other promotions but didn't quite have the exposure stateside as they do now, are also reaping the benefits of making the move to a promotion with national reach.

This is a promising sign for AEW just one year in.


Low: Women's Division


It's hard to establish and consistently get the best out of a men's, women's and tag team division all at the same time. It's rarely seen at any company, so to witness the women's division get the short end of the stick over the past year isn't surprising, but it's still disappointing.

With wonderful in-depth storytelling coming from the other divisions, there hasn't really been a marquee storyline or feud that fans can point to in the women's division since the first Double or Nothing.

We've also seen the same handful of wrestlers over and over again, making the division appear very thin. It's not always a bad thing to lean on your best talent, but the lack of creativity for them makes it hard to feel emotionally invested. The closest we've come to that is probably Britt Baker's "role model" gimmick.

The quality of in-ring work from talent such as Baker, Nyla Rose, Riho and Hikaru Shida has been great, but the division still needs that added touch of storytelling to set it off.

Hopefully we will see more of that in AEW's second year.


High: Tag Team Division


Despite the women's division needing work, AEW's tag team division established itself as the world's best in just one year.

"I feel very strongly about saying that our tag team division is the best in the world and I don't even think it's close," Nick Jackson of The Young Bucks told Wade Sheridan of UPI. "Perhaps the strongest division in the company, too. Almost every tag team is pretty over with the fans."

Jackson is right. There isn't a more well-rounded division at AEW than the tag teams. It's remarkable how many tandems made a significant impact within the company in a short amount of time, and those that did are over with the fans.

Along with The Young Bucks and Lucha Brothers, who were already well-established, we saw SCU, Best Friends, Private Party, Jurassic Express and Proud and Powerful all get their moments to shine.

And we didn't even mention tag team champions Page and Kenny Omega, whose foray into the division has been a welcome one, highlighted by their match-of-the-year candidate at Revolution against The Young Bucks.

It's also worth noting the successful turnaround of The Dark Order. The act looked to be a dud early on, but teasing the Exalted One for months before unveiling Mr. Brodie Lee as the team's leader reignited fan interest in the team. There's something to say for AEW about recognizing a problem and solving it before it's too late.

Despite The Young Bucks and Lucha Brothers being the most recognized teams heading into AEW's inception, neither have held the championship. Further credit goes to the bookers for building various teams around them to have their own unique gimmicks and not relying on their biggest stars to carry the division. It's paid off handsomely, and now there are a host of duos to be interested in.

AEW set the bar very high for their tag division in Year 1. Let's see how they try to top it.


Low: Partnership with AAA and OWE


When AEW first announced it would partner with promotions from around the world to feature lesser known foreign talent, it seemed as if it would be a regular part of programming. That hasn't been the case.

Perhaps AEW never had plans to make this partnership bigger than it is, but it's still been underwhelming to say the least. All we've really seen from AAA on AEW is the occasional defense of the former's tag team titles held by the Lucha Brothers and the Mega Championship held by Omega. Aside from that, the only appearance we've seen from an AAA star in AEW is Laredo Kid at last year's Fyter Fest.

OWE has made even less of a mark at AEW. Cima, the president of OWE, has made a handful of appearances with the American-based company up to this point but splits his time between AEW and running his own promotion in China.

Other than him, T-Hawk and El Lindaman are the only OWE roster members to feature on AEW when they did so in a six-man tag match alongside Cima at the first edition of Double or Nothing.

The two partnerships have been lackluster, although part of it could be out of AEW's control as Owe talent previously booked for American shows couldn't participate due to visa issues. However, it's been a year since the collaborations started and AEW has hardly scratched the surface.


High: Commitment to rankings and records

AEW committed itself to sports analytics as a way to boost in-ring storylines from the very beginning and it hasn't wavered on that. 

"Introducing statistics to wrestling for the first time ever, AEW will raise the stakes for its matches and deepen fan engagement by tracking each competitor's wins and losses as the wrestlers pursue championships," president Tony Khan said in a press release ahead of last year's Double or Nothing.

All Elite Wrestling @AEWrestling

Breaking News - @AEWrestling to air on @TNTDrama #AEW https://t.co/movdS7UKgk

The company has done just that and kept updated win-loss records for every wrestler. In addition, the top five men's and women's competitors, as well as the top five tag teams, are ranked each week to give fans a more concise title picture.

Taking into consideration win-loss records and strength of schedule also makes for the most transparent booking you'll find at a wrestling promotion.

It's been a breath of fresh air in an industry where fans are often left in the dark.


What else would you have included in AEW's highs and lows of the past year? Let us know in the comments.