AEW's Biggest Issue, Next Jon Moxley Feud, WWE NXT Call-Ups, More Quick Takes

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2022

AEW's Biggest Issue, Next Jon Moxley Feud, WWE NXT Call-Ups, More Quick Takes

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    All Elite Wrestling would be an even more complete product if it wasn't for this one flaw.
    All Elite Wrestling would be an even more complete product if it wasn't for this one flaw.Credit: All Elite Wrestling

    No wrestling product is perfect, but constructive criticism from fans can go a long way if actually applied. That's especially true for both WWE and All Elite Wrestling today as there's room for improvement in both companies albeit in completely different areas.

    For every positive development that occurred this past week such as Jon Moxley's return on Dynamite and the advancement of certain storylines on SmackDown and Raw, there were also things that WWE and AEW programming would have been better off without. Cody Rhodes' polarizing promo and WALTER's unnecessary name change fall in that category.

    With the Royal Rumble coming up Saturday, it's anyone's guess what WWE will have in store for fans at the event, specifically in the men's and women's Rumble matches. If Forbidden Door entrants (aside from Mickie James) are out of the question, then a familiar face or two from NXT would be welcomed and appreciated.

    The returning Moxley will certainly not be among them, but he does have something of his own to look forward to: a feud with Bryan Danielson. Their quick encounter on Friday's Rampage was enough to generate excitement among fans and set the stage for what should be a stellar outing.

    This installment of Quick Takes will tackle why Moxley vs. Danielson is the marquee match for AEW to book right now, Finn Balor's apparent new role on Raw revealed, the controversy surrounding Mustafa Ali requesting his WWE release and more.

AEW Must Cut Down on Constant WWE References to Avoid Feeling Second-Rate

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    AEW prides itself on being a true alternative to WWE and justifiably so. Its product is arguably much easier and far more enjoyable to watch most weeks compared to Raw, SmackDown and even NXT 2.0, but the AEW product isn't without its flaws.

    In addition to having a bloated roster and too many people on the roster than the company knows what to do with, the biggest problem plaguing Dynamite and Rampage right now is the apparent obsession with referencing and taking shots at WWE at almost every turn.

    That was especially apparent during Cody Rhodes' promo from Wednesday's Dynamite, when he belittled WWE's developmental system (where reDRagon trained for four years) and joked about AEW not needlessly changing the names of performers. Although it was a funny line that got a good reaction out of the audience in attendance, it had nothing to do with what Rhodes was trying to promote and came off like a desperate attempt to garner a cheap pop.

    Rhodes is far from the only person on the roster who is guilty of this. The Young Bucks do it quite often on television (not including Being The Elite), Chris Jericho has been known to do it before, and MJF and CM Punk have mentioned WWE quite a bit in their recent back-and-forth promos.

    The AEW product is strong enough that the relentless jabs at WWE aren't necessary. They leave AEW feeling second-rate, when in reality they're more than capable of delivering a top-tier show without having to resort to such tactics. The same energy can be applied to WWE when it comes to comments they've made about AEW as well.

Finn Balor Should Be More Than a Steppingstone at This Stage of His Career

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    Seeing as how he's being feuding with Austin Theory for months and previously beat him one-on-one, Finn Balor losing to the recent Raw recruit in clean fashion last Monday shouldn't have come as much of a surprise.

    What was slightly surprising, however, was the report that came out the following day from Paul Davis of indicating that WWE officials view Balor as being the new Jeff Hardy: someone who is over with the audience and can help elevate younger talent but will never get beyond a certain level again.

    It was added that a heel turn for Balor was pitched at one point and was turned down, even though that could be exactly what he needs at the moment much like when he returned to NXT in 2019. Instead, WWE doesn't see the value in him anymore as a main event player and that's disheartening.

    Balor was doing some of the best work of his entire WWE run until he was brought back to the main roster. Raw and SmackDown could surely use the star power these days, so why wouldn't they want to utilize him toward the top of the card where he belongs?

    If the report is indeed true and that's the role he's relegated to moving forward, then WWE will be wasting yet another notable name who could be of great use in the world title picture on either brand. There's nothing wrong with him losing once in a while to an up-and-comer like Theory, but he's capable of so much more than what's been booked to do lately—and it would be criminal to cast him off at such a pivotal point in his career.

NXT Call-Ups Could Add Much-Needed Star Power to WWE TV Post-Royal Rumble

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    Raw and specifically SmackDown need stars in the worst way as The Road to WrestleMania gets underway. WWE is seemingly still hesitant to bring in top talent from outside of the company, but it's entirely possible it looks to NXT 2.0 for people who can possibly factor into plans for The Show of Shows.

    That would explain the recent dark matches that have happened recently prior to SmackDown featuring familiar faces from NXT. Tommaso Ciampa, Pete Dunne, LA Knight and Roderick Strong all technically "tried out" lately and any one of them would fine additions to either the SmackDown or Raw rosters right now.

    Realistically, Dunne may have the best chance of success considering he's by far the youngest and has already made a handful of appearances on WWE TV in the past at Survivor Series, Royal Rumble and on Raw. Either way, WWE would be foolish to not put one or two of them on SmackDown soon and at least attempt to get them over.

    Look no further than Friday's SmackDown for proof that the blue brand could use a real shot in the arm. It's rematches galore and fresh feuds are needed, so it's better than keeping that crop of competitors down in NXT any longer.

    NXT call-ups are best usually saved until after WrestleMania, but if WWE is truly looking to salvage the SmackDown side of the 'Mania card, then it'll make its anticipated arrivals on the sooner side.

The Hypocrisy of WWE Reportedly Not Honoring Mustafa Ali's Release Request

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    Mustafa Ali hasn't been spotted on SmackDown in nearly three months, yet that didn't stop WWE from reportedly denying his recent request to be released from his contract.

    His initial tweet from last Sunday when he announced his intentions of wanting to be released was short and sweet. He feels he can no effectively deliver his message to the masses, likely because he rarely receives television time nowadays.

    It's worth noting that he wasn't critical of the company in his statement, which is what it made it all the more shocking when Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select reported that WWE didn't plan on granting him his release.

    If this was three or four years ago, this sort of thing would have been expected because WWE hardly released people and would rather wait until their contract expired to let them go. That said, there have been many rounds of cuts over the last two reasons that were cited as budget cuts by the company, so if it's going to fire people at random, it may as well give Ali what he wants.

    Again, this is a guy who hasn't appeared regularly on WWE programming in ages. WWE clearly has zero interest in using him in any sort of meaningful manner, and letting him go wouldn't hurt them at all.

    WWE's hypocrisy over the years has been well documented, but this has to be one of the most egregious examples in recent memory.

Jon Moxley vs. Bryan Danielson Is the Perfect Feud for Both Men Right Now

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    Not only is Jon Moxley back and better than ever, he's already found his first feud since taking himself out of the AEW World Championship Eliminator Tournament in November. Bryan Danielson is as excellent of a choice as anyone for that role, and he benefits a bit as well.

    All signs seemed to point to Moxley advancing to the final of the tourney at Full Gear. Whether he'd win or lose is unknown, but considering Danielson ended up turning heel almost immediately afterward, it was safe to assume that Moxley may have been destined for that spot had the circumstances been different.

    AEW could have easily inserted Moxley back into the title picture upon his return instead of Lance Archer (who still needs to do a bit more to prove he's worthy of that opportunity), but going with the Danielson rivalry straight from the get-go is an even better idea.

    Danielson is coming off two incredible matches with Adam Page over the AEW World Championship. He's suffered only one loss in AEW and can endure another loss or two to a guy like Moxley in a match befitting of a prominent position on the Revolution pay-per-view card in March.

    Fans are white-hot for Moxley at the moment and Danielson is in his element as a heel, so it's the perfect dynamic. Save for CM Punk vs. MJF, this could very well end up outshining everything else going on in AEW heading into Revolution given the level of talent involved.


    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.