All Elite Contradictions

Some might say that by nature, professional wrestling is full of contradictions. When someone gets sent into the ropes, they somehow always spring back off of them, the referee seemingly always becomes coherent enough after a bump to make the dramatic count of a fall, and inevitably, those pay-per-view main events conclude before end of the broadcast.

That being said, the foundation and the build of a compelling story that draws money are based in logic. Without it, the audience shakes their head and there’s a total lack of emotional investment because the angle jumped the shark. Granted, sports entertainment often walks the line between posterous and preposterous, but the common thread of logic is what keeps the narrative on track.

That’s why this week’s edition of Dynamite was a prime example of a much bigger problem within the organization, a contradiction that was a flaw in the All Elite process almost since the inception of the company.

There’s a fine line between comedy that works in wrestling and the Russo-level stuff that can make a company look foolish. The segment with Orange Cassidy vs. Jay Lethal became a mess with lame attempts at comedy. Sonjay Dutt was a really good in-ring athlete, but his role in All Elite is rather pointless. Jay Lethal still has the ability to be a stellar performer, but this wasn’t the scenario to showcase that. On the surface, it might seem like the 55-year-old Jeff Jarrett might not have much of a purpose in AEW, but for a promotion that lacks heels with heat, Tony Khan could use the perception of Double J from the All Elite audience to generate some legitimate heat. Danhausen is great and what he does works, but the pairing with Jarrett dilutes the effectiveness of both of them. When the TNA founder debuted on Dynamite, he cracked Darby Allin with a guitar and left him in a pool of blood in the ring. Now, he’s involved in comedy segments with Sonjay Dutt breaking a pencil. Where’s the heat? What’s the point?

Next was The Young Bucks vs. Top Flight, and it was the dazzling spot fest that you’d expect it to be. Make no mistake about it, these four athletes are very talented and the athleticism is tremendous. That said, are The Young Bucks baby faces or heels? Prior to the infamous backstage brawl with CM Punk, Matt and Nick Jackson were heels. The over-the-top arrogant heel persona worked well and was more or less the character anytime there was a heel run. It’s understandable that when they returned that they were baby faces since the audience was happy to see them back, but from strictly a character perspective, who are The Young Bucks? During the best-of-seven series, Pac used the hammer to get a few wins, which would imply that Death Triangle are heels, but are The Lucha Brothers really presented as villains? The ladder match last week was wild, but was anything truly accomplished for any of the characters involved?

Jake Hager vs. Ricky Starks was more or less the only bout on the show that had a clear baby face/heel dynamic, and it’s no surprise that Starks is arguably on the best run of his career. You can get someone over if they have the talent and you give the audience a reason to get behind them. Assuming Starks gets the better of the JAS at the end of this angle, he will emerge with more notoriety than he had before, which is the entire point of a storyline that is designed to put the spotlight on younger talent.

Saraya randomly turned heel without any explanation or motivation. She was quite literally a baby face in a tag match with Toni Storm against Brit Baker and Jamie Hayter last week. There wasn’t any time to develop an angle or a logical reason for the heel turn, and this was something from the Russo playbook. A heel turn just for a “swerve” on the show doesn’t have a follow-up since there wasn’t any reason for the switch in the first place. If I had to guess, I’d say that there will be some very flimsy reasons for Saraya’s heel turn, and considering that her promos haven’t been the best so far in AEW, I wouldn’t be surprised if she eventually gets lost in the shuffle, a situation that would neutralize most of the star power that she brings to the table. Too often, angles or booking falls flat in All Elite because it’s too scattered or disjointed. There’s undoubtedly a major problem with the ability to tell a concise and clear story during most of the shows.

That brings up the next point, as far as scattered booking that contradicts itself. The “get through the challenges” angle that MJF used against Chris Jericho previously is being recycled for the storyline with Bryan Danielson. So, American Dragon must beat each opponent to earn the title shot. Again, it’s recycled, but you can see the point because it stacks the odds against the beloved baby face while the slime heel waits on the sidelines. The problem is, Tony Khan booked Bandido as Danielson’s opponent. Not only is Bandido a baby face, but the AEW audience cheers for him because they are excited to see this stellar luchador with a reputation of excellence compete in the promotion. So, who is the audience supposed to support? In theory, the premise of the angle is that the crowd cheers Danielson to victory so he can finally get a title shot against MJF, but in the process of doing that, they would have to hope that Bandido, who they are excited to see him AEW, loses so that Danielson actually gets the previously mentioned title shot. This is a prime example of Tony Khan booking a match strictly because he wants to see it rather than what makes sense for business. Nobody doubted that Bandido vs. Danielson would be a solid match, but how does that contest make sense for this storyline? The organization literally has dozens of wrestlers under contract that aren’t being used for anything, is it that difficult to book a random heel to lose this match? Where’s Shawn Spears? Does Peter Avalon still have a job? Was QT Marshall too busy working on the Youtube shows to make a Dynamite appearance?

Darby Allin defeat Kushida to retain the TNT title. If Tony wants to make the TNT championship a belt that guest stars can challenge for that’s completely fine and might be a unique aspect of the program to promote, but is it really wise to give the main event segment to a match that involves something that isn’t even under contract? Furthermore, while Darby’s win in his hometown was a great moment, Samoa Joe’s run as the “king of television” was rather brief and almost hidden in the background is the status of Wardlow, who somehow had less exposure after he won the TNT than he did before that.

The bottom line is, Tony Khan should book for logic, not for himself. If an angle is going to be productive and build towards a payoff that will draw money should be the priority. On a national level, the entire point of the business venture is to make a profit on a long-term basis. If Tony Khan just wants to book the matches that he personally wants to see then he should go back to E-fed booking online. Don’t get me wrong, All Elite Wrestling has a chance to make a mark on the industry beyond just a few years of existence but too often, the assets on the roster aren’t fully utilized. That can only happen so many times before you miss the boat on the opportunity to truly establish the product. The contradictions of the narrative on the show will hinder how effective the angles are and the level that a performer can get over with the audience, which can ultimately impact the amount of money that it can draw for the company.

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Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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