10 Reasons AEW Is Still The Undisputed Best Wrestling Promotion

Tony Khan faces his trickiest political challenge yet - but the fight for acclaim is less fierce...

Orange Cassidy

AEW has been better.

Here's something that illustrates its decline: at the very first show, Double Or Nothing '19, the promotion perfected familial drama, which is one of the more difficult stories to execute in the daft theatre of pro wrestling. Cody Vs. Dustin Rhodes was a masterpiece of conflict in literally every definition. To go from that to frivolous, unconvincing, barely-sold sh*te like Billy Gunn Vs. His Sons and Rush turning on his brother Dragon Lee is almost the definition of a diminished return. Turning on a family member should be the biggest development in anybody's life. In AEW, in 2022, it's an undercard angle with shockingly little heft.

Complaints linger around the quality of the show, and worryingly, have for some time. This is meant to be the company that addresses fan complaints because it is promoted for the fans, and a lot of people have expressed concerns over the rushed pacing for a while now. Perhaps Tony Khan is so energetic that he can't get why people can't often register it.

It's wild how narratives form; just as AEW approached something approaching free fall, WWE, led by 'Papa H', is enjoying a renaissance. WWE is the promotion on the up, certainly according to the Nielsens, but is it really the "hot" promotion?

AEW has been better - but, and apologies for quoting the absolute worst posters on Twitter - AEW better...

10. The Noise

Orange Cassidy

What do you associate with a red-hot wrestling product?

Red-hot crowds.

While WWE is doing extraordinarily well in the Nielsens, even bettering the usual decline that affects Raw during Monday Night Football season, it doesn't feel red-hot. This new Triple H Era benefits profoundly from the curve that was Vince McMahon's staggeringly incompetent product. The crowds tend to get into the long matches by the end, but Triple H is in the process of retraining the audience. There's a dissonance between those watching and home and those in the arena.

AEW arenas are meanwhile bathed in noise. For all this talk of a paradigm shift, if you didn't go online once in the last two months, you wouldn't know from simply watching each show.

Consider Chris Jericho Vs. Bryan Danielson II. It was a masterclass of crowd psychology that didn't rely on a few near-falls to pop the crowd at the finish. When it was close, it was excellent, so much so that it drew a "Fight forever!" chant. Then, when Jericho hurt Danielson's ankle and capitalised with a vicious, opportunistic onslaught, the crowd emoted earnestly, desperate for Danielson to overcome.

They had the crowd from the very first second, and most AEW matches do, three years deep.

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Writer, podcaster and editor. Deft Punk. Author of Becoming All Elite: The Rise of AEW, which is available to purchase at the following link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Becoming-All-Elite-powerful-Wrestling/dp/B09MYSNT71