The Secret Critical Mistake AEW Keeps Making

All Elite Wrestling did save wrestling - but are the constant reminders ruining "the feeling"?

Jericho Appreciation Society

AEW was the babyface promotion.

They brought back blood and unscripted promos; delivered state-of-the-art wrestling matches; took the piss out of WWE when the fans wanted receipts; booked, in Jon Moxley, a great heroic champion that fans hadn’t seen in years and years; elicited a frenzied energy that resuscitated pro wrestling as much as its superb, detail-heavy storylines.

AEW was the babyface promotion, past tense. The lack of leadership surrounding the Brawl Out debacle; various misadventures into a sports entertainment direction; the numbing sense that they’ve signed everybody and done everything; a general creative decline; the malaise that was always going to impact the promotion five years in: the “feeling” has in fact gone. Caught in a never-ending “we’re so back/it’s so over” cycle,

AEW is no longer the red-hot, life-affirming pro wrestling product it was in 2021.

A major problem with its approach since 2022 is that AEW still insists that it is the lifeblood of pro wrestling.

In 2022, Chris Jericho formed the Jericho Appreciation Society. The idea was to parody sports entertainment and generate heat from fans who loved pro wrestling, the apparent honour of which was defended by the Blackpool Combat Club. This storyline peaked at Double Or Nothing with the seminal debut of the Anarchy In The Arena match. Beyond that, it dragged on. And on. There was little in the way of true progression nor emotional investment. There were highs - not least of which the sorely underrated Chris Jericho Vs. Ortiz hair-versus-hair match - but the whole thing played out under the same one-dimensional premise. The pro wrestlers versus sports entertainers thing was basically a pretext to do a lot of matches. The faces won some, the heels won others. In the end - after Jon Moxley acknowledged that the ordeal had gone on long enough - pro wrestling won the great battle for AEW when Claudio Castagnoli defeated Chris Jericho at Ring Of Honor Final Battle (!).

This glorified “All hail AEW!” storyline was the definition of something that only works in theory.

CONT'D...(1 of 5)

First Posted On: 

Michael Sidgwick is an editor, writer and podcaster for WhatCulture Wrestling. With over seven years of experience in wrestling analysis, Michael was published in the influential institution that was Power Slam magazine, and specialises in providing insights into All Elite Wrestling - so much so that he wrote a book about the subject. You can order Becoming All Elite: The Rise Of AEW on Amazon. Possessing a deep knowledge also of WWE, WCW, ECW and New Japan Pro Wrestling, Michael’s work has been publicly praised by former AEW World Champions Kenny Omega and MJF, and current Undisputed WWE Champion Cody Rhodes. When he isn’t putting your finger on why things are the way they are in the endlessly fascinating world of professional wrestling, Michael wraps his own around a hand grinder to explore the world of specialty coffee. Follow Michael on X (formerly known as Twitter) @MSidgwick for more!