Recapping the year of 2020 for WWE was the Biggest Blunders and Greatest Wonders list. When it comes to AEW, I thought I’d take it in a different direction with an overall “biggest takeaways of the year” list.
These aren’t so much just the best and worst things from All Elite Wrestling in 2020, although some of it is. Rather, this is more of the ideas and assessments I’ve judged (positively or negatively) about the company as a whole and its comings and goings.
The list is in no particular order, so without further ado, let’s just start off with….
Dark Order is Better as Losers
When Dark Order first arrived, I had no idea who they were. They seemed kind of dumb, but I figured I’d give them a shot. Between them, The Butcher & The Blade and The Nightmare Collective, I was really down on AEW’s creativity.
Thankfully, The Nightmare Collective went away, Butcher and Blade just sort of faded into the roster and Dark Order eventually found out what it does best this year, and it’s not what it originally was.
At first, the group was a legitimate fearsome faction. They took people out and were vicious, but not all that interesting. Turns out the magic formula is that instead of recruiting losers and making them evil minions that do your bidding while you’re great, the real key is that they’re all STILL losers.
Mr. Brodie Lee can be a winner. He’s huge and can conceivably whoop most of the roster. But does anyone really care about 5 or 10? Nope. I never bought into Evil Uno as a legitimate threat and now, both he and Stu Grayson are less intimidating than ever.
Colt Cabana doesn’t have it in him to be a serious and dark person. I don’t know why he’s even still in the group, to be honest. Taynara Conti isn’t even fully associated with them because it seems weird to keep her the way she is and also be in the group, as Anna Jay has a more monotone and blase demeanor about her.
But the real breakout stars are John Silver and Alex Reynolds, particularly Silver. The dude’s great to watch in the ring but even better on Being the Elite. He is a PERFECT example of a loser who is gaining confidence by being surrounded by a bunch of other losers he can overshadow, which makes him feel like he’s stepping up the ladder.
The joke, which is great, is that even if he’s able to make fun of Alan Angels or whoever, he’s still very clearly a loser compared to most of the rest of the roster. I love it.
This is much better as a cult of failures with a bad pyramid scheme, in a sense, than something I’m supposed to take seriously.
The TNT Championship is a Major Win
I’m not big on the design, but the TNT Championship was one of the best things AEW introduced this year.
The name of the belt makes so much sense. They get to score major brownie points with the network, but if they were to ever split and go elsewhere, they can still keep the name. All they have to do is change the design to not look like the TNT logo and play more into the fact that the show is called Dynamite.
It’s a Television Championship without forcing itself to have that distinction and need to be defended on television. I’ve never loved that concept, as house shows are basically dead, so there’s no need to distinguish a TV title as different from any other belt. TV and PPV are the same, basically.
Having a midcard title gives many people on the roster something to realistically shoot for. I don’t think any of us would expect Shawn Spears or Matt Sydal or Frankie Kazarian to win the world title, right? But if they won the midcard belt, that makes a lot of sense.
It’s a stepping stone for younger guys like Darby Allin and Ricky Starks while it gives Cody Rhodes something to revolve around since he decided to go with that dumb “never going to challenge for the world title ever again” idea, too. It’s just great and I’m so glad they added that into the mix.
Orange Cassidy May Be AEW’s Secret Weapon
We all know MJF is wonderful. It’s clear Jungle Boy has a lot of potential. Hangman Adam Page will definitely win a world title, if not lead this company for years to come.
But who would have thought Orange Cassidy would prove himself to be such a Swiss army knife of a performer?
The guy’s obviously great on the comedic side of things. I thought he was fantastic from the moment I saw him and I was astounded by his athleticism, too. Again, that’s never been in question.
But what has been part of the discussion—and no longer is—was the idea that he was just good for a laugh and he’d never be anything else. Basically, once his shtick ran out of steam, he’d be worthless.
Nope. Turns out, this guy’s got real staying power and is one of the easiest people to believe in receiving a legitimate push. He’s had an easier go-around this year than Scorpio Sky, which I never would have imagined being the case, as I thought Sky was an easy midcard to upper-midcard push.
Cassidy is amazing and after his feud with Chris Jericho, I don’t think I’m alone in saying if he won the TNT Championship tomorrow, I wouldn’t bat an eye at it or think it was a mistake. Now, I think he has a legitimate shot at becoming a world champion one of these days, even.
The Women’s Division is Severely Lacking
AEW needs some better wrestlers in its women’s division and a better direction for them, fast.
What the hell was going on with Allie this year? She went from Allie to The Bunny to Allie to The Bunny and they ignored some obvious feuds for her to do just for her to literally say she transitioned back again because she was bored!
Brandi Rhodes, to spite herself, desperately wants to be a heel. The Nightmare Collective failed and she opted to go into the more babyface path, but inevitably circled back to being a bitchy character obsessed with her action figure. Why? Is anyone really super engaged in that story?
They have some quality talent like Penelope Ford, Big Swole and Hikaru Shida. Even Taynara Conti, who I was VERY down on in NXT, has been pretty good in AEW and I’ve had to give her lots of credit there. But I could not care less about KiLynn King calling herself the Queen of the Crazies and doing not a single thing that would show off having the slightest bit of a crazy edge to her.