Saturday, April 20, 2024
EditorialAEW 2024 New Year Resolutions: Title Reigns, Signings & More

AEW 2024 New Year Resolutions: Title Reigns, Signings & More

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Just like the WWE New Year’s Resolutions broke down some of the things I’m hoping the superstars and management work on in 2024, it’s time to turn our attention to the All Elite Wrestling brand.

Some of these are big company-wide mistakes to avoid in 2024 or problems to fix. Others are a big more humorous and lighthearted jabs. There are some title changes I’d like to see, some signings I want to suggest, and so on.

As you read my list, keep in mind I want to know your suggestions, so keep the discussion going by leaving your ideas in the comments below.

Without further ado, here are my resolutions I’d suggest Tony Khan and co take into consideration this year.

Nip the Backstage Issues in the Bud

I had this down for the 2023 New Year Resolutions, and it seems like it has to continue again this year.

Granted, there’s a good chance there’s less of this in 2024 without CM Punk being in the company, as he was at the center of most of that drama. But still, that doesn’t mean other parties are absolved of their parts. I’m sure it isn’t “Punk is 100% wrong and everyone else is 100% innocent”, or “nobody has any issues other than with Punk.”

Frankly, I’d mix this in with another category of “Tony Khan needs to step back, reassess what he wants AEW to be, and take charge.” We might be seeing those actions in progress with the releases that have been happening as of late, like QT Marshall, and the increasing changes to the product with the removal of old ideas and the addition of new concepts that feel very Tony Khan-esque. For instance, we don’t get the Casino Battle Royale anymore, but we do have WrestleDream and this Continental Classic. Feels like more of what TK wants that he had opposition to before.

But I lump these together because I get a sense that 2024 needs to be a year where TK firmly puts in place that he’s in charge. No more EVP stuff with The Elite, as that seems messy and problematic across the board. While this is in many ways their company, it’s still Khan’s company with them just being the impetus (along with Cody Rhodes) and the faces of it. They knew going into it that they were taking their momentum, allowing someone with money to step in and capitalize on it, and that their positions of power were going to diminish over time as the money man took over more and more.

KTB Wrestling might end up being an outlet for them to express their fantasy booking that they don’t get allowed to do in AEW. Maybe that’ll also cut down on the issues backstage, where a line is drawn in the sand of “you can have creative control over some of your ideas, but we’re not letting this turn into WCW toward its end.” That might ruffle some feathers, but I think whether it is The Elite or Jack Perry or Chris Jericho or Miro or ANYONE on the roster, I feel like fans are tired of hearing people complain on Twitter about their booking, reports about problems behind the scenes, and a general sense that Khan isn’t controlling the mad house.

For better or worse, give me a more hard-nosed Tony Khan in 2024, who steps up as the boss who is more concerned about business than just being everyone’s friend (an outsider’s perspective, obviously) and is willing to lay down the law to achieve his vision. Maybe it ends up with a more cohesive product. Worst case scenario, it exposes that his booking philosophy has been a problem all along, it puts AEW into a slump that forces the company to learn from its mistakes and fix the problems, or it speeds up All Elite Wrestling’s transition into just going away. I’m in a very “shit or get off the pot” mood with AEW in general. I’ve wanted it to grow to bigger and better things for enough years that I’m no longer as patient as I used to be, particularly when I feel like this is reminding me more of TNA or endgame WCW than a company that will overtake WWE.

Also…after this Chris Jericho situation…it seems like you either need to do more “internal investigations” or tighten that leash to EVERYONE in the company, and maybe stop giving power to people who might abuse it. #Allegedly

Give Me a Reason to Care about Ring of Honor

Once again, this is a repeat from last year’s list. And once again, it’s in arguably a worse position than it was last year.

This has potential to be the equivalent of what NXT is to the WWE main roster: a C-show for lesser established names, newcomers, rookies and people who are past their prime but still have something to offer the developmental talent, which can stand on its own, but doesn’t have to be as big of a production as Raw and SmackDown (aka Dynamite and Collision).

Instead, it seems like the 2023 booking philosophy was to put ROH titles on AEW television, toss 90% random matches on television up until a few months ago (and even then, just have maybe 4 storylines that are as simple as can be and the rest are random), and then, when the time comes for a pay-per-view, panic at the last second and hope that people are cool with 5 hours of wrestling for the sake of wrestling.

A guy like Griff Garrison being on here makes sense, as he wasn’t accomplishing much on the main AEW roster. Utilizing guys like Shane Taylor, who won’t be winning the TNT title any time soon, for instance, makes sense as well. But good lord, when Random Indie Guy #247 wrestles JD Drake, I feel like I’m watching AEW Dark: Elevation. And I didn’t want to watch that for free, let alone pay for Honor Club to watch it!

Nothing gives off the vibe that ROH is must-see television. It comes across more like they took AEW Dark off YouTube, put it behind a paywall, and it largely is the redheaded stepchild brand that gets booked each week the day before the taping with whoever is available to make the flight there.

By the time Supercard of Honor comes around, I want to see true feuds with notable names advertised more than a week in advance to make me feel like the card was planned ahead of time, and not rushed at the 11th hour with Blake Christian vs. Shawn Dean tossed onto it and an expectation that all I want to watch is a series of wrestling maneuvers thrown at me for 5 hours straight.

Differentiate the Continental Championship from Other Titles

I’m still confused how this is going to work. Not only does the name Continental Championship sound like it’s just a copy/paste of the International Championship, but wasn’t the whole point of that All-Atlantic/International title to be “the belt that allows people to travel around and defend it on other promotions”? And when you consider how often AEW brings in other people’s titles or has their champions on other shows, what even was the purpose of that, when the TNT title and such could have served the same idea?

I don’t want to see this Triple Crown be another nonfactor title that exists just for the sake of having more championships. I’m not a fan of New Japan’s approach of having a million titles because it’s easier to book “champion defends against challenger” than to create any actual feuds/storylines. That’s lazy, to me. So I don’t want to see this just be some guy holding the ROH world title and diminishing that, this random NJPW Strong Openweight belt that feels thrown into the mix, and a new “not quite the International Championship, cause we like that better now and it’s not the European title anymore” all mixed up, with no direction.

Right now, I’m worried this is going to come across as if WWE decided to merge together the NXT Championship, the TNA X Division Championship and then also created something for the main roster called a generic name like the “WWE Television Championship”

Don’t make me end up writing at the end of the year that the Continental Classic was a good idea that failed upon execution because of the convoluted title situation not being thought out properly ahead of time.

Fix the Women’s Division Already

Another entry that repeats from last year and has the same problems, if not worse. I didn’t care about almost anything that happened in the women’s division this year. The Outcasts wasn’t working for me, and 90% of what we saw was those three women (Ruby Soho, Saraya and Toni Storm) against the same 4 other women (Britt Baker, Hikaru Shida, Skye Blue and Willow Nightingale). Think I’m joking? Just having Soho and Blue in opposition this year happened NINE TIMES.

The answer to this problem is four parts:

1) You need to have a good enough roster to work with. Far too many women in this division just aren’t all that fantastic enough to hold down the fort. For instance, I don’t think losing someone like Abadon or Yuka Sakazaki for months on end ever was even noticed by most people. You can’t rely on outsiders, nor can you just have everything revolve around Britt Baker all the time. Arguably, maybe you shouldn’t have two women’s titles if you don’t have enough talent to go around for one of them, but I’d rather see the division grow to justify those belts than to see one go away to just combine everything and nothing really change.

2) There must be a big enough roster to avoid this problem of picking the same names out of a hat on repetition. Eventually, no matter how good any one particular wrestler might be, if they’re wrestling the same opponents week in and week out, it’s going to grow tiresome. Variety is the spice of life. Show me something different. But it has to be meaningful. You can’t just toss a jobber out there from the indies, set up obvious victories, and say that that’s as good as can be while your main feud is some 8-month long copy/paste of the same 5 people going up against each other.

3) Put more time into the programs. People are going to time your segments and call you out. Not only should you do more to avoid that, but you can’t expect to build up some of these characters and the division as a whole if you don’t invest in it.

4) It would probably go a long way if you could build up enough steam to have a women’s match main event a pay-per-view. You just need to make sure that isn’t a completely random thing, but something that is actually earned. It would earn you a lot of good will.

Reverse the Curse for The Hardy Boyz

Everything revolving around The Hardy Boyz in AEW has been awful. Honestly, I think that’s barely an exaggeration to say “everything”. From the onset, there have been issues.

Matt Hardy’s debut was flawed. The follow-up was bad. Everything with The Hardy Family Office and then, the Andrade addition to that, and the 20 or so people that had gotten involved in that ever-changing faction was something like a year plus of absolute trash that did nothing for everyone involved. Nobody came out of it looking good whatsoever.

Jeff Hardy’s been a mess in AEW. It’s sad to say that wasn’t exactly a shocker. But it’s time to admit that The Hardy Boyz aren’t what they used to be, and that no matter how much nostalgia you’re trying to summon to make excuses, the well’s been tapped. They just don’t have it anymore, and all their other ideas to circumnavigate this problem are just bad.

For instance, I don’t need to see Big Money Matt ever again. I think Private Party has overall gone downhill more and more since their association with The Hardy Boyz, as the last time I considered them in the running for tag title gold was the beginning 2 years of AEW, basically.

I don’t know what the answer is to solve all these issues. To be honest, part of me says there isn’t enough of a draw to justify keeping them on the roster, and if Tony Khan could get out of their contracts and save some money somehow, it could be worth it to let them go. I doubt that is possible, though, and he’s likely just stuck with having them on board and trying to figure out what to do with them to make some of that money back. Maybe put them in Ring of Honor to try to get a slight bump in attention there from the diehard followers that are going to stick with them no matter what?

Just whatever you do, don’t try to build any more stables around them. History has shown it’s going to fail.

Speaking of which…

Stop the Faction Hot Potato Game

AEW has had a history of creating groups, tossing members between different stables, and within a few months, it turns out that the whole thing was pretty pointless. Even some big groups like The Jericho Appreciation Society died out this year with a whimper, rather than a bang. But then, you have groups like The Firm that had potential, but it seemed like the faction was created without any true members in mind, nor an endgame or goal, which meant the synergy was off, people came and went, and before long, nothing came about from this and it just disappeared and became a gag to take a shot at Big Bill.

Big Bill in and of himself is a testament to this problem. Look at how many people he’s been paired with this year. I don’t even have any faith the Ricky Starks partnership is long term. Nothing sticks. It seems like ideas are thrown at the wall without workshopping them, or even maybe thinking them out in the long run beyond “Maybe that’ll be a cool idea. Let’s see what happens and try it out, and if it sucks, we can just act like it never happened.”

I like how AEW has more factions than WWE. It allows for easier storytelling where people can feud with multiple other people by proxy. For instance, Kenny Omega fighting Kyle Fletcher is more interesting if Fletcher is in The Don Callis Family and that’s the story, rather than just those two having a match with no association. For a WWE example, I care more about watching Randy Orton against Jimmy Uso on the way to seeing Orton against Roman Reigns than I would care to see Orton fight Ashante Adonis for no reason other than to get a win while killing time for a Roman Reigns match. Know what I mean?

But those factions need to have the right groups put together. The Pinnacle and other failures show that either not enough thought gets put into the creation, or they quickly become old hat and the shiny new toy quickly overtakes them.

Give me more Blackpool Combat Club groups that just work well, and less of The Mogul Affiliates having to merge with The Embassy just to form what is effectively “Prince Nana and Swerve Strickland are a good pair, and here’s also Brian Cage and The Gates of Agony for some reason.”

Get Wardlow Back on Track

2023 was not the banger year for Wardlow that it could have been. He had lost all his momentum with his TNT Championship reign in 2022 just petering out, and when he returned, the TNT title being passed around with him involved was the worst way to handle it. Instead of looking like a beast again, he was just lingering, before taking even more time off to reset. You’d think ANOTHER return would have fixed the problem, but in the recent months since coming back as a dominant powerbomb machine, it seems Tony Khan was hesitant to actually do anything with Wardlow.

Maybe the whole situation with The Devil is going to play out well for him, but I doubt it, at this point. Honestly, I’m starting to think Wardlow might be one of those dudes who would have been better off going to the WWE Performance Center, learning from there, and being in that environment, just like how clearly, Swerve Strickland is doing better in AEW than he was doing in WWE.

I want to be in a position where I not only want to see Wardlow as world champion, but that I can buy into it happening without it feeling like it isn’t the right time. At one point, he was heading in that direction. Not so much anymore. Let’s correct that course. I don’t know how they’re going to do that with MJF being out for a while and this devil angle most likely losing steam in the meantime, but I guess let’s see…

Wrestlers Tony Khan Should Sign to AEW or ROH

  • Pick up Brian Johnson for ROH, at least, if not AEW.
  • If Mandy Rose isn’t charging too high of a price, pick her up. She’s better than most of the AEW women’s division and will bring some more attention to the brand.
  • Is there any chance you can steal some NJPW talent like Jeff Cobb? Who’s contracts are lingering? Any chance Kazuchika Okada can join AEW?
  • Is Mercedes Mone off the table? I don’t know how that didn’t manifest. But can you steal Trinity away from TNA? What about Deonna Purrazzo?
  • Bring in Nick Nemeth. He could have so many great matches with so many people.
  • Shelton Benjamin has more to offer than a lot of the older talent that had been signed to AEW in the past.
  • Mustafa Ali should at least make some guest appearances, if not be fully signed to either of those rosters. I’d lean more toward ROH, personally.

Title Reigns I’d Like to See

  • Will Ospreay wins the AEW World Championship at All In
  • Swerve Strickland needs to win the TNT Championship, International Championship, Continental Championship or the world title. ONE of those belts has to go in his direction.
  • One of the three midcard titles (ie, TNT, International or Continental) for Konosuke Takeshita
  • Daniel Garcia should get one of those three midcard titles, too.
  • Willow Nightingale needs to win either the AEW Women’s World Championship, the TBS title or the ROH Women’s World Championship. She’s above the level of the ROH women’s television title.
  • Give a belt to Jay White. He’s dying out there.

Miscellaneous Ideas

  • Bryan Danielson vs Nigel McGuinness in London.
  • Can we see a return of the Casino Ladder Match, Casino Battle Royale, and other gimmicks that were fun? I still think there should be one of each (one for the men’s division, one for the women’s division) as a guarantee for Double or Nothing every year, and that the poker chip should function like Money in the Bank with them being able to cash it in for a title shot for any championship at a moment’s notice, rather than just becoming No. 1 contender for a set title and time.
  • If AEW starts having more pay-per-views and gets closer to the one-per-month idea, the price needs to lower. They can’t seem to get a deal with HBO Max, which is in shambles as it is with Warner Bros Discovery trying to merge/sell everything, so I think $25 per event with more 12 per year is a better strategy than $50 a pop for 8 events. You’d earn less per customer, assuming they order each one, but you’d probably earn more in the long run by making it more affordable for more people. I’d rather have 100 people buy a $25 show than 50 people buying it at $50.
  • Battle of the Belts needs to go away or become useful. Booking do-nothing matches where all the champions are CLEARLY going to retain is stupid. Have a belt change hands once in a while, or switch it up and make it a “champion versus champion” setup where AEW and ROH champions battle it out.
  • Be better with the website. Update it more frequently. The AEW and ROH roster pages are constantly out of date, the Events pages never reflect the full card, graphics are almost impossible to take from the site, and it’s absurd that a graphic like the Worlds End logo just isn’t available, or how there’s no transparent true image of any of the world titles out there like what WWE has on its website.
  • Also, be better about announcing releases and signings. Sometimes, people get an “___ is all elite” graphic, and other times, they don’t. There should be some sort of official announcement for everyone who gets signed unless it is a secret, in which case, once it is revealed, then, the details of the contract should be put out there. No more guessing whether someone is on a per-appearance guest deal for AEW, signed to ROH but not AEW, signed in full to AEW, blah blah.

Those are my suggestions, but what ideas do you have in mind, particularly for the wrestlers who didn’t make my list? Do you have any resolutions for yourself this year? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!