Thursday, June 13, 2024
EditorialAEW Rankings: Are They Deeply Flawed Or Working As Intended?

AEW Rankings: Are They Deeply Flawed Or Working As Intended?

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Hi everyone! Today, we are looking at the meaning of the AEW rankings system. Since All Elite Wrestling’s debut in 2019, they have recorded wins and losses to determine who its number one contenders are. You can find further win and loss records at the roster page.

They spread rankings across three divisions, including: the Men’s singles, Women’s singles, and Men’s tag teams. While Women and Tag Teams each focus on one championship, the Men’s singles division has the AEW World and TNT Television Championships. We will talk about the placings, if anyone else should be there, and if the system works as intended.

AEW Rankings
Does anything not add up?

Men’s Singles

When we look at this division, it’s easy for anyone new to ask questions. How do rankings determine who faces the AEW World Champion or the TNT Television Champion? The only answer I can find is… they don’t. There’s a guideline, but nothing is set in stone. All you need is to be somewhere in the Top 5 to challenge either man.

Being the #1 contender grants you a big, yet unguaranteed chance at the AEW World Champion. It depends on the wrestler and if they can remain there til the company decides it’s time for the champion to defend. The TNT Champion faces (but not always) anyone under that. When it suits, AEW decides who a wrestler challenges. Sometimes, it’s the champion who decides. There are no authority figures explaining why these choices are made. Heel wrestler’s may sometimes point out the flaws in the system, but no serious arguments happen over it on TV.

The system works to a degree, because the successful earn opportunities at the biggest prizes. There have been exceptions though, like when Brodie Lee goaded Jon Moxley in to giving him an AEW World title shot. It wasn’t bad giving Brodie an opportunity, but it was unfair to anyone who earned their way in to the top five. The rankings have never been an exact science, but we expect the company to respect wins and losses. Otherwise, is there any point recording them?

Wins-Losses 

Look at the above graphic. Does anything stick out? To me, it’s Powerhouse Hobbs. With a 5-0 record, how is he not placed #2 in front of Jon Moxley, Jungle Boy and Cody Rhodes? How come he only just gets in the top 5? That isn’t right. Also, just how much do losses hurt the standings? This has never been defined. Did you know? Pres10 Vance of the Dark Order has a 7-1 record. How is he not in the top 5? Also, Max Caster, he has a 7-2 record.

It seems unfair to me they slot more popular wrestlers in the top five when there are others with more victories. Is it because their wins happened on Dynamite? And not Dark? Do wins outside of PPV or Dynamite mean less? Again, nothing is defined. I might have missed this, but has anyone mentioned that Hangman Page is #1? When is he getting a title shot? Or are they planning a rematch with Moxley while he has a questionable record? It’s not the first time fans have asked why #1 contenders aren’t getting the attention they deserve.

Do FTR belong in the top five?

Men’s Tag Teams

Ok, so the tag team division is easier to follow. You have one set of champions, and the aim of the game is to become #1 contenders. However, two things spring out to me. First, I haven’t seen Christopher Daniels in months. SCU has quietly gone about their business racking up victories on Dark… which I don’t watch. I got enough to see each week without adding Dark to the mix.

So to anyone who doesn’t follow the other shows, a 9-0 lead for SCU comes as a surprise. I can’t remember AEW mentioning them before last week’s Dynamite; despite Kazarian’s singles match with the debuting Christian Cage. We’ve also seen little of the other teams, like Griff Garrison and Brian Pillman. I only ever remember them losing on Dynamite. It’s hard to say how valuable wins are on Dark. But yeah, it has become a cheap artificial way of pushing teams to the forefront without taking up time on Dynamite.

Second, I’d like to point out that FTR shouldn’t be in the top five with a 3-0 record. John Silver (he is 5-0 overall) & Alex Reynolds of the Dark Order are 4-0. Brian Cage & Ricky Starks are at 5-1. Also, the Top Flight team of Darius & Dante Martin is at 4-0. That’s three teams who have better records than Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler, but they are former champions who recently joined The Pinnacle. That is literally the only reason they are in the top five. I don’t think they should be, but there you go.

Nyla Rose & Thunder Rosa – Spot the difference

Women’s Singles

AEW has it about right with the women’s division. Tay Conti is well out in front with a score of 10-2 and has earned a right to challenge Hikaru Shida on this week’s episode of Dynamite. It feels like they have booked her more than anyone in 2021, but she has used the time well. And rightly so, Britt Baker pointed out that the only reason Conti’s record stands is because she has worked more episodes of Dark and Elevation.

Seeing Red Velvet’s score tells me AEW tallied this just before last week’s Dynamite, because she lost to Jade Cargill. So at the moment, no one in the top five is undefeated, and Jade Cargill is knocking on the door with a 3-0 streak. What is interesting though, at least to me, is that Velvet, Baker and Nyla Rose have the most amount of all-time losses than anyone in the division. And while Thunder Rosa came out of the Lights Out match victorious, it was unsanctioned, therefore she sits behind Baker & Rose. If it counted, she would likely be in the top three. Now that I think about, though… how come Thunder Rosa isn’t above Nyla Rose?! 7-2 is better than 6-2. Someone explain this to me?

Other women knocking on the door include Penelope Ford on 4-0. Leyla Hirsch on 6-2. Shanna on 4-1 could be there soon. What is a little frustrating though, is that we’re almost five months in to 2021, so why has Hikaru Shida only wrestled two singles matches? The Young Bucks and Omega are sitting on 3-0 (Bucks beat Death Triangle last week), so AEW is rarely using their champions in matches we appreciate them for. Is that a good thing? Should they use champions less than others? And does a win over the champ in a non-title match mean more in the rankings? I’ll let you decide.

AEW Rankings

Other Records

For a while, there have been seldom discussions of AEW introducing a Trios Championship. This concept was introduced in Ring of Honor and New Japan in recent years, but it hasn’t seen the light of day in a major American promotion for decades. I believe the last time was WCW’s short-lived Six-Man Tag Team titles in 1991. While nothing is concrete, AEW rankings has gone to the length of keeping track of Trios victories since their debut. Who are the most successful wrestlers in trios competition in 2021? (Clicks pen) Here’s the list:

  • Austin Gunn = 7
  • Kenny Omega = 4
  • Evil Uno = 4
  • Hikaru Shida = 2 (Leader in Women’s Division)

With The Elite, Death Triangle, Jungle Express, The Inner Circle, The Pinnacle, The Family, Team Taz and other groups running around AEW, there would be plenty of competition for a Trios Championship. The biggest question remains, however… is do they have time for it? Dynamite is only two hours long, and finding time for four championships is already a challenge. If they really wanted to add another, I’d rather AEW introduced women’s tag team titles, because it would give them something else to fight for. The men don’t need yet another title.

Captain Shawn Dean – 0 Wins, 33 Losses

Wins-Losses 

You might be interested to know who the all-time winners and losers are in AEW rankings history? Let’s start with some of the biggest losers in the Men’s divisions:

  • Captain Shawn Dean = 33
  • Brandon Cutler = 31
  • Lee Johnson = 31
  • Peter Avalon = 30
  • Jack Evans = 26
  • Marq Quen = 26
  • Isiah Kassidy = 26
  • Angelico = 24

And now the Women’s Division:

  • Britt Baker = 13
  • Red Velvet =13
  • Nyla Rose = 12

Finally, the all-time winners in AEW rankings history:

  • Kenny Omega = 43
  • Luchasaurus = 42
  • Jungle Boy = 41
  • Kazarian = 40
  • Hikaru Shida = 34 (Leader in Women’s Division)

From these lists, there are three points I would like to share from my observations:

1) The contracted enhancement talents are regularly getting guys over. When they aren’t used, AEW has lesser unsigned names taking unrecorded losses. We rarely see the biggest losers on Dynamite or PPV. Lee Johnson had a recent win on Dynamite that was heavily celebrated. We might remember Peter Avalon for having a lengthy match with Cody Rhodes. Brandon Cutler was thrown in to a random Trios match with the Young Bucks, lost, and was subsequently humiliated.

2) By far, the Private Party, Jack Evans and Angelico are the least successful teams in the company. Collectively, Jurassic Express has picked up more victories than any group in AEW rankings history. They have no titles, but management rewards them consistently as fan favorites. Their amount of losses stops them from being #1 contenders, but they are always floating around in the rankings.

3) Several of AEW’s top ranked women have endured many losses. Only Hikaru Shida has had success on a par with her male counterparts, but still has 8 losses to her name. The women’s division is skewed, not only because of her dominance, but because of inactive or sporadically used names, such as Awesome Kong, Allie, Emi Sakura, Mel and Yuka Sakazaki. And there’s nothing they could do about pandemic, which hurt bookings for Riho, Shanna and others. The numbers should be healthier when travel returns to normal and AEW has more choices.

AEW Rankings

Conclusion

In an era where kayfabe has long been dead and buried, the “sport of professional wrestling” feels like an outdated concept. Cartoon characters moping around haphazardly. Poorly policed interference. Booking decided on the fly. Many things contribute to the feeling that winning in a fair environment isn’t appreciated. And it’s easy to poke holes in the system, because it’s so loosely presented with no concrete set of criteria.

With the way AEW rankings works, if they want to push someone, they just have ‘em rack up wins on lesser shows. Or champions bypass it by issuing a challenge. When this happens, wins feel cheap or not matter at all. But it’s not all bad, as AEW has made us feel like someone earned their way to a title shot. You get a sense of momentum building over several weeks and months. It’s better than deciding one day that wrestler A will fight wrestler B, with the only reason given is that management decided.

Wins and losses matter, but it depends how you perceive them. To me, a win on Dynamite against an equal opponent is worlds apart from squashing someone no one knows on Dark. A PPV win is not in the same universe. How do you make it fairer in that regard? Would you change it to a points system? Would you stop counting matches on Dark or Elevation? Then there’s the frequency of bookings to consider. It’s unfair unless everyone gets equal opportunities to work.

In sports, entrants get equal amounts of matches over a season, and whoever earns the most points are crowned champions. Wrestling can’t be that way though, because it’s all about popularity. They book anyone who sells merchandise or draws ratings more. The lesser talents aren’t given the same opportunities to prove they belong. It tips the scale against them, making it a steep climb up the mountain. Those who climbed it before start landslides, which makes it tougher. Sometimes it’s impossible to reach the top til someone wants to get down and allows that wrestler to take their spot.

With that said, I don’t think the ranking system is a failure. I see it more like a physical representation of how AEW feels about its wrestlers. If we look at in a similar vein to how companies give out “Employee of the Month” awards, it’s easier to digest. But if you’re taking it from a sporting perspective, it quickly loses substance because wrestling isn’t sport. This might’ve worked in the 80s or early 90s, but in 2021 it feels more like a tool to keep track. It’s like something I would’ve done as a kid. Back in the day, I remember keeping record of Royal Rumble entrants and eliminations. It’s a dream for anyone who loves recording everything, because the company does it for them.

You might be thinking… is he bashing AEW for keeping rankings? No, I’m merely pointing things out. Is it illogical to keep records of wins and losses in a pre-determined environment? That’s your call. I think the system has its uses, but I’m neither super for it, or against it. There’s always room for improvement. I appreciate the company so much that I want to see them grow and do better with every passing year. It’s healthy to ask why something is being done a certain way.

Introducing somebody to explain the criteria and tweak things to ensure fairness would go a long way in taking the rankings to another level. But if not? It’s no skin off my nose. I know AEW doesn’t want any type of authority figure. That’s understandable, it has been done to death. Still, it would be nice if someone could take the time to explain the rankings each week. If not to put things right, but for the sake of clarity. We want to know why this guy isn’t in the top five, or why Thunder Rosa is below someone who has fewer wins than her.

How do you feel about the AEW rankings? If given the power, how would you change things for the better? Would you do away with them altogether? And do you think AEW should introduce women’s tag team titles? Please let us know in the comments and thank you for reading! Let me know if you would like me to breakdown AEW rankings in the future. See you next time.

Also Read: 10 Biggest Winners & Losers From WWE WrestleMania 37

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