Obligatory preface: I'm a big AEW mark. There is no shortage of things to enjoy about AEW right now, but I found myself eye-rolling more than usual during this week's Dynamite. Here's a quick rundown of things I'm not liking.
The women's division is a joke. There is too much talent in AEW's women division for it to be so irrelevant. Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa are in the middle of an awesome feud but that is the only thing of note in the entire division. Anna Jay, Tay Conti, Big Swole, Nyla Rose, and women's champion Hikaru Shida are all extremely talented, as are Leva Bates, Mel, Kris Statlander, Jade Cargill, and NWA women's champion Serena Deeb. There's simply too much there for the product to be this lame. Wednesday's Dynamite saw one women's match: Penelope Ford vs. Leyla Hirsch.
Miro is being wasted, again. Miro is so talented and it felt like his arrival in AEW might finally spell the end of irreverence for the Bulgarian. When WWE debuted Rusev in 2014, he was incredibly strong. His United States champion reign was a long one and by the time he was actually pinned clean in a WWE ring, Rusev had already been on TV for a couple of years. But when Rusev exited WWE he had been embroiled in a series of silly storylines, the worst of which saw him a controlling sex addict. In his final match he teamed with Humberto Carillo for a loss. Now AEW has placed him with Kip Sabian, AEW's "Best Man". The relationship is a weird one and I know I'm not the only fan hungry for this storyline to be over. Sabian and Penelope's Ford "wedding" is mercifully two weeks away. Here's to hoping AEW can find a way to make Miro interesting again. A gifted heel with natural ring abilities, I don't believe I'm the only one who thinks Miro's natural place is on top of the card.
Where are the title defenses? The Young Bucks won the tag titles on November 7th and have defended the titles twice since. This isn't a terrible defense rate, roughly one per month, but when you consider those matches were against Top Flight and The Acclaimed, two young and talented tag teams that AEW would never put the straps on. Kenny Omega won the World Championship belt on December 2nd and has defended it once. This isn't new for AEW. There were only 11 title matches in 2020, but five of them came in a 2 month span from September 5th to November 7th. And with no title match scheduled for Beach Break on January 25th, it looks like the next World Title match will be February 27th. Like Kenny Omega, Darby Allin has only defended his TNT title once, only he won his a month earlier, on November 7th. What a sharp turn this TNT title has taken. In less than six months of existence the TNT belt had been defended more times than the AEW World Championship in its existence, but since the transfer to Darby, the TNT belt seems destined for the same fate as the main strap. I don't lust for title meaningless title matches and AEW is great at making sure most titles matches mean something. But there has only been one men's title match, singles or doubles, since November 7th that a reasonable viewer would consider an actual challenge (Darby Allin vs. Brian Cage on January 13th's Dynamite). And with no title matches on the horizon, it's hard pressed to see how any titles will be defended before February 27th's PPV.
There's certainly more to nitpick with AEW. AEW Dark should be a lot better than it is. The re-branding of normal Dynamite's to marquee shows with marketable names devalues a regular weekly airing of their flagship show. The original Bullet Club is still alive in NJPW but Kenny Omega doesn't care. AEW Heels is a paid service but AEW seems uninterested in marketing whatever exactly Heels is. They continue to sign young tag teams while negligently utilizing the current talent they have in the division.
AEW is good and the product, for this writer at least, is much more visually satisfying than WWE. The writing is better and the athletes are just as talented. But the niche has worn off for fans such as myself, who at one point simply enjoyed watching wrestling with a solid production value that wasn't WWE. There's no longer a free pass. AEW is a year and half into this thing but they're having their second really dull winter season. The invasion angle is strong, but we've been watching the Inner Circle for 18 months now. By putting MJF with Chris Jericho, they've hijacked the fastest rising star in wrestling. MJF is stealing the angle, because that's what he does, but it sure feels like they're using five stars in the Inner Circle to put over one star in MJF.