(That's a silly wordplay, but it works!)
Much like this piece on The Elite, I'm sure this is an unpopular opinion that will generate some letters. And that's okay. I get it. But I need to talk about a very specific issue with AEW that bothers me.
If they've brought in a guy from New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), or if someone has made their name over there before coming to AEW, there is a good chance I am not entertained by them.
This is not to say that the rassler in question isn't talented. It's clear that they have something to offer if two companies have cared enough to use them on TV. But this notion that I should a) know who someone from NJPW is and b) instantly be a mark for him is a longstanding gripe with AEW for me.
"But Pat, we have the Internet. You can watch matches from anyone at any time." You are correct. But the onus should not fall on me, the viewer, to get myself to care about a wrestler. It is the responsibility of the promotion to show me why I should invest in characters and segments on the show.
I do not watch NJPW. I barely have time to watch WWE and AEW. Unless someone wrestled in America somewhere, I've probably never seen their work. It is a big reason why I have no affinity for Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks.
Saying that, let's take a quick sidebar:
Every time I watch AEW, someone will remark that Kenny is the best wrestler in the world. They'll say that the Young Bucks are the best tag team in the world. It has been four years and I just don't see it.
Are they talented? Of course. But if I wanted to watch a good Young Bucks match, I would watch the Motor City Machine Guns. And there are a number of singles guys I prefer to watch over Kenny Omega.
Those three are just too hokey for me to take seriously. And I have yet to see anything from them to change that opinion.
And we're back. I would bet that I'm not the only AEW viewer who does not follow NJPW. So when you (as a promoter) bring in someone like Jay White to be "a guy?" You have to know that people watching the show may have no idea who he is. The crowd getting excited for his appearance is great, but you can't expect people to immediately scour YouTube after the show to learn why he got that reaction. It is on the promotion to show why we should care about him right now.
I was chatting with friends about this during Dynamite the other day and one said he also can't get excited for the Japan guys because he hasn't seen their work. A counterpoint was that these people appeared on the last Forbidden Door. That event took place on June 26, 2022. How is someone expected to recall that specific person appearing at one event a year ago? Especially when so much happens in just a week in AEW.
If you want fans to get excited about feuds and matches, you need to show them why these people are important. Having them show up for a few minutes on the go-home Dynamite isn't enough. People in the crowd popping for these guys is a great visual. But it won't move the needle if fans at home have no connection.
So what am I really saying here? That once again, I'm in the minority and wrestling fans can be annoying? Yes. But also? I would love to be able to connect with all of these wrestlers who are being featured on Dynamite and Collision these days. But I don't have the time to find more shows to watch after I'm done catching up on current ones.
If the company can't take a few minutes to highlight a guy like Kazuchika Okada and why I should maybe root for him over Bryan Danielson, then what are we doing? Why am I, the viewer, being given a side quest? That information should be made available so I can potentially get excited about everyone on the card.
I do plan on watching Forbidden Door because we always watch AEW with friends. And I am looking forward to seeing the AEW guys compete. But if the company had taken a little extra time to show me how good these NJPW guys are, I can't help but wonder how much more excited I would be.