The "Wednesday Night Wars" are over, NXT moved nights, and now AEW fans will bask in their victory, but if you were to ask me, they should be celebrating a much more impressive win that maybe hasn't become clear to everyone yet.
AEW has created the next generation of stars in wrestling, and they did so better than NXT was able to do in their time as head-to-head rivals. The point of this article isn't to pit the two shows against each other again, but when it comes down to it, AEW has done a better job of showcasing the up and comers of the wrestling industry than any other mainstream promotion.
This hasn't always been the case for AEW, but it certainly is the truth now. So let's take a look at how AEW has shown that they hold the key to the future of wrestling.
This Week's Dynamite (04/21/21)
The card for this week's Dynamite is really what got me to sit back and take a look at how AEW has built up their younger talent. The biggest match on the card this week is the TNT Championship Match between Darby Allin and Jungle Boy. People are legitimately excited about this one, and I can see why, but it is hard to believe that very few people knew about either of these guys before AEW brought them to the mainstream.
Other matches on the card include Ricky Starks taking on Hangman Adam Page, Trent vs. Penta El Zero M, and Hikaru Shida and Tay Conti in a Women's Championship bout. All of these matches feature talents that had little to no recognition before their time in AEW.
The preview for this week does mention interview segments with The Pinnacle and The Inner Circle, but noticeably absent from the preview is The Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes, or any number of AEW's original big names. AEW has put together an exciting card without leaning back on what got them their spot to begin with, which is huge.
Less Need For Established Names
AEW detractors like to frame it as a retirement home for WWE's older roster members and a place for indie guys that couldn't cut it in the big leagues, and while that has never been quite true early, AEW did feel like the Cody and Chris Jericho show.
There is nothing wrong with giving people what they want or using the established names that you paid big money for, but the whole time AEW has also been pushing newer and younger talent to the forefront and waiting until just the right moment to pull the trigger.
AEW now doesn't need to have a segment with Cody or Jericho or even The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega every week in order to get people to tune in. People have favorites up and down the card, and as those favorites continue to climb up, there will be less and less reliance on guys like Jon Moxley and more reliance on guys like Jungle Boy.
The current mix of old, current, and new is almost perfect, and I think that Double or Nothing this year is a perfect opportunity to showcase that.
The Women's Division
Another common refrain from the anti-AEW crowd is that the company has no desire to invest in their women's division, and while I myself have been critical of the lack of time given to them on Dynamite, things are looking up.
If we are honest, we all know that the booking for Hikaru Shida since she won the title back at Double or Nothing 2020 has been a bit lackluster. While she puts on some excellent matches, she really does not factor into the creative plans on Dynamite most weeks. That doesn't mean that the rest of the division hasn't shined through even with very little national tv time.
Women like Thunder Rosa, Britt Baker, Tay Conti, and even Kris Statlander (following her recent return from injury) have been able to win over the AEW faithful with only a handful of major spots on Dynamite.
I am legitimately excited for Tay Conti to challenge Shida tonight, and that would not have been the case back when Conti first signed to AEW.
This doesn't mean that AEW's women's division is in a good place, but it is important to recognize that they have made several strides forward.
So when it comes down to it, AEW has built the next generation of stars in wrestling. That isn't to say that NXT or Impact or NWA or anyone else hasn't built stars, but all of those companies need to look at what AEW has done over the last 18 months see what they can take from that.
Who do you think the next big thing will be in wrestling? Let me know by tweeting at me @robbydeshazer!
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