The AEW ranking system seems to come up for debate in two specific circumstances. The first is when someone from outside the top five ranked competitors is pegged for a title opportunity. The second is whenever an AEW fan wants to brag about how "AEW has real sports feel that WWE just doesn't have". Both of these circumstances present valid criticisms and support for the ranking system used by All Elite Wrestling, and both really seem to represent two different philosophies on how a company should book their matches. So let's dive into those philosophies and look at three arguments for and three arguments against AEW's ranking system!
For: The System Makes Wins and Losses Matter More
This is not to say that wins and losses don't matter in companies that lack a ranking system, but AEW displays a wrestler's win-loss record on-screen before all of their matches. That means that if I guy with a 3-15 win-loss record walked on to take on the champion, you know that guy has no chance in hell of winning. By extension, this means that you're top guys need to have records that reflect that of the top guys.
Other companies might have two wrestlers go back and forth trading wins and losses leading to a big blow-off at the next pay per view, but if you saw the records of those guys you might end up losing a certain sense of realism.
The best example of how wins and losses matter in AEW was the recent match between AEW World Champion, Jon Moxley, and MJF. This match saw two guys who had yet to be pinned in AEW facing off for the first time. This gave that match a huge feel and really upped the ante.
Against: A Ranking System Hinders Booking
The fact of the matter is that if you track wins and losses in order to form a ranking list, you have to have winners and losers in your company. In other companies, you can have people go back and forth trading wins and losses, AEW has to have a solid roster of "jobbers" to help boost the profile of acts that they want to push, or they have to deal a loss out to one of their other high priority acts.
In order to try and fix the issue, AEW has huge overbooked episodes of dark so that they can balance out losses given to bigger wrestlers and tag-teams on Dynamite. Getting rid of the ranking system would make it easier for Tony Khan and company to tell the stories they want to tell while not being held back by making the numbers make sense.
For: Rankings Give New Fans a Quick Jumping Off Point For Getting Into AEW
Let's say for a moment that you know nothing about AEW, maybe you don't even know anything about professional wrestling. You've heard the buzz around Dynamite and decide you might check it out next week. Going into the show knowing what the title scene looks like without having to get weeks and weeks of backstory handed to you in recap videos is a huge plus for the uninitiated.
A great analogy for this argument is the NFL. People who don't follow football are typically aware of their hometown team and at the very least the New England Patriots. Knowing which teams are doing well even if you don't know anything else about the teams gives you some idea of how any game will go between two teams. The same can apply to a newcomer looking at AEW's rankings before their first episode of Dynamite.
If I know that AEW has an undefeated champion, I begin to look forward to seeing one of these other guys on the list challenge for the title. It is an easy way to get your bearings if you're a newcomer, and getting new people into wrestling is always a good thing.
Against: Rankings Make Surprise Challengers Feel Wasted
Look despite the impressions that AEW debuts of Eddie Kingston and Thunder Rosa made on the audience. We all knew that there was no chance that an unranked or unsigned wrestler was going to take the belts off of established champions. Even Eddie Kingston's most recent shot at the AEW World Championship was hindered by the fact that Kingston was nowhere near the top 5.
A company without rankings can give you huge surprise title changes and debuts that feel like they came out of nowhere. If you did this kind of thing in AEW it would feel like the top guys were pushed for no reason or that lower guys was getting undeserved shots.
I am all here for underdog stories and I'd love to see some surprise title changes, but it doesn't really feel like that will happen when you look and see how the ranking system pulls back the curtain on who is getting pushed.
For: The System Can Be Tweaked
The rankings system is not set in stone. AEW has the ability to change how they look at their rankings system and make it achieve what they want to. The TNT title could be removed from the rankings system and just be booked by Tony Khan as a rankless title. They could remove the win-loss element and just power rank similar to NCAA rankings. The options are endless.
Saying that the rankings system needs to go is ignoring all of the good things about it in favor of creating a more familiar wrestling company. AEW can change the system for the better.
Against: The System Hurts Mid-Card Talent
With a ranking system, there is no real reward for being a solid worker in AEW. Sure, you might sit around the bottom of the top 5 for a few weeks in a row and gets some exciting wins, but you will likely never earn a title shot on a big pay per view, or have a title of your own.
Mid-card talent will be kept firmly in the mid-card if they are not given the chances they deserve or are not given a title of their own. Instead, solid workers will continue to be good go-to guys for booking the new act that is climbing up the ladder to their top spot. Sure, there are ways to fix this such as creating a mid-card title, but guys with pretty much even records will always stay right where they are never really sniffing the opportunities they deserve.
What do you think? Does AEW have an issue with their ranking system? Let me know by tweeting at me @robbydeshazer!
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