Just a heads up for this article I will be using terms such as "sports" or "real sports" to describe things that aren't professional wrestling. Pro wrestling is absolutely a sport and wrestlers are athletes, but I needed to draw some distinctions to properly get the point of this article across.
It is no secret that AEW has backed itself into a corner when it comes to rankings. The idea makes a lot of sense in theory, making sure that wins and losses matter makes matches make sense, it lets fans know who to pay attention to, and if done right can be a fantastic source of drama for the weekly show.
The issue is that, unlike sports like baseball or basketball where rankings have no effect on regular-season matchups, or combat sports like MMA where rankings determine huge matches down the line, wrestling fans expect for matches to be story-driven and have no desire to see jobbers take on champions. So how does AEW get closer to that "real sports" feel that they promised at the beginning? The answer might be in breaking a different promise.
Tony Khan Needs To Be More Involved On Screen
When AEW was first getting started Tony Khan stating that he would not take on the role of an on-screen authority figure, but he has already begun to dip his toes into the water with his appearances on Impact as AEW's representative and sporadic appearances on some of the various AEW programs.
Fans know that Khan is the owner of AEW and while I don't think that anyone is looking for Tony to take on a Mr. McMahon-type role but having Tony show up and take control of his product and enforce the rankings is the perfect way to make the rankings matter again.
To make this work Tony Khan would need to take on a role similar to that of Dana White of the UFC. Making the matches, weighing in on why he thinks someone should skip the ranks and take on champions, and making sure that every match is appropriately hyped up. Doing something like this would help to give AEW that real sports feel that they claim to be chasing while avoiding turning Tony Khan into a cartoonish caricature of himself.
The GM Role Is Proven To Work
It shouldn't have to be said but having a good on-screen GM is a great way to help ground a wrestling show in a little bit of reality. Wrestling currently has some fantastic GM/EVP characters on TV today but both William Regal on NXT and Scott D'Amore on Impact show that you can do the role without it feeling stale or like a thing of the past.
Tony Khan doesn't even have to become as involved as Regal or D'Amore but I think that just a little bit more participation from Khan on his home turf could do a ton of help to bring AEW back to its original goal.
AEW Has Room To Try New Things
AEW is still an incredibly young company, but they do have very clear goals. There is still time for AEW to try new things to get themselves to the place that they want to be.
If that means that the rankings need to just disappear altogether, they should try it. Or if that means they should do more sports-style press conferences and weigh-ins and things like that to help the presentation they should be able to try it.
All Elite Wrestling has already cemented itself as the mainstream alternative to WWE and that is fantastic for them, but that doesn't mean that they need to become more like WWE to try and overtake them. Tony Khan and the company need to experiment and see what works, and their fanbase will completely understand what they are going for.
What do you think? Does Tony Khan need to stay backstage? Let me know by tweeting at me @robbydeshazer!
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