7 things I hope to see out of AEW this year

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AEW is a habit that I cannot give up—easily. I still follow it more closely than any other pro wrestling promotion. As such, I am still pulling for it, even though I am still a skeptic (or maybe, a critic?) of AEW head honcho Tony Khan.

The promotion definitely bent itself, but it didn't break in 2022. The fundamentals of the company are fairly solid; viewership is still relatively healthy even though cord-cutting has siphoned its performance in the 18-49 demographic; and the company is, reportedly, either breaking even or profitable. The company was rife with personnel and creative issues that spilled out publicly in notorious fashion; injuries took a toll on the roster; and there had been a steady stream of headlines that ranged from being relatively befuddling to downright embarrassing.

Nevertheless, the company just wrapped up its 4th year of existence on a decent high note. Dynamite once again finished in the top 10 in viewership on cable television; and I do not doubt that Rampage will clock in for a top 30 finish. The December 28, 2022 episode of Dynamite continued a string of relatively well-received AEW broadcasts. Jamie Hayter is off to a strong start as the undisputed AEW Women's World Champion; the Best of 7 Series has produced some of the best multi-man matches in recent memory; there have been some hits and some misses, but nothing too particularly jarring.

Still, here are 7 things I want to see out of AEW in 2023:

1. MJF's title reign kicking into high gear

Maxwell Jacob Friedman is a wrestling prodigy—at 26 years old, he has a command of his act at his age that has not been seen since Corporation-era Rock. One of the most well-rounded performers in pro wrestling today, fans absolutely love his chickenshit, entitled heel gimmick. Fans have wanted to see him as the World Champion, and at Full Gear, fans got their wish.

Then it sort of unraveled.

Informed in the weeks previous of William Regal's desire to depart and head back to WWE where his son is currently training, Khan really did not have an effective plan to write Regal out. Instead, the company booked Regal to turn on Jon Moxley, costing him the belt. Khan was in love with this idea, despite reportedly others in the company suggesting perhaps better options. The finish was fine for what it was; in retrospect, it set the stage for what was a couple of weeks of problematic television.

Khan is an okay booker. He has his great moments and he has his not-so-great moments. He's still a terrible television writer, and most of the time AEW TV broadcasts are good in spite of Khan's weakness as a TV writer. More on that later.

Aside from a good promo battle and match with Ricky Starks and the burgeoning feud with Bryan Danielson, MJF's title reign is off to a slow start—much slower than Hangman Adam Page's reign at this time last year. This is supposed to be a "generational" title reign. It might turn out that way. But MJF's reign needs a serious shot in the arm.

2. Be less like 1997 WCW or ECW and more like WWE 2000

Many fans have fond memories of WCW Monday Nitro circa-1997 and ECW's Hardcore TV. However, WWE in 2000 was simply a better television product. In fact, Vince McMahon, Chris Kreski, Brian Gewirtz, and Bruce Pritchard basically perfected pro wrestling television that year. To this day, every promotion tries—and struggles—to nail pro wrestling as a television genre as well as WWE did in 2000.

Khan has gone on record to say he was heavily influenced by WCW and ECW. That's not surprising, given that many of AEW's producers and production crew have connections to WCW and to a smaller extent, ECW. Even AEW's hard cam shot is somewhat similar to 1997-98 WCW. But where those shows had some degree of discipline, AEW has very little. For the majority of the company's existence, time management has been a prominent issue. Follow-up is sometimes extremely inconsistent. Khan does not do enough to separate booking a show (which is similar to writing music) and writing a show (which is akin to writing lyrics).

WWE 2000 did a decent job of balancing in-ring action and elaborate angles. Let me make clear, I am in no way, shape, or form advocating for AEW to adopt the tired misogynistic and testosterone-fueled sexual bawdy of the late Attitude Era. I would like to see AEW to incorporate things such as (a) angles that carry through multiple segments throughout the show—kind of an "angle of the week" gimmick, (b) book shows where the matches serve the story and not the other way around, and the main event match be the focal point of the entire episode.

3. Matches of appropriate length

I like AEW's in-ring action. But there are certain matches that don't need 15 minutes.

The match between Ethan Page and Bryan Danielson was solid, but it did not need 17 minutes. This is not a knock against either man, but Page factors very little in advancing the larger story of Danielson and MJF, especially after the stable that Page is a part of (The Firm) turned on MJF just a mere few weeks after being revealed as his hired guns.

I get the company's emphasis on in-ring action. But sometimes, the company puts too much of an emphasis on it, leading to a lot of wasted time on television. My view is simple: if a match isn't advancing an angle, don't put it on television, and definitely don't give it more than 10 minutes.

A singles TV match should have a 10 minute limit; a multi-person match or tag team match should have a 12 minute limit; main events should be the only thing that goes 15 minutes or longer.

Ideally, AEW could squeeze in 7 matches into a broadcast, all of which can get a decent amount of time to advance an angle and allow talent to showcase their skills. Hell, would be nice to have two women's matches on a broadcast.

4. Stop booking matches that are a waste of time

My number one gripe is how much time is wasted on Dynamite and Rampage. MJF and Ricky Starks had a solid match that no one in their right mind thought that MJF was going to lose. Was it entertaining? Yes. But it was a waste of time.

Swerve Strickland and Wheeler Yuta had a fantastic match this past week on Rampage with Swerve getting the cheap heel win over Yuta. Reportedly, this was originally going to be on the Seattle Dynamite show, but it was moved up a few days so that Swerve could have his match with AR Fox in a spiritual sequel to their excellent 2017 Hell of War Match on the Lucha Underground show. Great match, waste of time.

In fact, that is a recurring theme with AEW due to their emphasis on the in-ring product. The company books quite a few matches that are literally a waste of time. Title matches. Obvious bouts between upper card and mid card talent that, more often than not, ultimately go nowhere in terms of advancing an angle.

I like a great wrestling match, but I like a wrestling match that has a point. Going back to my previous point about WWE 2000—while there were a slew of really bad in-ring matches during at time, almost all of them had a point. While I recognize that this might be more difficult now because of a roster that is way too big for the hours of TV it has, a story-first approach to booking and writing the shows can help alleviate that.

It will be nice to see fewer time-wasting matches of in 2023.

But probably won't happen.

5. Repurpose the YouTube shows

Despite the company trying its best to add some juice to the YouTube shows, they are still a waste of time outside of being a diehard AEW viewer. I don't consider myself one. I can't tell you the last time I watched Dark and Dark: Elevation successive weeks in a row.

I would like to see Dark going back to being filmed before Dynamite and it be less of a squash match show. To me, 30 to 45 minutes of squashes as dark matches makes for a poor live experience and a waste of time. Dark should bea showcase for lower and mid-card talent that are struggling to get on TV. AEW needs to continue to build storylines for Dark that could potentially be featured on Dynamite or Rampage.

I would like to see Elevation move to Universal Studios. Because of the show's taping schedule, Elevation can be nothing but cold matches with enhancement talent with a couple of feature matches between full-time roster talent. It just makes more sense.

As it stands right now, unless you are a diehard for AEW content, both of the YouTube shows are a waste of time. AEW could easily change this.

6. Hire a TV writer

I'll keep crying about this until it happens. Tony Khan is not a good TV writer. Some feel booking and writing are the same thing—they're not. One is the music; the other is the lyrics.

Khan knows how to book a very good show when he's not running around in circles trying to change things on the fly. Sometimes, he does a very good job at adapting. But that's more of the exception than the rule.

That's why I feel that Khan—and AEW in general—can benefit from having an experienced TV writer on staff. He can still make all of t-e booking decisions he wants, but a TV writer can help structure the flow of angles and ensure clean, consistent follow up, all the while still giving performers the freedom to cut their own promos. Sometimes it is just best that there is a third-party outside of the promoter and the performer that helps write angles.

I wish Freddie Prinze, Jr. was available for Khan to hire.

7. More time for the AEW Women's Division

The AEW Women's Division has always been a subject of criticism. Not necessarily so much of the women as it was the way that Khan really didn't put a whole lot of faith, let alone thought, into promoting women's matches. While that changed with Dr. Britt Baker, the company still had a difficult time pairing her with a viable act that could deliver strong TV. Jade and Nyla Rose have been heels (the latter should be a babyface by now), and Thunder Rosa had issues with live promos—and is currently injured.

However, Toni Storm and Jamie Hayter, the Queens of the Commonwealth, have been fantastic, workhorse women's champions.

In fact, the AEW Women's Division is probably the deepest on this side of the Pacific with a slew of decent-to-solid workers up and down the roster. The women's division needs consistent TV time and Khan has to stop waiting on pitches from the ladies.

I really do hope that Khan ends up putting Maria Kanellis in charge of the division. Even better would be the Women's Division getting 2 matches, a 60-second promo segment, and a video package on Dynamite. and 1 match, a video package, and 2 60-second promo segments on Rampage.

What would some of you like to see out of AEW this year?

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.