If I didn’t know much about Jeff Jarrett’s history in pro wrestling, the vibe I’d get coming out of his surprise debut for AEW last night is that he is basically playing a more dangerous version of Dan Lambert’s heel character. You know, the out-of-touch crotchety old guy who shits on the AEW fans every week and wants things to back to the way they used to be. Except this old man is a wrestler and swings a guitar.
There’s a place in wrestling for that kind of character, of course. The main problem, however, is that I am not ignorant of Jeff’s past. Jarrett and his “slap nuts” catchphrase come with the stench of WCW’s dying days, when he was overpushed as a main event star. There’s also Jarrett’s negative history with Impact Wrestling, a promotion that he ultimately failed to turn into a cool alternative to WWE. And don’t even get me started on his super shady Global Force Gold venture.
The point is, there’s a lot of baggage with this guy that is an instant turnoff for many fans of a wrestling promotion in AEW that actually did become a very successful alternative to WWE. The early reactions I’m seeing to Jarrett’s debut raise plenty of concerns that a substantial on-screen role for him will only exacerbate AEW’s current rough patch rather than help them dig their way out of it.
Jarrett appears to be an integral part of an upcoming invasion storyline, so we’ll likely be seeing him an awful lot on AEW television going forward. Some of AEW’s younger stars (and practically the entire women’s division) are already struggling to land consistent TV time thanks to the influx of Ring of Honor talent that has crowded the roster in recent months. Is Jarrett’s presence going to make it even harder for some of these folks to receive enough TV time to get over with AEW fans?
For now it’s way too early to answer that question, or to address any of the other worst-case scenarios for Jarrett that are already playing out in the minds of many AEW fans. It shouldn’t automatically be assumed that Jarrett’s on-screen role will be a drag on the AEW product and harm the promotion’s identity, but I do understand the concerns.
Jeff Jarrett is a relic of the past that many AEW fans are not interested in seeing on their TV screens every week. Tony Khan has built up a lot of goodwill with AEW fans over the first few years of the promotion’s existence. Jarrett’s run with the company will provide a good test for how much rope fans are willing to give Khan and AEW when a decision on the surface can be such an instant turn off to a large portion of the fan base.