The new AEW: All Access reality series officially premiered on TBS last night (Mar. 29), immediately after Dynamite.
As the people behind the show at AEW and Warner Bros Discovery have said, All Access aims to use the wrestling company to tell stories outside the wrestling ring. In theory, this will make wrestling fans who watch it more invested in what happens on Dynamite & Rampage while also hooking non-wrestling fans via the real-life stories of the performers.
They certainly have the formula down. Especially in this first episode, viewers who do regularly keep up with AEW might find the introductions to main players Austin “Adam Cole” Jenkins, Britt Baker, Sammy Guevara, Tay Melo, and Matt & Nick Jackson to be a bit tedious. They do succeed in getting everyone across as relatively relatable and likable, however (yes, even Sammy).
At least for this episode, Baker appears to be the star. She interacts with the most people and does a lot of voice-over narration. Britt’s presented as a leader in the women’s locker room when she meets with Jamie Hayter, Saraya & Toni Storm to discuss the Thunder Rosa situation we’ve known would be a major plot line from the trailers. There’s some risk the audience could interpret this angle as Britt & company teaming up against an absent Rosa, but All Access spends plenty of time depicting the former Women’s champ as a real-life babyface. She’s shown being a protective-yet-supportive partner to Cole as he works to get cleared from the aftereffects of a concussion, and we also watch as Baker deals with her own bad back.
Whether you’re an AEW diehard or this is your introduction to pro wrestling, those angles — and Guevara & Melo as the rising stars looking for their big breakout moments — are easy to track. The Bucks, on the other hand...
We see clips of them winning Trios gold with Kenny Omega at All Out, are told they were stripped of the belts, and see them getting ready to make their return to the company after two months off. Matt Jackson refers to the events at & after All Out as a black eye on their career, and Nick Jackson says they considered retiring while they were away.
If you know that when they say “what happened” they’re referring to all things CM Punk, the post-PPV media scrum, and the brawl that followed? You can connect the dots and get invested in The Bucks’ comeback. If you haven’t been following that story for the past six months like most of us on the wrestle web? I’m not sure how their scenes will play.
A profile on the show from The Ringer that features interviews with its stars described the problem thusly:
All Access skirts around the subject, and the Bucks, hesitant to freely discuss the issue, only offer up how “nervous” they were to come back from a nearly three-month suspension instead of taking a pin to ballooning theories online they say aren’t necessarily true.
Even though promotion for the show never promised anything of the kind, wrestling fans hoping they’d get new dirt on last Labor Day weekend in Chicagoland will be disappointed. For the blissfully unaware, All Access attempts to make The Bucks doubt and introspection about their feeling like outsiders. The brothers tell us they just love to wrestle, but never felt like they fit at a major company. The Jacksons questioning of their place in AEW is depicted as a function of that, rather than a result of what wrestling fans now call Brawl Out.
Other than that issue, while I’m not sure I’ll stick with All Access week-to-week for the rest of this six episode first season (both because I’m familiar with the material it’s covering, and because I’m not a big fan of this type of reality show), it’s a interesting effort. I certainly can’t blame Tony Khan and his partners at WBD for trying to create a pro wrestling version of Netflix’s Drive To Survive in hopes All Access can do for AEW what that show’s done for Formula One racing.
Maybe I’ll check back in to see if the Bucks’ story gets a little less clunky as All Access moves farther away from things it legally can’t cover.