AEW’s Next 5 Years Will Be The Most Important In The Promotion’s History


All Elite Wrestling originally launched in early 2019 and had its first event five years ago this month – the wildly successful (and inaugural) Double or Nothing in Las Vegas. And this week, AEW will return to the scene of the crime, when they’ll host Double or Nothing 2024 from Sin City again.

While five years is a short span in most people’s lives, for the fans who follow AEW? It seems like eons have passed since that first, special evening. Perhaps because it was so groundbreaking: Chris Jericho being crowned the first World Champion, the appearance of Jon Moxley, and the ‘new car smell ‘of it all made you believe that Tony Khan had something special on his hands.

Today, the company has a much different feel. Battle-tested and weather-proofed, they forge forward, hoping to re-capture the people’s imagination. They may no longer get the rub of being the ‘new guys’, but honestly, their fall in the fans’ eyes has nothing to do with familiarity.

It’s the fact that in their first five years, they have significantly regressed.  And now… what they do in the next five can be what re-establishes them with the wrestling audience or sinks them like a lead balloon

Re-Capturing Some of Their Original Magic

Anyone who saw the material the promotion was pumping out in its infancy had to be impressed. Not only for the incredibly eye-catching design and production but also for the impressive roster of stars and limitless possibilities AEW brought to the table. It was like a new kind of Christmas for wrestling fans.

And early on, it also featured some compelling storylines. The match between Cody and Dustin Rhodes remains a classic and the superb tag team division seemingly put on a thrilling match every week. New names and faces were being blended with established talent. And along the way, some guy named MJF emerged as one of the most talented young stars the industry has ever seen.

For several reasons (the departure of Cody Rhodes, the firing of CM Punk, and generally bad booking all around), the company has gotten stale – and the numbers reflect that. Where the flagship program, AEW Dynamite, used to hover around 900,000 viewers in the early days, it’s lost almost a quarter of that audience today. Once-full arenas are now piped and draped to hide the fact that only a fraction of the building is full.

While no one can wave a magic wand and fix everything overnight, Tony Khan must change his outlook. Or in an even better scenario… hire someone with experience to be his booker/head writer. He’s proven that he’s pulled all his rabbits out of the hat, and it’s not working anymore. So, it’s time for a new magic act.

AEW Could Go With A Youth Movement

While AEW has several veteran names on its roster, the original mission of the company included a desire to feature some of the best, unseen talent in pro wrestling. And for a while? They did that – regularly featuring MJF, Ricky Starks, Darby Allin, Orange Cassidy, and Sammy Guevara.

However, it’s always seemed as if those same hungry talents get pushed aside anytime there are a handful of releases in WWE. Those established names get scooped up by Tony Khan, and they move some of the fresher faces to the wayside. That’s hurt the product, especially in the eyes of their fanbase. They don’t want a ‘recycled WWE’; they want All Elite Wrestling, and they’ve started to give up on the product. Whether those fans can be lured back remains to be seen.

That could start with not renewing the contracts of several veterans who seem to be in the promotion merely to earn an easy paycheck. Khan has fallen victim to these shiny objects so often that they have clogged up the company – both creatively and financially.

While holding on to stalwarts like Chris Jericho, Bryan Danielson, and Jon Moxley makes sense, keeping high-priced but underused talent on the payroll does not. It’s time to jettison performers like Miro, Keith Lee, Jeff Hardy, and a handful of others. Use that money elsewhere, and let those on the cusp, like Brian Cage, Wardlow, and Powerhouse Hobbs, move into the main event spotlight.

Paying someone a lot of money to be on the roster while they’re creatively irrelevant makes no sense. Over the next five years, as AEW enters ‘Phase Two’, they should look to get younger and be more efficient with their cash and screentime. Invest that time and money in the next generation of stars — not the last generation.

That will boil down to ownership finally deciding that the plan they’ve been following hasn’t been working, and it’s time for some wholesale changes. Otherwise, the next five years will result in an even bigger fall than the first five have.

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Ryan K Boman is the author of the 2023 book, Pop Music & Peanut Butter: A Collection of Essays about Embracing Life with Laughter & Love. His previous work has appeared at The Miami Herald, SB Nation, Bounding into Sports, and Yardbarker. Follow him on social media @RyanKBoman.

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