All Elite Wrestling is ready to put more of a focus on wins and losses when their promotion gets started, but what might that actually entail for the overall direction of the show?
On Jan. 8, All Elite Wrestling held an event in Jacksonville, Florida where they made some statements for wrestling fans both in attendance and streaming through various avenues online, in addition to unveiling some major signings like Britt Baker and Chris Jericho.
But what also stood out was the message that AEW will focus on wins and losses in a way that no other promotion has. Cody Rhodes stressed this at one point, and the Wrestling Observer News’s Dave Meltzer mentioned that this could mean a sports-centric approach from the nascent promotion (hat tip to Ringside News’s H Jenkins).
We’ve seen plenty of promotions make wins and losses meaningful in tournaments. PWG’s annual Battle For Los Angeles tournament is one of wrestling’s most prestigious, while STARDOM’s 5-Star Grand Prix and NJPW’s G1 Climax contain group and knockout stages akin to soccer tournaments (NJPW also has the New Japan Cup); they are immensely popular and successful as well.
Even WWE makes use of tournaments. Though its main roster product doesn’t seem to put too much weight on wins and losses, with even the Mixed Match Challenge focusing more on fan interaction than the actual tournament aspect of the competition, the Network-exclusive shows like 205 Live, NXT, and NXT UK have tournaments. At Royal Rumble Axxess, 15 men from those three brands will compete for a title opportunity at any championship on those brands.
So All Elite Wrestling could go the same route as the likes of ROH, NJPW, STARDOM, PWG, EVE, and even WWE with tournaments, which are the easiest way to make wins and losses feel important.
But AEW could take things to another level when it comes to making wins and losses matter, and that seems to be the goal, given how forceful Cody seemed to be when making this point at the event in Jacksonville.
Noting that Tony Khan is a huge sports fan and that his father owns both the Jaguars and Fulham in the English Premier League, the idea of wrestling as an athletic competition could be quite appealing to him. Cody is a former amateur wrestler as well, so while many of his matches in ROH/NJPW/NWA focus on character work and story-telling, he’s also focused on wrestling as an athletic contest, including with some of his matches on the independent scene prior to 2018,
ROH used to have a system where wrestlers were ranked in a win-loss system that determined contenders for titles, and some fans wondered if SmackDown Live could head in that direction with their “Top 10 list” last year. SmackDown’s list became seen as a joke and was quickly scrapped, because it was a kayfabe list based on “what the locker room thinks”, rather than a serious list focused around wins and losses or overall momentum.
When ROH had their rankings based around wins and losses, fans were intrigued, and something like that could do well in AEW. Fans could easily see where wrestlers stand in the various title races, and it could lead to an interesting situation where fans focus on statistics.
Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp, for example, keeps track of stats from WWE shows, in addition to looking at match time lengths across all promotions. It leads to interesting observations about title opportunities, match combinations, and historical comparisons, and WWE itself sometimes uses stats in their digital content.
But by focusing on wins and losses, AEW could create a situation where all the additional aspects of athletic competition become more important. The announce team starts focusing more on each pinfall attempt, with the story becoming more focused on wrestling styles.
Wrestlers with submission finishers or heels who go for frequent pins early in the match will have different paths to winning than, say, a resilient babyface who spends most of the match working “under” or a brutal heel who gets carried away on the outside.
That could lead to disqualifications being tabulated or even matches having a time cap to create “draws” that protect certain wrestlers from losses.
There are so many possibilities, and it is intriguing for All Elite Wrestling to go in a direction where wins and losses carry a great deal of weight. Something of this nature has been done before in ROH, but everyone involved in AEW is more than familiar with this. So it will be interesting to see the spin they put on this and if it leads to “divisions” or periods of time where the rankings create title matches, whether they be singles matches or multi-man matches.
With SmackDown Live set to head into a sports-centric direction on Friday nights due to the FOX move, perhaps “Tuesday Night Dynamite” could attempt to do the sports-style wrestling show better than WWE. It’ll take plenty of creativity, and the challenge will be for AEW to find the right balance between athletic competition and sports entertainment while still differentiating themselves in a way that may make them more accessible to “traditional” sports fans who are channel surfing.