Squash matches are extremely common in the world of professional wrestling and are often an easy and helpful way to establish a wrestler as a threat. However, when Dynamite started airing, it was clear that AEW was, for the most part, avoiding squash matches. Of course, there have been a few — talent such as Moxley, Lance Archer, and Brodie Lee have all shown total dominance over a local talent or unknown entity. However, for the most part, the promotion has avoided them. It’s been an interesting choice, but has it actually helped?
The biggest positive is it helps local jobbers get some good hits in and allows them to shine on Dynamite as well as Dark. WWE has local guys on from time to time but at no point do they ever get more than a minute or two of screen time and are lucky to get any offense in at all. However, with AEW being so willing to bring in local talent it helps showcase new people and allows people to see talent they may not have seen before. I myself have looked into a couple people I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t seen them on AEW, including one of my new favorite indie wrestlers, the zombie wrestler Abadon.
The other positive that comes from the lack of squash matches is that when there is a squash, it means something. It’s the same mentality as protected finishers — when someone does kick out of them, it is a huge deal. So Moxley absolutely dominating someone in 15 seconds is much more impactful since no one else seems to be able to do that.
At least, this is true in theory. The problem here however is that AEW is not in a vacuum. If they were the only wrestling promotion around, I believe this lack of squash match theory would be more likely to hold up. Yet AEW is not alone. Most other promotions do have squash matches and they do them often. WWE loves to do them when building someone. How many weeks in a row this year did we see Rowan absolutely demolish someone? And those were around the same time as McIntyre being repackaged, when he also was doing squash matches every week as well. Lars Sullivan also would come on every week and destroy a jobber back in 2019 (until he disappeared due to injury/controversy).
The fictional world of pro wrestling isn’t the only medium that has short, one-sided matches, of course: a large amount of UFC fights only go one round. This is not to say that pro wrestling needs to mirror reality one for one, but when reality as well as other pro wrestling promotions have a lot of shorter matches it’s going to be harder to establish a new sort of internal logic to your own promotion with regards to squash matches. When your fictional world is supposed to be part of the real world, it helps to follow the real world as closely as possible.
Honestly, the only reason why squash matches have garnered my attention in AEW is because of the obvious lack of them, not because they have been more impactful than any other squash match.
Another negative is that this lack of squash matches has created an interesting dynamic: it establishes an idea that in AEW you have to earn a win every single time. While in some matches it’s pretty obvious who will win, it still conveys a sense that even the best of the best must work to put away enhancement talent. It seems make the skill gap a lot smaller, and while you could debate that it makes each match more interesting, it does seem to diminish the kayfabe ability of the wrestlers.
Jericho has been on commentary trying to explain why Kenny Omega, often cited as the best wrestler in the world, is taking more than five minutes to put away a local enhancement talent. Granted, he is Chris Jericho so he’s not doing a bad job whatsoever, but it is an odd situation for him to be placed in, where he has to say over and over again that Kenny is just toying with his opponent.
Granted, the amount of jobber matches have gone up due to pandemic, and the need to fill time. This is not something you can really blame them for, but a more creative methos could be found — perhaps tag matches with one jobber on each side? Small plots between local talent to build them up a bit if they’re going to be there for a while anyway? Whatever the choice would be though, the outcome would most likely not be as ideal as just being able to have all your talent there in the first place.
All of this is not to say that squash matches should be used as much as they are on other promotions. That’s a completely different subject. The issue here is simply that AEW’s creative decision to limit the amount of squash matches seems to be an active choice. And while it is an interesting choice, they may benefit from a little bit more of them thrown into the mix.
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