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The biggest problem with AEW Dark and how to fix it

Pro Wrestling

The biggest problem with AEW Dark and how to fix it

AEW Dark is essential to AEW’s win/loss system, but there are ways to vary the show a bit more.

AEW Dark is a bit of a frustrating show. It was conceived of to give more time to allow AEW to build stories, characters, feuds, and everything else, and it occasionally has done so well — the most recent example of course being Brandon Cutler vs. Peter Avalon. However, the truth is AEW Dark remains, for the most part, rather boring, and it’s not hard to figure out why: Dark is filled to the brim with enhancement matches.

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On October 27th, Dark ran two hours and twenty minutes over the course of 15 matches. The week before, it was almost two hours long with 16 matches. Out of all 31 matches, 25 of them were enhancement matches against unsigned talent. That is hours upon hours of matches where the outcome is essentially known the moment the match is announced.

The biggest problem with AEW Dark and how to fix it
AEW Dark back when there were crowds. Remember those days?

The reason for this? AEW’s win/loss tracking. This system has its benefits, but also comes with restrictions and certain issues that must be dealt with. In this case, AEW needs to give wins to their talent without also giving loses to them in order to make their signed talent look impressive. The solution is bring in unsigned talent to job out. And while these matches are not outright squash matches, there is no question who will win. Obviously you can’t have these matches on Dynamite; that would be boring. So they inevitably are placed on AEW Dark.

And while having some of these matches be on AEW Dark is completely fine and even necessary, especially within the context of AEW’s record keeping, after a while you hit a point of diminishing returns. AEW Dark is way past that point. No one cares about Brian Cage vs. whatever jobber they give to him this week. Of course Brian is going to win. Why should we watch?

The solution? Make me care about enhancement talent. It’s that simple. There is absolutely no reason for the past two weeks to have a total of 25 enhancement matches. Instead of just having Griff Garrison get beaten to a pulp again and again, make me care that he’s beaten to a pulp again and again.

It’s not like AEW doesn’t have the time — episodes of Dark are incredibly long. As long as they insist on such a long run time, why not make it a bit more interesting? They can easily cut out two or three matches and use that time on something that will actually benefit the rest of the matches. No one is going to feel ripped off or disappointed that Dave Dutra vs. Ricky Starks was cut and replaced with some character development. Or if D3 vs. Will Hobbs is cut in half and D3 is given two or three minutes on the mic before the match.

The biggest problem with AEW Dark and how to fix it
I just can’t get excited about matches like these. I honestly want to be but AEW needs to spend some time building up at least some of their enhancement talent.

AEW needs to create little mini two or three episode arcs with unsigned talent. Why not have Griff Garrison give a promo, perhaps try to befriend Jungle Boy for a couple episodes? Or maybe have Dani Jordyn get on the Dark Order’s bad side after it’s revealed she’s written mean things about them in her burn book?  

Better yet, why not have a couple matches between jobbers?  I understand AEW wanting to pad out their own wrestlers’ numbers whenever they can, but if they want people to actually watch, they need to make those matches actually exciting. So why not build up some of the jobbers’ wins?

For instance, why not have a match between Fuego Del Sol and Lee Johnson? They are two regulars on AEW Dark and at this point AEW should consider giving one a win so they at least seem like they have a chance against signed talent. It would also make signed talent look even just a tad more impressive beating someone with a couple wins under their belt. Also, honestly, I’d love to see Fuego vs. Johnson.

Of course they could also do tag matches in order to get even more of the unsigned talent involved with just one match. Tag matches with four jobbers would give them all a chance to be away from the shadow of the signed talent, it would make the match actually interesting since we wouldn’t all know who was going to win. It would end up helping the signed talent as well when going up against people who actually have wins.

The biggest problem with AEW Dark and how to fix it
Lee Johnson is one of the best unsigned talents on AEW Dark and yet he look at his losses. It’s not exciting to see someone with 10 losses lose once again to someone else.

The obvious issue with this approach is since they are unsigned you don’t know if you’re going to have them on a week to week basis, but if all segments are filmed at once and then spread out over a few weeks, it works perfectly. Film all promos, segments, and matches over the course of a couple days, then just sprinkle them into Dark throughout the following month.

AEW Dark does have good stuff on it, and it is starting to get better with some polished promos and larger overarching narratives such as Allie’s or Brandon Cutler’s. But the truth is all of that makes up very little of the extremely long episodes. AEW needs to make me care about the other 95% of AEW Dark as well. I completely understand wanting to pad out your signed talent’s wins, but if the vast majority of AEW Dark’s matches are just that, then Dark isn’t an actual show. It’s a formality.

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