Ever since AEW’s Winter is Coming episode, AEW has felt exciting, like anything could happen. This feeling was only intensified when KENTA appeared on Dynamite. Everyone is having fun imagining all the possible interleague matchups that could happen and all of the possible interweaving plot lines we could see. I’m just as excited as everyone else, but there are some possible downsides to all this cross promotion shenanigans; some things AEW needs to avoid. So, let’s put a wet rag on everything for a little bit and look at what AEW needs to avoid to ensure they keep up this excitement.
First off, AEW cannot overlook their own roster. They need to remember that one of their biggest priorities is making sure to build up their own roster. I am slightly afraid that AEW may get distracted from all the talent they have on hand in favor of shiny toys from other promotions. AEW’s goal should be longevity — working to build something for themselves. It cannot do that with another promotion’s wrestlers. Their first priority is to make sure that they are giving their wrestlers ample screen time, giving them good angles and continuing to establish them well.
The worst case scenario is that Tony Khan and friends push out their own lower card roster too much and AEW becomes nothing but just a place for different promotions to showcase their own rosters. Similar sentiments were expressed by some wrestlers on IMPACT when Kenny first showed up to the show. Although it was part of kayfabe, it was a legitimate concern.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that just because of what AEW has done in the past two months means that this is where they are headed. No, I am more just looking at worst case scenarios here. It is still a possibility that we see some version of this in the future, though.
Another possible issue that may crop up is they may spread out their plot over too many different shows. AEW averages 700k to 800k viewers per week. Those viewers are not all diehard wrestling fans who keep up with NJPW and IMPACT, nor are they all ready to do so on the drop of a dime. AEW needs to make sure not to alienate their audience by keeping all important plots/feuds which directly impact their show to… well… their show; or at the very least heavily recap any action which may occur outside of Dynamite.
Both of the two other shows involve different ways of accessing them, each with their own associated cost. You have to watch IMPACT on Twitch or subscribe to their site. NJPW also requires you to pay a subscription service. It’s not all in one easy bite size chunk over on YouTube, so it is absolutely necessary that AEW doesn’t require any homework and keeps their casual fan base in mind first and foremost.
So far IMPACT and Dynamite has gotten around this by simply having Kenny and the other old Bullet Club members cut similar promos on both shows. It works, although it isn’t ideal, and we already have seen that it’s not sustainable the moment we have actual matches involved. It’s hard to just recreate the same match again on two shows and it feels even more redundant than two similar promos. A nice balance is going to have to be found.
Lastly, the thing I think is most likely to happen is that AEW will just overuse this shiny new toy of cross promotion feuds. So far it has made for amazingly fun “what ifs”, but if over used too much, the same level of excitement from KENTA appearing will be hard to match. This is pretty obvious, but I’ll say it anyway: surprises are best when they’re not the norm. Too much interaction between promotions will make it so that same level of excitement when someone from another promotion pops up is lowered drastically.
So how to handle these issues? Well, I think IMPACT did a great job of this back during the Hardys’ Expedition of Gold. While the Hardys toured around the country and fought in different indie promotions for their tag titles, IMPACT would play a clip show every week of their exploits. This allowed for each match to be easily cut up into fun montages. Anything with more weight to it may need a different approach though, which is where we run into problems.
NJPW has, of course, had their fair share of wrestlers from other promotions come in, as is the reason for KENTA’s attack last Wednesday. However, until now they have kept those feuds purely to their show. Any NJPW plot is usually confined to NJPW. Likewise, anything that may happen to someone in NJPW isn’t needed information to understand any concurrent plot lines in different promotions.
So we can’t really look to the way NJPW has done it as a model for how to handle these things either, as they too are now outside of their own comfort zone.
So what’s the easiest way to avoid all these possible issues? The simple answer is just make sure to keep these interactions are occasional things, not to make it a regular occurrence. Perhaps just a couple feuds per year. However, that isn’t a hard rule, because I think the different promotions could honestly do an amazing all-out invasion angle for a month or two while still avoiding these pitfalls. So in the end, the real advice is more nebulous: be careful, read the room, know when to be more liberal and when to be more conservative. This way, the new world that these promotions have opened a door to can be the best it can be.
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