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Last Wednesday, AEW shocked fans by having the Young Bucks lose in the opening round of the tournament to crown the company's inaugural Tag Team Champions. The Young Bucks were heavy favorites not only to win the match on Wednesday, but to win the entire tournament; yet they were sent home by Private Party, a team that almost nobody knew about at the start of the year.
Private Party going over The Young Bucks might end up being one of the most important matches in AEW history. It taught the audience that no result is ever guaranteed and that even the biggest names in the company can lose, cleanly, on any given night. At the same time, it also served as a way to elevate Private Party from just another tag team on the show, to a team that fans should get excited about.
Putting Private Party over The Young Bucks would play into the following week's episode, when The Lucha Brothers faced off against Jungle Boy and Marko Stunt. The Lucha Brothers were heavy favorites and the logical choice to win the match; but what happened the week before made the near-falls where Jungle Boy and Marko Stunt almost won the match much more believable. Since AEW had already set the precedent for booking upsets it was no longer inconceivable that they could win.
Being able to elevate that talent is a huge part of AEW, and the company has done a great job during its brief existence focusing on that. It is not surprising when you watch Dynamite or attend a live show that the crowd is really into Chris Jericho, Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, Jon Moxley, etc. The company couldn't exist if those guys were not there to start as AEW's cornerstone stars. What's surprising is that talent like MJF, Luchasauras, Darby Allin, Riho, Jungle Boy and others are also getting big reactions, because they were not well-known talents until a few months ago.
Allin has been another guy that has seen his star rise since Dynamite debuted. Working in EVOLVE and PWG, he had a little bit more notoriety than some of the other talent, but to most of the million people watching at home, they had no idea who he was. The company has done a great job presenting his character and personality as different, and the skateboard segments are perfect for GIFs that get passed around on social media.
By working the main event of Dynamite against Jericho, he got his chance to shine and the company did a great job focusing on his strengths in the match. Jericho, as the veteran heel beat him up for most of the match and gave Allin a few of the classic "hope" spots.
When Jericho brought out the duct tape, I knew it was going to be a great boost for Allin because a few years ago I saw him get handcuffed in an EVOLVE match and still manage to do a bunch of high spots. Those kinds of spots were perfect for the match, because they are memorable and make the viewer forget that Allin is very small and kind of green. People forget about the sloppy start to the match, they remember him doing the moonsault with his hands taped behind his back.
Of course, Jericho still won the match. That is the benefit of logical, classic booking. Allin still looked good as the underdog pushing a legend to the limit, but Jericho maintained his position as the dominant heel in the company, and even increased his heat by having to cheat to beat someone as inexperienced as Allin. Everybody got something out of that result.
That kind of booking is paramount to creating new stars, it was the kind of booking used for generations to build major names, but sadly has been absent from mainstream American wrestling. Unsurprisingly, mainstream American wrestling has produced very few major stars over the last ten years and I don't think that is a coincidence.
Over the long haul, AEW is going to create new names, especially from their pool of 20-somethings that theoretically one day will be asked to carry the company. While the established names up top are a great starting point, the company will need to be able to develop new names down the line to avoid stagnation at the top of the card. Chris Jericho can wrestle Cody, Jon Moxley and Kenny Omega again, but then what? He'll need new opponents, and that is when a new name can step up and have a star-making feud with Jericho and get the highly anticipated "rub" from a major star.
For AEW, talent utilization is going to be key. Unlike WWE, they don't have a limitless supply of names to draw from and push; the talent that they do have needs to be presented as relevant and competent so that they can be used for major matches and angles. As we saw with the Allin vs Jericho match, that doesn't necessarily mean you have to job out all your major names to the new guys; but they do need to be treated seriously and presented as stars. If AEW can stick to the formula they have executed so far, they shouldn't have any trouble getting new names over with the audience.
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