The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of WrestlingInc or its staff
The past year has flown by for All Elite Wrestling, going from an announcement on YouTube and a press conference in Jacksonville, to a promotion that has run weekly TV and quarterly PPVs, developed a following of fans and also attracted a swarm of haters. The company did it all in 2019, and 2020 is sure to be a key year for AEW, one that may make or break the promotion.
So how to look back on 2019? Instead of giving a macro-assessment filled with data and trends, I decided to go with a more micro-assessment. I will give grades to each and every regular in-ring performer for AEW based on their work so far in the company. These assessments will take into account the wrestler's in-ring performance, angles, charisma, crowd reactions, etc. and most importantly, their overall value to the company.I have determined who is a "regular" performer by just saying anyone that wrestled at least five matches for AEW since the company started is a regular. This does not include managers, announcers, or performers who have wrestled in under five matches.
Going in alphabetical order:
Adam Page: B
Page has been tabbed as a future cornerstone of the company but sits in sort of a gray area where he isn't as universally recognized as a top name the way Jericho, Moxley or Omega would be, but he is ahead of guys like MJF and Darby Allin in terms of development. Page was a fine first opponent for Jericho, but then appeared to sputter before finding himself in an intriguing storyline that will likely define his 2020.
Allie did not have many matches in AEW, only six in 2019, and most of them were very forgettable. She looks for now to be in a valet/managerial role for The Butcher and The Blade, which may be a better place for talents, even if the group so far has been kind of meh.
Angelico is a good worker and has some charisma, but along with his partner Jack Evans, has struggled to get consistent TV time in AEW's deep tag team division. The team could be a top act in the division if they are pushed as such, and that may come in 2020 when they need to mix some things up, but for now they are obscured.
Awesome Kong: C
Awesome Kong is the most well-known female wrestler in the entire division, but injuries have taken away a lot of once made her great, so her impact and usage is always going to be limited. She still has a great presence and is the best part of The Nightmare Collective, so she has that going for her.
Big Swole: C-
Swole only came into the company later in the year as they searched for marketable female talent that was available, so it is tough to accurately judge her. She is still green but has flashed charisma and has a good physical presence and may be one to watch in 2020.
Brandon Cutler: D
Okay, this is a little unfair since Cutler does a bunch of backstage roles for AEW, including filming for Being the Elite. He is a designated job guy for AEW and he does that well.
Chris Jericho: A+
The company was founded by The Elite but Jericho is the heart and soul of the promotion. It is hard to think of something he has done over the past year that hasn't worked. Up until last week, he was in the highest-rated segment of Dynamite for every episode, and has been a great world champion so far. You can't do it any better.
Christopher Daniels: C-
Daniels was the most well-known member of SoCal Uncensored at the start of the year, but has been used in a secondary role behind Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky, serving often as the group's job guy and comedic foil. Daniels can still go, but at 49 this is probably a better role for him.
Chuck Taylor: B-
Chuck has been a long-time staple of the independents and feels right at home in AEW. Best Friends have been a solid mid-card tag team in AEW and Chuck really has more to show if given the chance because he does have a unique type of charisma and has excellent comedic timing.
CIMA is one of the most knowledgeable, experienced wrestlers in the entire world and his time in AEW started off well, killing it in trios matches with his Strong Hearts group and having an excellent singles match with Kenny Omega at Fight for the Fallen. Since then he has kind of fallen off the map as his OWE promotion in China ended up having to relocate to Cambodia, but hopefully he will be back soon.
With the exception of Jericho, Cody has been probably the most consistent performer in the company. His promos have been strong and he has been engaged in three very good feuds, first with his brother Dustin, which led to arguably the best match in AEW history at Double or Nothing, then with Jericho over the world title and now with MJF. All the feuds have been different and Cody has emerged as the company's top babyface.
Darby Allin: B+
Allin went from being a typical indie wrestler to one of the most interesting prospects in wrestling. His fearless style of wrestling and character presentation has gotten him over with the fans and it feels like he has a ton of potential as he gets more experience and more screen time.
Dr. Britt Baker: C+
Baker arguably has the most potential out of anyone in the women's division, and AEW clearly sees her as an attraction in how they book her. That being said, she is still green and needs more experience before she really gets to run with the ball.
Dustin Rhodes: B+
Dustin has been a pleasant surprise for AEW and despite three decades of wrestling, has still shown the ability to work at a high level and is willing to do new stuff to get over. Around this time last year, some people were actually disappointed Dustin was Cody's opponent at Double or Nothing after Cody had teased it as being a big name. I wonder how those people feel now?
Evil Uno: D
The Dark Order has been one of the most heavily criticized aspects of AEW as their stable has made little sense, although things have started moving in a more positive direction in recent weeks. Uno being in poor cosmetic shape has not helped matters.
Frankie Kazarian: B+
Kazarian has been one half of the tag team champions for most of AEW's existence and a valuable veteran name on a young roster. A very good worker, he has taken a lot of his opponents offense to set up teammate Scorpio Sky for the hot tags, which have boosted Sky's stock a tremendous amount.
Hikaru Shida: C+
Shida came out of nowhere to become one of the more prominent members of AEW's women's divisions and might be the best worker in that group. She seems to have a decent amount of marketability as well, although she is really just getting her feet wet wrestling on weekly television in the US.
Isiah Kassidy: B
Kassidy and his partner Marq Quen came out of nowhere to become an important tag team as Private Party. Right now, Quen looks like the Shawn Michaels of the group, but Kassidy has been important to the team's success. He does need better ring gear, though.
Jack Evans: C+
Similar to Angelico, has plenty of talent but hasn't gotten a consistent opportunity to showcase it on Dynamite. He did get a singles match against Kenny Omega on an episode of Dark, so that gives him an edge over his tag team partner.
Jimmy Havoc: C-
Havoc got off to a good start in AEW but hasn't had a match on Dynamite since wrestling Allin back in October on the second episode of the show. Havoc has a unique wrestling style and stage presence, but he needs to appear on Dynamite more frequently in 2020.
Joey Janela: B+
Janela is similar to Havoc in that they started off the year getting on the main card and in key spots, wrestling Jon Moxley in the main event of Fyter Fest and having an acclaimed street fight with Kenny Omega. However, once Dynamite started going he has felt less important and it feels like he has been surpassed by a few other up and comers in Allin and MJF.
Jon Moxley: A
Moxley's debut in AEW at the end of Double or Nothing was probably the highlight of AEW's first year in operation, and he has been a major force for the company ever since. The booking of some of the main event talent in AEW has been sketchy, but it hard to say that they could be doing any better when it comes to how Moxley has been used.
Jungle Boy: B+
Jungle Boy kind of drifted through the first several months of AEW as the least interesting member of Jurassic Express, but has come back over the last couple of months thanks to some quality interactions with Chris Jericho. He is still full of potential at just 22 years of age.
Kenny Omega: A-
One of the main criticisms of AEW has been the use of Omega, but look at what he has actually done in AEW. He anchored the first Double or Nothing in the main event with Chris Jericho; had a great match with PAC at ALL OUT, and had a crazy main event match with Jon Moxley at Full Gear. Has he been the face of the promotion? No. Has he been consistently entertaining and working big matches with the top stars? Yes.
Kip Sabian: C
Sabian is a good worker, and he appears to be taking part in some angle with Janela with the idea being he stole Penelope Ford from him. He hasn't had a ton of chances on Dynamite since the show started, but he is a very solid all-around wrestler.
Kris Statlander: B
Statlander in her limited time in AEW has emerged as perhaps the standout performer in the women's division. She is a good athlete and has poise in the ring beyond her limited experience. Since she only appeared in AEW towards the end of the year so we haven't seen a ton of her, but she has been impressive over the last few months.
Leva Bates: D+
The Librarian gimmick has a low-ceiling, but Bates is fine as a jobber for the women's division. She has also been fairly entertaining on Being The Elite, which counts for something.
Luchasaurus at one point looked like he was going to be a massive star for AEW due to his size, gimmick and surprising agility. Unfortunately a torn hamstring at the absolute worst time, right when Dynamite started, and he hasn't really recovered yet. Hopefully he gets back to that level in 2020.
Marko Stunt: C+
Stunt has been a lightning rod for AEW critics due to his size, but in the end I feel like he has been used appropriately, and to some people he is really over. If AEW pushed him as a major singles star it would be a problem, but as a guy that either makes quick tags or gets the crap kicked out of him before making a hot tag, he is fine.
Marq Quen: B+
As the guy who gets the hot tag and flashes incredible athleticism for Private Party, Marq Quen has emerged as a star in AEW. Marq Quen has a good look, is perhaps the best natural athlete in the company and feels like a future star, if he isn't there already. Being the "hot tag guy" hides a lot of his weaknesses and maximizes his strengths.
Matt Jackson: B+
Rating Matt Jackson and Marq Quen the same is not necessarily saying they are equally valuable to the promotion, but given what expectations were for their respective performances, I feel like it is fair. The Young Bucks haven't dominated the tag division, but they effectively put over Private Party and worked a great program with The Lucha Brothers. In my opinion, The Young Bucks match with The Lucha Brothers at ALL OUT is the best match in AEW history.
MJF hasn't actually wrestled many matches for AEW, only seven, but he has been probably the biggest breakout star for the promotion thanks to his once-in-a-generation charisma and ability to talk. At 23, he is probably the top "prospect" in the industry, the Zion Williamson, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Kylian Mbappe of wrestling.
Nick Jackson: A-
Basically the same explanation as his brother; although Nick gets a tiny bump because he is a little bit of a better worker and had a tremendous singles match with Rey Fenix on an episode of Dynamite.
Nyla Rose: C
Like a lot of the women in AEW, Rose has potential but is still green. She is pushed as the monster of the division and is protected to a degree, but isn't experienced enough to really be pushed as a dominant champion quite yet.
Orange Cassidy: A+
Proud and Powerful have been one of the standout tag teams in AEW and Ortiz has done a great job in his role. Santana is a better worker, but Ortiz has a different, crazy-man energy that helps him stand out in what is a division full of great workers and athletes.
For those who saw him on the indies and in Dragon Gate following the end of his wrestling hiatus after walking out of WWE, it may seem natural to see PAC thrive in AEW as a miserable heel. However, for most fans he was a career babyface in WWE before switching to being a heel on a show that nobody watched. He's had great matches and been strong on the mic in the segments that he has been allowed to speak in.
Pentagon Jr.: A-
The Lucha Brothers have probably been the best tag team in AEW's loaded division and Pentagon Jr. is the charisma-guy in the team. His brother does get a lot of credit for being a great worker, but Pentagon isn't a slouch in the ring either.
Peter Avalon: D
Similar to Cutler, Avalon is a job guy for AEW and he does that role adequately.
Rey Fenix: A
Similar to his brother, Fenix has been an instrumental in turning the AEW's tag division into a big success. Fenix has also been a reliable singles worker, having a great match with Nick Jackson on Dynamite, and is bell-to-bell arguably the best worker in the entire company.
Riho, as the inaugural women's champion in AEW, has drawn a lot of criticism and part of that is justified, she hasn't been on television as much as you would expect a champion would be. On the plus side, I thought she has gotten matches out of green workers and has been able to get over with the live audience as a sympathetic babyface.
Sammy Guevara: B
Guevara is another one of AEW's guys in his 20s who has a ton of athletic potential and had a strong 2019. Getting the rub by being Jericho's protege in the Inner Circle and his natural smarminess is on-point for his role in AEW.
Santana is the better worker in Proud and Powerful, and carries a lot of the tag matches that allows Ortiz to do what he does best. Really he is probably one of the more underrated workers in the business; he works with The Young Bucks, Lucha Brothers and SCU and always looks just as good as any of those guys.
Scorpio Sky: A-
Scorpio Sky emerged as the unlikely star of SCU, thanks to his athleticism and the announcers really putting him over. He even got a pinfall victory over Jericho and had a good AEW World Championship match on Dynamite. That may be Sky's ceiling in AEW, but he had a really big 2019.
Stu Grayson: C-
Grayson is a good worker and doesn't suffer from the cosmetic issues that hold Evil Uno back, but the Dark Order has been unimpressive and struggled to get over, which takes away from his solid in-ring work.
Sonny Kiss: D
Kiss hasn't done much in AEW outside of appearing in some preliminary matches. There is a lot of potential because Kiss has a unique character that has a chance to catch on, and Kiss has a lot of raw athletic potential as a performer. Kiss is someone who needs more time in the ring than what he is currently getting in AEW to develop.
Shawn Spears: C
Spears got a good push at the start of his run in AEW, working a major program with Cody and landing Tully Blanchard as his manager. Since that match with Cody though, it has been kind of a lost time for Spears. He isn't a jobber, but he doesn't seem to be rising much higher than the mid-card.
Trent has established himself as a versatile guy who can work tag matches and singles matches seamlessly. He is a good worker, has a good body and works well with Taylor and Orange Cassidy.
Must Watch Matches
Jake Lee vs Kento Miyahara: ****1/2 - AJPW New Years War Night 2
Tyler Bate vs Jordan Devlin: ****1/4 - NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool II