AEW Booking on Nightmare Mode
All Elite Wrestling is two weeks away from All In at Wembley Stadium in front of over 80,000 fans as their debut in Europe. Is AEW booking making fans unhappy?
I’ve heard a lot of complaining about the booking and I understand a lot of the issues. Tony Khan as each year passes takes longer and longer to get his pay per view build up going. Waiting until the 200th Dynamite on August 2 to announce a match for All In on August 27 when he had from the first announcement of All In at Wembley in April up to the first Dynamite after Forbidden Door II on June 25 to start preparing matches for the show was misguided. Instead we got five weeks of television storylines to wrap up loose ends and play out weekly angles.
The problem with waiting here is that it isn’t just AEW All In to book. It’s also All Out. And Grand Slam. That’s three major shows Tony Khan has to find matches for, and more importantly, has to build programs for. It’s one thing to just book something on the fly. You can get away with that week to week, or for something like Forbidden Door where it’s hard to get AEW and New Japan Pro Wrestling talents together. But for three of your own cards? That’s a new difficulty. That’s the highest difficulty.
This is wrestling booking on Nightmare Mode.
I don’t disagree with people that Tony Khan could have done a better job building programs up for these shows. I just wish they would also recognize that this is an incredibly difficult booking project to accomplish. This isn’t easy. Nobody has really done this. Especially not Tony Khan. This isn’t 2019/2020 where there’s no Rampage to book and you have two hours every week to focus on.
This isn’t even last year when you had Dynamite and Rampage and only five pay per views on the calendar. Between May and September of this year AEW will have run four pay per views: Double or Nothing, Forbidden Door, All In, and All Out. In the past it felt like a lot when AEW had to prepare Double or Nothing and Forbidden Door and then two months later All Out and Grand Slam. Now it’s four pay per views in five months as well as the Grand Slam card in New York.
Oh, and did I forget to mention last year, there was no Collision?
So you have two hours of Dynamite, one hour of Rampage tapings the same night, and then two hours of Collision to book every week. And then take what you book, and properly build programs for the matches you plan to run for two consecutive pay per views one week apart. And then still have something left for the Grand Slam shows. Oh, and work around injuries to Jamie Hayter, Bryan Danielson, PAC, and Thunder Rosa. Two of which had ongoing programs (Hayter and PAC), one has been anticipated to return for months (Rosa), and one was expected to work a dream match in front of 80,000 people (Danielson).
This is wrestling booking on Nightmare Mode.
I’m not saying there isn’t areas to improve. Far from it. Tony Khan should have had his primary and backup plans set in stone and was planning towards various programs for weeks prior to this. I just feel that people are going from, “This build could have been better” to, “This is a disaster” not realizing that everything is moving, storylines are still being told, and programs are being built for the All In pay per view. If we get to the point of talent quitting because of this build up, then we can start calling it a disaster. If Tony is hospitalized due to stress, we can call it a disaster. The shows themselves week in and week out are up and down in quality but the quality is still there.
Speaking of the All In pay per view, what gives people?
I keep hearing people being disappointed about this show. Disappointed about what? The hottest program in the company by a country kilometre is AEW World Heavyweight Champion MJF and Adam Cole. That’s your main event of the show. The hottest program is the main event? For the top prize? What a novel decision! My gosh, it’s like that’s what you hope to see as the main event of a major pay per view each time! It also reflects the last time there was a major main event in pro wrestling at Wembley Stadium, and oh yeah, they need to stay together for the kids.
Next you have the top two tag teams in All Elite Wrestling in the Young Bucks and World Tag Team Champion FTR finally having their rubber match. London, England is getting the two best tag teams of the past decade against each other on the biggest stage. That’s not enough?
With Mercedes Moné (rumoured to be talking to AEW for a big match) and Jamie Hayter injured, the company had to go with a four way for the AEW Women’s Championship including former champion Toni Storm, current champion Hikaru Shida, and (likely) Britt Baker and Saraya included. It’s the top stars of the women’s division (and Saraya as their biggest British star) in a four way match that should at least be good. Would a singles match have been better? Sure, but this is basically the All Out 2022 women’s match with Saraya instead of Jamie Hayter. It’s the best they can do for the situation. Sure, I would prefer it if Athena was facing Hikaru Shida, but it’s still a strong women’s match.
We next have Darby Allin and Sting taking on Swerve Strickland and AR Fox. I am a huge AR Fox fan, have been since Lucha Underground. Same with Swerve, then known as Killshot. Swerve has been one of the best heels in All Elite Wrestling in 2023 and he’s being rewarded with a tag match against Darby Allin, one of the most prominent stars in AEW, and Sting, a legend that’s beloved in England. All eyes will be on this match, and I’m sure Swerve and AR Fox will take every opportunity they can take to shine. This isn’t a marquee major match for you?
The rest of the card is only rumoured. I’ve heard Kenny Omega versus Konosuke Takeshita (which I could see turning into a trios match to get Hangman Page involved), I’ve heard Chris Jericho versus Will Ospreay (who needs to finish up in NJPW G1 Climax before he can make an appearance for AEW), I’ve heard CM Punk versus Samoa Joe (who once wrestled at the Coventry Skydome in front of 3,400 fans and were the middle of the card with a NWA:TNA X-Division championship main event), and I’ve heard we could see Eddie Kingston building towards a match with Jon Moxley as he’s done with the G1 Climax.
Just on the announced matches and rumoured matches, this could easily be the best AEW card of 2023. Are you getting Omega versus Ospreay III? Maybe, maybe not. If it was up to me I would be booking it. But what else do you want or need? What else could they do to make this worth 80,000 screaming fans? I don’t know what else Tony Khan can book for you to be happy about this show. Except…
My fear is that the people who are unhappy with this card are unhappy because they are not getting CM Punk and FTR against Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks. And those folks were always going to be unhappy, because lawyers were never going to let that match happen. You built yourself up for your own disappointment (or rather, you let Dax Harwood sell you on something he could never deliver) and now, given what should be one of the greatest cards in All Elite Wrestling history, possibly the very greatest, you have set yourself up to never be happy about it.
This is on you.
This is wrestling booking on Nightmare Mode. And much like playing Doom or Quake on Nightmare Mode, it isn’t about beating the game. It’s about merely surviving to the end. If Tony Khan can get through All In, get through All Out, get to Grand Slam and put on a great Dynamite and Rampage with matches and moments people want to see? He can finally take a breath with no pay per views or major shows until Thanksgiving. Until then? There’s no changing the difficulty. Just get through it alive.