Use Your AEW Roster
For the All Elite Wrestling Dynamite 3 Year Anniversary show, Brian Cage will face the AEW TNT champion Wardlow as announced by Tony Khan on Twitter. It will mark almost an entire year that Brian Cage has not had a singles match on AEW television despite being a signed member of the AEW Roster.
Cage debuted for AEW in May of 2020 winning an AEW World Title shot against Jon Moxley at the Double or Nothing pay per view. After programs with Moxley, Darby Allin, and Hangman Page, Cage would turn babyface and eventually feud with Ricky Starks. The feud with Starks ended on October 6, 2021. Cage’s match with Wardlow takes place October 5, 2022.
Cage came to AEW after injuries derailed his time in Impact Wrestling where he was at one point the Impact World Champion. There had been a fear that Cage was injury prone and would be hard to put in programs, a detail that was used as a storyline mechanic in his match against Moxley. But Cage’s time away from AEW television wasn’t due to injury as Cage was active wrestling on the independents. He even worked the Jericho Cruise and won the XPW Championship last November. He had some great matches against Will Ospreay and Davey Richards in Warrior Wrestling.
Cage’s contract with AEW was supposed to expire but he was kept on, moved to Ring of Honor first with Tully Blanchard Enterprises and then with The Embassy. Under a Tony Khan banner since October of 2021 Cage has wrestled Ninja Mack at Supercard of Honor, in a trios match representing The Embassy, and the Grand Slam Golden Ticket Battle Royal where he was eliminated by Dalton Castle.
The utilization of AEW talent coming under fire isn’t a new thing. In 2021, despite being healthy, Sammy Guevara did not have a single one on one television match until his match with MJF on June 30. His only one on one matches up to that point in 2021 was a match on the YouTube show Dark against El Australiano. Miro disappeared due to injury after his match with Bryan Danielson at Full Gear 2021 and made his return against Johnny Elite on June 1, 2022. Two weeks later he wrestled Ethan Page on Dynamite. Two weeks after that he lost the All-Atlantic four way at Forbidden Door. He would not have a match anywhere in the world until September 4, working a trios match at All Out. Buddy Matthews lost to PAC in the qualifier of the All-Atlantic championship and worked a Dark: Elevation YouTube show only to then not have another match on television until facing Serptentico in a squash in August. He’s now rumoured to be taking time off similar to faction mate Malakai Black.
One of the strangest gaps in booking is Andrade El Idolo, who will soon be having a mask vs AEW career match against 10 of the Dark Order. Andrade’s last singles match on AEW television was against Fenix on AEW Rampage, in an absolutely fantastic match on June 22. He wouldn’t wrestle on AEW again until a tornado match with Rush against the Lucha Bros at Quake By The Lake in August, with the match against 10 on October 7 being the first singles match Andrade had on television in 137 days. Andrade has made himself an enemy of AEW fans for complaining online and looking like he wants to go back to the WWE, but I don’t know who at his level wouldn’t complain about their utilization after that much time went by.
All Elite Wrestling has three hours of television time each week, 13 hours per month (one extra hour for the Battle of the Belts specials on TNT) and in that 13 hours is an average of 39-40 matches per month (5 per Dynamite, 4 per Rampage, 3 per Battle of the Belts.) It’s hard to understand why Tony Khan couldn’t find a place for Brian Cage to wrestle between October of 2021 and September of 2022, or why Miro was unable to be utilized for most of 2022 (unless he still had lingering injuries or was off filming TV shows) or why Buddy Matthews was barely used in the summer. Having Andrade on your roster make occasional appearances but not wrestling in a singles match for 137 days would be seriously questioned if it was any other wrestling promotion.
Maybe it’s injuries. Maybe there’s a punishment. Maybe there’s reasons AEW hasn’t explained. But that lack of explanation seems to be leading to wrestlers being frustrated and acting out on Twitter. Modern wrestlers are not happy with a paycheque and nothing else to do. They want to wrestle on television. They want a chance to shine. If any of these wrestlers were expecting to be on TV every week that’s one thing. Between June 22 and August 10 was six episodes of Rampage, six episodes of Dynamite, and a Battle of the Belts. AEW couldn’t find any room for Andrade in the 62 matches booked.
And by that same point, they couldn’t find anything to do with Brian Cage either. Fans and critics alike are kept completely in the dark to why these decisions are being made and why some wrestlers seem to be completely iced. FTR is currently the ROH World Tag champions and haven’t defended the ROH Tag championship since May on AEW television. This wouldn’t be a big deal since if the other belts aren’t being defended on AEW television but they are. Since the May 25 ROH Tag championship defence on AEW Dynamite, the ROH World Championship has been defended on AEW television five times, the ROH Pure championship has been defended twice, and the ROH Television championship has been defended once. The ROH Women’s championship has only been defended since on YouTube twice and the ROH Six Man Championship was defended once on AEW Dark: Elevation.
In fairness FTR has defended the ROH Tag championship twice since May 25, at Forbidden Door and Death Before Dishonor. While they haven’t had a tag match on television, they’ve been in trios matches five times and Dax Harwood wrestled in singles matches three times, one of which was for the ROH World championship. Yes that’s right. Since May 25 the ROH Tag champs haven’t defended their tag titles on television but one member did randomly compete for the Ring of Honor World championship. What’s going on here?
Most peculiar throughout it all is that FTR has been the defacto number one on the Power Rankings throughout this, despite their lack of actual tag wrestling matches to defend their standing on the power rankings. The rankings haven’t been update on AEW’s website since August but checking it out you will see FTR as the number one contender. The number two contender was The Acclaimed. They are now AEW World Tag Team Champions.
I don’t know if Tony Khan just forgets who his roster is from time to time and books on the fly. I would hope not. I don’t know if there’s reasons we are not privy to as to why these decisions were made, and many of them could have been case by case situations. But when I check out AEW fans on Twitter, the opinions about Brian Cage, Andrade, FTR, and Buddy Matthews are anything but positive (Sammy Guevara is disliked for different reasons, and honestly might be overexposed at this point in 2022) with many saying they need to be released from their contracts. AEW is currently on a release freeze due to WWE’s attempts at tampering. The Andrade match on Friday might lead to him being released or its Tony Khan playing with the tampering rumours (the storyline with AFO is certainly playing inside baseball with the tampering allegations) but much of that is because people don’t like to hear these wrestlers complain about their lack of television time. But what’s the real problem? Them complaining, or AEW not utilizing them?
The part that worries me is how this creates an overall negative atmosphere among AEW fans where if a wrestler complains about their time in All Elite Wrestling, they are immediately looked down upon and treated as a pariah. I often see AEW fans with AEW avatars and AEW in their username hating on the AEW roster members more than rival fans. It create a generally unhappy atmosphere in the AEW fanbase. Are the wrestlers at fault for complaining? Maybe. Wrestling fans are fiercely loyal and despite saying they like wrestlers to be themselves and have personalities they generally prefer Pablum boilerplate “I love this place” tweets over anyone express their emotions.
The solution to this problem is pretty obvious to me. Use your All Elite Wrestling roster. With 40 matches per month for television you should find a way to utilize everyone good (and I stress good) if they are healthy. Even if it means using them just to lose to someone you want to use more frequently. Will it feel like rewarding someone for their complaining? Who cares? These are supposed to be all elite talents. Many of them have produced four star matches for your company in recent time. Make it hard for them to complain. Make their complaints trivial. Use them in matches on television.
Brian Cage’s last AEW TV one on one match was October 6, 2021. Since November 17, 2021, Jay Lethal has wrestled in 10 television matches on AEW television. I shouldn’t be able to point out stuff like this. Use your All Elite Wrestling roster.