SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Tony Schiavone – HIT: Tony Schiavone brings a level of professionalism from doing wrestling announcing for decades and an established bond with the audience. Schiavone is another recognizable voice that may help to attract the lapsed fan to a new presentation of wrestling. At the same time, AEW should be cognizant of how many veterans they pull from the past. They will want to be careful as to not come off like a nostalgia promotion. Before negotiating a deal to use Schiavone, AEW had been using Alex Marvez for their Control Center segments. Marvez struggled behind the commentary table and at times looked shaky in the Control Center. While Marvez may be used in smaller samples while he continues to improve and gain some more comfort in front of the camera.
Recaps and Highlights – HIT: The production values of these Road To shows has been top notch. If you ignore some obvious green screen effects that still look professional, AEW has shown they are more than capable of producing high quality video packages. WWE has been praised for being able to put together excellent video packages and their overall pristine production values.. AEW isn’t far behind WWE in terms of video quality. They’ve implemented cinematic shots from the crowd and made effective use of their music. Their post produced videos have made a difference in AEW appearing major league.
Sammy Guevara – MISS: If Sammy Guevara was a baby face, this would have been great package. It’s still an unknown as to how AEW will be dealing with heels and faces on weekly television. We’ve seen that AEW can and will flip how a wrestler is presented depending on their feud. Cody went heel in his match against Dustin Rhodes. The Young Bucks acted heelish towards The Lucha Bros. and even pulled off Pentagon’s mask. I think that concept can work in certain scenarios, but everything we;ve seen before this Road To TNT has portrayed Guevara as an annoying heel. This segment baby faced his vlogs and gave relatable meaning to them whereas before they were an annoying thing used to embellish his narcissism.
Cody – HIT: Cody is the perfect frontman of AEW. He presents the company in the way that fans want it to be. In this segment, he emphasized that AEW does have a direction, but the fans can also take it in other directions because they are always listening. While still hyping his match at Full Gear against Chris Jericho, Cody makes his case as to why he can’t overlook Guevara. He gave much more purpose to the match and how it may have ramifications on his match against Chris Jericho if he is to lose. Cody is great at these details and not overlooking laying out if he were to lose, that could significantly derail his plans moving forward.
Riho – HIT: Having Riho speak in Japanese with subtitles adds another layer of authenticity to AEW. AEW shouldn’t be afraid to have foreign wrestlers speak in their native language in a time where a lot of people are used to reading subtitles. Riho talked about her background and set herself up as the underdog because she is significantly smaller than her opponent, Nyla Rose. Riho is very talented in the ring and her story is believable that she wrestled in front of much smaller crowds in Japan and as she continues to wrestle in the United States, she will gain more and more confidence.
MJF – MISS: MJF has several quips ready for the opportune moment. He showed that again here in his banter with Tony Schiavone. He’s a young prospect for AEW that may very well turn into a great main event heel. I fear MJF might be a bit too funny and entertaining. He cuts great promos that keeps the audience glued to what he has to say. At what point do fans decide they want to cheer for him because he is so entertaining? MJF is far from The Rock’s status, but The Rock would do similar jokes to babyfaces to get an audience reaction. The fans eventually sided with him because he became great entertainment regardless of who his insults were aimed at. MJF does not have a lot of the intangibles Rock had and I’m guessing that AEW does not intend on turning him face anytime soon. Perhaps it’s time to turn down the jokes a bit, but remain the same character.
Brandon Cutler – MISS: Brandon Cutler’s journey is a tear jerker. It’s a relatable story of someone who had a dream, but struggled in life. Now, he finally has the chance to show what he can do. While the story is simple and effective, much of what we saw on Road To TNT was rerun of what we have already seen and know. This segment provided little new insights into who Brandon Cutler is other than him wanting to stand-up to the bully, MJF. If AEW had access to it, it would be great to see more than homevideos wrestling with The Young Bucks and more of what he can do now. How has he changed? What makes him just as much if not more special than the rest of the roster that is cluttered with top-tier talent?
Women’s Title Match Hype – HIT: Riho is coming off more and more like a potential star. There was some debate amongst wrestling fans and critics about the decision to go with Riho in the first Women’s Championship match over Hikaru Shida. This segment added more credibility with the fans because Kenny spoke about his relationship with Riho and how he saw something special in her. Riho also tied in her recent tag match with Omega overseas how that will help her when wrestling a bigger opponent in Nyla Rose. Rose was not given as much time to talk, but she was convincing in her passion about having to fight her whole life.
Conrad Thompson – HIT: Conrad Thompson has a great rapport with wrestling fans making him a natural fit. Thompson insists he is just a fan despite his endless list of podcasts and successful conventions. His voice adds some more legitimacy to the product. It remains to be seen how involved he will be with AEW moving forward. He’s previously stated that he is not employed by AEW. That may have changed, but as of this writing there has been no official announcement made. With Thompson’s charisma, knowledge, and credibility It couldn’t hurt to add him to their regular rotation of announcers.
Cody – HIT: Cody knocked it out of the park again. He already spoke about his upcoming match with Sammy Guevara on episode 2, for this edition he talked about his upcoming match with Chris Jericho at Full Gear. Cody is at an elite level of storytelling. He made sure to put over Jericho’s Judas Effect in a big way talking about how it took out two of his best friends after people laughed when they saw the move for the first time. He went on to revisit the two themes he has been hammering home, family and revolution. Jericho hit Cody where it hurts most which is a shot at his father Dusty calling him a son of a b****. Cody also said that the wrestling revolution was going to happen with or without Jericho. Ending off the promo with at Jericho for forgetting the Championship belt.
Chris Jericho and Two Mystery Partners vs. Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks – MISS: Throughout the Road to TNT series there were no promos by Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega, or The Young Bucks to hype their forthcoming matchup on TNT. The lack of hype for this match is a major miss. Four of AEW’s biggest stars didn’t get any time to sell fans on their upcoming match. Their absence makes this match feel like just a one-off for the first TV show instead of leading to any program. Having a one-off for the first show is not bad in of itself, but within the Road to TNT the match feels like something that isn’t very important which is not the message you want to send fans. To many people, the match may sell itself due to the names involved, but the first main event of their first ever TV deserved at least a segment from the wrestlers to build it up.