SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Well, AEW sure started off 2021 with a bang, right?
Hello? Crickets? Bullet Club? C’mon!
Bad jokes aside, Tony Khan and company hit a home run with their first show of the year. The cleverly named New Year’s Smash delivered exactly what it needed to in order to set an effective narrative foundation for Dynamite to live on throughout the year.
It’s impressive when you think about it. The Inner Circle’s internal drama story, Inner Circle’s external feuds, MJF coming into his own as a leader of the group, Chris Jericho losing leadership of his own faction, Darby Allin and Sting against Team Taz, Darby Allin and Sting together in general, the future of Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels as a tag team, Hikaru Shida’s run as AEW Women’s Champion, Best Friends vs. Kip Sabian and Miro, and the story of Jon Moxley chasing the AEW World Championship all progressed during last night’s two-hour show.
That’s a lot to build on and work with for AEW and doesn’t even include acts that weren’t featured like Adam Page, Dark Order, various other tag teams, and whatever Brandi Rhodes is up to. It also doesn’t include the show closing angle that featured a Bullet Club reunion. AEW won’t call them by that name, but that’s exactly what it was. It’s an intriguing story to be sure, but AEW needs to tread carefully.
On the surface and from a nostalgic point of view, seeing the Bullet Club throw up the “too sweet” hand sign together again had to pop living rooms around the country filled with men 18-34. Bullet Club is a significant factor in reenergizing some wrestling fans and a big reason why AEW exists at all.
That pop is also a potential problem. Why? Kenny Omega is a heel.
It’s a fact that isn’t up for debate, but one that is essential in analyzing the present and future success of this angle. Omega is a heel. He’s a bad guy. He’s hanging around with the slimy Don Callis while arrogantly calling himself a belt collector. Omega has crossed over into Impact Wrestling and has been dismissive to babyfaces on the show including Impact Wrestling World Champion, Rich Swann. Most importantly, he’s the heel rival for AEW’s top babyface and signature star, Jon Moxley.
So, nostalgic or not, Kenny Omega cannot be getting babyface pops right now; Too much of the immediate success for AEW is rooted in him continuing to succeed as a heel. Based on the finish to last night’s show, the Jon Moxley vs. Kenny Omega trilogy match is on the horizon sooner than later. In order to properly wrap up the story between those two, we can’t have an audience that has mixed feelings in terms of who they want to see win.
What I’m trying to say is, AEW needs to be smart with this. They need to be careful not to fall in love with the nostalgia of an important time in wrestling. Nostalgia pops are fun, but they can be damaging too. So, let last night be what it was and move on. In this case, moving on means putting scorching levels of heat on Kenny Omega and whatever his Bullet Club brethren are called now. I’m not talking Young Bucks super kicking Alex Marvez heat, either. I’m talking legitimate heel heat that’s rooted in progressing the story of Kenny Omega and building interest in fans wanting to see Jon Moxley tear him and his friends down. Look, this may mean retiring old Bullet Club tropes like the “too sweet.” I know it hurts, but eliminating that from their repertoire will instantly help create the essential negative response they need.
Omega, Callis, Gallows, Anderson, and the Young Bucks are talented enough to pull this off. They can be a renewed version of their faction while still doing what is necessary to keep the biggest AEW storyline over and moving along in the right direction. The key is, they have to want to.
The easy thing to do would be to pull a mid-2000’s DX reunion. Sell a bunch of merchandise, go on the reunion tour, but halt significant progress at the same time. The hard is in the change. Are they up to the challenge? We’ll see.
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