Last weekend, AEW presented the first ever Forbidden Door pay per view, showing that the door is neither closed nor forbidden. The show focused on a series of matches between AEW and New Japan, meaning that the quality was very high with one good match after another. The same cannot exactly be said for the build to the show, which was choppy at best and all over the place (in a bad way) at the worst. That situation is kind of a microcosm of AEW’s entire history as a whole and that is what we are going to look at today.

AEW has been around for a little over three years, with its first event taking place in May 2019. This came after All In from the previous fall, which was basically the result of a bet between the original Elite and Dave Meltzer. The whole thing then took on a life of its own and Tony Khan (and his wallet) got involved, setting the stage for the AEW we now know (at least in theory).

This had a lot of fans rather excited as for the first time in a LONG time there was a wrestling promotion with money, on the big stage, with talented people and a chance of putting a dent in WWE’s stranglehold on the industry. It was a very exciting time and things were changing rapidly. That was certainly the case when AEW made its debut and the shows were looking good to start.

After a few specials came Dynamite as the weekly TV show and things kept getting better. Eventually Rampage followed to give AEW three hours of TV a week and while it was still far behind WE in any major metric, the new company had certainly hit the ground running. That was the case for a long time and still is today to an extent, but things are not exactly what they were when things got started.

Leading up to last weekend’s Forbidden Door event, AEW had been spending a lot of time focusing on the New Japan wrestlers. This came after (and went along with) the build towards a Ring Of Honor event in July, as Ring Of Honor (also owned by Khan) has gotten quite a bit of TV time of its own. While I don’t expect Ring Of Honor to dominate the AEW airwaves like New Japan did for so long, it is another thing that takes away focus from the main AEW shows.

That brings me to the question that I have been wondering as I have been watching AEW in recent weeks: what exactly is AEW? That might sound like a strange question, but I don’t quite know what its identity as a company is supposed to be. Is it the alternative to WWE? Is it designed to get other promotions over? Is it something on its own? Or some combination of all of those? The latter is probably the closest to the reality and that creates some problems.

One of the things that stood out to me during the build to Forbidden Door was how many New Japan names were thrown out there with little to no explanation of who they were or why I should care about them. Consider Darby Allin mentioning that Shingo Takagi and Hiromu Takahashi were coming to the show. Actually hold on. Allin didn’t say that, but rather “Shingo and Hiromu”.

As Steve Austin said when he was told that someone’s favorite match was Melina vs. Alicia Fox: “…..who?”

Now yes, I (and I’m sure a lot of other fans, including the majority of AEW’s core audience) knew who those people were. They’re both stars in New Japan, but all we heard were two first names. That might work for fans who are already into this whole thing, but just assuming that we know who those people are is not a good idea. It does however give you a bit more of an idea into what the AEW mindset is.

The way this came off made it seem (again) that we as fans are supposed to follow AEW or know who their stars are. That creates more than a few problems, as it feels like I need to be doing more homework to know what is going on. As a result, it makes AEW seem like it is just one piece in a huge wrestling world. While that is true to an extent, it is a rather strange way for a wrestling company to present itself, especially when they are in AEW’s position.

It also doesn’t help that AEW continues to focus on almost everything other than themselves. The last few weeks have been focused on New Japan and Ring Of Honor is starting its own turn. There was a grand total of one AEW vs. AEW match at Forbidden Door and it got the least amount of time of any match on the show. Was there really not enough room to put another few AEW stars on there? Or did we need to promote something else again?

A lot of the time, it feels like AEW is trying to tie in whatever else it can to its own name. Since AEW has been around, there have been titles from Ring Of Honor, AAA, New Japan, Impact and the NWA also included. There are currently four companies’ Tag Team Titles active in AEW (Ring Of Honor, AAA, New Japan, AEW). That might make for a cool visual but shouldn’t the AEW Tag Team Titles be enough? I’m sure this is leading to some unification/winner take all match, but if the AEW Tag Team Titles are what matter the most (and they should, at least on AEW TV), doesn’t that make whoever holds them the best team?

That is the kind of thing that makes me wonder how AEW sees itself. Is it the other promotion besides WWE? Some conduit of the wrestling world? Or a promotion that is the best and brings in a bunch of other wrestlers just because it can? That is where things get a little hazy for me and while the shows are still all enjoyable, it leaves me wondering what they are trying to do. Things have been getting even more out there in recent weeks and I don’t know if it is going to get better in the future.

AEW has all of the talent it can manage and that is before all of the outsiders are brought in as a bonus. That makes things a little more tricky as more and more people are brought into the fold. Where does the Ring Of Honor World Champion compare to the AEW World Champion? Or the AAA Mega Champion? It just makes things a lot messier than they need to be as there are so many moving parts running around at the same time. While AEW having too much going on at once is a story for another day, it has me wondering just how the company is trying to present itself.

I don’t understand why AEW feels the need to bring in so many wrestlers from outside its own walls. It is cool to see every now and then, but it comes off like AEW feels it has to have these guest starts showing up to make their show more interesting. The company has one of the most passionate fan bases in wrestling history and that is not likely to change anytime soon. I like AEW quite a bit, but at the end of the day, I’m watching Dynamite and Rampage because I want to see the AEW roster, not whoever else they can bring in that week. In short, be yourselves, not whatever else you might think that you need to be.

Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 60,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 6,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books.

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