AEW: The hypocrisy of ‘Tag Team Appreciation Night’

AEW Logo (photo courtesy of AEW)
AEW Logo (photo courtesy of AEW) /

AEW held “Tag Team Appreciation Night,” yet barely said a word about their “The Deadly Draw” Women’s Tag Tournament, let alone holding a tournament match.

Last night was “Tag Team Appreciation Night” in AEW, a celebration of tag team wrestling both old and new. However, there was a BIG omission from last night’s proceedings: Where was at least one match from the “The Deadly Draw” Women’s Tag Team Tournament?

I mean, if we’re really appreciating tag team wrestling, shouldn’t we include tag teams from both the men’s and women’s divisions?

(They should have just labeled last night “Men’s Tag Team Appreciation Night.”)

Let’s come back to this after I lay some context on how we arrived at this point and why so many fans are upset at AEW’s seeming lack of interest in their women wrestlers (and wrestlers of color).

From the beginning, the talking heads representing AEW have touted how they were going to be progressive, diverse, a true alternative to WWE by highlighting a wider array of talent. I’ve made my frustrations known with AEW, Cody, and Tony Khan specifically in their failure to uphold their own words on these issues, particularly Cody and Khan saying there would be Black men and other men’s singles Wrestlers of Color (plural, not just one wrestler like Scorpio Sky) in the main event scene by the end of 2019 (we’re still waiting).

This extends to the women’s singles and tag divisions. While the Women’s Championship scene has been diverse (all three champions have been non-White), there was very little outside of the title picture featuring the women wrestlers of AEW (outside of anything Brandi Rhodes does). That seemed to change with the announcement of “The Deadly Draw.”

Fans (including myself) were ecstatic that more emphasis was being placed on women’s wrestling and women’s tag team wrestling, specifically. What better way to build and highlight the division than by having a tournament over a few weeks or a month on Dynamite?

In AEW’s opinion, though, the best thing to do is to keep the tournament OFF of their television show and exclusively air it on YouTube, which is mind-boggling. Fans were, rightly, outraged.

Here’s why it’s so head-scratching, even beyond the failed promises of progressiveness.

AEW draws around one million viewers for Dynamite if you add in the DVR numbers. The first episode of the “The Deadly Draw,” which aired Aug. 3, has just over 566 thousand views after two weeks. That’s nearly half the viewership of Dynamite, meaning half the audience is watching the tournament at best. Dark seems to draw around 250-300 thousand views in total, so in that sense, that’s not too bad for the first episode.

Even worse, AEW aired a short (and I mean short) promo for the tourney and the final airing on Dynamite that you might have missed if you turned away for five seconds, but of course, it’s airing on a “special edition” airing next Saturday due to being preempted by the NBA Playoffs. This probably means the general viewership numbers will be lower than a normal Wednesday night episode of Dynamite, meaning even fewer eyes on “The Deadly Draw” Final.

What we have is just a tried and true tactic of patriarchy: dangle a carrot of “progress” to women, yet ensure that “progress” is still couched in oppression.

A long-held criticism of AEW is their insistence (almost a mandate) that only one women’s match can be on any given card, though they’ve had the rare card with two matches (including PPVs). Last night was no different but further exacerbated the problem by having Women’s Champion Hikaru Shida squash an unproven challenger in just over two minutes.

What a way to signal to your fans that you’re serious about women’s wrestling, right? (This isn’t to say squashes are bad; they’re great when utilized correctly and context is taken into account!)

Yes, there were fantastic tag matches last night, including the Men’s Tag Team Championship match, but did we really need that 15 minutes or so of cringe self-aggrandizing from FTR, the Bucks, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, and Rock N Roll Express for a heel turn that should have happened weeks ago? Did we really need to hear from Mike Chioda, a referee, who received more mic time last night than virtually the entire women’s roster not named Britt Baker, Nyla Rose, or Shida?

MJF’s proverbial stump speech didn’t need to be as long as it was, nor did we need to see Jake Roberts and Lance Archer, the latter of whom destroyed yet another hapless person in the locker room. Following-up with Matt Hardy after the events of last week was fine.

Even if all of these segments had to be on the show, AEW could have easily (I assume) cut off a minute or two of each segment and provide more than enough time for a women’s tourney match.

Further, it’s the next morning and neither the AEW nor AEW on TNT Twitter accounts have posted anything about the “Deadly Draw” Final being on next Saturday’s Dynamite, nor have they posted the short promo from last night’s show about the tourney. Instead, it was FITE TV that included a graphic for the Final while hyping next week’s show, and Veda Scott doing the same with only the graphic for the Final. The AEW account only retweeted both rather than posting something about it themselves.

Yeah, that definitely shows just how important this tag tournament is to AEW…

How can we believe AEW is taking the women’s tag tourney, and women’s wrestling in general, seriously when they can’t even do the bare minimum?

That’s the issue though, right? For all their talk, AEW really finds it difficult to put into practice their stated positions on diversity, inclusion, and progress. They LOVE sounding woke, but seem unwilling to do the actual, difficult work of working towards progressive change. When one thing hinders their “progress,” they seem to become highly defensive rather than hear the critiques and push forward.

If you’re watching “The Deadly Draw” on YouTube, more power to you. The fact remains, however, that the majority of viewers aren’t, and this only hinders both AEW and the women wrestlers in AEW. The best way to build and highlight wrestlers is to showcase them on your television product; that’s just not happening for the women in AEW.

Even with the Final airing next Saturday, how many viewers will be invested in something that they most likely haven’t seen? How can they be invested when the stories of the matches, teams, and angles all play out off of television?

Let’s just say the Final ends up being a five-star classic; there would be a larger positive effect had the qualifying matches and all the stories involved aired on Dynamite because the majority of AEW’s viewers would at least pay attention, if not fully invest in the tournament. This means a larger reaction for the eventual winners because we, as fans, have been on the journey with them together. Yes, even during a pandemic, the reaction would be huge.

Sure, unlike the TNT Championship Tournament, there is no championship on the line, but “The Deadly Draw” is still a tournament and should be treated like AEW’s two other tourneys in the TNT and Tag Team Championship Tournaments. Nearly every match in those tournaments aired on Wednesday nights. Though the TNT Championship Final aired on PPV, the Final of the Tag Team Tournament was on Dynamite.

“The Deadly Draw” has basically been given the NBA TV early playoff game that usually involves a team like the Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, or Charlotte Hornets. It’s disappointing, to say the least.

Next. 5 possible main events for AEW All Out. dark

At this point, I have very little faith in AEW actually living up to their own statements on anything regarding diversity, inclusion, and progress. They need to slowly gain that trust back from many fans like myself, and the best way to start that is to air “The Deadly Draw” on Dynamite, and not just the Final.

Hopefully, the next iteration of this tournament, or something similar involving their women’s roster, will have matches take place on Dynamite. Let’s also hope that AEW learns and grows from this moving forward and leaves the hypocrisy for others.