Even following an amazing PPV, AEW still has the same issues to address

All Elite Wrestling
All Elite Wrestling /

Let’s get this out of the way: since launching in 2019, All Elite Wrestling has done a lot of things well. Much of what the promotion excels at was on full display on Sunday’s All Out pay-per-view, which could go down as one of the best wrestling shows ever.

However, the show also shined a spotlight on several of the promotion’s glaring blind spots, particularly as it pertains to diversity and inclusion.

AEW’s shortcomings when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

To be clear, the show wasn’t completely devoid of non-White faces. The Lucha Bros. won the AEW World Tag Team Championships from The Young Bucks in the best tag team match of the year. New Japan Pro Wrestling legend Satoshi Kojima dueled with Jon Moxley in a great mean man match, and we saw the AEW debut of Minoru Suzuki right after.

The 21-woman Casino Battle Royal featured a number of Black, Asian, and Latinx talent. If you extend the scope to the Buy-In, you’ll find Private Party taking part in a 10-man tag team match.

Following that contest, Top Flight’s Dante Martin was one of the babyfaces who saved Orange Cassidy from getting his hair cut by Jack Evans. Oh, and Scorpio Sky showed up alongside Ethan Page and Dan Lambert.

As great as it was to see those appearances, it’s also just as frustrating to see that variety reach an inconvenient stop sign that always seems to be positioned short of the main event scene. In the case of All Out, this stretched out to the entire main card, which featured zero Black men on the show.

Even the ones we saw on the pre-show were relegated to being tertiary players in the Matt Hardy/Orange Cassidy feud. Sky felt like the third fiddle behind Page and Lambert (who fortunately left his Fox News-influenced insults at home). And the distaff counterparts who made the main show only did so due to travel issues postponing the Andrade El Idolo vs. PAC match.

This brand of pro wrestling incrementalism is the very thing the promotion said it would avoid roughly two years ago. Yet here we are today seeing them take the same “give us time” approach that never favors those shouting for equity while using the same tired tokenism and “no affirmative action here” excuses.

Yes, AEW has done a solid job with the likes of Scorpio Sky, Red Velvet, Jade Cargill, and Nyla Rose, and it looks like they have a pair of future stars in Lee Johnson and Dante Martin. But they still feel like the exceptions to the rule

The bad faith actors that defend the company by saying things like “no one is given anything” while ignoring that pro wrestling is a fixed sport where wins, losses, and championships are literally given to people at the discretion of whoever is booking the show makes it all the more aggravating.

Even worse, this clearly isn’t a result of incompetence or poor planning, because AEW has shown an aptitude in both areas. The promotion has shown that when it identifies a wrestler worthy of pushing, it will take the necessary steps to position them as a current of future attraction at the top of the card.

And look, no one is saying that AEW can’t or shouldn’t push the likes of, among others, Kenny Omega, “Hangman” Adam Page, CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Adam Cole, Jungle Boy, The Young Bucks, and Britt Baker. In fact, pushes for all of those talented workers are very much appreciated.

But if AEW can find the time and energy to promote them, it can do the same for more of their Black and Brown contemporaries, from pushing the wrestlers already on the roster to signing and scouting future stars on the indy scene (and let’s not pretend such names aren’t readily available). And as a fan, it’s possible to advocate for this while still enjoying the product the promotion produces and supporting the wrestlers you love.

It is fantastic that AEW has become a viable much-needed alternative when it comes to pro wrestling in the United States. But being a true alternative takes more than promoting matches in advance, abstaining from excessive non-finishes, or booking affable babyfaces.

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Those things should be prerequisites when booking a successful wrestling promotion. So should pushing more Black wrestlers.