AEW Tournament of Champions shows creative stagnation


All Elite Wrestling was put in quite a precarious position coming out of All Out. The CM Punk post-event media scrum led to a fight backstage and multiple individuals suspended. Even worse, with Punk’s injury, there was a need to vacate the AEW World Championship for the second time in a few months. The company scrambled and pulled together the Tournament of Champions to crown a new title holder. However, the moment the bracket was revealed some viewers weren’t too pleased with what they saw. In many ways, this tournament, and the reception to it shows that AEW is in a point of stagnation when it comes to creative.

The Tournament of Champions brings together former AEW title holders Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, Sammy Guevara, Darby Allin, and Adam Page while recognizing Bryan Danielson’s title runs in other companies. It goes without saying that these are six of the best performers in the industry today. Any pairings of them in the ring can create a Match of the Year candidate.

However, fans have already seen iterations of all these matches. Heading into Wednesday’s edition of AEW Dynamite there was excitement to see how the company would solve the problem put in front of them. With so many talented performers on the roster, fans wanted to see this opening as a chance to elevate new names within the company. Many called for individuals like Miro or Powerhouse Hobbs to be involved in the tournament, but they were not. While it’s understandable that AEW works to protect some wrestlers on the roster, that protecting often doesn’t lead to much. Both Miro and Malakai Black have been “well protected” during their tenure but haven’t seen many highlights at the top of the card.

Imagine a situation where a tournament was booked to include names like Andrade, Miro, Ricky Starks, Ethan Page, or others who haven’t seen the type of utilization fans are pushing to see. Jericho and Moxley could remain as a “final boss” of sorts for their brackets, but this was a missed opportunity to feature some talent that could be built for the future, even if they took a loss at some point in the tournament. And of course, MJF is waiting in the wings to take the championship, but the point remains that it would not hurt to elevate others along the way.

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Creatively, AEW has put together some of the best moments in professional wrestling in the last three years. However, that momentum seems to be lost in recent weeks to months. From the lackluster booking of the women’s division to a tournament to crown a new champion that doesn’t really give anything “new” to the viewers. There’s a lot to look forward to when AEW regains full roster strength, but its still the right time to begin questioning whether AEW needs a refresher to bring back some of its creative juices.