AEW's Big Problem with Its Big Men

11/18/2023 11:44 PM

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AEW's Big Problem with Its Big Men

AEW's Big Problem with Its Big Men

November 18, 2023 11:44 PM
AEW's Big Problem with Its Big Men
AEW News

What is AEW Doing Wrong and Can It Fix It?

AEW's big problem with its big men is a flaw the company has to address. The promotion that prides itself on its dazzling array of talent has largely left out one of the most important aspects of pro wrestling—the larger-than-life wrestler whose size and power alone makes them a threat to any opponent. Let’s look at several examples of how AEW has misused wrestlers that could easily have become top talents. Instead, the only thing they’ve done is give these wrestlers reasons to exit the company. It’s almost as if AEW has a sign that reads “No one over 6 feet allowed to enter the main event.”

Going Too Far

When AEW debuted, the company wanted to make sure fans knew they were bringing an entertaining alternative to the WWE product that had dominated wrestling ever since WCW and ECW’s demise. It quickly became clear that AEW would focus on long-term storytelling, promote a solid ring product, and at times, deliver some hardcore wrestling full of blood and guts.

It didn’t take long for AEW to develop a strong audience and while no company may ever be able to match the WWE, AEW quickly established itself as the number two promotion in the country, finding success with its weekly television and on pay-per-view.

Like the WWE faction Evolution boasted, AEW featured the past from the past, the best from today, and the best of the future. The promotion wasn’t afraid to sign new acts or limit itself to the United States. Fans got to see stars from around the world, which also gave some fans a chance to see these stars perform on the national stage for the first time.

Big Men, Little Push

However, while AEW featured many stars, there was a noticeable exception—its big men. AEW wasn’t reluctant to bring in larger wrestlers such as Lance Archer, Wardlow, or Brian Cage. However, they seemed reluctant to push them too much, almost as if they were afraid of being perceived as too much like Vince McMahon’s WWE, which throughout its history has pushed musclemen with questionable wrestling ability.


Wardlow is a classic example of how to introduce a big man and then build him up as a fearsome opponent. Wardlow was hired by MJF to be his bodyguard and like other famous wrestling bodyguards, the big man looked every bit the part of someone who could interfere on their client’s behalf during a match or deliver a post-match beatdown. Wardlow’s in-ring appearances were limited but he showed he was more than just a big man, pulling off some amazing aerial moves that blended speed and agility. Wardlow’s eventual face turn where he tired of MJF mistreating him had fans anxious to see what the big man could do when he went off on his own. Wardlow’s decimation of MJF made it seem the sky was the limit.

Instead, the sky fell as AEW booked him against some of the weakest opponents on its roster and sapped some of his momentum by booking him against Orange Cassidy, whose character at the time was still seen as largely a comedy act. Things didn’t approve and despite three runs with the TNT Championship, Wardlow hasn’t progressed any further than when he defeated MJF at 2022’s Double or Nothing after delivering ten consecutive powerbombs to his former boss. Thankfully, AEW has realized its mistake and is trying to rebuild him into a monster. However, will this be enough for Wardlow to stay with AEW when his contract expires?

Lance Archer

Lance Archer (aka “The Murderhawk Monster”) is a veteran grappler with the build, moveset, and exotic look to instill nightmares. AEW wisely paired him with Jake “The Snake” Roberts as his manager, creating the perfect heel opponent for AEW’s Cody Rhodes. When AEW launched its tournament for the TNT Championship, it was obvious Archer would make it to the finals as he crushed one opponent after the other.

A championship win also seemed likely when Archer faced Cody Rhodes in the finals, as Rhodes couldn’t seem to string any kind of offense. Having Archer steamroll Rhodes in the finals to win the title would have made Archer as a top guy while also creating a good program with “The American Nightmare” chasing for the belt. Instead, Rhodes beat Archer in what could only be considered a fluke win, and “The Murderhawk Monster’s” AEW career has been an afterthought, with Archer used to put over much smaller men.

Big Bill

Big Bill (aka former WWE Superstar Big Cass) is a talent that AEW gave a chance to prove that he’d conquered his personal demons. In AEW, Big Bill showed that his previous run in Ring of Honor (where he stayed clean and performed well) was evidence that he’d turned the corner. Once that happened, AEW should have pushed him. Instead, AEW turned him into the go-to job guy to show how smaller opponents can beat anyone under the right (albeit often reality-defying) circumstances.

Signs of Improvement

While AEW’s booking of its big men has been atrocious, the last few weeks have offered some significant progress. Wardlow is back to destroying opponents and he’s setting his sights on MJF’s AEW World Heavyweight Championship. Big Bill just captured the AEW World Tag Team Championship with Ricky Starks, a pleasant surprise as the former Big Cass has shown his talent for tag team wrestling.

AEW has a fantastic roster and it’s time to utilize its big men better. When fans see a 170-pound-soaking weight Darby Allin pin wrestlers such as Big Bill or Lance Archer, it stretches credibility. It’s almost as if AEW is trying to show that it doesn’t book its smaller wrestlers as the WWE often did with its cruiserweights—using them as cannon fodder for big men like Brock Lesnar, Mark Henry, The Big Show, and others.

There are plenty of big men in AEW that the promotion can book against each other. It’s also possible to put them in tag matches where smaller opponents who are tag team specialists can get a win thanks to precision teamwork (although it shouldn’t be a regular occurrence).

How do you think AEW is doing with its booking of its big men?