Why The Continental Classic Was An Important Idea For AEW

1/1/2024 4:41 AM

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Why The Continental Classic Was An Important Idea For AEW

Why The Continental Classic Was An Important Idea For AEW

January 1, 2024 4:41 AM
Why The Continental Classic Was An Important Idea For AEW
AEW News

Why the Continental Classic brought back fond memories of the old AEW.

A little over a month ago, AEW announced their first-ever G1 Climax style match known as the Continental Classic. Despite some reservations in the beginning, there was some excitement over bringing the round-robin style to AEW. With names like Bryan Danielson, Jon Moxley, Jay White, and Swerve Strickland in the tournament, it would be hard-pressed for the company to have a bad tournament. 

The Continental Classic has just finished and it was a blast from beginning to end. Sure, it was incredibly predictable that Jay Lethal, Daniel Garcia, and Mark Briscoe would be on the bottom, but even those guys got a story despite their losing streak. The Continental Classic was a great idea for AEW because it regained some of the identity that the company lost in 2023. 

AEW Was Billed As A Sports-Based Wrestling Company

When AEW first launched in 2019, Tony Khan promised a sports-based product opposite of WWE. Meaning, none of the sports entertainment nonsense. A true ALTERNATE that would serve more of the hardcore fans of professional wrestling. AEW did deliver on that promise for a good while. 

The use of sports ranking, and how wins and losses DO matter; This is what AEW built its brand on from the start. However, the company lost some of its identity in 2023. Granted, there’s always been sports entertainment shenanigans from the beginning. Whether it was the Nightmare Collective or that unforgettable Dark Order segment during the first Winter is Coming special, AEW didn’t completely shy away from telling soap opera-like stories. 

But what made the company so exciting was the drama that was told inside of the ring. From the shocking time limit draw between Kenny Omega and Bryan Danielson several years earlier to how the challengers would be determined based on rankings. AEW never found the right way to use the ranking system as it often felt lazy and uninspired, but there were times when the ranking system helped further aid a story or drove character motivations. 

While AEW is still more of a wrestling-focused product, there have been more and more sports entertainment segments that have taken over television in recent times. Now, that isn’t to say that the stories being told are bad. The Christian Cage stuff is great, Toni Storm finally found her groove as a performer, and MJF has been a part of some of the best segments this year. But there’s no denying that it often feels like WWE light. 

The Continental Classic Brought Back The Sports-Based Vibe That The Company Had Been Missing For Some Time

It isn’t just the fact that the Continental Classic is producing weekly great match-ups. As I stated previously, AEW has always been more of a wrestling-focused product. But it’s the situations and circumstances about the Continental Classic that have made it feel like the AEW of old. The round-robin style tournament has allowed creative to focus on stories that revolve around the competitors and in-ring product. There’s no soap opera drama. Just the excitement of what these men will do in these match-ups, or how their losses or wins impact their psyche. 

It’s genuinely exciting stuff that AEW should put their focus back on. It’s reminiscent of a football game where the game has less than a minute on the clock and they’re behind ten points. Or an MMA bout where a fighter is clearly behind on the scoreboard and must get a knockout or submission in the final round. This is what truly separates AEW from WWE, and it would be wise if the company continued on this path. 

How AEW Can Focus Their Programming Moving Forward

The answer isn’t more round-robin tournaments. Nor am I saying that AEW needs to abandon stories like the drama surrounding Christian Cage and Adam Copeland. But going back to the wins and losses matter concept would be a great start. Putting more focus on the in-ring aspect where the wrestlers are telling the story within their bouts is another. It’s refreshing to see guys like Jay Lethal and Daniel Garcia respond to their failure in the tournament. 

There are great stories that can be told about the losers of this tournament as well. Simple things like the ranking system (which they gave up too quickly on) or the backstage specials that focused on the talents and their desires as wrestlers can help make the company feel more like AEW of old. 

There’s currently a decline in ratings in AEW as the company can barely get to one million viewers at this point. Perhaps the issue is that they’ve abandoned most of the promises that they’ve kept. Fans want a true alternative to WWE. TNA/Impact Wrestling turning into WWE-light is a big reason fans lost interest in TNA Wrestling. AEW does have a bit of an identity crisis, but the continental classic showcased why fans fell in love with AEW in the first place.