In AEW, you need to be in with the 'in crowd'.
Since AEW Dynamite launched in October 2019, there are a few things that have consistently been a part of the weekly programming. There have been new faces and old legends who have made their debuts. There's also been a steady diet of dives and a feast of false finishes.
But perhaps the most consistent part of AEW's flagship show is the annoying and obscene use of factions as part of its storylines. It seems that every wrestler on the AEW roster is part of a larger group, made up of three or more members.
Perhaps these special episodes of AEW that are airing during the NBA Playoffs should be called 'Faction Fridays', because that's all you see. A bunch of superfriends thrown together for a common cause, or because they didn't really have anything else better to do.
While there is certainly strength in numbers, this premise has been taken a little too far in AEW. With a gaggle of groups forming in the promotion, we currently have: The Inner Circle, The Pinnacle, Team Taz, The Nightmare Family, Dark Order, The Elite, Death Triangle, Best Friends, The Factory, The Wingmen, and 'Big Money' Matt Hardy's group.
This has led to some fun rivalries, like Adam Page & The Dark Order vs. Matt Hardy & Private Party. It's also provided us with the all-out war between The Inner Circle and The Pinnacle. Their battle of wills has become the hottest rivalry in AEW today.
It's not surprising. In the course of wrestling history, this type of gang warfare has always drummed up excitement. Whether it was a group of babyfaces rallying together to fight The Four Horsemen, or DX clashing with the Nation of Domination, sometimes bigger is better when it comes to brawling.
It is - as Jim Ross likes to say - all out carnage. The more foes thrown in the fray and bodies being broken, the more the fans seem to react.
However, AEW has gone overboard when it comes to these groupings.
Several of these kooky kabals could be kiboshed. For example, there's really no need for a wrestler of QT Marshall's stature to have a faction of his own.
Death Triangle seems to be an odd fit between PAC and the Lucha Bros, and could easily be separated. The Elite will most likely crumble anyway when Gallows and Anderson inevitably turn on the Young Bucks.
So far, the only two factions who have really stuck out in AEW have been the two at the top: The Inner Circle and The Pinnacle. Their battles in Blood & Guts and Stadium Stampede will go down as significant moments in this company's young history.
But for many of the groups in AEW, there is just no point to their existence. They aren't relevant, because their story hasn't been effectively told, or they haven't had enough TV time to do so. And in the case of some performers - like Brian Cage in Team Taz - it's been a hindrance to their solo careers, just to be a piece of a larger puzzle.
AEW needs to stop relying so much on this gimmick. Sticking a bunch of randoms into a faction and giving them a catchy name doesn't always work. And, it doesn't work when it's being overused.
The folks at AEW have shown a lot of creativity since their launch two years ago. They've also shown a penchant for recycling some of their own ideas already. This faction fixation is a great example of that.
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If AEW is going to truly develop a generation of new stars, they can't just make them faces in a crowd. They need to eliminate some of these groups and let younger performers show just how far they can spread their wings, when they get to fly solo.
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