Hardcore matches are the Marmite of the wrestling world – fans either love them or hate them. And this might be an unpopular opinion, but I think it would be a major positive for All Elite Wrestling to introduce a hardcore scene to their programming.
The recent Lights Out match between Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley at AEW’s Full Gear sparked vastly opposing views from online critics. Rarely does a match in modern times meet with such divided opinion. One half of the fanbase praised the match for its glorious violence, the other claimed Kenny and Mox pushed things too far.
Regardless of what side of the fence you’re on, there’s no denying the match was a memorable one – perhaps the most memorable match of AEW’s admittedly-short history. And it wasn’t until I asked myself: “What are the most memorable matches on AEW?” that I realized something.
Well, first of all, here are my answers. Three matches come to mind, they are:
- The Young Bucks vs Lucha Bros – Escalera De La Muerte Match at All Out
- Kenny Omega vs Joey Janela – Lights Out Match on AEW Dark
- Kenny Omega vs Jon Moxley – Lights Out Match at Full Gear
Sure, it feels a little dirty putting Joey Janela in a list of greatest anything, but if you asked a lot of people the same question, I’m sure these matches would crop up more than a few times. Which tells me that AEW are doing these kinds of gimmick matches in the right way.
Now, following the Omega vs Moxley match at All Out, some AEW higher-ups, including Big Daddy Meltzer, claimed that it would be a long time before we saw a match of that level on AEW programming again.
Of course, I get it. You can’t have this level of violence on TV every week. It would diminish the concept of hardcore matches as well as negate the purpose of a blow-off match to end a feud. That’s just wrestling booking 101. But not doing anything of this caliber for an extended period of time seems like a huge missed opportunity.
Obviously, retaining and increasing viewers is one of the AEW’s biggest focuses at the minute. I’m sure they’re scrutinizing demographic numbers in a much deeper way than us armchair analysts are. But I haven’t heard anyone say that they’re going to stop watching the show just because Omega and Moxley got a little bloody one night. I know they’re trying to recapture the mythical ‘lapsed fan’ that Tony Khan keeps mentioning, but I think they’ve shown by now that that’s not working. The millions of people who stopped watching WCW in the early 2000s won’t suddenly reappear because Chris Jericho is on the show.
Likewise, there was talk of a ‘sports presentation’ in the vein of NJPW which has also seemingly gone out the window. Some people might disagree there, but any show with Orange Cassidy and a cult recruitment drive isn’t a sports-presented product. (Nothing against these two elements, of course. Orange Cassidy showing up in the bathroom was the best part of last week’s Dynamite).
So, would it be advantageous for AEW to appeal to already-established wrestling niches rather than a global ‘lapsed’ audience? Possibly. They’ve already proven that they can take indie darlings, put them on a major platform and make them stars. What I’m seeing on a weekly basis are elements of indie wrestling turned up to 10 and put on TV, so I’m struggling to understand why the hardcore niche is being excluded, especially as AEW has proven that it excels at violent bouts.
Some people say it comes down to wrestler safety. Totally, that makes sense, and I agree. I winced when Jimmy Havok ate thumbtacks too. But doesn’t your asshole also pucker when Jack Evans does a 630? What about when Nick Jackson flips off scaffolding onto the stage? If anything, taking a barbed wire bat to the spine is safer than moonsaulting to the outside through a table. This is something the old ECW guard have covered in detail (which is why there’s significantly more 90s ECW stars alive today than Attitude Era WWE stars).
Maybe it’s the selfish fan in me wanting to see a little more variety on AEW. Maybe it’s the one niche I hoped they’d cater to, especially with Moxley, Allin, Janela and Havoc on the same roster. I know wrestling has changed a lot over the past 20 years, and yeah, hardcore wrestling is mostly dead outside of CZW and a few indies. However, I do believe that regular hardcore matches would be a major positive for AEW, providing they were inserted at the right time.
Will hardcore wrestling stay dead? WWE and NJPW don’t seem to be doing anything to revive it, so unless AEW take the ball and run with it, then it’s probably going to stay that way. We’ll have to wait and see what the future brings.