On Wednesday, March 13, Will Ospreay did, what should have been, a star making promo. In fact, as a long time wrestling fan and critic, I recommend any fan to go watch the clip on the AEW Wrestling YouTube Channel. He managed to make sense of why his upcoming match with Bryan Danielson at Dynasty is happening and why we should be watching it.

For smart mark fans such as myself, this match was already one of interest because of the combatants, but now there’s a reason why a casual viewer would want to see it. The problem is AEW has consistently driven off casual viewers and has al­ready damaged Ospreay the moment he first showed up in the company.

There was never an introduction. AEW does this with every wrestler it signs. Viewers are just supposed to know who these wrestlers are. They treat each one like it’s Steve Austin or The Rock debuting.

As a knowledgeable fan, I’ve only seen Ospreay a handful of times. I know he’s very athletic, in fact elite level as far as athleticism, but who was he and could be make me cheer or boo him and want to see his matches? Until Wednesday night at AEW Dynamite in Toronto, I had no idea. The guy shows up with two other guys and he’s just there. He’s thrown into a feud with Kenny Omega, which I’m told is a “dream match.” That term alone turned me off because I’ve heard them tell me Jamie Hayter and Thunder Rosa was a “dream match.” What was at stake? Why are they facing each other? What are they feuding about? I still don’t know and don’t care at this point.

Dave Meltzer said on his WON Podcast that Ospreay was a “miss” for WWE. He compared Ospreay favorably to Cody Rhodes in both charisma and in-ring perfor­mance. He basically said that while WWE “doesn’t need anybody” that Ospreay could have been the guy in a few years. After seeing this promo, I see where Meltzer is com­ing from. While I have reservations about comparing Ospreay to the top babyface in wrestling, there are certainly some high level, main event level tools that, if you’ve watched and analyzed this business, would make you see the potential of Ospreay as a top guy.

Unfortunately, Ospreay is not only a “miss” for WWE, but he’s also a “miss” for AEW.

I’ll admit, calling him a miss for AEW is premature. This promo and match with Danielson could be a launching point for him as the guy in AEW. It could be that mo­ment, on a smaller scale, where Austin versus Bret Hart launched Austin as the top babyface for WWF. This is not to say Ospreay is an Austin-level performer, because he isn’t and few ever were or ever will be. It’s just a comparison of circumstances. Ospreay could wres­tle a series of high-profile matches, be given mic time on a regular basis, be part of well-told stories, and given a large promotional push to elevate him to a spot to po­tentially make a difference in AEW’s business. Only it’s not going to be, because the promotion is incapable of holding up its end and, without any type of authority figure behind the scenes, will allow Ospreay to use his worst instincts in the ring instead of guiding him.

That’s just what AEW does.

Adam Cole and The Young Bucks at AEW Rampage, taped on September 22, 2021, at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, NY. Photo by George Tahinos, https://georgetahinos.smugmug.com

Adam Cole and The Young Bucks at AEW Rampage, taped on September 22, 2021, at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, NY. Photo by George Tahinos, https://georgetahinos.smugmug.com

When the Elite joined up with Tony Khan, the mark son of a billionaire, to create AEW, I was on board. The promise of a sports-like presentation with a focus on in-ring and less scripting was an exciting concept. I had heard the talk about Kenny Omega and his performances in Japan as well as the work the Young Bucks did. I saw a lot of Cody Rhodes’ reinvention in ROH and the combination known as The Elite had me anxiously awaiting this new wrestling company. I too was tired of the overly scripted, cartoonish WWE product. Here was a chance to revive pro wrestling and present a true alternative to WWE, but like with Ospreay, it was immediately clear the creative of AEW had no idea what it was doing.

There were no rules in matches that were supposed to have rules. Then there were no rules matches for no reason. No one was introduced. Everybody was just supposed to know who Omega and The Bucks were. At least Cody Rhodes had been on WWE TV, but even he was a miss because he had been a midcard wrestler and we were never told why we should care. With no promotional push or even an introduction, Omega and the Bucks began “putting over” other talent. The talent they chose to put over were either immediately off TV afterwards or just weren’t ready for TV let alone a promotional push, rendering these jobs both damaging to the unknown Bucks and Omega and useless for the performers on the other end. Given ample screen time with no direction and no guidance from creative, the Bucks and Omega were quickly exposed as not only overrated, but, left to their own instincts, a detriment to the pro­motion as a whole. Just look up their quarter hour ratings.

AEW then started taking ideas from other, better, bookers. Like New Japan, factions were formed only without explanation and with some of the worst indy talent that were signed simply for being friends with someone in a position of power. The combinations were bizarre as well, for example a cowboy was put with masked job guys who were named after video game characters. ECW-like hardcore matches start­ed showing with no build and no storyline reason, despite regular matches having no count outs and use chairs and tables as well. Nothing was used to get talent over. Just random things happened and no explanation was given for why and then there was no follow up.

Will Ospreay defies gravity against Rocky Romero at AEW Rampage, taped on Wednesday, June 14, 2023, at the Capitol One Arena in Washington, DC, and aired on June 16, 2023. Photo by George Tahinos, https://georgetahinos.smugmug.com

Will Ospreay defies gravity against Rocky Romero at AEW Rampage, taped on Wednesday, June 14, 2023, at the Capitol One Arena in Washington, DC, and aired on June 16, 2023. Photo by George Tahinos, https://georgetahinos.smugmug.com

Amidst all this chaos, Ospreay enters with all the tools mentioned above. In fact, the chaos has only heightened, with wrestlers disappearing for long periods from TV, more and more title belts being introduced, and wrestlers allowed free reign in their matches to do whatever ideas they can come up with. The injury rated in AEW is pretty astounding, which you would think would cause their management and creative to ask the wrestlers to dial back the in-ring style. Instead, they’ve allowed more and more leeway.

Recently, Darby Allin was allowed to dive onto the floor off a 12-foot ladder with only glass to break his fall. No crash pad or table or anything else. Justin Barrasso, of Sports Illustrated, who regularly promotes AEW shows, then explains that the promotion had a “plan B” in case Darby was not able to continue. So they had planned for Darby to be incapacitated in the match. Just consider the stupidity of allowing the move when they thought there was a chance he’d not get up from it.

This is the world that Ospreay is now in. Promotional pushes are nonexistent, be­cause no one in charge knows what that even looks like. They could put a belt on Os­preay, but considering there have been 40+ belts that have shown up on AEW TV just in the past year, what do belts mean? Storylines are either impossible to understand or bizarre or not told. Matches randomly happen without any idea what’s at stake. Os­preay’s match with Danielson was put together, because it’s a “dream match.” Consid­ering Ospreay has never been introduced, who’s it a dream match for? Internet marks, of course, but, even more niche, specifically internet marks who follow Japanese wrestling as well. No storyline reason or hook for why anyone else would want to see it.

Then there’s the ever looming injury rate of this promotion. It’s not a matter of if, but when Ospreay will have to take significant time off. The in-ring style has managed to become both incredibly fake looking and also very dangerous. Left to his own de­vices and with a general attitude in the promotion that the wrestlers need to “one-up” each other Ospreay will get injured and probably frequently. This is not to even men­tion that the roster is also packed with poorly trained, or even self trained, wrestlers trying to do moves they can’t do.

Wednesday night, Ospreay did a promo that should be, could be, the launching of his American rise to stardom. Within a year, he could be the guy in AEW and revive its attendance numbers. Instead, AEW will fumble this too. Well, it already has fumbled it. It’s what AEW does. Its mismanagement has fumbled so many wrestlers that a list of names would fill up another article. Even if they could manage it, Ospreay will spend significant amounts of time on the injured list killing any momentum he gains.

This is why, while he’s a “miss” for WWE, he’s a bigger “miss” for AEW.

TOP PHOTO: Tony Schiavone interviews Will Ospreay at AEW Dynamite at Toronto’s Coca-Cola Coliseum on Wednesday, March 20, 2024. Photo by Steve Argintaru, Twitter/Instagram: @stevetsn