WORDS BY ANT SIERRA
Can you guys believe it? 2020 is over! Pat yourselves on the shoulder or do the signature Tomasso Ciampa clap for surviving. There are tons of things to be optimistic about as wrestling fans, especially considering what’s been happening between AEW and Impact. The Sky’s the limit now! And we here at Kayfabe Cafe can’t help but have the itch to predict what could happen in 2021, especially me ‘coz I wrote this shit. So without further ado here are some bold wrestling predictions for 2021.
AEW will introduce their version of the X Division
Despite the pandemic hitting the entire wrestling industry in 2020, All Elite Wrestling never seemed to slow down in terms of producing top-tier quality programs. This is a testament to the work rate that the roster has, and how empowered they are to perform. However, sometimes you just can’t help but think that there are some wrestlers who are being overshadowed by other talents, who are in higher profile programs. The solution, give them something compelling to do.
Enter the X Division.
Impact Wrestling’s key attraction helped the promotion draw in viewers every single week for the past 18 years. Not only that, but the division also produced some of pro-wrestling’s most influential names such as Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, and AJ Styles, who have all benefited from getting exposure by being its key players. It’s safe to say that because of its popularity, the high-risk, fast-paced, high-flying style of the division became influential and even synonymous to independent wrestling in the 2010’s. A style that up until now is practiced by most of AEW’s talents.
With AEW and Impact’s partnership blooming it’s not that much of a stretch to think that one or both companies may just take a cue from one another in order to boost their overall product. For AEW, having another platform for up and coming stars would lessen the risk of under exposure which may lead them to obscurity, especially since not everyone has an ongoing storyline for fans to follow.
Having a sort of X Division would give up and comers room to grow, in order to explore their characters even further while highlighting their strengths on the more athletic side– kinda like what happened to Jay Lethal in his run as Black Machismo. This is a great way for the company in general to uplift the overall product by giving fans something familiar, and yet so brand new.
NWA and MLW will join AEW’s partnership initiative
Still on the topic of AEW and Impact’s partnership, the initiative to boost non-WWE wrestling has been well received by a lot of fans which is good as far as generating that initial buzz is concerned. However there are other ways that this movement can draw in more attention, to keep it fresh for an extended period of time– this is where both the NWA and MLW enters the picture.
Both of the relatively smaller promotions have an interesting flavor to it that appeals to a wrestling fan base that has a very specific taste. The NWA for example presented itself as a throwback to old school wrestling before the pandemic, while MLW has a grittier, sort of fight club feel to it with the focus on promoting a style versus style dynamic. Both of these promotions have a gradually increasing loyal fan base, and having them involved in the initiative would show that the movement doesn’t only advocate unity between promotions, but also product diversity due to the varying style of presentation. Yes you can argue that Ring of Honor should be part of this as well, but given the near similarity that both AEW and ROH has, it’s best to initially omit the latter to avoid drawing too much comparison.
Involving the NWA and MLW would be a bit easy in terms of storyline and presentation. Not only is AEW heavily promoting the NWA through their women's championship, but their world champion Kenny Omega is currently going through a derivative of the belt collector gimmick that Austin Aries had back in 2018. The lucrative format of the partnership is a great bait for the NWA and MLW to provide guaranteed mainstream exposure to their wrestlers while taking up other independent dates, as well as fulfilling their responsibilities to their home promotion.
Plus having more than two promotions joining forces to uplift non-WWE wrestling would resonate more to the overall industry, as compared to just having two with a symbiotic relationship.
Kenny Omega will fight for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship (Maybe against Kota Ibushi)
Going back to Kenny Omega and his take on the belt collector gimmick. There are a lot of people right now, us included, who are expecting AEW and New Japan to have an open working relationship in the near future. And what better way to kick off that partnership than by having Kenny Omega go up against Kota Ibushi for the IWGP Heavyweight championship. Now as of this writing Ibushi is still just a challenger for the double titles, but considering his on-going arc right now, it’s likely that Ibushi would finally be crowned as Heavyweight champion in 2021.
If or when it happens, Omega’s collector gimmick added to his ties with Ibushi is the perfect catalyst for a storyline that involves the two promotions, should they form a partnership. And let’s be real, a lot of fans would want to see this match especially if it’s for the IWGP heavyweight title. It’s a great way for Omega to add another layer to his collector gimmick, and for Ibushi to cement his first world championship reign.
The promise of an intriguing high-profile matchup that could attract tons of international viewers would benefit both promotions in terms of reaching out to the other’s current market, especially for the relatively new AEW brand. Out of all promotions in Asia, New Japan Pro-Wrestling is the most recognizable brand in the US market considering all of the collaborations they had with the likes of WWE and Ring of Honor in the past, not to mention the broadcast deal they had with AXS TV back in November 2014.
Omega’s involvement in the IWGP heavyweight championship picture would allow AEW to have a better foothold in the Asian wrestling scene, as the brand continues to grow its namesake in the international market.