This past week on AEW Dynamite, Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler of FTR hosted tag team appreciation night and shared the ring with a bunch of legends of the business. It reminded me of a time where those same men under a different name shared a ring with a bunch of legends in WWE two and a half years ago. I feel like these two isolated segments do a lot to show a big difference between WWE and AEW, particularly in how they use legends. So let’s take a look at both and see what we find.
January 22nd, 2018 Edition Of Monday Night Raw (aka Raw 25)
Slowly Shawn Michaels, Triple H, the New Age Outlaws, X-Pac and Scott Hall all made their way out. (Scott was introduced as Razor Ramon but his suit was much more akin to his WCW appearance, plus WWE’s own YouTube video called him Scott Hall after the fact so I guess either works.) They were then greeted by the Balor Club, Finn Balor, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. It was framed like a tense standoff, but it turned out that the Club only wanted to show their respects to their predecessors. Just before they could complete the segment though, they were interrupted by the Revival who were already scheduled to face Anderson and Gallows.
I hadn’t revisited this since it happened. It’s not exactly up there with favorite Raw moments for me. Due to my foggy memory I’d actually assumed that Dash and Dawson might’ve atleast gotten to cut a promo on the legends before the inevitable, but no. They just kinda showed up a few seconds before their promo was finished, shooed them out of the ring and then their match occurred.
The bout was very brief, but still went long enough for a ‘Mike Chioda’ chant to break out. A Magic Killer finished off Dash Wilder, and then all the legends and Balor Club converged on the ring to continue the Too Sweet’ing. Scott Dawson wasn’t pleased with this and seemed to think the 9-on-1 odds favored him, so he whipped Hall around and got in his face. He got a toothpick flicked at him for his troubles. And then an X-Factor from X-Pac, and a punch combo from Road Dogg, and a Famouser from Billy Gunn. Then Dash ate the classic Sweet Chin Music into a Pedigree, which left him prone for Finn Balor’s Coup de Gras. Billy delivered his big catchphrase and that was that.
It was all lovingly sold and from the Revival’s perspective, it was probably fun.
I don’t expect them to be mad or bitter about this. They don’t have to be, that’s their fans’ job. Let’s be real though, nobody that values them would book them this way. They gave them as little as they possibly could. It’s not what you do with a team that’s in the running for best in the world. And it was but another in the long line of instances of WWE glorifying their past at the direct expense of their present.
I think a particular reason for the outrage for this specifically, is that it was echoing what happened to the Ascension a few years earlier. That’s another team that was successful in NXT and came up with a bit of buzz, who were similarly humiliated by the APA, nWo and the New Age Outlaws just months after debuting on the main roster. It pretty much ended their credibility and left them as an opening card act for the entire rest of their run. Even beating the Outlaws at the Rumble did little to salvage it, the damage was done. Nobody wanted to see that happen to Dash and Dawson.
Now, let’s look at how AEW handles this whole ‘current guys sharing a ring with legends’ thing.
August 12th, 2020 Edition of AEW Dynamite (aka Tag Team Appreciation Night)
If I had started this site a week earlier than I did then I’d have a full recap of this segment to share, but alas. I’ll have to sum it up here instead. On the latest edition of Dynamite, it was Tag Team Appreciation Night, hosted by FTR. During this show, there was a special segment that saw FTR, the Young Bucks, the Rock ‘N Roll Express and the Brainbusters sharing the ring. Indeed the current generation was honoring the past, but the opposite was true as well. RNR and Arn Anderson put over the two most widely regarded teams in the sport today as, well, just that. They talked them up as much as they possibly could.
Tully took a different approach, insisting that they can’t call themselves the best unless they’re tag champs, but even that can be seen as more trying to light a fire under the both of them. Once the legends started turning their attention to each other however, a fight broke out. Dax ended up falling to the mat and favoring his leg, which had seemingly been injured during FTR’s last outing. But it was all a ploy.
As the Young Bucks were busy getting Tully and Arn up the ramp, FTR turned on Rock ‘N Roll in a shocking attack. Robert Gibson was taken out with a swing of a knee brace and Ricky Morton was dropped onto his head with the classic Spike Piledriver that they call the Mindbreaker. They made their leave as the Young Bucks and the tag team champions, Kenny Omega and Hangman Page rushed to their aid. Page, who had become friends with Dax and Cash over the past few months, was particularly bewildered.
It was a pretty shocking angle, and one that was seen by many, as it was among the highest rated segments of the episode.
Even though RNR are still wrestling to this day, many aren’t aware of that as they’ve been strictly in non-wrestling roles so far in AEW. I imagine that might change soon as an FTR/RNR match seems natural after this and I’d personally think that’d be really cool to see. I actually personally expected the segment to conclude with Dax and Cash challenging Ricky and Robert, I didn’t expect them to go full heel like that. But for most of the audience, Gibson and Morton are seen as guys that wouldn’t be cleared to take a bump as serious as a piledriver so it made for quite the moment.
WWE brings back nostalgia acts to spike ratings all the time. When they appear, they typically either do nothing of note or get put over at some lower card heel’s expense. Usually it works as a draw for that one week and then they drop when the legends leave. After all you established to everyone tuning in that the past stars are better than the current ones, and then on the next show you go back to only having current stars.
The nostalgia act worked here too, but they made use of that ratings spike to put over how dangerous and vile FTR could be. When those extra people tuned in, that’s what they saw.
It seems like the difference speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Revival looked like lesser stars for what happened at Raw 25. FTR looked like bigger stars for what happened on Dynamite.
And whaddya know, Rock ‘N Roll today are still just as legendary as they always were.