Disqualifications in pro wrestling have been a plot device for as long as the sport has been in existence. It is something that when used judiciously can being a storytelling vehicle to drive a rivalry forward, usually towards a match with some stipulation eliminating the need for DQ: cage, Hell in a Cell, etc. Everyone who watches the modern product can agree that for a long time, WWE has relied heavily on DQ finishes to further storylines and that is mostly due to lazy creative to “protect” certain wrestlers from being hurt by a loss. To make themselves an alternative to WWE, we have seen AEW avoid DQ and count out finishes almost entirely. At first, I found myself thinking “this is refreshing, we get REAL finishes to a match.” That was in 2019-2020. As we approach 2023, I find this has turned from an endearing quality of AEW’s storytelling to a detriment of it. I knew AEW wanted to distance a lot of their presentation from WWE (which they don’t really do, but that’s two cents for another time) but I later realized this is an edict from AEWs brain trust.
On the most recent episode of his podcast What Happened When, Tony Schiavone (current AEW commentator and Senior Producer and Special Advisor and Talent Relations in AEW) gave his thoughts on DQ finishes saying: “I never liked F*ck DQ’s. F*ck finish DQ’s is f*cking the fans. You can only f*ck them so many times.” With him in Tony Khan’s ear it is no wonder there is such an aversion to a disqualification.
I cannot say I blame him. When used too much it sucks the wind out of a story and the enthusiasm of an audience from getting further invested in what they are watching. The issue here in my opinion, is that they have swung so far to the other side of the spectrum that they are limiting the ways they tell stories. As mentioned before, when used judiciously a DQ is a useful and valid storytelling device in pro wrestling. I think the fear AEW has about not wanting to look like WWE keeps them from occasionally using this story device to it’s full potential for the stories they want to tell. For me, it creates a problem of the general rules in AEW matches. As I watched the recent PPV, Full Gear two weeks ago I saw countless DQ-level maneuvers during matches that went completely disregarded. So by that logic, why would any stipulation match be considered special? Why should I care about the difference of a singles match versus a “lights out” or “anything goes” match when anything already goes?!
Feel free to sound off whether you agree or disagree in the comments or on the socials. This is just my two cents.