When done right, there’s little in professional wrestling better than a good faction. Every time there is a new alliance or group we get giddy trying to book the objective of the group, their next feud, their chase of gold or just who’s going to be the next member.
Some of my best memories as a wrestling fan involve stables or factions: D-Generation X and Austin vs. McMahon’s Corporation, Nexus, the Shield, the New Day and of course all the international and inter-promotion drama of the Bullet Club.
It can be a very special thing when done correctly, it could sell truckloads of merch, elevate everyone involved, and provide many storylines that can just switch depending on where the group alliance lies.
Today’s professional wrestling landscape seems filled with factions. Everyone is looking to be a part of something, and in AEW it looks like factions are their way to go. Factions are like boy bands because we can see specific archetypes and roles for every member in those groups. So if you sign with Tony Khan’s company, it is almost a forgone conclusion that you will end up in a group or stable.
I love NJPW, but they also have a case of “factionitis” dictating their storylines. Like in everything in life, you need balance.
When you start booking matches, it is hard to find a balance, do you want your wrestler to fight for a championship or do they have a specific storyline you want to develop. What happens when the title scene is too crowded? What happens when your roster is bloated and you want to give people some TV time. Eventually a faction allows elevating people, giving them a purpose as a group to achieve a certain thing, but in the end it can also ground single competitors for a while.
Let’s take the Blackpool Combat Club for instance, one can assume it was created to allow Danielson and Moxley to do something different instead of chasing the main title, in an active way (Moxley winning the interim title is a consequence of an injury.) Don’t get me wrong I love the BCC and if I can get more Regal on a weekly basis it’s amazing. For me, it seems that the Blackpool Combat Club exist to allow its participants to be active in the roster to have the matches they want to have without having to sacrifice a championship storyline. Now let’s see what they will do with Claudio Castagnoli, trowing him into the rivalry with the Jericho Appreciation Society should be interesting. We will need to be patient and see what’s next for him, his history with Eddie Kingston could be an indicator of perhaps an implosion inside the team that can be exploited in different sways.
Nonetheless, when we see how many of the dynamite shows and recent PPV have ended, one feels a little frustrated because stables are an easy way out. Trow the all at the end like a go home show before a multi man match.
These stables can mutate into a tag team, and having them going after the champs can be a compelling story. I truly believe that when they decide to do a tournament (who doesn’t love a good tournament) for the tag team championship, It’s going to blow the roof out of the wrestling world in general.
But let’s go back to analyzing how booking in a world full of factions can allow one to explore other options. When Punk won the championship, it was a breath of fresh air. Punk didn’t have an alliance, he has friends who from time to time they can help him, see FTR. He is not part of a group, or he’s going to go against some else just because someone he knows is in trouble. Hangman Page been jumping from faction to faction. He has been trying to find his place in the world after ditching the Dark Order that seems to be on their last legs.
Hangman’s story is compelling TV, the anxious millennial is a great character, but now is the time to let him grow as a superstar and let’s see how broken he is after the loss against Punk. If he goes back to the Dark Order, maybe we would be able to enjoy a different story from the first time around.
I could go on and on about every single wrestler in AEW and how a stable can hinder his story progression or help his character arc, but let’s summarize it. Wrestling is as simple as “let’s see who is better from these two wrestlers” but let’s be honest life isn’t fair and is never an individual thing. Like every hero story, the protagonist will find allies and foes along the way, but sometimes wrestlers need their solo act to go against the odds. Sooner rather than later Tony Kahn will have a 2nd promotion, and he will have to split his roster and maybe then he will need to pull back a little from the factions and start to develop these stories that we are craving, and he gives us from time to time (CM Punk vs MJF)
Author: Alfonso Siman
Photo Credit: AEW