In my last article, I described how The Elite made terrible babyfaces and how refreshing they are as the top heels in the company. This made me think a lot about the other villains on AEW Dynamite and how captivated I am by them which adds to my weekly investment. Getting an antagonist right is more important than people think. We should always want to care about the protagonist and their story, however, a lackluster and disappointing villain makes the story less interesting than it could be. Pro-wrestling has some cheesy one-note villains that are a dime a dozen. Even so, despite AEW Dynamite flourishing with baddies, I think AEW is doing a tremendous job building up their bad guys.
When MJF turned on Chris Jericho it launched the formation of The Pinnacle. The New Horseman Faction for AEW arrived in style to defeat The Inner Circle at Blood and Guts. The Pinnacle are on top, literally, and will only grow more important over the years. Meanwhile, Team Taz continues to be AEW’s most highly entertaining underrated faction. Cage, Starks, and Hobbs are treated like badass killers even in recurring losses. The Elite have taken their place as AEW’s NWO and are filled to the brim with pretentious swagger. Finally, now that Miro is separated from Kip Sabian, The Bulgarian Beast is unleashed in a way he should’ve been all along.
Dynamite is filled with villains who are must-see attractions for the company and make their babyfaces more worthwhile as a result. Jon Moxley was already the top guy in AEW by a landslide. Now that he is feuding with Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks, there is more investment because we want to see him prevail over those who screwed him. Same with Christian Cage and Hangman Page. Now that they are feuding with Team Taz, we feel compelled by the matches because the heels have been built up over weeks on Dynamite and Dark.
There have been some stumbling blocks along the way. As mentioned earlier, Miro was not taken full advantage of in his partnership with Superbad. It’s commendable that AEW sees Kip as a commodity to invest into the future. Unfortunately, the pairing did not click well, and separating them was the right call. Now that Miro is playing solo he can finally reach new heights on TNT.
The heels in AEW are allowed to act more than just the stereotypical twirling mustache villain. They have thoughts, feelings, motivation, and different characters. As a theatre student, I more than welcome actually writing people like human beings rather than generalizing them into either “good” or “bad.” The Young Bucks are natural pricks and are dialing it up to eleven because of Kenny’s toxic habits. MJF is purposely antagonizing everyone in AEW due to his own self-doubt and insecurities. Taz is trying to etch a new legacy for himself with three star-studded proteges he can milk from. All these villains have complex and relatable motives behind their actions. They are unique from one another and that makes it all the better.
Good villains are something of a rarity now. The MCU proved the possibility of decades long success and millions of dollars with even the most bland and lifeless antagonists, so it’s refreshing for a weekly long running series to place as much emphasis into the villains as the heroes. AEW has some excellent heels that will help the company achieve higher success by taking the low road.