I was chatting the other day about how I’d book an AEW round-robin tournament and I thought I’d expand on the subject somewhat here.
Background: most US pro wrestling tournaments are single elimination. There’s a bracket, and if you lose you’re out. In contrast, the big Japanese promotions tend to run round robin tournaments, where you earn points for wins, and the wrestlers with the most points face off in the finals.
Round robin tournaments chew up way more time. Typically, while something like NJPW’s G1 is going on, the majority of each show is dedicated to tournament matches. This would be hard for an American promotion.
The G1 has 20 wrestlers in two blocks. In each block, each wrestler fights every other wrestler in the block, so everyone has nine matches. That means you’re running 18 shows with four tournament matches apiece on them, and there’s no way AEW could devote over two months of TV time to something like that.
But the value of a round robin tournament is that you can book a lot of matches that might be awkward otherwise — faction members against each other, and so on. You can also do a few stunning upsets because nobody can be expected to win all their matches. So how would you make it work in the US?
I think you cut it down to eight wrestlers in two blocks of four. Now each wrestler only has three matches. Each week, you put two tournament matches on Dynamite and one on Rampage. One match is always the main event each night to maintain significance. Each block gets Dynamite one week and Rampage the second week, so over the course of the two week cycle each block completes one set of matches.
That means the whole tournament except the finals takes six weeks to run and only occupies a third of the available TV time. That’s not bad at all, even after you double it to fit in the women’s tournament.
Okay, how do you book it?
You run this at the end of the year. AEW resets win-loss records at the end of the year for the purpose of rankings. The first consequence of the tournament is that the wrestlers are seeded in the new year’s rankings based on their records. Come in third, and you’re third in the top five. Second, and more important, you give the winner the traditional shot at any title they want. Include tag team titles in that.
Finally, you determine the entrants by a mixture of skill and luck. First off, the top four wrestlers in the rankings as of the start of the tournament get in. That ensures you have stars. Second, you “randomly” pick four other wrestlers to fill out the field. That means you can give a newcomer a boost, you can set up inter-faction matches, all that good stuff.
And to maintain the gambling theme, you call it Hard Eight. You also get a bonus gambling note by using a roulette wheel or something to do the random selection.