Apr 14, 2021
Young Bucks talk the art of storytelling
TSN.ca caught up with Nick Jackson and Matt Jackson to talk about their recent heel turn, the difficulties in putting together a compelling storyline and the hopes of a return to touring for AEW. You can catch AEW Dynamite on Wednesday night at 8pm et/5pm pt on TSN2, the TSN app, streaming on TSN Direct and on TSN.ca.
In the main event of the Apr. 7 edition of All Elite Wrestling’s Dynamite, The Young Bucks (Nick Jackson and Matt Jackson) turned on Jon Moxley and once again aligned with their friend Kenny Omega.
If you’re a regular viewer of Dynamite, the turn was the culmination of a months-long “Will they or won’t they?” storyline that began back in December with Omega’s embrace of the dark side in order to win the AEW world championship as he took on the conniving Don Callis as his advisor.
But if you’ve followed the careers of the Jacksons and Omega prior to the creation of AEW and back through their days in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, the turn was just the latest chapter in a tumultuous relationship that’s been documented over the past five years in their Being the Elite YouTube channel.
The turn, then, resonated on multiple levels, depending on the familiarity the viewer had with the people involved. While it might have meant more to longtime followers of the Jacksons and Omega, it still elicited a response from newer viewers. That kind of multi-faceted storytelling is something that is greatly appealing to the brothers.
“I always want to be involved in weird, nuanced, multi-layered stories and maybe sometimes the subtleties that I like to have in my storylines won’t translate with a pro wrestling audience,” Matt Jackson told TSN.ca. “Pro wrestling audiences are so conditioned to [the idea] that it’s good or it’s bad. It’s babyface or it’s heel, and that’s the way it’s been historically forever and how dare you change that or try something differently because it’s like you’re breaking the laws of wrestling. It’s one of those things where you have to try to find a balance, where you want to tell compelling stories, but at the same time, you don’t want people to miss the things you’re trying to do.”
A key component to making sure an angle will work is structuring the pacing of the narrative over several weeks or months to maintain momentum until its payoff. Traditionally, a program builds to its climax at a pay-per-view. But because AEW runs only four PPVs a year, a program can often play out entirely on a television alone, which presents a different kind of challenge.
“It’s a hard thing to do in keeping a storyline interesting for the three months we have [in between pay-per-views], so that’s pretty much why we’ve done these concepts for Dynamite where we change the name and make it a little more interesting,” Nick Jackson explained. “So that way we have a big show to work towards in between the big pay-per-views. I think doing the 12 or 15 or 18 pay-per-views that the other companies do, it’s almost too much and that, I feel, makes a feud go way too quickly.
“We enjoy taking the three months to build a proper program and things like that because I feel like the payoff – which is the pay-per-view – makes it seem like a bigger thing. I feel like that’s why we’ve kept getting 100,000-plus buys every three months because we make it feel special. I think if we went to 12 pay-per-views a year, it would probably dilute the buys. I think we’d get way less.”
As for what this heel turn brings to the Jacksons’ characters themselves, the Bucks say they’re at a bit of a crossroads. On last week’s show as the Jacksons stood in the ring after their embrace of Omega, Callis and the Good Brothers (Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson), the fans at Daily’s Place in Jacksonville showered them with “You sold out” chants. Matt Jackson has an analogy for what’s happening.
“Maybe this is a little bit of reality and maybe this is a little bit of character, but it’s like when you’re that unsigned band and you’re working hard on the underground scene and you’ve got this great cult following and then finally that band that everybody is rooting for, they get picked up and they sign to that major label,” he said. “While they’re still putting out great music and probably selling more music than ever, I feel like sometimes those bands feel fraudulent and don’t feel like their former selves. Maybe they’ve lost that edge or maybe they’ve lost that confidence – that feeling of people rooting for you because you’re no longer the underdog.
“Especially with us, because we’re executives at this company – we’re executive vice-presidents of AEW – and we told everybody that we helped put together the tag-team division, so it’s really hard for people to look at us as those same punk-rock Young Bucks that we were years ago, the ones that spat in the face of tradition – the ones that broke all the rules. It’s hard to break the rules when you’re the ones making the rules now.”
Callis had been needling the brothers for weeks about how they’ve gotten soft and no longer have the fire or edge they once possessed in NJPW. Gone are the Jacksons who were the IWGP tag team champions and seven-time IWGP junior heavyweight tag team champions. Matt Jackson says this new direction from the Bucks will respond to Callis’s criticisms.
“I think Don, what he’s trying to do is he wants to bring out those old guys – the ones with the attitude, the ones that would superkick anything living and breathing – the renegade Young Bucks,” he said. “Maybe now we see more of a commercial, Mickey Mouse Young Bucks with smiles on our faces and we’re not as edgy. At times it felt like those characters wanted to peak out and come out, but as soon as we felt like we were going to, we retreated. We never really committed to it. I think if you watch Dynamite on Wednesday, you’re going to see a full commitment. You’re going to see the Young Bucks that you might have seen 10 years ago or even a newer version of those guys.”
First up on the docket for the new Young Bucks is a defence of their titles on Wednesday against the Death Triangle team of PAC and Rey Fenix. The Jacksons have crossed paths with Fenix and his brother, Penta El M Zero, on a number of occasions and the match has been a spectacle almost every single time.
You can catch The Young Bucks defending the AEW World Tag Team Titles against Death Triangle on Dynamite Wednesday night at 8pm et/5pm pt on TSN2, the TSN app, streaming on TSN Direct and on TSN.ca.
The brothers are effusive in praise for their opponents and offer an explanation as to why they work so well together.
“I think a lot of it has to do with Nick and I and our upbringing in wrestling,” Matt Jackson said. “Coming from southern California, it’s so close to Mexico and some of our early training was lucha libre and a lot of that is based on rolling and bumping and doing these really quick sequences where you’re using multiple arm drags and head scissors. You have to know how to base a lot, which is basically how to hold a guy with his weight and carry him over so you can do your fancy moves and there’s a real art to it. That’s all we did for many years, was lucha libre.
“So it’s fun any time we get to go out there in the ring with a true guy from Mexico who knows that culture. He is a luchador and so is Penta, but with Fenix, it feels like Nick and I are wrestling in the backyard again. We used to just throw each other around and maybe that’s why the chemistry just clicks when we’re in the ring with them – especially when Nick and Fenix are out there just absolutely tearing the house down.”
With respect for Wednesday night’s match (taped last week), the younger Jackson suggests it’s appointment viewing.
“I will go as far as saying that this will be one of the matches of the year,” Nick Jackson said. “No pressure!”
Death Triangle earned their title shot through a victory at the Casino Tag Team Royale at last month’s Revolution PPV, bumping them to the front of the queue. Normally in AEW, title shots come from a wrestler or team making their way up the official weekly AEW Rankings, released every Wednesday before Dynamite. The Jacksons admit the rankings haven’t always worked out perfectly in terms of building to particular matches.
“The rankings are sometimes difficult because you can’t always go with the No.1-ranked team right away for a title match because it just doesn’t sync up with the storylines perfectly,” Nick Jackson said. “So that’s something that’s still a work in progress, but we try to keep it as good as possible and have it make sense, as much as possible. For instance, right now SCU [Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian] is the No.1-ranked tag team and we’ve been running the storyline where the next time they lose, they can’t team up anymore. And that’s something they actually came up with and we didn’t want to do a match with them for a while because the storyline is too interesting. But then you run into a problem where now they’re No.1 and we don’t want to do the match just yet. So eventually you’ll have to see [that match].”
That match could feature on an upcoming Wednesday show where AEW is now alone as the only wrestling program. The so-called “Wednesday Night Wars” between Dynamite on TNT and World Wrestling Entertainment’s NXT show on the USA Network officially ended last week with NXT moving to Tuesday nights and no longer going head-to-head with Dynamite.
With the show now unopposed, Nick Jackson is hopeful that Dynamite will see a rise in viewership, but says the company is realistic about potential gains.
“We have experts that look at the stats and all the minute-by-minutes, when we go to commercial, when they go to commercial, [et cetera],” Nick Jackson said. “Some people who don’t look at that, they probably expect us to do whatever the combined audience was on Wednesday nights, which is like 1.4 [million] or something like that. But that’s just not going to happen. We all know that. We’re all prepared that’s not going to be the case. But hey, is that a goal? Yeah, that would be great to get all the eyeballs possible to watch us on Wednesdays. But we have a number that we think we’ll hit and if we do, the math we did – that the experts came up with - was right and I won’t go into detail what the number is right now. We’re thinking we’ll hit that and if we do, we’re right. And I’ll just say that it feels good to have our own night now.”
The end of the head-to-head battle between their two TV shows wasn’t the only reason why AEW and WWE came together in the news last week. On the latest episode of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions interview show on Peacock (and the WWE Network in Canada), his guest was Chris Jericho. While Jericho had an illustrious WWE career, much of the discussion surrounded his joining AEW and even included the Bucks themselves.
Matt Jackson says the appearance of an AEW talent on WWE programming was a great idea and hopes there might be more to come in the future.
“Chris is the king of buzz,” he said. “He knows how to get a story out of anything. I thought it was cool that both companies could finally agree on something and let one of our talents appear on their network. Any time you can do something like that, the only thing it does is create buzz and makes the fans happy. So I would love to do more stuff like that. I thought that was awesome.”
Another thing the Bucks would love to do is perform in front of a packed crowd again – something they hope is on the horizon sooner than later. With the percentage of Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 increasing by the day and more and more states gradually reopening, the Jacksons say the company is planning for a resumption of touring with a focus on employee and fan safety as its bedrock.
“We have a guy that literally checks day by day,” Nick Jackson said. “His name is [AEW live events and touring director] Raf[ael Morffi] and he’s the best. He checks with the venues, the cities, all of the protocols and just everything else that is related to COVID-19. We pretty much just listen to him and his advice because he’s been in the wrestling game for decades and decades. So he and [AEW president] Tony [Khan] have come up with a plan that just depends on how things go. Everything has obviously been on hold, like you know and everyone else knows, but everything changes and we have a gameplan and hopefully we’ll be touring live again – let’s just hope – by the end of this year, back on a weekly [basis]. That’s the goal, but you just never know and everything changes in a day now."