A common complaint about AEW’s early days is that it relied too much on Being the Elite for its storytelling. Fans who didn’t watch the Youtube vlog of Cody, The Bucks, et. al. were often left wondering:
What does that joke mean?
Or, How do these guys know each other?
Or, most importantly: Why the hell are these two librarians on my screen?
On one episode from March 2019, Cody and The Young Bucks mocked an email from their new boss requesting a librarian gimmick in the new promotion. After dismissing the gimmick (which was to feature much shushing and a cartload of books) as impossible for anyone to get over…
…they immediately announced an audition for the gimmick.
A few weeks later, Omega and The Bucks watched the audition videos. Many were entirely whispered, which could have been a springboard into the world’s first ASMR wrestler.
Another entry was by indie wrestler Leva Bates, best known to NXT fans as Blue Pants.
But none of these hopefuls could work a miracle and get this gimmick over. That was a major problem, as it was supposedly Tony Khan’s only demand of his new Executive Vice Presidents, whom he’d fire if the gimmick didn’t earn truckloads of money. That meant the Elite would need even more (and much better) audition videos.
Eventually, they chose both Leva Bates and Peter Avalon, neither of whom were pleased to have to share the gimmick.
Unsurprisingly, the gimmick, created as a gag to be the worst gimmick imaginable, turned out to be the worst gimmick imaginable. Coming out to no entrance music besides shushing, The Librarians were poorly received — not just from their debut match, not just from their debut promo, but from their debut sentence.
Bates: “I see— ”
Fan: “This gimmick sucks.”
Regardless, Leva continued, gently asking the audience to consider reading books instead of playing video games. Peter interjected by yelling single words like, “Books!” It was brutal. Fans who weren’t in on the joke, hated it. Fans who were in on the joke, also hated it.
When it was Peter Avalon’s turn to wrestle two weeks later, it was more of the same shushing.
“Please hush down,” said Avalon, “seeing as how this is a library…” But it wasn’t. It was an amphitheatre attached to a football stadium. Why would he confuse the two?
As bad as their first pair of appearances were, the Librarians at least garnered a reaction in the form of ironic chants like:
- “Books suck”
- “We can’t read”
- “Reading sucks”
- “Hooked on Phonics”
- “Reading Rainbow”
It seems the Librarians had single-handedly undone twenty years of progress in literacy among wrestling fans.
But once fans figured out their chants weren’t going to hurry the matches up and get the Librarians out of the ring, they went silent…
…which, if you’ll recall, is exactly what the Librarians wanted in the first place. Pretty clever!
Not only did the Librarians’ constant shushing of fans fail to get a reaction…
…so did their opponents’ turning the tables and shushing them. And when the fans didn’t count along with the referee during a key spot in the match, the announcers claimed the silence was given out of respect.
Fans may have hoped the Librarian gimmick would disappear after that first summer, but no dice… at least not yet (That’s called foreshadowing, which you’ll find in many books).
On an episode Being The Elite titled, “Go Away Heat”, Leva Bates appeared “out of character” to tell the Young Bucks how much people loved the gimmick, leading the Bucks, who were just about to pull the plug, to instead commit to at least a five-year run for the Librarians.
Later, Peter Avalon complained to the office that the gimmick was not just irredeemably stupid, but confusing. Cody Rhodes, voicing two corporate suits sounding vaguely (vaguely) like Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn, insisted that their “team of writers” had spent hours crafting the gimmick, and that it was “really good s**t”.
Again, none of this “backstory” was ever explained outside of the vlog, so most fans never knew that the gimmick was intentionally bad and put on AEW television as an inside joke.
It’s unfathomable now (when in a given week a dozen world-class talents have to be left off AEW TV) but back in the day, AEW used to trot the Librarians out regularly before Dynamite in front of a live audience. In fact, their regular appearances on AEW Dark (which, unlike old Dynamites, are all available online) are what made this induction possible in the first place. And sometimes, the Librarians would even creep onto the main show.
Though the promised cart of books never materialized…
…the Librarians did everything they could with their handful of books, from hitting their opponents with them…
…to lifting them like dumbbells…
…to distracting opponents and referees with particularly interesting passages…
…well, that was about it. The more appearances the Librarians made, the more their one-note gimmick came across like a bad Tough Enough challenge where contestants had an hour to turn a random prop or nickname into a persona.
And even if that really were the case, Peter would have been booted off that show for his lack of commitment to the gimmick. Avalon somehow managed to make his character less interesting by incorporating various clichés of a wrestling heel.
After the first few weeks, every Librarians promo went as follows:
After shushing the crowd, Peter Avalon would cut a promo on the way to the ring about how that city’s sports teams sucked. Then Leva Bates would get upset at Peter and apologize to the fans.
If this lack of commitment to the bit was intentional, the announcers never even hinted at it.
Then there was the ring attire. Whenever Peter Avalon had to wrestle, he would eschew the sweater and khakis and wear a robe with his name on it. Now, when was the last time you saw a librarian wear a sequined robe? Clearly, Peter had paid good money for that robe, and dammit, he was going to wear it no matter what his gimmick was.
And as for Leva Bates’s outfits?
Hey, nothing wrong with that! But she did remind me of another wrestler with an academic gimmick —
Leva not only dressed like, but shared her Pedigree finisher with, The Disciplinarian from the original WOW: Women of Wrestling.
I use the term, “finisher” loosely, however, as neither Bates nor Avalon ever won a match.
In fact, Peter Avalon’s losing streak was the subject of his only storyline, which played out at Daily’s Place during AEW’s pandemic era. With no one left to shush, Avalon began a rivalry with Brandon Cutler to see who could win a match first.
This in turn led to the two jobbers forming a lightly Dungeons & Dragons-themed tag team called The Initiative, accompanied by Leva Bates, who rolled a giant d20 on her way to the ring (instead of cutting a promo, at least).
After losing each and every week, Avalon finally whacked Cutler with the die…
…leading to a singles match that ended in a double-countout…
…another singles match that ended in a double-DQ…
…and finally, a no-holds-barred match that saw role-playing dice and a Tolkien book used as weapons. Bates slapped her fellow librarian before Cutler pinned Avalon, establishing Peter as, and I quote, “the worst wrestler in AEW”.
Immediately after the Librarians split, both Bates and Avalon started winning the occasional match. Avalon rebranded as “Pretty” Peter Avalon (finally making appropriate use of that robe)…
…while Bates reigned supreme as AEW’s one and only librarian…
…which was still one too many.