The Excellence in Column Writing has returned to answer more of your questions and given that we have so much feedback on CM Punk, we’ll pretty much focus on that. And why not? Punk IS the most polarizing pro wrestling right now, as everybody has a strong opinion of him or his actions. Honestly, it has been that way from the underground Independent fans that he had which fed into the WWE and then many gained the belief that he was the next big star through Money in the Bank 2011. When the “Summer of Punk” came crashing down and Punk later left abruptly through early 2014, it just poured fuel on that fire until everyone coaxed Punk to return to the wrestling business during 2019 for the WWE Backstage show and then during 2021 for AEW. Now, he’s back in the WWE…
In case you missed it, I have already written 2 columns regarding CM Punk‘s WWE return:
Before I get started, I wanted to THANK whomever held up the “Mr. Tito NoDQ” sign at the recent edition of AEW Dynamite. We really appreciate that… I encourage all of your NoDQ readers to bring signs to help us get recognized and we’ll show appreciation to you by featuring it on our social media. THANKS again to whomever took the time and effort to make this sign and hold it up during AEW Dynamite. Thank you!
ASK TITO: Your Questions, My Answers
One thing to also mention before I get to your questions… Can someone please advise Pat McAfee to get CM Punk on his ESPN/YouTube show? Talk about doing CRAZY numbers. And even if Punk cannot talk about his AEW tenure, likely due to an NDA signed, at the very least CM Punk can speak in-depth on why he came back. Plus, I totally predict that Punk and McAfee could vibe. If you’re reading this, please attempt to Tweet at Pat and his co-hosts to make it happen!
Now that CM Punk has returned, what do you predict he’ll do for 2024’s WWE?
WWE is seeing the major numbers volumes regarding CM Punk… Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised if CM Punk vs. Roman Reigns happens immediately to headline the Royal Rumble event. Then, following that, it depends on who is available for Wrestlemania…
(a) If Rock is available, then I’d expect Rock vs. Roman, Cody vs. Punk, and Seth vs. Gunther
(b) If Steve Austin is available but not the Rock, then I’d expect Cody vs. Roman, Punk vs. Austin, and Seth vs. Gunther
(c) If neither Austin/Rock are available, then I’d expect Cody vs. Roman and CM Punk vs. Seth
With (c) being mostly likely, Cody will likely win the Royal Rumble, leading to CM Punk possibly winning the Elimination Chamber. Then, both titles change hands… Cody defeats Roman and Punk defeats Seth. Then, and I 100% agree with Virtue, you’ll see Roman Reigns challenging CM Punk for his World Heavyweight Championship and winning that title to officially join the RAW brand. WWE is going to let Smackdown start to diminish through 2024, given that the FOX deal is going away.
Then after that, Punk will just compete against top names below Cody/Roman.
There’s a slight chance that Randy Orton will feud with Roman Reigns at Royal Rumble, which would make this plan really make sense to hold off Punk vs. Roman to fit Virtue’s plan. Thus, (c) works and Roman defeats CM Punk for the World Heavyweight Championship maybe at Money in the Bank or SummerSlam for their first-ever match since January 2014.
Do you think CM Punk will help the RAW television deal?
Of course it will. The more stars, the better. There was a a report that Nick Khan discussed the possibility of Warner Bros. Discovery obtaining WWE television rights in October… But that was October. CM Punk just joined the WWE along with Randy Orton returning. RAW getting nearly 1.9 million against NFL football, given that it previously was 1.4 million, could open some eyes again.
Warner Bros. Discovery wanted CM Punk on the AEW Collision show, but then Tony Khan fired him. Their TV deal is up soon and maybe WBD wants to sign a more trusted brand. That said, AEW’s options for going elsewhere could be limited and could present a bargain for Warner Bros. Discovery. Remember, AEW doesn’t have to publicly report the specifics of their TV deals, so they can basically extend their existing deal if they wanted (or take less).
Increased star power for WWE and decreased star power for AEW is going to matter. Plus, 2023 saw WWE’s numbers increase and AEW’s numbers decrease, aside from 1 Wembley Stadium event.
Do you believe CM Punk’s contract has a “behavior clause”?
All contracts for a corporation have those… A corporation can terminate any of its employees at any time, as public relations matter for corporations. If you work for a corporation and make a scene at a local bar, you could be terminated for that, for example. But corporations can terminate anyone for downsizing.
This “behavior clause” is just something from a backstage troll trying to diminish Punk joining the WWE and as usual, the insiders took the bait to report it. OBVIOUSLY, CM Punk is going to be on his best behavior because he broke script multiple times and got physical with a few wrestlers backstage. He cannot do either thing in the WWE, and along with regaining trust with Triple H. But again, nobody in the WWE is allowed to fight backstage or go unscripted. Severe punishments for both!
Such a non-story.
How has your opinion changed of the WWE from 6 months to now welcome CM Punk?
Someone brought up comments made in my April/May 2023 columns about CM Punk as he was preparing to return to AEW, and I suggested that at that point, it was “now or never” for CM Punk because he still had lingering issues with the WWE to sort out if he ever returned. Then, Punk proved me RIGHT when he appeared backstage at a WWE show in late April, specifically speaking to the Miz whom he’s bashed for YEARS and wanting to speak to Triple H, whom he’s been bashing for YEARS.
Also through April/May 2023, Triple H was still second fiddle to Vince McMahon… If you’ll recall, Triple H ran the WWE from June 2022 through early January 2023 when Vince McMahon forced his way back and began micro-managing the WWE again. However, Endeavor did Triple H a favor and placed clear divisions of power in place to push back on Vince doing operational duties of the WWE and force him to worry about duties of being a corporate Chairman. Since that happened, Triple H has done nothing but thrive…
Let me give you 4 clear examples of Triple H’s growth in the past 6 months:
(a) Re-introducing the World Heavyweight Championship on RAW and giving the title to Seth Rollins. Creating a new title out of thin air could have completely failed, while many have been critical of Seth’s creative direction for the past few years. Yet, that title is not only over, but Seth Rollins is a credible World Champion. HHH has helped both RAW and Rollins at the same time.
(b) Continuing Cody Rhodes’ growth. Keeping the WWE Title on Roman Reigns for a lengthy period of time is a Vince McMahon decision, and it was Vince’s decision to have Roman retain at Wrestlemania 39. So what do you do with Cody Rhodes? Well, look at how good the Brock Lesnar feud turned out to be for Cody. Everyone bashed it as the post-Wrestlemania 39 booking angle, yet it turned out to significantly build up Cody stronger than ever. Look at how much joy Lesnar actually had at the SummerSlam 2023 bout, even doing an unscripted handshake afterward. Keep in mind that many worried about Triple H handling Cody, given their past heat. Nope, it’s likely that Cody defeats Roman for the big WWE Title at Wrestlemania 40 under Triple H’s continued push.
(c) The handling of Jade Gargill. Jade instantly looks like a star based on how Triple H has presented her publicly, on RAW & Smackdown, but the way Triple H has worded her needed training hasn’t insulted her, either. She’s at the Performance Center, yet that hasn’t diminished the potential impact of what Jade could do even though that technically is a demotion. “Needs more training” after coming from another wrestling promotion should be an insult, but Triple H’s wording and discussions with the media always puts her over in a positive light.
(d) NXT promotion has actually grown under Triple H’s (and HBK’s) management. Younger talents seem to be doing well in the newer environment set forth by Triple H. That CW Network contract was a big deal because of the strides NXT has made lately.
In my mind, as I have had another 6 months to digest on what Triple H accomplished since May/April, I’ve seen significant growth of Triple H and have come to really respect his 2022-2023 run as WWE’s showrunner which I fully explained in my LAST COLUMN. This is a DIFFERENT Triple H than what CM Punk encountered and dealt with during 2005-2014 who never respected him and politically messed with his career. The Triple H of 2022-2023 is no longer a pro wrestler, which I believe tainted him as a manager previously because HHH was so damn competitive and political as a competitor for the top of a wrestling card. Just being a manager, Triple H can just focus on helping other wrestlers and he’s more father-like in that role.
So yeah, things can change and in the last 6 months, Triple H has proven a ton to me… He could have gone sideways during early 2023 when Vince McMahon forced his way back in and began micro-managing creative, talent, and backstage operations again. However, HHH was patient and waited for things to work themselves out. Lucky for him, the folks at Endeavor know what a true corporate structure looks like and it’s NOT having your President/CEO micro-manage everything that your Senior Managers should handle. Oddly enough, Triple H doesn’t micro-manage, as he delegates authority to his direct reports and puts faith/trust in them to perform well, even if he’s not available to attend a RAW show. RAW this week did just fine without him personally being there, because HHH has delegated authority and is managing his managers, not the procedures or staff below them himself.
Does that make sense?
Did CM Punk’s return adversely affect Randy Orton’s return?
No, it didn’t… Randy Orton appearing at Survivor Series to wrestle was no surprise. You knew it was coming a mile away. In addition, Randy Orton is a big enough star and his return pop was quite welcomed that it made enough headlines on its own. Honestly at this point, we’re lucky to even have Randy Orton back because his injuries sustained had some doctors suggesting retirement.
Orton is doing just fine, and I figure his Smackdown return this week will help pop its number.
The only way that I’ll know if Randy Orton, himself, has a problem with CM Punk is if they wrestle and when you see the results of their match-ups. If you’ve seen Randy Orton work, it’s all about body language with him as he tends to be more excited and positive for the matches he wins rather than the matches he loses. That’s why you don’t really hear big stories about wrestlers he’s put over because the matches weren’t that good because they lacked enthusiasm from him.
But we’ll get there if it happens… So far, so good and there’s plenty of WWE pie to go around for everyone with 5 freakin’ hours of WWE content to fill. No, I don’t think Orton has any problems with CM Punk’s big return happening on the same night as his big in-ring return. Orton got noticed that night and if anything, happening on the same night as Punk has given him more publicity, if anything.
Do you think that WWE having the PG rating will harm CM Punk?
Question for all of you online who believe that Punk’s RAW promo felt like a “neutered” CM Punk… Was the PG rating on the WWE during 2011 when CM Punk delivered the famous “Pipe Bomb” promo? Oh, it was? And the PG rating has been slapped on the WWE since the late 2000s and Punk endured that rating through early 2014 on his first WWE run?
Relax… I thought the RAW promo was fine and it was what it needed to be… Calm. CM Punk just got out of a chaotic relationship with AEW and he just needs a few moments to be humble upon his WWE return. That promo reflected it… Furthermore, it’s likely that CM Punk cannot mention anything about AEW via a Non-Disclosure Agreement that he likely signed and also, the WWE probably doesn’t want Punk mentioning the competition. That’s a consistent WWE philosophy, even back when WCW Nitro was kicking their arse. The minute they stopped those “Billionaire Ted” sketches and focused on pushing Steve Austin, the better during 1997.
CM Punk is just fine and he’s joining an environment that gives him structure for the first time in 3 years and Triple H has evolved as a manger to help him. The fact that CM Punk is in the WWE is a miracle in the first place, but instantly pushed and finally recognized by the WWE as a top talent is another matter.
Furthermore, I believe that a long-term storyline arc is being built in place… Punk is going to play a vanilla babyface character on-purpose and in my opinion, Punk is the closest thing to John Cena that we’ve ever seen in terms of fan reaction… Half of the fans love him, half of the fans hate him… Yet all of them have a reaction. That’s why CM Punk vs. John Cena drew stupid numbers anytime they wrestled because their fanbases clashed because both wrestlers were polarizing to each other.
Then, when the timing is correct and I believe it will be with Virtue’s plan of Roman Reigns vs. CM Punk for the World Heavyweight Championship, that could be the opportunity for the heel turn with Paul Heyman turning on Roman Reigns to rejoin CM Punk. Then Reigns has to overcome that situation and he’ll firmly become a babyface World Champion to enjoy and be pushed HARD on the new WWE television deal for RAW once Fall of 2024 begins.
I’ve said this for years… The PG rating being a source for blame is overrated. Go watch 1980s WWE… Very PG rated, especially with most shows being syndicated, yet the WWE grew in leaps and bounds. Hulkamania was quite safe, brother (except when it wasn’t years later). If you’re Creative sucks, it will suck no matter the rating. Much of the 2010s sucked because it was the WWE overpushing Roman Reigns as a forced babyface and depushing everybody else, including CM Punk which is part of the reason why he left in early 2014. However, WWE did not have the PG rating for most of the 2000s and I’d argue RAW had bad moments from 2002-2007 in which they pushed the mature audiences button too hard. Katie Vick, Hot Lesbian Action, Divas Search, and the many false pregnancy angles anyone?
Punk just delivered a brief speech to indicate to a FREE Monday Night RAW audience that he was back… If you want to see more, buy that Peacock subscription to see more on the WWE Network. Less is more in my mind, and I had no problems with his promo. Welcome back CM Punk!
THE LAST WORD
And now with your questions out of the way, it’s time for a rant…
It’s been a tough few months for All Elite Wrestling (AEW) and Tony Khan. While the Wembley Stadium All In Show either drew 80,000 or 70,000, depending on whose mathematics you want to believe, it seems that AEW has been on the downslide ever since. Television viewership has really bombed, the AEW Collision show has been a failure (especially without Punk), merchandise isn’t moving (especially without Punk), and North American attendance hasn’t performed well lately. AEW has been running “buy 1 get 1 free” ticket campaigns and yet more than half of the arena still doesn’t get filled.
The CM Punk drama caused damage to AEW’s brand. Tony lacked the balls to control the scene backstage during 2022 when things were bubbling up and then CM Punk took it upon himself to go rogue. Hence the All Out 2022 Media Scrum and then the backstage brawl afterward. Then, by 2023 when there was interest in bringing CM Punk back, Tony Khan NEVER resolved the issues CM Punk and the Elite (specifically the Young Bucks) had with each other. Hence, it kept bubbling as the sides never even met with each other before Wembley Stadium. Just like 2022 when Adam Page was the Elite stooge used as a vehicle to troll CM Punk and cause him to over-react, “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry was the troll to cause CM Punk to over-reaction 2023.
The end result is an AEW without their top superstar in CM Punk and many, many backstage stories about how inept Tony Khan was as a manager. The top stories following All In 2023 were NOT about how great that show was, but about CM Punk choking out Jack Perry and Tony Khan reportedly being afraid for his life.
It’s not been good for Tony Khan and I wouldn’t doubt that his lack of stones in handling a talent situation will pay unfortunate dividends later down the road. His Warner Bros. Discovery television deal is coming up soon and that company could not only drop him, but seek their competitor WWE instead. After that, their choices are really limited because WWE has the CW and Comcast channels locked up. Disney has their own financial struggles and Paramount Global (formerly Viacom) appears to have moved on from wrestling after years of RAW and TNA. Remember, Warner Bros. Discovery created AEW Collision specifically for CM Punk to return and be that show’s stop star. But Tony fired Punk…
As I said in my LAST COLUMN, Tony has literally become Vince McMahon of the 21st Century. Tony micro-manages everything and relies upon corporate stooges, his EVPs, to keep everyone miserable for a toxic environment. But it doesn’t have to be that way…
The Young Bucks are 5’10, less than 200 pound wrestlers who are only decent as a tag team. We’ve mostly seen them since 2009 since their Ring of Honor days and I think we’ve seen their careers play out already. What else could they accomplish, besides a WWE run? After what the WWE has likely heard about the Bucks operating AEW, do you honestly think they want to add that toxicity to their WWE locker room? Plus, they are a tag team and smaller wrestlers to use as singles wrestlers.
What exactly is it that Tony gains by having the Bucks as EVPs?
The stooge friends that the Bucks have signed haven’t drawn.
The tag team division is disorganized and inconsistent.
Top stars (Cody, Jade, CM Punk) have now left the promotion for the competitor.
We never hear stories about “Young Bucks” merchandise flying off the shelves, same with much of the other merchandise.
What are you getting out of this, Tony?
In fact, you’re micro-managing Creative because your EVPs failed you through early 2020. This is what I argued in the past, as Tony took over the Creative reigns from the EVPs because they were pushing idiotic ideas like the Dark Order (that was the Bucks) and the Nightmare Collective (that was Cody and Brandi, unfortunately). On top of that, Kenny Omega (the other EVP) brought in a weak collection of female talent and made that division look awful from the beginning. It was the EVP’s inexperience as bookers of talent and creative ideas that caused Tony for force his hand into doing the creative since early 2020.
AEW Dynamite went from debuting at 1.4 million during early October 2019 to being UNDER 800,000 through December 2019. That kind of failure forced Tony into Creative and he has been micro-managing it himself ever since INSTEAD of getting help.
He also lacks firm hands to manage talent, so hence he’s been trying to micro-manage that as well. However, Tony is a spoiled brat who wasn’t made to eat crap sandwiches and like the taste of it as Vince Sr. did to his son Vince Jr. during the entire 1970s. Tony wasn’t toughened up to handle conflict, so thus when his wrestlers get pissed backstage, Tony hides in his little shell. His EVPs aren’t trained to handle conflict, either, other than playing backstage politics like most active wrestlers do.
Through late 2023, Tony, you’re in a bad spot… You’ve lost key talent, MJF suffered through your bad creative ideas and now he’s hurt, and your EVPs aren’t doing much for you.
Just take a deep breath…
In just 5 years, you created a wrestling promotion out of thin air that actually made money from the start and caused a real change in the wrestling business. Prior to 2019, wrestling fans complained about the WWE being too lazy at the top. Think about how crazy this is… WWE lost over 2 million viewers on RAW for 2015 through 2018… HALF of their Cable/Satellite viewers and their attendance and merchandise dropped. Fans had enough and were willing to embrace a competitor. You not only brought them that, but you also gave a high-paying place for WWE outcasts to work. While I haven’t been a fan of Jon Moxley’s work lately, his 2019-2021 stuff was damn good and part of why AEW worked.
Since AEW debuted:
(1) Wrestlers are getting paid more.
(2) WWE has been creatively better. WWE takes more risks now, such as turning Roman Reigns heel.
(3) Wrestlers are getting treated better. Remember when they could be fired simply by streaming video games?
(4) Wrestling video games have improved. AEW Fight Forever being introduced forced WWE 2K games to improve, thankfully.
Tony – You’ve accomplished so much in just 5 years of being in the wrestling business… As I’ve said repeatedly now in columns, usually it takes promoters gaining valuable experience for 10 years or more before it clicks as a President of a wrestling company.
But here’s the REAL TRUTH of your success and this will humble you… You didn’t become a competitor to the WWE, a declining WWE became a competitor to you.
Same thing happened to Eric Bischoff during 1995… It’s not like he grew WCW rapidly from his 1993-1994 product, which was highly inconsistent at times. No, he just steadied the ship from having financial losses, signed a few known free agents, and tried to streamline the product a bit. However, WCW was still miles apart from the WWE when he took over it during 1993 as Executive Producer. However, WWE kept declining with their stale product to the point where they were getting closer to becoming an equal to WCW. Then, Eric Bischoff caught WWE off guard by creating WCW Nitro and lucky for Eric, Vince didn’t take him seriously at first. Bischoff then steals Scott Hall and Kevin Nash as major free agent signings and the rest was history.
Unfortunately for Tony Khan, the WWE learned from its mistakes from over 25 years ago (man, I’m old) and took AEW seriously as a competitor. They locked up wrestlers on their contracts, improved their creative, and began taking their Premium Live Events more seriously. Meanwhile, AEW had a good start in 2019 but it quickly went to crap through late 2019… I thought AEW had a better 2020 COVID year than WWE, but AEW still had blunders such as bad ex-WWE debuts such as Miro and Matt Hardy. Then by 2021, AEW signed CM Punk and everyone was overjoyed to see Punk back into wrestling. By 2022, that went to hell (along with Cody exiting) and by 2023, it really went to hell.
You need help, Tony… You cannot manage 2 professional sports clubs AND a pro wrestling promotion by yourself. If you notice with BOTH of your pro sports teams, you have general managers and coaches in place to handle the complicated day-to-day operations. You seem to stay far away from signing talent and coaching for those, so why can you not do the same for All Elite Wrestling? You can CLEARLY see why the Jacksonville Jaguars are THRIVING under Head Coach Doug Pederson along with an experience team President and a General Manager, right? You have 3 people operating that Jaguars team for you, and Pederson has about 20 coaches that answer to him to help manage a football roster of over 50 players and also a practice squad.
Why can’t you surround yourself with competent professionals to help you run AEW, too? And no, the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega are NOT that. Are you going to trust ANY Jacksonville Jaguar or Fulham F.C. players to not only act as player coaches, but have a say in day-to-day operations or personnel decisions? NO, BECAUSE THAT’S A STUPID IDEA!!!! You want your athletic talent to focus on performing on the fields of play, just as you’d want active wrestlers to focus on their in-ring performances!!!
Didn’t I just say how Triple H has thrived since retiring as an active wrestler? Instead of fueling his ego and competitiveness as an in-ring performer, Triple H now just focuses on growing business and making other wrestlers succeed. If you take yourself out as a wrestler, then things become clearer as a backstage manager because you no longer have to focus on getting yourself over. Other promoters, who used to be wrestlers, saw that clearly too including Verne Gagne, Fritz Von Erich, etc. Then, you have past examples of bookers who also wrestled… I love Dusty Rhodes, but he was at his best when his character wasn’t in the spotlight. Anytime he overpushed himself or thrust himself into the spotlight (example, 1988 with the Road Warriors turning heel by spiking his eyeball), it diminished the creative genius of Dusty. Ask any FCW or NXT talent about Dusty Rhodes… They LOVED him because he was no longer an active wrestler and just imparted knowledge.
Tony Khan needs to demote the Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, and ANY active wrestlers who have side roles in the operations of AEW. In fact, give them a choice… Either wrestle or retire from wrestling and help manage the company. NOT BOTH.
What Tony needs are competent manager around him to manage the company and people with creative minds. It’s VERY CLEAR to me that Tony Khan is not very creative, as his storylines and payoffs are proving, and he’s weak at managing and developing talent. And that’s 100% fine, because Vince McMahon actually has those weaknesses too. Vince McMahon thrives when he has good and competent managers around him. Why did WWE turnaround in late 1997? Because Jim Ross managed the talent for him, while he had Russo/Cornette/Prichard/Patterson supporting him on the Creative Team. Why did the WWE begin to diminish during the 2000s? Because he disbanded that team of superfriends and either places corporate stooges in their place or was reliant on failed Hollywood writers instead.
It’s hilarious to me how much wise veteran talent that AEW actually with their company… Sting is about to retire, so why not inquire him about Creative ideas? Big Show and Mark Henry have been there and done that. Did you know that Mark Henry recruited Bianca Belair to join the WWE? He’s a smart guy… Jim Ross is obviously there, though older, but his brain is still functioning. Tony Shiavone has been there and done that. Edge and Christian are at the tail ends of their careers… Why couldn’t they be considered for their creativity? Chris Jericho is nearing his end, as the guy is possibly the BEST at reinventing himself. Why not get him more involved with creative? Mick Foley is still out there and has one of the most creative minds out there. Lots of other veteran talents who touring the country with appearances under WWE Legends contracts could be inquired, too. AEW could really pad its management team with highly intelligent veterans who know the business.
What AEW needs is REAL CHANGE to their backstage management to demonstrate that 2024 will NOT be like 2022-2023. Tony is NOT qualified to heavily micro-manage creative and talent relations. Nobody is… Triple H oversaw both during the 2010s and he wasn’t that good at it, especially with a lack of inexperience. Now, Triple H does oversee both, but heavily delegates it to multiple reporting managers. Meanwhile, Tony still micro-manages everything on his own and is NOT qualified to do so whatsoever.
I don’t care who AEW signs today… Let’s say Brock Lesnar opts to join AEW today. HE’LL FAIL. Brock will immediately see the dysfunction internally and he’ll begin to rebel, just as CM Punk did. When everyone suggested Bill Goldberg may join AEW, I laughed… He would take one look at that AEW locker room and get pissed in a second. Aside from older veterans in their late 40s or early 50s looking for another payday, I don’t see any departing WWE free agent thriving here. In fact, most ex-WWE wrestlers who have joined AEW aren’t doing well.
Did you just read what Matt Hardy said about the creative direction of the Hardys in AEW? And remember, Matt Hardy got into online fights with either fans or the likes of Jim Cornette about AEW as a promotion and its creative direction. Yet, here we are 3 years later, and Matt Hardy is publicly expressing frustrations.
That’s when you know things are going to HELL in a wrestling promotion… When your wrestlers BREAK CHARACTER and speak openly about the daily operations of your promotion. If you ever listen to a WWE wrestler speak, they are very careful about what they say because they know the likes of Vince McMahon or Triple H will jump down their throats. Talents in AEW are NOT afraid of Tony Khan, however… Why else would CM Punk thrash the entire AEW company at the All Out 2022 Media Scrum? Punk was NOT afraid of the consequences and he was proven right, as he kept getting paid until Tony let him return during 2023. It took witnessing a backstage fight for Tony and also Tony getting scared of seeing aggression for Punk to finally get terminated.
Now, the sky is the limit for CM Punk in the WWE because it was their easiest free agent signing ever. If Punk succeeds, WWE makes millions upon millions of dollars… If he fails and gets dramatic backstage, WWE can just release him because AEW would look foolish re-signing him based on their 2022-2023 issues with him.
The FACT is that CM Punk should still be in AEW and thriving. 2022-2023 should have seen significant growth by AEW to allow other free agents to think “if CM Punk can do well here, so can I”. Instead, they see the political minefield that CM Punk had to walk through while he was there and the lack of backbone for Tony to manage his talent. Instead, you had EVPs in dual roles as Player Coaches (I’m quoting you, Jeff Meacham of the Jeff Meacham Network) and those EVPs just can’t figure out where to put their focus… Do I focus on managing talent/creative today or focus on myself as an in-ring character? It hardly ever works out, because wrestlers want to be at the top of the card themselves!
Instead, CM Punk was just added to a GROWING WWE promotion, which thanks to infrastructure changes by Endeavor, was already set to explode with growth for 2024. Now, WWE has gained a guy who can legitimately add 200,000 to 500,000 viewers per show, boost attendance especially in the Midwest, and someone who can move merchandise like only a few in the business can. Yes, CM Punk, too, has an ego to bruise, but I feel he can thrive in an environment that gives him an open door policy to speak openly with management and something with structure. The WWE of 2011-2014 didn’t and AEW of 2021-2023 did not either.
Tony, you need help… “No man is an island” is a great quote by John Donne. If you micro-manage everything like Vince McMahon has done for most of the 21st Century, you’ll burn yourself out and create a toxic environment. Trust me, Vince McMahon is more burned out than he lets on… Why else would he need some relief by getting into sexual encounters with female co-workers? Trust me, that’s part of it because of him wanting to micro-manage everything, Vince had ZERO work-life balance. His relationship with Linda McMahon became a professional one only, as everything became about money and other aspirations like trying football leagues, movies, or becoming a Senator twice. Because Vince McMahon was poor at managing himself, he fed into his own vices for relief and hence why his pockets became $20 million lesser from NDA payouts.
Tony – Don’t become Vince McMahon of the 21st century. Stop micro-managing everything in AEW and thicken up your management group to help you. In just 5 years, it looks like you’ve aged and it looks like you’re lacking sleep. Because you have a BAD work-life balance, AEW is personally wearing you down to the point where any micro-managed creative or talent decision is failing you. Furthermore, any reliance on your remaining EVPs, especially the Bucks, keeps failing you.
I have a real fear that Warner Bros. Discovery is either going to walk away from AEW or ditch them to sign the WWE. Then what? Who else would dare pick up AEW and take on the risk of an 800,000 viewed show that has low ad rates? And that’s when AEW becomes a clone of TNA wrestling and maybe they can join them, along with New Japan, to get LESS than 125,000 viewers per show. Wouldn’t that be exciting?
Get your crap in gear, Tony, before it’s too late.
You have accomplished much in the 5 years and I’m very grateful for that as a wrestling fan… But your ways have also been destructive to AEW for 2022-2023, along with yourself. Promoting wrestling is HARD and it takes real experience to do it well. But it also takes a village of competent people.
I am honestly rooting for AEW to succeed, but I just don’t see a good business plan submitted by Tony Khan to do so. His mishandling of the CM Punk situation exposed everything to me and nothing has been in place to stop this same situation from happening to them. We’ll see how things go with Mr. Adam Copeland when he starts wrestling the Young Bucks, because as EVPs, they are well aware of what Tony has paid him to join AEW…
CLICK HERE for the Mr. Tito Column Archive @ NoDQ