After my last column entitled “Recommendations to Stephanie McMahon and Triple H on How to Improve the WWE, I was expecting to ride off into the sunset for a while as the WWE/Vince McMahon drama was calming down… But then, many of my loyal readers were requesting a similar column on All Elite Wrestling (AEW) as the perception is that company needs more help than the WWE due to recent backstage drama.
“With a battle cry go forth which is “give the people what they want”. -GWAR, Slaughterama, 1990
But let’s be clear about Tony Khan and AEW… Considering we’re JUST 3 years into the promotion having Cable Television, they are doing reasonably well as a start-up. Most of Tony’s issues are similar to what other business start-ups see: finding the right people, not making yourself the single point of failure, overspending, and going overboard on any success that you see early on. Fact is that besides expenditures on the AEW “Fight Forever” video game, AEW has been profitable. There is a perception that Tony overspends on wrestlers, but besides the EVPs and stars like Jericho/Bryan/Punk, he’s actually underspending on many WWE castaways compared to what they earned in WWE.
That said, Tony Khan has thinned himself out. He made the initial mistake of making Cody Rhodes, Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega as Executive Vice Presidents because all 4 were active wrestlers (ditto with Brandi Rhodes, who as Chief Brand Officer, still tried to wrestle too). Being both in management AND as an active wrestler creates impairment issues, as the wrestlers themselves put more emphasis on THEIR creative instead of acting as a manager of people. Only Cody showed the willingness to put others over and in my opinion, he did it too much when he should have been more selfish. Omega and the Bucks overpushing themselves and their personal friends has been a major problem for this company.
Tony, however, has to juggle operating AEW, trying to get Ring of Honor (ROH) off the ground, and being too involved with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Fulham soccer club. As seen from other sports franchise owners, they thin themselves out by attempting to own a Baseball team here and a Basketball team there. For Tony, he’s trying to help operate 2 sports franchises while trying to be the lead booker for 2 wrestling promotions. JUST INSANE. Tony needs help and he needs to trust delegating authority. I also believe that buying Ring of Honor and pushing it as an equal brand has been on of his biggest mistakes to date.
I’m personally rooting for AEW to succeed because competition in Pro Wrestling makes for a better Pro Wrestling. While Triple H just said recently that AEW “beat our developmental system, good for them”, I believe this fight against AEW is very personal for Triple H. Why? It was the Wednesday Day Night Wars LOSS to AEW that convinced Vince McMahon to (a) demote Triple H as Talent Relations EVP and (b) lose Creative for NXT, which became NXT 2.0. Furthermore, Vince McMahon released many NXT wrestlers that Triple H personally signed and was attempting to groom for the WWE roster to enjoy for years. While Triple H is acting like he didn’t care, losing to AEW changed his role in the WWE and he wants to prove himself. Therefore, Tony better watch out… While Vince didn’t consider AEW competition, I believe that Triple H does and HHH is a very competitive guy.
Thus, Tony needs to prepare for a legitimate wrestling war and at this stage in the game, Tony is not ready based on the many hats that he has caused himself to wear. He needs help from a good management group around him and finding help on the Creative side. In addition, utilizing veterans to help agent matches and teach many of his wrestlers that “less is more” when it comes to high spots versus psychology.
Here are my recommendations and if you like this column, share it with Tony.
Mr. Tito’s PHAT All Elite Wrestling (AEW) Recommendations to Improve
Demote Kenny Omega & Young Bucks as EVPs
They either have to be active in-ring wrestlers or EVPs, not both. I believe that being both has impaired each of the 3 wrestlers to be selfish for the creative about themselves. Case in point, the disaster of Kenny Omega’s AEW Title reign and Young Bucks immediately defeating FTR to squash what could have been a major pillar to their tag team division. Each of the 3 guys have value as AEW originals and as wrestlers, so just let them wrestle. Their scouting of talent and then booking of the Tag Team & Women’s Division is proof of enough that they are NOT ready to be managers of people and of a company.
Get rid of Ring of Honor or spin it off as a minor league system.
Buying Ring of Honor and then pushing it as a co-equal brand has been one of Tony’s biggest mistakes. Tony is wasting bigtime signings on that brand with Cesaro (now back to being Claudio Castagnoli), Samoa Joe, FTR, and Mercedes Martinez as that brand’s champions. The AEW roster is thin on big names right now that might appeal to outsiders. We need to be honest about Ring of Honor… It was an INDY promotion. Where did WWE sign free agents from to fill either FCW or NXT? Ring of Honor. When AEW started, what promotion did several wrestlers leave for an upgrade in pay and a better chance at going national? Ring of Honor. What Tony is doing by having Ring of Honor titles defended on AEW shows, having Pay Per Views, and hoarding good talent for ROH instead of using them for AEW is completely stupid and is just another factor thinning him out. ROH has always been a minor league system and AEW either needs to treat it like that or only care about its video library.
Attempt to convince HBO Max to allow their content
Now, I’m not suggesting becoming a “AEW Network” because I believe that the Discovery Network folks who now own it don’t want that. However, this is where the Ring of Honor library stuff comes in handy. Utilize the ROH footage, combined with your AEW footage, to produce various documentaries for HBO Max. For example, you could have one on CM Punk that uses heavy ROH footages, obviously uses photos for his WWE run, and then his AEW return. Punk could get candid about his WWE years and then the 7 years between his WWE and AEW runs. Ditto for Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson, Cesaro, Samoa Joe, and probably many others whom I am forgetting. Use these documentaries to help convince HBO Max that Pro Wrestling could draw on their network. This is very much worth the effort, as HBO Max has about 77 million subscribers right now and will continue to grow (best streaming service right now, in my opinion).
Stop listening to Dave Meltzer for advice.
Could you please show me which New Japan implant has drawn for AEW? You could point to that joint Pay Per View, but remember what a Creative disaster that was setting up? It was pure chaos… Yes, it drew well in the United Center, but AEW always draws well there with CM Punk on their roster and ticket sales were driven by a healthy CM Punk as champion. If they were anywhere else for that Forbidden Door Pay Per View, ticket sales would have been much less. Dave is the one pushing propaganda (or at least his opinion) that New Japan and California Indy wrestling is the “BEST” wrestling and he marks out for this stuff with his match ratings system. New Japan and California Indy wrestlers buddy-up to Dave for favorable exposure and Dave’s personal hatred for Vince McMahon has always created a bias for any potential competition for the WWE. From relying on help from Bucks/Omega, bringing in New Japan wrestlers, and to the in-ring style that AEW brings, Dave Meltzer’s influence on Tony Khan has been toxic for AEW. At the end of the day, Dave is just a guy writing newsletters just like I’m here writing columns. At least with me, however, I’m not “all in” with a single promotion as Dave is, as I’m an equal opportunity hater. He’s not, as Dave is totally impaired along with the rest of his Observer Morality Squad. Sean Ross Sapp is LAUGHING at you, Dave, for letting him become the #1 insider news guy.
Begin to transition Chris Jericho, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and Sting into Creative Team members, possibly managers or EVPs as well.
AEW has the luxury of having 4 highly intelligent wrestlers who have repeatedly reinvented themselves on their roster and at the endgame stages of their careers. These are the kinds of guys that Tony Khan should be seeking for advice on Creative and forming a Creative Team with them. You have a combined 100+ years of experience with these guys, start to tap into their brains on what works to get wrestlers over AND on presentation. If needed, hire a few writers, on the side, to piece together or storyboard the ideas from these wrestlers on the group and to also help keep Tony Khan organized. With time, he can trust this group for creative ideas and just manage it without much effort. I would suggest adding William Regal, but I’m assuming that the second he can leave AEW, he’ll rejoin WWE for Triple H. Tony should honestly let Regal go, as his mind and heart won’t be with AEW and could relay information to his friend Triple H.
Implement Jim Ross as Talent Relations EVP, but give him help to not overwhelm him. Hire Rip Rogers as lead trainer for future wrestlers, too.
Yes, this sounds like re-installing Ohio Valley Wrestling… But look at the long-term results? Cena, Orton, and Lesnar are still valuable pieces to the WWE because each of those guys were taught how to properly work, how to be safe while working, and be flexible to change. Look at what Rip Rogers did for freakin’ Pat McAfee. Pat looks better than most WWE Developmental System trained wrestlers and yet he’s had LESS time in the ring than all of them. With Jim Ross, he has a great eye for talent… But he’s much older, so therefore, GIVE HIM A BUDGET and LET HIM HIRE A STAFF that he can teach to think like him on assessing talent.
Force AEW talent to require agents on their matches.
You have many former veterans backstage, yet they aren’t involved much on AEW’s Creative and AEW’s talent are too smug to take advice from them. Meanwhile, AEW wrestlers are getting injured from unorganized spot fests. The bolts need to be tightened, as the AEW roster isn’t that good and are causing embarrassing highlight reels to be put together of their botches. That’s where advice from a wrestling veteran comes in to help wrestlers organize their matches better and use more psychology instead of spots. You can give me this “modern wrestling” crap all that you want, but wrestlers are either getting hurt or laughed at from spots going wrong. Plus, this stuff with waiting around for a wrestler to get a spot ready is ridiculous.
Have LESS Women’s Wrestling.
A fatal flaw of the WWE, since the “Divas Revolution of 2015”, is that Women’s wrestling draws. Under certain circumstances, it can here or there but as an overpushed entity, it cannot. Hence why there has only been 1 Women’s Pay Per View (struggled selling tickets in New York City) and why their Main Events have been dependent on Ronda Rousey. As Women of Wrestling is finding out with their own struggles (especially when disregarding Tessa Blanchard), Women’s wrestling doesn’t draw on its own. It needs to be a side midcard act, as Men are just bigger, faster, and stronger inside a ring. Same argument with the WNBA who uses the same basketball court dimensions as men. Basketball just isn’t as interesting with layups compared to slam dunks by men. With AEW having a very weak Women’s division, anyway, demote this division and have fewer Women’s matches. If you need more roles for Women, convert them as managers or valets. Sex appeal draws and AEW actually has some decent lookers on their roster.
Get better Pay Per View Names
Sorry, but AEW’s Pay Per View names kinda suck. “All In” was a cool name for the 2018 event by Cody and the Young Bucks, but “All Out” sounds so stupid. What does that mean? That you are “all out” of good wrestling? I like “Double or Nothing” and enjoy the Las Vegas theme to that show… But show names like “Full Gear” and “Revolution” are so bland and basic. Just work a little harder on creating names that catches the eye of casual fans but also something that could stick as AEW’s biggest event. “All Out” and “Double or Nothing” appears to be AEW’s top shows, but they feel a little light in importance to me. They need something more cleverly titled like a “Wrestlemania” that can be pushed as an event that wrestling fans cannot pass up.
End the Friday Night Show.
Sorry, but AEW Rampage is just an awful show and dilutes AEW’s product. It’s just too much of a time commitment for your diehard fans. Plus, it is on late Friday Night… Unless you are pushing more adult content on that show that is on late for Fridays, don’t even bother with a subpar version of AEW Dynamite.
Think about Saturday or Sunday Mornings or Afternoon
If memory serves, I thought AEW had a morning show or I could be dreaming… To me as a younger wrestling fan, WWE All American Wrestling on the USA Network on Sunday Mornings and catching either WWE Superstars or WWE Challenge on syndication during either the mornings or afternoon of a weekend were important. THAT is when younger people are available to possibly watch something or maybe hungover wrestling fans could watch after partying on a Friday or Saturday night. WWE abandoning the mornings, in my opinion, has caused generations of lost younger fan opportunities. I would take this garbage AEW Rampage show and convert it to something to watch on early Saturday or Sunday mornings, preferably at 10am before Football programming starts. Add analysis by wrestlers with a host to it, too… Trust me, it works and Saturday/Sunday morning programming hooked many wrestling fans for the WWE. You know what does hook wrestling fans? Late night Friday or Saturday night shows, unless it pushes adult content hard like ECW did.
Improve your Theme Songs.
I said the same thing about WWE, but I’d argue that AEW has worse theme music than WWE. It’s just garbage and nothing that you’d want to personally download to listen to in your car. AEW needs to find a good music composer who can craft unique wrestling themes that fits the wrestlers. Trust me, that first minute of the wrestler coming out to a grand entrance matters, as it sets the tone for the audience. Hiring WWE’s former music guy, Jim Johnston and giving him a staff to train and advise, might be a good idea.
LESS Title Inflation.
Sorry, but only AEW titles should EVER be defended on AEW programming. New Japan, Ring of Honor, Impact, AAA, or other promotions should NEVER have their titles on AEW programming, let alone defended. Creates too much confusion while reducing the value of AEW’s titles by comparison. Trios titles for both AEW and Ring of Honor? Come on… Interim Titles are also a bad idea, as this whole Moxley/Punk situation has been a mess and now AEW is doing the same exact mistake with the Women’s Title. If someone is hurt and cannot defend the belt, STRIP THEM of the title or give them an extension. I still don’t know the purpose of the TNT and TBS titles. Are they like midcard titles? Because their champions and how they are presented makes them feel equal to the AEW Title and the top Women’s Title. Just a mess… You can always tell how poorly a promotion is doing when you struggle to name WHO is the current champions, along with struggling to name the last 5-10 champions. If you quizzed me, I could name you who held all of the WWE Titles from 1987 through 1998 but struggle severely after that due to title inflation. AEW should have 1 Heavyweight Champion, 1 midcard champion, Tag Titles, and only 1 Women’s belt.
Create a valid Lightweight Division
Hey, didn’t I just recommend “less title inflation”. Sure did, but if you remove all of those other promotional titles appearing on AEW, it would help. AEW actually has a good roster of guys who would be valid Cruiserweight wrestlers. In fact, they have a ton of guys and they are unique characters, too. For a Cruiserweight Division in WCW or X Division in TNA to work, you need a blend of action packed wrestling combined with unique characters. Sammy Guevara, Darby Allin, and Orange Cassidy are 3 very unique characters and tremendous athletes… Yet, when you mix them with larger wrestlers or have them stand beside larger wrestlers for interview segments, they look very small in comparison. If AEW is going to tighten up the rest of their content, they could let the Lightweight Division present spotfests similar to what they have been doing to feed loyal AEW fans to some “classic AEW”. Then, the Young Bucks could try singles careers to add some additional spice. Wow, just like that, you have 5 wrestlers competing for the Lightweight Title and AEW has actual depth at guys less than 6 feet tall and soaking wet at 200 pounds or less.
Refine Contendership System
I appreciate AEW’s attempts at making wins and losses matter with a ranking system, but it’s just not efficient or noteworthy. You don’t need numbers, however… You just need to show fans MOMENTUM and then when you see fans sticking to a wrestler, that’s when you push them. That said, AEW needs to avoid the same lazy mistakes as WWE with their multi-person matches. At AEW All Out 2022, there exists a Fatal 4 Way for the interim Women’s AEW Title. That’s completely lazy to attempt, as if you had a well booked division, you’d know of at least 2 wrestlers who were worthy to wrestle head-to-head instead of a 4 way hot mess.
Don’t fumble on the Video Game.
I keep hearing that AEW’s Fight Forever video game is like a “modern version of WWF No Mercy”. That better be true… For the time, reported drama, and financials invested, this game better be groundbreaking. And deliver a completed game to the fans, too, with NO DLC announced at first. If AEW can give wrestling fans a great experience, it will hook them potential into AEW’s television programming. But if Fight Forever is a hot glitchy mess with lots of micro-transaction attempts, I’d expect this to be another black eye for the company. They HAVE to get this game right and it cannot be an incomplete game when delivered, given how much time and money have been invested in it. And don’t screw the fans with micro-transactions and DLC.
Reduce the size of AEW’s roster.
Just too much talent and this Tony’s way of trying to fill Dynamite, Rampage, and multiple YouTube shows. For what? Giving your fans too much wrestling to watch? While I admire his attempts to cycle in wrestlers weeks at a time to keep them fresh, their reckless style hurts them anyway and wrestlers going missing for weeks causes fans to disconnect quickly with any wrestlers that they start to like. The roster is too bloated and while I don’t wish unemployment on anyone, the roster is just too big with many good wrestlers not being used even with AEW’s many television opportunities. That said, I expect Tony to ignore this advice because he’s probably very afraid of Triple H getting his guys back.
Punish those who go off script.
If Adam “Hangman” Page reportedly went off script during his promo with CM Punk before their AEW Double or Nothing encounter, then Tony Khan needs to (a) recognize it immediately and (b) punish Page in the booking. Leaving it to CM Punk to “shoot” about several months later is a joke. Page took liberties in his promo against CM Punk and for what, supporting Colt Cabana? The problem with AEW is that they are too loose backstage and wrestlers, especially those cozy with EVPs Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks, feel that they can do what they want. This not only includes promos, but going crazy with spotfests and unnecessary violence inside the ring. Page is lucky that CM Punk, who has some UFC Training, didn’t just shoot on him during that AEW Dynamite show or put in a few stiff shots at AEW Double or Nothing. Many AEW wrestlers feel “invincible” because of how carefree Tony is or their associations with the EVPs. This has created a lawless environment where the inmates have too much control of the asylum.
That’s all I have… The basement at the Retirement Home is now empty, unless another wrestling controversy causes me to want to write again.
AEW and WWE can either take my advice, many of which are so simple to implement without much cost, or they can shove it.
What do I know? I’ve just been writing on Pro Wrestling heading into my 24th year once late October rolls around, been a fan for almost 35 years, read many books on wrestlers and from wrestlers, I have spoke to many wrestlers and promoters, and I work in the financial world. I’m not some “geek off the streets” and I’m more right than most content providers about Pro Wrestling.
If you want to keep supporting and enabling BAD wrestling, that is on you. Keep giving them your time and money, while they take years off your life for any stress that they give you.
With anything, and this includes bad wrestling promotions, politicians, people with bad habits, celebrities doing whatever they feel like without regard to their health, or just criminals in general… There are always enablers. If you allow bad or stupid things to happen or exist by giving them your time, attention, or money, that is on YOU for their lack of quality or bad results that can happen.
But again, I’m just the “old man” columnist that everybody hates because they know that I’m right most of the time. What do I know?
So just chill until I decide to write again.