MR. TITO: The AEW Drama of CM Punk vs. Adam Page, EVPs, & Colt Cabana. Where is Tony Khan? *UPDATED*
UPDATE 9/7/2022: Since this column was written, more information has been known on the backstage altercation that took place between CM Punk and the Executive Vice Presidents of All Elite Wrestling (AEW). According to reports, the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega immediately went to Punk’s locker room and stormed in by force, reportedly (knocked heavily, kicked in the door). Now, there is a debate on “who threw the first punch” but if 3 guys are aggressively going after 1 guy with anger, the 1 guy probably has the right to defend themselves.
CM Punk was reportedly in his locker room and Ace Steel‘s wife was in there because she was taking care of CM Punk’s dog for the night. When a fight reportedly broke out, that prompted Ace Steele to rush into the locker room and probably witness a 3 on 1 fight. Thus, Ace Steele went on to legitimately blast Nick Jackson with a chair (gave him facial injuries) and was reportedly biting Kenny Omega.
The question is now “who threw the first punch”, as the only reporting we’ve heard is that (a) CM Punk was punching Matt Jackson and that (b) Ace Steele hit Nick Jackson with a chair and bit Kenny Omega. So the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega just sat there and did nothing physically?
Uh huh… See, here is the problem with these EVPs in AEW and particularly with CM Punk regarding the rumors that “Punk got Colt Cabana fired”. The Jacksons and Omega run to the newsletter nerds anytime something happens and people like Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez, big California Indy and New Japan fans, will comply. How does this story even make sense? Young Bucks and Kenny Omega storm into Punk’s locker room, but it is only Punk throwing punches Ace Steel throwing punches on Matt and the only involvement of Omega and Nick physically was getting hit by a chair or bitten by Ace. Come on…
Doesn’t matter who threw the first punch… If Bucks/Omega broke into Punk’s locker room for a physical confrontation, all Punk has to alledge in court is harassment or intimidation by the company’s Executive Vice President. The EVPs have liability for their actions towards talent. When it’s 3 on 1 and aggressive behavior was shown, that’s enough for CM Punk to defend himself. The EVPs could argue that Punk’s comments were slanderous, but as EVPs, they need to report that up their organizational chart to Tony Khan. Now, Ace Steel could be charged with assault but for the fact that his WIFE was there, potentially in danger, he could be protected via self defense as well. Ace, as a contractor for AEW, could alledge that AEW’s Executive Vice Presidents put his wife in danger by their actions.
With this more information known, I have changed my decisioning below for Tony Khan.
(a) CM Punk needs to be terminated for airing dirty laundry at the AEW Media Scrum. He said damaging things publicly about the company that can harm the brand.
(b) The EVPs of Nick Jackson, Matt Jackson, and Kenny Omega must be terminated as both EVPs and wrestling talent. Their physical altercation with CM Punk presents significant liability with AEW as a company. In addition, their leaks of information to newsletter nerds also hurts AEW as a brand.
I’d retain the services of Hangman Page, but he needs eat chow for a while on the lower midcard to earn back the trust of fellow wrestlers. Nobody should go off-script.
What a mess… If Tony doesn’t take forceful actions, more of this chaos will occur in the future. CM Punk isn’t going to take crap while the EVPs do nothing but stir up drama with their lies and deceipt. Afterward, Tony needs to acknowledge that he needs help running this company and that’s when he can lean on veterans like Jim Ross, Eric Bischoff, Jeff Jarrett (now available), or even Jim Cornette for assistance. Cornette was 100% right about the immaturity of the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega, all along.
And AEW should be fine with “rolling the dice” on the WWE now hiring Punk, Kenny Omega, or the Young Bucks. Triple H and CM Punk have permanent heat based on their prior confrontations and what Punk said on Colt Cabana’s November 2014 Podcast. Meanwhile, does the WWE even want the Young Bucks or Kenny Omega after this reported disaster? Can they trust those guys? Maybe going to a more disciplined locker room would do them good, as proven by Kenny Omega doing great things in New Japan, for example, but I don’t think Triple H wants any wildcards in his locker room. Triple H is a man of control and that’s why he loves his job running NXT and Talent Developmental so much. Those wrestlers eat out of the palm of his hand and that’s what he wants. Omega and the Bucks have a streak of immaturity, including these recent reported events, and Triple H likely wants no part of that drama.
You gotta clean house, Tony. Suspending them will only kick the can down the road for more drama to happen, guaranteed.
NOTE: The below column was written BEFORE more information was known about the backstage altercation between CM Punk/Ace Steel and the Young Bucks/Kenny Omega.
Folks, my last column posted on Saturday morning, entitled “Recommendations for Tony Khan on how to Improve All Elite Wrestling (AEW)” was intending to be my last for a while… With the Vince McMahon stuff calming down, I really had nothing else to offer because I don’t feel like doing any show reviews.
And then the AEW situation with CM Punk against the EVPs (Young Bucks & Kenny Omega) and Adam “Hangman” Page explodes.
You know, I really like the media scrums that AEW does after their big Pay Per Views or other shows. It’s one of those nice touches that Tony did for his company and it gives you a little backstage access without exposing that much of the company. What happened last night, however, was a total disgrace and Tony Khan just sat there and took it as CM Punk began shooting on AEW, its EVPs, and Adam Page. Yeah, I 100% agree about with Punk on how terrible they all are, BUT he’s 100% exposing the business AND humiliating the boss who signs his checks for the entire world to see.
Adam Page went off script before Double or Nothing and when CM Punk came back from injury for AEW Dynamite, him going off script made it even. Tony Khan should have rounded up all parties, had a discussion, and threatened fines/suspensions/terminations for anyone who takes this unprofessional behavior further. However, the EVPs, who are all close to the Observer Boys and other online news sources, began leaking story after story that were anti-Punk in tone and Nick Jackson, as Tony Khan alludes to in the media scrum last night, made a statement about Punk’s promo…
After the AEW All Out media scrum, CM Punk and the Young Bucks had some sort of altercation while Tony was still speaking to the media. Some reports suggest that fists were flying…
This is a total disaster and will be a complete inflection point on how All Elite Wrestling does in the future, whether they clean house or do nothing to keep enabling this exposing behavior.
What a mess.
I’ve said it from DAY ONE. Tony Khan electing Cody Rhodes, Brandi Rhodes, the Young Bucks, & Kenny Omega to significant positions of power was a MISTAKE. None of them, and I repeat, NONE OF THEM, had any managerial experience nor do any of them have business experience. Sure, they put on a successful “All In” show during 2018, but that was a single event. Operating a wrestling promotion that puts on multiple shows per week, has television contracts, has sponsors, and pays actual salaries to wrestlers is an entirely different matter. Each of these EVPs or Chief Brand Officers were performers and had little experience booking wrestling shows, let alone helping someone operate a business.
Tony Khan set a bad culture from DAY ONE by hiring existing wrestlers to be part of his Executive Management Team. Each of those wrestlers have shown nothing but favoritism and scored jobs for many of their buddies. They’ve also been close with the Wrestling Observer to praise any match that they do, badmouth any of their enemies, and post propaganda that AEW was actually *close* to the WWE in a so-called wrestling world (18-49 Demo, anybody?). There’s a major clique backstage that maintains their power thanks to the foolish decision of Tony Khan to give amateurs managerial power, particularly the Bucks and Kenny Omega who have shown nothing but immaturity inside and outside the ring.
And then attempt to shove a CM Punk square peg into an AEW round hole…
I’ve said it for a while now but recent weeks have proved me right. What happened to CM Punk from August 2011 through early 2014 actually BROKE CM Punk as a wrestler. While he has been reportedly intense backstage, it’s mostly been to his passion for pro wrestling. WWE broke him at SummerSlam 2011 when Vince McMahon’s hard-on for Alberto Del Rio combined with Triple H being upset with Punk’s “doofus son-in-law” comment caused the burial to begin. Then, Triple H defeats CM Punk in a one-on-one match with CM Punk at the September 2011 Pay Per View and then 2 Pay Per Views later, Triple H teams with Punk and Punk eats the loss against Miz/R-Truth. Yeah, WWE gave CM Punk the World Title after realizing what a bust Del Rio was, but for the next year, Punk barely main evented RAWs or Pay Per Views as champion and was even turned heel midway through being champion. 2013 rolls around, and Punk does nothing but jobs for Rock twice, John Cena, Kane, and the Undertaker. Punk was also forced to feud with the dangerous Ryback for not one but two separate feuds. Then, to end the year 2013, he feuds with the Shield as a smokescreen just to get Punk’s shoulders pinned by Roman Reigns to start 2014.
CM Punk returns 7.5 years later to join AEW and it seems as though everything is great, at first… But 7.5 years later, CM Punk leaves a toxic environment to join another toxic environment.
While CM Punk was in WWE, did he ever have an unscripted promo thrown at him by any of the company’s Executives? Oh yeah, just once… Everyone keeps showing the clip of Triple H talking down to CM Punk from RAW but that was actually an unscripted moment. Now, I’m not condoning it because Triple H in his early days as an Executive during the 2010s was still meddling with things backstage as he would screw with Daniel Bryan’s push during late 2013 while always wanting to push the guys he personally liked such as Batista, Randy Orton, and Sheamus. Funny, those guys each won a Royal Rumble…
That said, did CM Punk ever call out Triple H at a media event for going off script? In fact, did CM Punk ever call out Kevin Nash for his “works at Waffle House” comment that was unscripted?
Nope. You never heard a word from it. Why? Because CM Punk actually FEARED consequences from Vince McMahon and he likely FEARED Triple H/Kevin Nash as well. He didn’t want to lose his job, either.
That was in 2011… During August and September 2022, what are you hearing from CM Punk? He is heavily badmouthing Adam Page inside the ring and at the media scrum while insisting that AEW’s EVPs “couldn’t manage a Target”. Could you imagine CM Punk, during September 2011, telling someone in the media that Triple H couldn’t manage a Target? For one, Vince McMahon would NOT tolerate it and two, Triple H would retaliate. Ditto if CM Punk called Kevin Nash “dumb” with other expletives during 2011 versus how he speaks of Adam Page during 2022. Nash wouldn’t put up with it.
Are you seeing it yet? CM Punk doesn’t respect AEW, nor does he fear any consequences as he did during his WWE years.
CM Punk said NOTHING about his WWE tenure until 5 months or so after his WWE termination (on his Wedding Day in June 2014) during the infamous Colt Cabana November 2014 Podcast. Then, while he was no longer a WWE employee, CM Punk finally spoke his mind.
Because he FEARED and RESPECTED the WWE Management Team of Vince McMahon and Triple H during 2011-2014, even as they were actively screwing him on the booking, but he has ZERO FEAR to disrespect Tony Khan and the AEW EVPs.
THAT IS YOUR DIFFERENCE
Watch that AEW All Out Media Scrum last night… Tony Khan just lays there and takes it. Punk is badmouthing his former World Champion, ripping the EVPs, and giving the media at the press conference a hard time. CM Punk made the company look bad and he exploited the weakness of Tony Khan as a leader.
THIS IS A MESS!
But how do you fix it? These events with things you see on camera + what is leaked to the Observer Boys has totally exposed the business. Now, if you see CM Punk wrestle against Page/Bucks/Omega, you know that the match is impaired and they are attempting to convert a “shoot” into a “work”.
Well, I don’t know how you can continue employment of CM Punk UNLESS you 100% blame Adam Page and his EVP buddies for creating this problem in the first place. It could have been done with Punk’s Dynamite promo, but Page and the EVPs went the leaking route to wrestling insiders instead of discussing it backstage like men. That put more fuel on the fire and caused CM Punk to shoot at the All Out Media Scrum.
Then, you have to weigh who actually draws money for AEW and who doesn’t… While Buck/Omega have some loyal fans, their ongoing pushes haven’t exactly drawn excitement for AEW. Page’s AEW Title reign was poorly received. CM Punk, meanwhile, gave AEW an initial bump, but viewers are back at or under 1 million again. It’s nice to have the Chicago market to help AEW establish a Midwestern presence, but AEW has been drying that well from the many attempts to appear in Chicago. Then, you have to look at the rest of the AEW roster… Lots of smaller Indy guys, several former WWE guys who aren’t drawing as expected.
YUCK. It’s very messy.
Then, on top of all of that, you have to think that if Tony actually terminates anyone, could they go to the WWE and succeed?
CM Punk has major heat with Triple H and I don’t believe that ever gets cured, per that November 2014 podcast. Punk is one of the few guys whose WWE return was actually hindered by Vince McMahon leaving. I believe that Adam Page and the Young Bucks could be good WWE additions, however. HHH wants to revamp the Tag Team division and the Bucks could do better in a controlled setting without having to do managerial stuff (see Cody Rhodes). Hard to say about Kenny Omega, though… You look at this New Japan stuff, it is spectacular. Look at his pre-New Japan and now AEW stuff, inconsistent. However, seeing Cody Rhodes thrive in the WWE environment where all he has to do is focus on performing the easier WWE style… It really makes you think.
But who technically has an offense worth terminating?
Adam Page went off-script, but if you didn’t hear Punk’s later “shoot” response months later, you wouldn’t have known that Page sent unscripted. The EVPs leaking and releasing statements blaming Punk is highly unprofessional. In my opinion, Punk shooting back made things even THOUGH Punk’s response actually shed light on Page being unscripted. To me, along with the past few years of being bad bookers and for poor talent signings, Bucks and Omega should NOT be Executive Vice Presidents. In fact, in my RECENT COLUMN, I recommended demoting the Bucks and Omega as EVPs and allow them to focus on being just wrestlers.
CM Punk, however, waited about 2 months to “get even” with Adam Page without having ANY meetings with Tony Khan or the EVPs regarding Page’s promo. Instead, Punk took it upon himself to “shoot” on Adam Page instead on live AEW Dynamite television. Then, in response to insider news receiving leaks about “backstage heat” with Punk and then the EVPs making public statements to blame CM Punk for Colt Cabana’s release or Ring of Honor demotion, CM Punk made AEW look horrible with vulgar language and slander at a post-Pay Per View press conference with Tony Khan sitting beside him.
In my view, CM Punk should have handled his grievances backstage with Tony Khan… The question is this… Did he? Did Tony Khan and CM Punk ever speak about (a) Adam Page’s promo and (b) the allegations that Punk caused Colt Cabana to lose his job? If conversations about (a) and (b) happened and Tony Khan did nothing about it, then you can see why CM Punk took it upon himself to shoot.
What CM Punk did at that All Out media scrum was make the entire AEW company look bad publicly. Instead of celebrating him becoming AEW Champion again, everybody is commenting on what Punk said about Page and the EVPs with Tony Khan sitting there with his mouth closed. Tony should the media scrum the second that CM Punk badmouthed his company, but he didn’t… End the meeting and use security to escort Punk if he becomes hostile.
I could only imagine how much serious HEAT I’d get in if I badmouthed my company, its executive management, or used foul language at a company event with my President/CEO sitting right beside me. My arse would have been fired, IMMEDIATELY, for making the company look bad publicly. ALL OF US would…
Furthermore, could you imagine leaking company secrets and behind-the-scenes drama to the press as AEW wrestlers do regularly with Observer Boys, Fightful, PWInsider, and other insiders? We would ALL get fired in an instant. If I published any public statements that accused someone of a particular action, I’d get fired too.
But Tony Khan just sits there and takes it, like the spineless wonder that he is. It’s no wonder why the Jacksonville Jaguars suck and why his Fulham soccer club gets relegated repeatedly.
Again – Let’s go back to 2011-2014 while CM Punk was a WWE employee. WWE screwed with him, too, as Triple H and Kevin Nash both attacked him with unscripted promos on Monday Night RAW *and* WWE backstage is quite leaky, too. Yet, you NEVER heard CM Punk publicly trash WWE while he was a WWE employee. Sure, he did 5 months after the WWE terminated him, but NOT while he was an employee.
Could you imagine CM Punk saying bad things about other WWE wrestlers or executive with Vince McMahon sitting beside him? He wouldn’t… Punk feared consequences in the WWE, doesn’t fear them in AEW. He’s not afraid to get into a fight with the Young Bucks, Adam Page, or Kenny Omega, but chances are that he wanted no part of Triple H or Kevin Nash during 2011. Punk said things BEHIND CLOSED DOORS with Vince McMahon and Triple H, yet he airs his grievances openly with the public watching in front of Tony Khan.
The next 3 days are very important for Tony Khan, heading into AEW Dynamite and afterward. CM Punk is your AEW Champion and is under AEW contract. However, CM Punk his a previous history of just walking out and quitting Pro Wrestling (WWE after Royal Rumble 2014). We’re in a real situation where Punk might not even show up to AEW Dynamite and maybe Page/EVPs won’t show up in protest.
Tony needs to show who is in charge and heads have to roll…
In my view, there’s no coming back from what CM Punk said at the AEW Media Scrum following the AEW All Out Pay Per View. He embarrassed the company on the night where this same company made him AEW champion again, right in front of the boss. Doing nothing by Tony will signal that ANY wrestler can speak the same way in front of Tony. AEW could attempt to make the “shoot” become a “work”, but what was said was highly personal. Saying that the “EVPs couldn’t manage a Target” was highly insulting to say in public and makes AEW look awful and poorly run.
#1 Tony Khan Move: Terminate CM Punk
Adam Page is a pawn in this equation and I believe he was caught in the gossip ring backstage, possibly encouraged by the EVPs, about Colt Cabana losing his AEW spot because of CM Punk. He’s gullible, but I don’t believe he is malicious. Adam Page is the same guy who lost to Joey Ryan at “All In” during 2018, remember? Punk shredding him in response definitely offsets what Page ever said to him.
Now, the EVPs spreading gossip backstage about CM Punk’s relationship with Colt Cabana while also leaking info to wrestling insiders or making statements alleging Punk caused Cabana to lose his AEW gig is another matter… This is on top of 3 years worth of poor judgment by the Executive Vice Presidents in the way of Creative Ideas and signed Tag Team/Women’s Division talent. In addition, both Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks have a history of showing immaturity, exposing the business on their YouTube shows, and tend to take care of themselves creatively rather than other wrestlers. If just focusing on being wrestlers, they could thrive better than attempting to be executives.
#2 Tony Khan Move: DEMOTE the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega as EVPs, retain them as wrestlers.
#3 Tony Khan Move: Announce the promotions of Jim Ross, Arn Anderson, Dean Malenko, and possibly Eric Bischoff as new members of management to assist him backstage.
What made this situation much worse was the anti-CM Punk sentiment spread throughout newsletters and other insider news reports. It’s VERY obvious that 1 publication, the Wrestling Observer, has very close connections with the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega along with anyone who wrestles the California Indy scene or New Japan. This “Colt Cabana leaves AEW” story spread because of the same guys who egged on Adam Page to probably shoot on CM Punk on AEW Dynamite with his unscripted promo. These leaks HAVE to end, along with anyone speaking about AEW publicly.
#4 Tony Khan Move: Create new Public Relations and Social Media Policies that (a) ban speaking to any media members without permission and (b) limits use of Social Media among wrestlers when employed by WWE.
#5 Tony Khan Move: Sever ties with Wrestling Observer as “unofficial advisors”, find out who is ratting to news outlets, impose fines or other punishments for leaking.
And then, of course, read my LAST COLUMN which presents valid recommendations on how to significantly improve AEW.
#6 Tony Khan Move: Read Mr. Tito’s Last Column entitled “Recommendations for Tony Khan on How to Improve All Elite Wrestling (AEW)“, which I posted on Saturday 9/3/2022 before AEW All Out even happened.
There you go, folks, some HARD HITTING opinions about AEW, CM Punk, AEW’s EVPs, Adam “Hangman” Page, and Tony Khan that you WON’T get anywhere else or from anyone else. Others will claim to have analysis for this situation, but nobody will have the balls to put it to paper as I have.
Tony has to swing hard in response to this to prevent future outbreaks of drama and problems. His company is still young enough that we can chalk it up as a mistake and a science experiment gone wrong (signing Punk, having Bucks/Omega as EVPs). If he doesn’t, he’s a complete enabler to bad behavior.
Just LOOK at the amazing timing for Triple H right now… Vince McMahon retires/resigns in a humiliating fashion and now AEW is completely crumbling. Furthermore, CM Punk’s actions in 2022 are actually making Triple H’s sabotaging from 2011 look justified when they should not be. Yet, here we are and the master politician is in charge of the WWE and will likely succeed because (a) everyone was tired of Vince McMahon’s Creative views and (b) AEW is completely falling apart.
The Pro Wrestling business is certainly a funny one…
The ball is in your court, Tony Khan. Do you have balls to adequately respond to this controversy and prevent future problems? Time will tell…
I’d say “back to the retirement home”, but I’m afraid this story won’t go away lightly. If anything breaks that’s worth speaking about, I’ll be back here at NoDQ to deliver the TRUTH as I always have.
So just chill… Till the next episode!