Right now, Tony Khan is struggling as AEW company president based on the way that the CM Punk situation was handled. On top of that, besides the Wembley show, his AEW business state-side has seen attendance woes and viewership has hit a plateau. The AEW Collision show was built around the novelty of featuring CM Punk, but with him terminated, that show is now up in the air and having too many TV shows may over-expose AEW anyway. Putting full faith and trust into the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega, with all 3 showing signs of immaturity inside and outside of the ring, has proven to be a blunder of Tony Khan.
But we’ve seen this picture before… Other inexperienced folk have tried to work in the wrestling business at a highly promoted position and have fumbled the ball.
Such as Stephanie McMahon. Today is September the 11th, which is forever known for the airplane attacks that happened on the World Trade Center towers during 2001. 9/11/2001 happened on a Tuesday, which was when WWE taped Smackdown to air on Thursdays. However with 9/11, it caused the Tuesday taping to be postponed and WWE just ran a LIVE show on Thursday instead. It was a nice tribute show, overall, as it just featured random matches while wrestlers or personalities were allowed to speak freely on the event. This show aired on 9/13/2001.
Well, one person spoke too freely OR she was put up to saying something incredibly stupid. Stephanie McMahon, through September 2001, was the Head of the Creative Team and she was in that position since late 2000. Now keep in mind during 9/11/2001, she was just 24 years old and about to turn 25 in a few weeks. She graduated college in 1998 with a degree in Communications from Boston University and that summer, she began working various WWE roles. By late 1998, she was beginning work more in production and was also beginning to appear on camera and would increasingly appear on television much more throughout 1999. Then, she had the marriage angle with Triple H and was really on camera during 2000. By late 2000, she was promoted to the creative lead… For what, 1.5 years experience working in the WWE on various roles and being on camera?
Following 9/11/2001, her immaturity came through… Here is the direct quote of Stephanie McMahon that played on the September 13th, 2001 edition of WWE Smackdown:
“A few years ago, some people tried to destroy my family. They attacked my father’s reputation. They attacked my mother’s reputation. And they attacked the World Wrestling Federation. They tried to rip us apart, but all they did was to make my family stronger. And that is exactly how America feels right now because on Tuesday, America was attacked. But America is a united nation and together, we stand strong. I am incredibly proud to be an American citizen and I will stand up for my rights and freedoms.”
SHE ACTUALLY SAID THAT! Now, let’s give younger Stephanie McMahon a pass. We all said and did stupid crap in our 20s. For Stephanie back then, she was young and was either ignorant about what she said, or someone manipulated her to say that. Maybe Vince McMahon prompted her to say that? I don’t know… But she said it and video of that will never go away. However, she has evolved…
The Stephanie McMahon of 2022, when she was thrust into the CEO/President role, was very mature. Think about the situation she inherited, as she came back from a leave of absence where she wanted to focus on her family. Vince McMahon literally got caught with his pants down and was busted giving out million dollar settlements on the company’s dime. He was forced to “retire” and she took over and handled the WWE CEO/President position with grace. WWE Corporation could have melted down after that controversy, but her smooth transition into that role kept things stable. Heck, WWE actually grew during her tenure as CEO/President. Then, when Vince McMahon wanted to return during late 2022 and early 2023, she handled that with grace and stepped down with a highly professional statement.
See, it wasn’t Stephanie’s fault that she became Head of Creative during late 2000. Her dad, Vince McMahon, gave her that position TOO EARLY.
Being a top promoter in the wrestling business takes YEARS upon YEARS to earn, as you need experience handling and managing relationships of your talent, arenas and other venues, advertisers, television companies, and so much more.
Vince McMahon Sr. made Vince Jr. work his way up the ladder in WWWF doing various roles, managing different sub-territories, and being an announcer. After 10 years, Vince McMahon was ready to assume the role as the top guy.
Other examples… Eric Bischoff worked for years in the wrestling business backstage and as an announcer before he was good at his job. In fact, he struggled mightily during 1993 and parts of 1994 before he got his head screwed on straight. By 1996, he was ready to rule the world… But even then, he couldn’t sustain that success because the boys started messing with him. Jim Ross did many odd jobs for Cowboy Bill Watts to learn the business and he put in many hours to figure out how to be an effective backstage manager.
See, that’s what everyone doesn’t understand about the wrestling business… The wrestlers like to screw with you. Being on the road for so long, they get bored and come up with ways to pull ribs on each other but they also like to test boundaries. They want to see how tough the promoter really is and if they are given any amount of inches, they’ll take a mile. Worse yet for Eric Bischoff and Tony Khan, they’ve make the complete MISTAKE of trying to actually party with the boys. It’s one thing to have a beer, it’s another to have many, many beers and do other things. It begins to impair your judgment and you start doing favors with those who want to party with you. When a promoter blurs that line between being a BOSS or ONE OF THE BOYS, it’s over.
Tony Khan‘s FIRST EVER wrestling experience was on day 1 when AEW was created during January 2019. That’s it, folks… He was just a fan prior to this. If being a wrestling fan equated to being a successful wrestling promoter, there would be millions of them. Nope, it’s a difficult job because managing the wrestling talent is incredibly difficult to do. It’s easy to fantasy book, but to convince a wrestler to perform exactly what you want is very challenging. Tony then made the foolish mistake of signing Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, and the Young Bucks to be his Executive Vice President and foolishly put them in charge of signing talent and the creative process. The end result was a weak roster of goofy independent wrestlers and a terrible creative direction. By late 2019, Tony tried to jump into the Creative process and while that may have ended the Dark Order’s big push and the awful Nightmare Collective (GOOD GOD that was so bad!), you saw how the year 2020 went. Complete garbage.
Prior to 9/11/2001, look at what Stephanie McMahon was doing… She was completely botching the WCW/ECW Invasion angle. Complete and utter garbage. This million dollar idea was dropped right into her lap and she fumbled it. 2001 lost a ton of viewership and completely abandoned the WCW audience who were eager to see the Monday Night Wars play out. But they didn’t… WCW was instantly made into a mockery and Stephanie McMahon actually booked herself to “own” ECW. Seriously, you had Paul Heyman RIGHT THERE, but she was actually in charge of ECW. What is so extreme about Stephanie McMahon? By November 2001, the whole Invasion angle was over and done with.
My point is that Stephanie McMahon was NOT ready to be Lead Writer of the WWE’s Creative Team during 2001. She was still a kid with little experience working in the wrestling business, let alone anything dealing with the creative side of it. I’d argue that by late 2013, when she officially stepped down, she STILL wasn’t good at Creative for the WWE.
What is also missed is when those working Creative also have a character on television. What killed WCW was during November 1996 when Eric Bischoff joined the New World Order (NWO) and slowly but surely, he lost sight of what made WCW great and began focusing more on getting himself over on television instead. That ego was growing and growing during 1997 and by 1998, he was all over WCW television. What happened was WCW began falling apart creatively but also with the talent manipulating him because he became “one of the boys”.
Stephanie McMahon was an on-screen character for much of her tenure as Creative Lead or eventually, EVP of Creative. Again, her attention was divided on what her character did versus how she presented others. That became very impaired, as she kept herself strong and used her character to belittle other wrestlers (Daniel Bryan as the “B+ Player”). The reason why we loved the Wrestlemania mixed tag match between Triple H/Stephanie vs. Kurt Angle/Ronda Rousey is that Stephanie McMahon finally GOT HERS after years of booking herself to bully other talents and they never got redemption against her.
Compare Vince Russo for WCW during 1999 versus 2000. He was barely on screen during late 1999, but on-screen often during 2000. Gee, which era had more success? His ratings grew during 1999 but declined significantly during 2000.
Dixie Carter‘s career very much parallels Tony Khan. She, too, partied with the talent and thrusted herself onto the creative team prematurely. She was also an on-screen character… TNA failed the more Dixie injected herself onto the creative process and on television.
Why is it that the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega struggle to see success as EVPs? Because they still have egos and care about their characters on-screen. And inexperienced Tony lacks that experience to see how BAD they truly are as his EVPs.
Now, Tony isn’t an on-screen character, but we see him too much for his own good. He makes “big” announcements often and he’s front & center during media scrums. That’s actually too much because he’s focusing the scrums on himself and not on the talents. But the biggest problem is his reported partying with the boys.
When you’re a manager anywhere, you’ve got to put a wall up… The second that you hang out with your reporting employees outside of the workplace, you’re getting closer to become their equals. Furthermore, if you drink or take substances, you’re going to compromise yourself to say or do things that you wouldn’t do sober. You’re opening up yourself for blackmail and needing to do favors for those you’ve partied with. To be an effective manager, you want real separation between yourself and your employees. You need to be viewed as an authority figure that is respected and somewhat feared for any consequences. I’m not saying to rule with an iron fist, as you can be a nice boss, but you need clear and present boundaries that your reporting staff cannot cross or else. But if you’re partying with the boys and don’t know how to manage people, those boundaries become blurred lines.
That is why Tony is failing… His talent knows how to manipulate him on many different situations and he’s too obtuse to realize that he’s getting worked. Furthermore, because he’s inexperienced, he put the wrong people in charge of his company as his EVPs. Kenny and especially the Young Bucks haven’t managed a single company in their lives until early 2019 when AEW formed. They don’t know how to inspire and get the best out of employees. No, what they know is how happy they feel when compliments are sent their way. They have filled that AEW roster with yes-men and stooges, and any wrestler who doesn’t kiss the boots of the Bucks or Omega are going to have a tough time politically backstage.
Tony has only been in the wrestling business for less than 5 years, but he has received the WRONG kind of experience within those 5 years. Nobody has taught him how to do anything, so hence why the EVPs and other wrestlers can easily manipulate him. This CM Punk debacle was handled terribly and could have easily been resolved last year after Adam “Hangman” Page’s shoot promo on CM Punk before their Pay Per View match. Tony should have acted on CM Punk’s complaint about it and immediately met with the Elite EVPs who put Page up to that. Instead, he did nothing… That allowed CM Punk to do his own shoot promo on AEW Dynamite and then things boiled over when the Bucks & stooges began to leak more lies to the dirtsheets. Tony Khan did nothing to punish the Elite EVPs, so hence CM Punk went nuclear at the AEW All Out 2022 Media Scrum.
But watch that Media Scrum closely… Tony Khan DOES NOTHING. If CM Punk ever said stuff like that during a WWE media scrum with Vince McMahon present, Vince would have KILLED him. Triple H would have KILLED him, too. Tony, because he’s inexperienced and doesn’t know how to control disgruntled talent, just let CM Punk say whatever he wanted.
Then, when a backstage brawl happened because his Elite EVPs felt the need to confront CM Punk instead of just talking with Tony about it, it completely exposed Tony as a WEAK leader. If the EVPs just had a discussion with Tony, CM Punk probably would have been terminated last year with cause because of the Media Scrum verbal attacks. No, because Tony is a WEAK leader, his EVPs thought they could get away with physically confronting CM Punk and making the situation a thousand times worse that kept boiling over into 2023.
THAT is what immaturity and inexperience brings you in the wrestling business when handed or given a top position too early.
But nobody learns from history… I keep posting the George Santayana quote of “those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it” yet there are people constantly fumbling the ball in the wrestling business because they failed to read about past experiences. Tony could have easily studied an inexperienced Stephanie McMahon on how she not only botched the 2001 WCW/ECW Invasion, but also how her boyfriend/fiancé/husband Triple H was manipulating her into BAD CREATIVE during 2002-2003. How great was the Kane unmasking and Katie Vick storyline? How about shaming Booker T for Wrestlemania 19? That awful pose-down contest with Scott Steiner and Triple H? Burying Goldberg and Rob Van Dam. Hey, that’s kind of like Tony Khan giving power to his active wrestlers as EVPs… Except without a few obvious benefits, as far as we know.
Stephanie McMahon made bad decision after bad decision… WWE was still going strong through 2000, though it appeared to have clearly peaked through late 1999 before Steve Austin had his neck repaired. They were still easily doing over 5-6 million viewers. Then, Stephanie gets in charge of Creative and the year 2001 goes to complete crap. Steve Austin’s heel turn was not only a bad idea, but handled poorly after Wrestlemania 17. Teaming him up with Triple H was stupid and destructive. Then, we had the WCW/ECW Invasion. Ric Flair and NWO come back after that, and that’s exciting, but the NWO was quickly disbanded and a retro Hogan push was made instead that lost momentum fast. Then, you had the 2002 initial brand split… We discussed the Triple H antics on the RAW brand, but Smackdown was running hot with Paul Heyman initially handling the Creative. Then, Stephanie took that over and pushed Heyman out by early 2004 (she was also the Commissioner on that show).
Stephanie was immature and inexperienced to be WWE Creative Lead, just as Tony Khan is for AEW.
And just as Stephanie said a completely stupid thing on 9/11 about her family, Tony Khan has said some dumb things. Remember when he attacked the WWE and said “I’m not gonna sit back and take this f***ing s***”? Among many other comments pumping his company higher than it really was.
Except Stephanie McMahon was in her early 20s when displaying immaturity and inexperience in the wrestling business. Tony Khan was in his late 30s when he opened AEW and is now in his early 40s making blunder after blunder, while still not realizing why his AEW company can’t grow any further.
But FINGER OF SHAME to Vince McMahon and Shahid Khan for rushing their kids too early into high profile positions. I know that you want your best for your kids, but you’re losing lots of money because of your bad decisions.
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