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Well, Tony Khan had done it, his promotion has won it, while Vince McMahon is crying all the while. CM Punk’s big ovation made us smile, while Triple H time as an executive is now on trial. We’re talkin’ wrestling, from Florida to Chicago. Talking wrestling…
OK, enough of that. Welcome back to the EXCELLENCE in PRO WRESTLING which you can only find here at NoDQ.com. What a week… CM Punk debuts HUGE for All Elite Wrestling and WWE immediately responds by rushing Brock Lesnar back early to feud with Roman Reigns in response. That is what an empire, in a panic does, as they’ve now ditched their long-term plans for Roman’s lengthy title reign (reportedly going to defeat the Rock in 2022, beat Lesnar in 2023). Usually, Vince McMahon responds well under pressure but this time, he’s giving us Brock Lesnar again. He has nothing ready on his bench…
Now, before I start my column today, I want to emphasize that I’m NOT a yes-man for Tony Khan and/or All Elite Wrestling (AEW). Go read the MANY links below in which I’ve been critical of Tony, his EVPs, talent hired, and Creative direction. It’s all there you to read. Don’t you dare respond “U AEW mark!!!” to me because the facts just aren’t there. I’m an equal opportunity critic and hater, folks, and I have dealt it to AEW when needed but I have also praised them when needed, too. In fact, I’m on video defending Tony Khan as a booker because he took over during early 2020 following the complete disasters known as the Dark Order and Nightmare Collective that ruined AEW Dynamite’s momentum through late 2019.
Did you get all of that? Did you read what I just said OR read any of my columns down below? You’re probably just reading this column’s headline or what Aaron Rift hypes on Twitter anyway instead of the actual column or columns.
I don’t believe that people realize what a big signing that CM Punk was for AEW. Through early 2014, Punk hated what Pro Wrestling was becoming under WWE’s leadership as the top company. Going back to 2014, there wasn’t much as an alternative. NWA didn’t exist yet, AEW didn’t exist yet, TNA was falling apart financially under Dixie’s rule, and Ring of Honor was kinda just there. Punk could have gone to New Japan, I suppose, but involves extensive travel which he just did for the WWE. WWE ruined Punk’s head so much about Pro Wrestling that he pretty much cut himself off from any involvement or association for years. In fact, he put all of his eggs in the MMA basket, not just fighting for UFC but fully supporting it and discussing it as a fan. He briefly did the FOX Sports thing, but that was the closest thing we had him to consider wrestling again.
Tony Khan has been President of AEW since early 2019. It took him over 2.5 years to convince CM Punk to make his comeback through AEW. As Punk said, he’s “the kind of girlfriend that needs wined and dined” to convince him to join something. In the past year, Tony Khan has cleaned up Creative, signed better talents to start replacing the initial roster that he let the EVPs sign, and he’s proving himself to be a PRO-Talent guy. He presents wrestlers a ton of freedom on how to work, what to say on the mic, and actual freedom to make money elsewhere, be it on Third Party sites or with other wrestling gigs. That is the complete opposite of the highly controlling Vince McMahon who is surrounded by yes-men obsessed with trying to predict how Vince would think.
Tony Khan created the conditions with AEW to convince CM Punk to sign with him…
And Khan did it in less than 3 freakin’ years.
Think about that for a second…
Vince McMahon buys the WWF from his father during 1982. Now, that was a successful wrestling infrastructure that was already in place and had the finances to sign many top stars from other territories. It took Vince McMahon over 3 years to prime the promotion and be ready for the massively huge Wrestlemania 1 in 1985.
But that was not from scratch…
Eric Bischoff takes over as leading manager of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) during 1993… And boy, did Eric have some rough early years. Don’t even dare watch any Pay Per Views from 1993. However, Eric did have Ted Turner’s billions to draw from AND he also was taking over a company that Ted Turner owned for 5 years already. On top of that, what Ted bought the NWA Mid-Atlantic region which has been operated by the Crocketts for DECADES. It took Eric Bischoff a serious revamping of the talent roster to get WCW primed for success through mid-1996 and you can actually see how bad his promotion still was simply by watching Uncensored 1996.
Yes, Tony Khan has his Dad’s Billions… But he isn’t giving him that much. Shad Khan didn’t build his billion dollar empire by overspending. He’s the kind of CEO that obsesses with every little penny he makes and keeps expenses down. Just as an early company, AEW was making money through 2020 and the only expense dragging it down was AEW investing heavily into their upcoming video game which could easily recoup those funds. So how could AEW, on a shoestring TNT deal, make money? Because contrary to everyone’s beliefs, AEW isn’t paying wrestlers high salaries. And why would they? Many of their recent signed talents have been former WWE wrestlers. FTR admitted that they “took much less” to join AEW. AEW has the leverage at the negotiating table for any wrestler recently terminated from the WWE.
But again, I want to emphasize this… CM Punk isn’t going to join some random promotion to make his 7 year comeback. He’s picky and if he’s going to devote his body to taking bumps in that ring, especially at age 42 going on 43. Punk also doesn’t need Pro Wrestling. He not only saved his money, but he has many non-wrestling ventures to keep him afloat financially. For him to come back at an older age and after a 7+ year hiatus speaks volumes to me. Punk believes in the conditions that Tony Khan has presented for the Pro Wrestling business to succeed through August 2021.
Is CM Punk going to singlehandedly “SAVE” All Elite Wrestling? No, but neither could most top Main Event stars. YOU NEED A SUPPORTING CAST. Hogan had Mr. Wonderful, Roddy Piper, King Kong Bundy, Andre the Giant, and Macho Man Randy Savage. Steve Austin had Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Mick Foley, Kane, and the Rock. The Rock had Austin, Mick Foley, Triple H, Kurt Angle. I’d argue that after 2010, John Cena proved his star power by carrying the company despite the limited opponent options he had. Cena would put over CM Punk or Daniel Bryan only for the political Creative Team to chop those guys down and want him to feud with Randy Orton, Miz, or Alberto Del Rio. Huh?
CM Punk is both a great worker and a great talker. On top of that, he takes his craft seriously. Injecting THAT into AEW’s locker room is going to create a competitive atmosphere and QUALITY CONTROL that is much needed. If you go back into history, it wasn’t that Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were draws themselves but it was the swagger and confidence that they brought to WCW. Those were 2 Alpha Males that walked into that WCW locker room, every night, and could easily draw on the microphone as much as they could (if not better) in the ring. Hall & Nash were SO GOOD with that swagger and confidence that they convinced Hulk Hogan to turn heel for the first time since the 1980s before his career blew up.
THAT is what CM Punk brings to the equation… He’s going to put that entire locker room on notice that the stuff Punk does in the ring will appear infinitely better than what many of those wrestlers have been presenting. As CM Punk said, there’s a “lot of young talent back there”, but many of them are either working too fast, relying on spotfests, or just can’t cut it on the microphone. However, if they are in the same locker room as CM Punk and then watch a real professional do it in the AEW ring, it’s going to matter.
It’s not so much CM Punk that will defeat WWE… It’s WHO ELSE will join this AEW CULTURE who is willing to join Punk in helping AEW become the #1 company. Bryan Danielson is reportedly on the way for September’s New York show. Released WWE wrestlers like Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman have to be looking at what is happening in AEW, particularly after WWE refused to pay both guys despite years of hard work from both guys. Many other contracts are set to expire soon, such as Adam Cole who is dating Britt Baker.
If you look at WCW’s history, it was Hulk Hogan and later the Macho Man in 1994. They still couldn’t defeat the WWE. And then they just started adding talent who were interested in WCW because by signing top stars like Hogan and Macho, it created a serious atmosphere as an alternative to make real money in wrestling. Eric Bischoff began raiding talent from ECW, Mexico, and Japan. Suddenly by the Spring of 1996, his roster had major depth and then you add Scott Hall & Kevin Nash to that, KABOOM! And then, guys like Roddy Piper, Raven, Curt Hennig, and a whole host of others began joining. Bret Hart almost reportedly joined during mid-1996, at least he suggests so in his book, because Hall & Nash were going.
It’s an accumulation of talent thing that will make AEW grow to eventually defeat the WWE.
When AEW started, the EVPs (Cody, Bucks, Omega) signed up Independent and International talent that they knew. That’s what they could work with, at the time, as many other talents were still under contract elsewhere. Was it the best roster possible to fill a 2 hour show? Nope… The first year of AEW Dynamite and Pay Per Views had its challenges. Slowly but surely, Tony Khan has been revamping the rosters and trying to add a little more logic to the storylines. Things could still improve… However, the signings that they’ve made have greatly improved the depth and presentation of the AEW Dynamite shows.
As I keep saying, folks… It takes YEARS to build up a NATIONAL wrestling promotion. At this stage, Tony Khan in LESS THAN 3 YEARS, has already exceeded TNA as a start-up promotion or where WCW was during 1995 with a ton of tradition/capital behind it. All of those from scratch, starting in early 2019. That is remarkable… And CM Punk just joined him and Bryan Danielson is reportedly ditching millions and a promotion that employs his wife to possibly join Punk. That is remarkable.
People call Tony Khan a “money mark” and that he “acts like a child” with his enthusiasm as President of All Elite Wrestling. In reality, he has the right attitude to succeed. He’s pro-talent at a time where the WWE considers talent in financial terms on an Income Statement. With many wrestlers actually TAKING LESS to work with AEW, there has to be something in place that causes wrestlers to want to join AEW. It’s the culture, environment, and a friendly place to work. In AEW, wrestlers have FREEDOM to work matches how they want and say what they want in promos. I know that Tony got ridiculous in his reaction to Max Caster, but the fact is that Max had freedom to cut promos like that. Yeah, it runs the risk of going completely sideways to get the Twitter Mobs attention, but at least Caster and other wrestlers aren’t handed scripts to say things word-for-word like they are in WWE.
WWE has become a toxic workplace, folks, plain and simple. If your name is not Roman Reigns, you’re just another brick in the wall and EVERYBODY backstage knows it now with recent job cuts. Both Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt were guys that WWE pushed hard and featured as World Champions. But cut during 2021 and they weren’t getting paid that much, along with being heavily controlled on what to say or do by WWE Creative. With all of these job cuts, do you ever notice how protected the 40 writers on the WWE Creative Team are? They NEVER get held accountable for the terrible writing that they provide each and every week. Always the talent who gets blamed.
AEW is pro-talent and gives you freedom… You have an approachable President who will listen. Vince McMahon, on the other hand, is insulated by yes-men who are always worried about what Vince thinks instead of hearing ideas that might help the WWE. CM Punk left that environment because (a) he couldn’t get through to Vince at all and (b) yes-men like Triple H was screwing with his creative and opportunities. Since CM Punk left the WWE, he said that movie roles, appearances, and other opportunities came up and WWE reportedly nixed anything going to CM Punk. On top of that, WWE tried to block CM Punk appearing on the cover of the WWE 13 video game. THQ wanted Punk on the cover and WWE actually fought with THQ to prevent that from happening.
And again, the Third Party stuff… While I actually agree that the WWE should be protective of its brand and trademarks, it’s the matter in which WWE handled the whole thing that makes it a toxic workplace. Instead of having individual meetings with talents using these services and inquiring WHY they may need an additional income stream (pandemic was lowering their WWE salaries), WWE sends a threatening memo to everyone and threatened termination to anyone using them without WWE taking a cut. Seriously, WWE said that any revenue earned on these Third Party sites would count towards downside guarantees. They did that!
And now you have Nick Khan injecting his influence onto the company about finances. Vince McMahon was tight financially before, as many wrestlers can attest, but he’s become worse with Khan around. These 2020 and 2021 cuts have been quite aggressive and at times, very petty. Good talents who weren’t even making that much have been let go and again, Nick Khan is saying NOTHING about the 40 Creative Team writers OR the folks on the Data Analytics Team (about 50). It’s always BLAME THE WRESTLERS who are the ones helping the WWE be “World WRESTLING Entertainment”, after all. You still have to have matches inside the ring.
Where is Nick Khan on the WWE Talent Developmental System? Where are you at, bro? Go ahead and terminate many wrestlers and trainers from that system. But what are you going to do moving forward? Have more “tryouts” for any Tom, Jack, or Harry who wants to walk in and try to become a wrestler? WWE has been hosting tryouts for YEARS and look at the roster that it has generated. Oh I’m sorry, you can’t, because you’ve been FIRING all of those talents who joined the WWE from those tryouts. History has shown that having open tryouts won’t help a wrestling promotion, at all… What is needed is SCOUTING and wrestling officials traveling throughout the country to inquire great athletic talents to join Pro Wrestling. Shelton Benjamin and Brock Lesnar were amateur wrestlers in the NCAA when Jim Ross and Gerald Brisco were scouting them. THINK about that.
This toxic WWE culture is what will drive great talents away… When AEW increasingly becomes the complete opposite in terms of culture, that will convince more great talents to join them. CM Punk just joined after a 7+ year hiatus, Bryan Danielson is on the way, Bray Wyatt is reportedly on the way, maybe Adam Cole, and others who might have a WWE contract up soon.
As I’ve said repeatedly, this is 1996 all over again… A DECLINING WWE is going to come down to a rising AEW. With the right talent signed, that is when AEW could potentially begin exceeding WWE. As I’ve repeatedly said, WWE is just one Roman Reigns injury from complete DOOM heading their way. Reigns is seriously carrying their Smackdown brand on his back and the WWE is desperately bringing in John Cena and now Brock Lesnar to work with him.
Think about that with Brock Lesnar… HE is their solution and response to CM Punk joining AEW. What does that tell the rest of the WWE locker room who is waiting for their opportunity to work with Roman Reigns. Furthermore, we’ve seen the best from Brock Lesnar from 2012 through 2020. It’s kind of a tired act… And we’ve seen Roman vs. Brock like 4 times now on big shows. Yeah, there is the Paul Heyman dynamic mixed in, but the match itself, we’ve already seen tried. Furthermore, WWE had ZERO plans to bring in Brock Lesnar to challenge Reigns until much later, reportedly at Wrestlemania 39 to be exact. WWE was going to milk Reigns as the top guy of Smackdown, have him beat the Rock in 2022 and then go on to have this Paul Heyman love affair storyline with Lesnar in 2023. They have now rushed those plans to the present.
So what is the WWE going to do once this Lesnar feud is over? And having that match between September to December doesn’t create that many big show opportunities. WWE’s next big show is Royal Rumble and to wait 5 months to have that isn’t going to happen. WWE is going to try to push Lesnar and Roman at a non-big 3 Pay Per View… That’s not going to work or draw. We’ll see some compelling Smackdown television for a short while and stay above 2 million with Lesnar around, but what after that? What do you have on that WWE roster, that you haven’t released already, who can work with Roman Reigns?
WWE HAS NOTHING is the answer. Years of a horribly built and operated Talent Developmental system is coming back to haunt them. This time, however, the WWE LACKS a great scouting mind like Jim Ross or Gerald Brisco to help find and mold the next major WWE superstar.
Again, what you’re going to see is the WWE continuing to decline towards AEW and then AEW’s slow & eventual growth will catch the WWE. And then, if the Creative is just right for all of the wrestlers signed to the AEW roster, they’ll start to exceed them.
And more rumors of the WWE being sold will start.
Did you hear what Nick Khan recently said?
“We’re open for business on anything and everything. Even some of the business plans that we’ve announced recently are different and unique to what the company has traditionally done. We’re open for business. If somebody called, we’ll listen, but we’re not active or out on the marketplace trying to change that structure.”
Of course, after that comment, he tried to spin, spin, spin it into “that means if someone credible calls on anything, NFT, trading cards, international rights, we take that call”. OK, Nick, whatever you say.
Go get them, Tony! Help save many wrestlers from working in that toxic WWE environment while building a great workplace environment for them to land. Take care of your talents and respect the great ones that you sign. CM Punk is an asset, so don’t burn him out like the WWE did.
You’re doing great, so far, with the AEW brand that you’ve built in LESS than 3 years. You deserve more credit than wrestling fans are giving you.
Just start listening to me, more, instead of yes-men like Dave Meltzer and you’ll be just fine. I’ll shoot straight with you each and every time and I have no personal allegiances with the EVPs. Actually, keep listening to Jim Ross as this talent revamping on the AEW roster looks a bit familiar… Hmmmm…
So just chill… Until the next episode!
Comments and feedback are welcome. Follow and Tweet me @titowrestling or login in below to post comments.
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