Right now, aside from the stink that remains following CM Punk’s departures and the many Vice Presidents who are leaving AEW recently, the main AEW discussion topic has been “WHO IS THE DEVIL?“. Many, many possibilities have been discussed with some talents under AEW contract and others being wishful free agent signings to fulfill that role. There’s also a possibility that “the Devil” is more than 1 person, as he clearly has help from gangs of masked wrestlers doing his bidding. This may be unveiling a stable of heel wrestlers with a mastermind.
Who do I think it is?
Here’s my answer, in short…
I don’t care.
Unless you bring in a major free agent like Brock Lesnar, it’s going to be a letdown. The hype is just too much and has occurred for too long.
And history will tell you that the reveal will be a failure.
(1) Black Scorpion – WCW 1990. After Sting won the WCW Title, a mysterious masked figure with a hilarious distorted voice by Ole Anderson began appearing. The biggest problem is that Ole created the character without having a legitimate person behind it. Without any talent configured for the role, they resorted to Ric Flair as the Black Scorpion in the end and it killed WCW’s momentum that they had from 1989 or Sting’s big WCW Title win.
(2) Big Egg before Survivor Series 1990. Gee, why did wrestling start declining in 1990? Bad ideas like this and the Black Scorpion. For weeks leading into Survivor Series 1990, the WWE began hyping what was in this large mysterious egg. Then, when the event happened, the egg hatched and it was a gigantic turkey named the Gobbledy Gooker.
(3) Higher Power – WWE 1999. Following Wrestlemania 15, there was a Higher Power that was helping to guide the Undertaker and other wrestlers along… As it turned out, the Higher Power turned out to be Vince McMahon and it immediately turned him back heel to create more Austin vs. McMahon. Just ridiculous. Luckily for WWE, they had Steve Austin pulling the wagon to now allow this awful reveal to harm them.
(4) GTV – WWE late 1990s Mysterious camera backstage, but it was never revealed at its peak (I believe it was jokingly revealed later).
(5) Anonymous General Manager – WWE 2010s. Just stupidity, as there was an empty podium by the announcer’s desk and Michael Cole would announce what the anonymous GM wanted for a match. Later revealed to be Hornswoggle, I believe.
(6) Aces and Eights for TNA Just a complete blunder of a stable with them trying multiple reveals as to who was truly behind the group. It was hyped to be the greatest storyline ever, but it was nothing short of a letdown.
There are many others that I could list, like the revealing of new General Managers or surprises in Drafts/Superstar Shake-ups. I think WCW once hyped a major surprise at a Pay Per View, only for it to be a Bill Goldberg Heel turn. Point is, these surprise reveals hardly ever pay off.
Let me tell you an example where the BIG SURPRISE REVEAL worked and it changed the course of history… The New World Order.
Why did it work? Well for one, the foundation the NWO was Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, two unnamed free agents that were just signed from the WWE. They weren’t existing WCW wrestlers who started up this heel stable or made the promise of a 3rd guy. THEY were truly the big reveal, as everyone thought they were legitimately invading WCW.
Secondly, the “Third Man” reveal worked because WCW planned it months in advance. They initially inquired Hulk Hogan, but he turned it down… Plan B was to turn Sting heel and join the group. Reportedly, Eric Bischoff reached out to Bret Hart (according to Bret) and Mabel (according to Dave Meltzer), but all signs point to either Hogan first and then Sting second as the main choices. After seeing the initial success of Hall & Nash, Hogan decided to jump aboard… On the night of WCW Bash at the Beach 1996, Sting was still Plan B in case the Hulkster got cold feet. He didn’t, and thus it made history because wrestling fans NEVER saw a stable with 2 hot WWE free agents teaming up with the Babe Ruth of pro wrestling.
THAT is why the revealing of the 3rd Man for the NWO worked! The hype before the reveal was great, and then the reveal was great itself.
The Devil angle in AEW, however, feels a little bit like Aces & Eights. It also feels desperate in light of AEW’s shortcomings following CM Punk’s exit. Attendance is down, viewership is down, and merchandise legitimately had the bottom fall out for it (VP of merch, Matt Buck’s wife, just resigned). Unless AEW makes a massive free agent reach, like a bold signing of Brock Lesnar, it’s likely to be a failure.
Alright, you’ve heard me crap on this for a while now… Here is my prediction… To me, the booking of MJF vs. Samoa Joe is fishy to headline this Saturday’s AEW Worlds End Pay Per View. I believe that the Devil will not only reveal himself (or herself), but will be a stable of wrestlers that will help support the Kingpin, Samoa Joe, to become NEW unified AEW and ROH Champion.
The Devil = Samoa Joe with help from Adam Cole, Britt Baker, and possibly the Young Bucks, who haven’t been seen for a while, joining the group. Maybe even Jack Perry arrives as part of this stable. No way the Devil is Jack Perry himself alone, but as a part of a larger group to get extra heat, you betcha.
That’s my prediction… Rather than being just 1 person to let you down, it’s a heel stable that is instantly created to help reduce said letdown. Thus for 2024, you’ll see babyface MJF going up against this new heel stable along with other babyfaces to challenge it.
Other Devil possibilities… Personal thanks to the NoDQ Review Crew for some ideas. Credit to them…
• Wardlow – He reportedly dressed the part one night, but I think it would be a waste. He should be the one who dethrones Samoa Joe as unified champ instead.
• Kazuchika Okada – Problem is that his contract expires just after 2024 begins, so thus the Worlds End reveal couldn’t happen. That said, if he’s the Devil, how will he be able to cut a promo to explain himself? Maybe if he joins with Adam Cole as a mouthpiece?
• Shane McMahon – Would be hilarious, but I don’t think so. He still has a chance to get his foot in the door of the TKO empire and I think Vince would write him out of the will if he joined AEW.
• Eric Bischoff – I always like Sleezy E, but I don’t see him having the energy as a performer to pull it off.
• Jim Cornette – No chance in hell. The ship has long sailed on AEW ever acquiring his services.
• Bill Goldberg – Personally, I think this would be hilarious just to see how nuclear hot AEW fans would become. Honestly, I think there is a slight possibility of Goldberg being this character, especially after calling Vince a “piece of s***” recently.
• Tony Khan – Why not? Why not embrace the amount of heel heat that he has a AEW’s president? That said, he’ll probably become Dixie Carter if he appears on screen.
• Ric Flair – I’d laugh my arse off if Flair was not only the Black Scorpion, but also the Devil too.
Again, it just doesn’t matter… Unless you have the right circumstances that supports the surprise reveal and then a legitimate surprise as the reveal, it’s not going to work. NWO had the perfect conditions during 1996, hence why it worked. The others fumbled everything up front and then the surprise reveals were a letdown. So far, AEW initial work to hype the Devil has been lame, so the dinner table has already been set for a letdown of the reveal.
BUT, I think that a heel stable of Samoa Joe, Adam Cole, Britt Baker, and maybe others (Young Bucks, Wardlow, etc.) and maybe even revealing a non-wrestling mastermind (Shane or Eric) could be reasonable. What’s missing from AEW is a real “sense of urgency” for babyfaces. Having a new heel stable of wrestlers to protect the unified AEW/ROH champion is at least reasonable for 2024.
Let me tell you a funny Marketing story that I think many of you will enjoy, and it could help shed some light as to why this Devil storyline hasn’t drawn more.
I’ve worked for various corporations throughout the years and that involves speaking with multiple Marketing departments as a consultant. Several departments have told me about how careful marketing of products/services should be to the Southern part of the United States. If you’re unaware of what I’m talking about, the United States has what is called the “Bible Belt”, which is basically everything below Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio as Midwestern states. The states below those Midwestern states tend to be a big more religious with Christianity than Northern states.
What these marketing department heads told me was to avoid anything that alludes to religion in advertisements to those Southern or “Bible Belt” states. They don’t like it when Christmas or Easter are used specifically to market products, but they really don’t like it when things like Satan (or the Devil) are used as well. In fact, Southern customers will get quite vocal if an advertisement is seen with something that offends their religion. If you need a great example, just look at any arena who dared to book Marilyn Manson within this “Bible Belt”. They had nothing but protests lined up outside the arena.
I’m just saying, the reason this “Devil” storyline hasn’t taken off is that maybe Tony Khan has offended many longtime wrestling fans in the South. By the way, AEW mostly operates in the South and has a good majority of their shows down there as well. They’ve really struggled to sell tickets there lately, other than 1 show promising the retirement match of Sting.
You guys are going to think I’m crazy on this point, but many in the South take their Christian religion very seriously. If you’re wrestling promotion has a character named “the Devil” and his mask resembles that of Satan, it will offend fans in the South. I’ve seen marketing campaigns with my owns eyes that offended this area.
If you think that I’m crazy on that point, either you haven’t been to the South, don’t know anyone from the South, or you haven’t tried to market products in the South. And I’m not saying that to disrespect that area or those who live there, but it’s a fact that they are deeply religious in this part of the United States. Advertise “the Devil” on your AEW cards, and it will cause religious fans to boycott shows and parents restricting their kids from attending the shows. Trust me, it’s happening.
And again, it’s just more shortsighted stuff performed by Tony Khan. Advertising a “Devil” on your show to possibly offend certain fans, while having ZERO CLUE as to who will be revealed as that character. That is AEW in a nutshell… Clueless on everything, especially at the top with Tony.
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