MR. TITO: Without Tony Khan, Things Could Actually Be Worse in All Elite Wrestling (AEW)

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During early 2019, wrestling fans everywhere were rejoicing a brand new Pro Wrestling promotion being born. Though its genesis technically happened a few months before known as the “All In” Pay Per View put on by Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks based on a simple challenge of filling a 10,000 seat arena for a wrestling event not named “WWE”, the official forming of All Elite Wrestling (AEW) just after that when Shad Khan and his son Tony Khan met with Rhodes and the Bucks after the event. “All Elite Wrestling” had trademark filings during November 2018 and then on January 2nd, 2019, Cody and the Bucks announced the official launching with AEW along with the Khans.

Tony Khan, officially named President of All Elite Wrestling, hired 3 Executive Vice Presidents (EVP) on the spot. Cody Rhodes, Matt Jackson, and Nick Jackson were named as official executives of the company and reporting only to Tony Khan. Later, after a brief WWE/AEW bidding war happened when Kenny Omega‘s New Japan contract expired after January 2019, Omega joined Cody & the Bucks to also become an Executive Vice President. Thus, the executive team was set… After a few Pay Per Views, AEW was able to officially announce that they signed a TV deal with TNT starting during October 2019.

Reportedly, Tony Khan had full faith and confidence in his 4 EVPs to help handle talent recruitment and also manage the creative booking for the shows. After all, Cody and the Bucks just had a successful “All In” show that drew over 10,000 paying fans and actual Pay Per View buys. On AEW Dynamite’s very first night on October 2nd, 2019, they drew 1.4 million fans.

But then by December 18th, 2019, their final show of 2019… AEW Dynamite scored 683,000 viewers. WHAT?!? They went from 1.4 million to 683,000 viewers in just over 2 months?!? On top of that, this awful December 18th number lost to the WWE’s 3rd brand and farm system show known as NXT on USA Network. On top of that, AEW’s live attendance through late 2019 was showing problems. AEW went from instant sellouts of 5,000 seat arenas to having to tarp off almost half of those 5,000 for AEW Dynamite shows.

Following that December 18th disaster, AEW President Tony Khan reportedly had issues with the creative direction of the company as he is quoted responding to a fan on Twitter as saying: “Had to do a lot of reflection over the holidays to go into 2020 with a better and more organized process.”. Before that, while appearing on a November 2019 Wrestling Inc podcast, Tony Khan described the creative process of AEW by saying: “We have the best production meeting in wrestling on Tuesday nights. You have myself, The Young Bucks, Cody and Kenny. We’re the lead in creative and at the end of the day, I have the final say in everything.”

Of course Tony would have final say… He’s the freakin’ President of AEW. But he provided a ton of rope and leeway with talent decisions and creative. By his own admission, after several disaster numbers during December 2019, things needed to change.

What needed changed, by the way?

(1) Pushing Jon Moxley. He was AEW’s hot signing and the company wasn’t capitalizing by pushing him strong. He was feuding with Joey Janela to start and would have kept that feud doing if a staph infection didn’t put hiim out of action. Reportedly, Tony Khan wrote the angle where Jon Moxley would ponder an invitation to join the Inner Circle with Jericho and then turn on him to challenge for Jericho’s AEW title. With due respect to Chris Jericho as champion and I respect his entire body of work… But as seen by much of 2020, the title was moved off of Jericho at the right time.

(2) Slowing down the Dark Order’s push. The members of the Dark Order, formerly named “Super Smash Bros”, are great friends with the Young Bucks and have been for a while. Do you guys remember what happened at the end of that December 18th, 2019 disaster of an episode? The Dark Order ended the show by getting the better of AEW’s top stars and cut horrible promos afterward. To follow that, the Dark Order hyped the appearance of their leader named the “Exalted One”. Already, the previous booking before Tony fully took over Creative has painted AEW into a corner with a surprise leader to a bad stable.

(3) Slowing down the Nightmare Collective. The Chief Brand Officer of AEW, Brandi Rhodes, aligned herself with Awesome Kong and had very bizarre storylines throughout the end of 2019 and for early 2020. Then, by February, POOF… The group disbanded from its current state and suddenly Brandi was a ringside valet for Cody Rhodes again. Just like that.

The THREE specific things that I just mentioned were early 2020 when Tony Khan, by his own admission, was implementing a “more organized and better process”.

Now, allow me to emphasize this… Even though Tony Khan is a STEP UP from allowing just his EVPs handle most of creative during 2019, Tony did have a few speedbumps during 2020. I also really dislike his involvement in the Impact Wrestling angle during late 2020 and continuing onward into 2021. In other words, I’m comparing a 3 inch turd for Tony’s booking to the 7 inch turd seen by the EVPs booking during 2019. AEW has a long, long way to forming itself into a competitive promotion.

HOWEVER – Let’s give Tony credit where credit is due… 2020 had this little pandemic known as COVID-19 and it caused States to completely lockdown all businesses at once. For Pro Wrestling, it meant that you had to perform WITHOUT FANS. On top of that, if any of your wrestlers became infected, they had to sit out and any wrestlers that they interacted with also had to sit out. However, AEW made the most out of it with the decision to have talent sit in the stands and provide some heated reaction at ringside. This was miles ahead of what the WWE tried with completely empty arenas.

And then came two very specific signings… Matt Hardy and Brodie Lee, formerly known as Luke Harper in AEW. First of all, Brodie Lee was announced as the leader of the Dark Order. Thanks to what the Young Bucks heavily pushed during late 2019, the Dark Order were kept around and then with the hyped “Exalted One”, a leader had to be announced. Brodie Lee, per Tony Khan’s decision, was placed in that role. Following some bumpy roads at first, Brodie settled into the role and start having good matches and cutting great promos. The guy was hitting his strides and then he died…

With Matt Hardy, that’s a different matter. ALL OF YOU Internet Wrestling Fans were BEGGING Tony Khan to not only sign Matt Hardy, but to bring back the DELETED character that TNA/Impact pushed heavily and what WWE mishandled. Well, you asked for it and you got it. Tony gave you DELETED Matt Hardy and you somehow hated it upon seeing it in AEW. Huh? I thought that goofy Matt who did supernatural stuff was your thing. Now you hate it? You asked for DELETED, Tony booked specifically that, and then you hated it. Inconsistent wrestling fans, I swear.

I can’t explain Miro… I just can’t do it. Whether the EVPs or Tony were in charge of booking him, it would have resulted in the same result.

Let’s get back to numbers here… If you look at the viewership numbers, AEW finished poorly to end 2019 when the EVPs were primarily doing most of the booking and Tony gave them the freedom as such. AEW Dynamite lost 27% of its audience and went from a nice 1.4 million start to averaging 770,667 viewers by December 2019. Tony Khan’s booking during January, February, and March 2020 all average above 850,000 viewers and consistently defeats NXT. Then, COVID-19 hits HARD and AEW Dynamite obviously suffers. They had to do highlight shows, pre-taped events, and shows without a full arena. On top of that, actual top stars were sick. Jon Moxley contracted COVID and was out for a while. By 3rd Quarter 2020, AEW had some rebounding numbers in viewership.

I’m just saying, that steep decline during December 2019, when the EVPs were mostly in charge of creative, is quite evident. Tony Khan didn’t do that bad of a job…

Besides, he might be a better BOOKER than he is as a PRESIDENT of AEW. As President, he allowed Rhodes, the Bucks, and Omega assemble that talent roster… Yikes, man. In my view, Tony made some great signings during 2020 to help bolster the weak roster that the 4 EVPs assembled based on their Indy and Japan connections. In comparison to the WWE, the actual storylines in AEW are actually better… It’s just the chaotic talent roster messing up the execution in the ring. THAT is the problem with AEW. In the WWE, they have stronger and polished talent but zero rhyme or reason about their storylines.

However, my argument about Tony Khan IMPROVING upon the 2019 AEW product by doing a slightly better job during 2020, especially with COVID-19 considerations, is moot because this Impact storyline is a DISASTER. It is completely self-serving for Kenny Omega and hasn’t helped AEW as a whole and the viewership on AXS isn’t high enough to make Cable Viewership reports. On top of that, Tony Khan is getting on camera and doing hilariously bad promos with Tony Shiavone on Impact Wrestling. He broke the cardinal sin as booker and put himself on television.

Folks, if you think that Tony Khan is doing a bad job, then just go rewatch late 2019 AEW please. In fact, watch the December 18th disaster of a show. Go praise how AWFUL the Dark Order was through that episode. Go praise the awful Nightmare Collective.

How about this? Go praise the WOMEN’S WRESTLING of the 4th Quarter 2019… Please do so. Be my guest. In what proved to be a good move, he turned Britt Baker heel and that helped to add some sizzle to the division. Of course, I will not defend the awful “Tooth and Nail” match she had with Big Swole. I’ll chalk this hot garbage, among other things, to decisions made with Cinematic Matches during COVID-19 and nothing else. You guys got me on that one… Towards the end of 2020, the Women’s Division improved with better wrestlers signed and better wrestlers pushed. I’m perfectly fine with Thunder Rosa in the division. You can give me the Maki Itoh stuff, but remember who has the connections with Japan indy promotions. That is all Kenny, just like this Impact Wrestling stuff that his highly self-serving.

If you’re going to bash Tony Khan for taking control of AEW’s Creative during early 2020, you have to acknowledge the AWFUL shows that caused AEW to lose 27% viewership in JUST 3 MONTHS. Chris Jericho was a safety valve as champion but the Dark Order, Nightmare Collective, and Women’s Wrestling were pure hot garbage for AEW before 2019. Tag Team wrestling, also, wasn’t that good in AEW and the Young Bucks see to come alive better during 2020 rather than 2019. Bucks seemed to be focused on getting their close friends over during 2019 rather than how they presented themselves in the ring during the early months of AEW Dynamite.

So yeah, I’ll say it… Tony Khan was 2020’s “Booker of the Year”. His company is still young and given the crisis thrown at him with COVID-19, he’s keeping this new company afloat. The mistake that he made was entrusting wrestlers, still deep into their own in-ring careers, as Executive Vice Presidents. HUGE mistake. Khan should have hired in-ring veterans to surround himself for advice and lean on Jim Ross for advice on how to survive, thrive, and grow. In case you haven’t noticed, the Bucks, Cody, and Kenny have not been as great inside the ring as they were at other promotions. If they can’t present themselves as strong drawing superstars, how can they present others in that light?

AEW just started during January 2019… Think about that… They are just over 2 years old as a wrestling promotion. It took Ted Turner SEVEN years to finally defeat the WWE and that was with Turner pushing TBS/TNT network resources at WCW and billions of his dollars. On top of that, Ted had the NWA Mid-Atlantic built into WCW. He had a ready-made promotion to challenge the WWE and mostly began defeating WWE because WWE was in severe decline from 1992-1997. AEW started from scratch with nothing backing it other than a few wrestlers deciding to leave New Japan or Ring of Honor. This wasn’t an older promotion that Khan bought… This was something that they invented following the success of the “All In” event from 2018.

If Tony would just listen to the RIGHT people and those with far more experience operating a successful Pro Wrestling company, as Cody/Kenny/Bucks have never managed a company before, then the enthusiasm that Tony has for Pro Wrestling would be bridged with legitimate wrestling knowledge. Then, AEW would flourish…

Again – Just go re-watch the DISASTER that was happening with AEW during late 2019.

(a) Lost 27% of their average viewership during the 4th quarter 2019. More than half if you go from October 2nd to December 18th, straight-up.
(b) Began tarping off 5,000 arenas. Used to sell out.
(c) Dark Order
(d) Nightmare Collective
(e) Women’s Wrestling
(f) Inconsistent Tag Division
(g) Not pushing Jon Moxley to the top.

So the next time when you’re thinking “man, Tony Khan is horrible”… Just think, IT COULD BE WORSE. Leave the 4 EVPs to their own devices and they’ll come up with bad ideas as they are supposed to, such as late 2019 material. They are still young and in their own physical primes as wrestlers. Let them wrestle and leave the decision making to experienced hands who have been there and done that. You have Sting, Taz, Paul Wight, DDP, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Christian, and Jim Ross around. Why not use them for advice????

There you go, folks… I just defended Tony Khan and I said many positive things about AEW. Hell just froze over.

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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