Many are visiting me at the Retirement Home for Internet Columnists and asking me about the recent All Elite Wrestling (AEW) chaos. Yawn… Been there, done that. Folks, I’ve been ahead of this topic since 2018. You’ll see that I never was a fan of the Young Bucks (thought they were spotfest machines and immature) and that Joey Ryan segment from “All In” 2018 was embarrassing. From the start of All Elite Wrestling, I questioned giving power to current wrestlers to become Executive Vice Presidents (EVP) of the company. I was briefly relieved when Jim Ross was hired as a “special advisor”, but he was completely ignored by the EVPs as time proved. As 2019 rolled on, I observed how ex-WWE wrestlers seem to be carrying the ship with Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, and Cody Rhodes seeming to have the better matches while I wondered when the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega were going to bust out a 5-Star epic match that Dave Meltzer has been hyping about them for years. That Omega AEW Title reign was a total disaster and didn’t draw among multiple companies.
Go re-watch AEW Dynamite from December 2019 and January 2020. That’s when the EVP booking came to a head with BAD women’s wrestling, the Dark Order being pushed in the Main Event, and then Brandi Rhodes’s Nightmare Collective. The creative ideas from this period of time should have definitively told everyone that AEW was doomed for serious failure. Then, Tony Khan took over the creative reigns during 2020 and improved things slightly during 2020-2021 with many ex-WWE signings to improve the roster somewhat. HOWEVER, he STILL had the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega as key decision makers for the company as EVPs along with their clique of Indy wrestlers signed from 2019. Meanwhile, Tony Khan cannot see the forest for the trees.
Am I shocked that a brutally honest CM Punk would explode in AEW? No, I expressed worries in 2021 when he joined the roster, especially as his likely big contract might have him reporting directly to Tony Khan and that would cause EVP jealousy. And then one of the EVP flunkies, Adam Page, shoots on CM Punk on a Dynamite promo and everything blew up after that with older CM Punk who doesn’t take crap. For Andrade, drama seems to follow him anywhere he goes whether it was his relationship with Charlotte (she has definitely changed), WWE’s locker room, or now AEW. Been saying this for years… For Sammy Guevara, I’ve always had maturity concerns and like Andrade, he’s overhyped his own self worth despite his smaller size. Am I surprised that Andrade and Sammy are embarrassing themselves on Social Media or fighting backstage at an AEW event? Nope, not at all…
Again, when you have an inexperienced yet immature President/CEO with Tony Khan and self-trained wrestling marks like the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega as your key decision making EVPs, your promotion is going to struggle to grow or remain stable. Things seem to be really falling apart since EVP Cody Rhodes left and he seems to be highly respected in the WWE. Looks like the best EVP out of the 4 is gone and Tony is left with a weak and immature management group who are suspended now.
I’m not surprised at all, folks… Just look at what I have written in the past about AEW, particularly about the EVP cast that Tony decided to surround himself with to create AEW. Sure, they can pack a house for 1 show in 2018 called “All In”, but can they create a stable working environment for an entire wrestling promotion for 3 years? Not really and it’s been the ex-WWE wrestlers that have pulled this wagon this far.
What’s the next shoe to drop? Well, one of my 2022 predictions was about how Discovery Channel’s group might assess AEW Dynamite differently than what AOL/Time Warner or AT&T/Warner did. With all of this backstage drama and also on-screen vulgarity, particularly MJF’s promo and CM Punk’s All Out Media Scrum, there are definitely concerned executives questioning if AEW is worth having in this precious 8-10pm timeslot on Wednesday Nights. Now that it is fashionable to create disruptions backstage or to speak out on the EVPs, more is to come on that front… This weekly trend of seeing embarrassing non-wrestling events humiliating the AEW brand or Tony’s leadership is not over, folks. Not by a longshot. More pain is coming their way and if I were Tony, I’d instantly promote Jim Ross to an EVP, give him a budget, and give him at least 5 employees of his choosing to learn and enforce from Ross. It’s the only “quick fix” besides cleaning house of toxic wrestlers whom aren’t drawing anyway.
But I already told you all of that AEW stuff many months or years ago… I was ahead of the curve, and early adopter. That’s how I look at things, whether it’s looking at facts, past history, statistics, or just a general gut feeling as a wrestling fan for over 30 years now with experience as a columnist covering this stuff since October 1998. I have a good analytical mind that can see things before they happen…
And in my view, many Internet Wrestling Fans are severely overrating Triple H leading the WWE right now.
Many of you were so desperate to get Vince McMahon out of the way that you didn’t realize who could replace him. We have actual history on Stephanie McMahon to observe with her Creative Lead duties from late 2000 through late 2013. We also don’t see any contributions of hers as “Chief Brand Officer” after that, as it was Nick Khan who swooped in and created many unique revenue opportunities for the WWE as Vince’s new right hand man. THERE IS A REASON why Stephanie is a Co-CEO and not THE CEO. She’s a figurehead McMahon there for public speaking only, as Nick Khan isn’t a good public speaker. Within WWE’s wrestling operations, we’ve witnessed Triple H as Talent Relations manager from mid-2012 through early 2020 and as Creative Lead from late 2013 through the Summer of 2019. No consistently drawing Main Eventers from any wrestlers he’s signed and pushing Roman Reigns as a failure of a babyface main eventer was on his watch.
The tenures of Stephanie McMahon and Triple H as managers and eventually Executive Vice Presidents (EVP) has lead to nothing but attendance and viewership declines. The ONLY shining force throughout this entire process was John Cena, whom I’ll give some credit to Stephanie McMahon for encouraging the rapping stuff to be shown on television. But John Cena was ALREADY talented and well trained… WWE wasted him for most of 2002 until they let him rap on the Halloween episode. What else do you have, other than John Cena, a wrestler that Jim Ross signed and had developed in Ohio Valley Wrestling? By the way, Brock Lesnar is another Jim Ross signing and OVW developed talent. Without Cena and Lesnar carrying this ship, WWE would be doomed.
Right now, HEEL Roman Reigns is somewhat helping WWE Smackdown remain at or slightly above 2 million viewers on a FOX Channel available to 115 million households. While that character is entertaining, the rest of the Smackdown roster is NOT. Problem with Roman is that he LACKS babyface opponents of interest. Sure, you can have Cody Rhodes returning and slaying Roman, but who does Cody wrestle after that? The heels, besides Roman, are also weak. You cannot turn Roman into a babyface because he naturally doesn’t fit that role as proven by 2014-2020 when WWE shoved that down our throats. Problem is that the NXT and Performance Center systems, created by Triple H, did NOT develop talents to become the future Main Event drawing wrestlers. Triple H’s best signings were AJ Styles and Kevin Owens, yet both of those guys were veterans. He doesn’t have that success story of a talent that he personally groomed and molded into a WWE superstar with some wrestling experience or none.
Just look at who Triple H brought back to the WWE… Braun Strowman. Do we forget why the WWE released him? Immaturity issues while not progressing in the ring. He was the one preaching to Indy wrestlers that he “paid dues” by working at the WWE Performance Center. He’s also the one who pissed off Brock Lesnar in a match and was delivered a stiff punch receipt. Karrion Kross lacks charisma, personality, and is just robotic in the ring. In NXT, he “appeared” over because his smokeshow of a wife was with him along with an epic entrance. If you strip both of those away from him, as WWE did when he was called up, he’s an ordinary wrestler. Worse yet for Kross, WWE’s environment doesn’t push sexuality as NXT somewhat can. Therefore, Scarlett isn’t being used like she could, but even if her presence was pushed, it’s Marc Mero and Sable all over again. Take away Sable, Marc Mero fell apart too.
And now we’re possibly bringing back Bray Wyatt? While Wyatt isn’t a Triple H signing (was “Husky Harris”), he certainly repackaged him in NXT as Bray and pairing him with additional wrestlers to be the Wyatt Family. Much of Wyatt’s pushing throughout the 2010s was under Triple H’s tenure as EVP of Creative. WWE has tried and tried with Bray Wyatt… The matches are either lackluster, Bray has conditioning issues (always out of breath), or Bray is prone to injuries. The Firefly Funhouse and Fiend stuff embarrassed him as a character, creating supernature BS that cannot be unseen and Bray made things worse by having awful matches as the Fiend. The Undertaker got away with supernatural stuff because his matches were always good. WITH ALL OF THIS SAID, Bray Wyatt is your White Rabbit savior? Really? We’re going to TRY AGAIN with a wrestler whom they’ve tried to make World Champion three times already???
But don’t let my opinion speak for itself… Let’s take a look at actual numbers since Triple H took over on Creative. Vince McMahon “retired” on July 22nd, 2022. As I was crunching numbers through late September, I found the following Viewership averages of RAW and Smackdown:
10 Weeks of RAW before Triple H took over: 1,753,300 Average Viewers
10 Weeks of RAW after Triple H took over: 1,920,900 Average Viewers (up 9.6%)
10 Weeks of Smackdown before Triple H took over: 2,088,700 Average Viewers
10 Weeks of Smackdown after Triple H took over: 2,158,800 Average Viewers (up 3.4%)
Oh no, it looks like I was wrong about Triple H… What am I to do?
Hold on, folks… The devil is in the details, as context is everything.
Following Wrestlemania, WWE had a rough rest of April and all of May for viewership. Nothing sparked interest out of that Wrestlemania to cause fans to “want more” following WWE’s biggest show of the year. Then, in June, however, numbers went back up. Why? Well, the Vince McMahon drama started happening and fans were curious of any changes or if Vince McMahon would appear on-screen (which he briefly did). Honestly, the numbers BEFORE Triple H are actually spiked by this higher interest in possibly catching some of the behind-the-scenes drama on-screen.
This carried into July 2022 when more stories about Vince McMahon came out and he was eventually
forced to resign retired by July 22nd. But the fact is that before Vince resigned retired, there was an upward trend of RAW/Smackdown viewership data. That hinges onto SummerSlam 2022, which is arguably the 2nd biggest WWE show of the year now. As luck would have it, Triple H takes over Creative after July 22nd and gets to ride that SummerSlam wave. Plus, fans are naturally tuning in to see if Triple H’s new tone will change things for the better. Well, if you call pushing the returning Braun Strowman and Karrion Kross “changes for the better”, then I have a bridge to sell you.
Look at Monday Night RAW since the NFL officially returned… Same old terrible numbers:
And it will only get worse.
You know, I was doing some testing of past viewership statistics from the late 1990s and both RAW and WCW Nitro both INCREASED or MAINTAINED viewership during the 3rd and 4th quarters of the year when NFL Football was on. Isn’t that fascinating? Furthermore, Monday Night Football was on ABC back then, too, and it had DOUBLE, if not more, viewership than the ESPN version of Monday Night Football. Isn’t that fascinating?
So far, Triple H’s “bread and butter” from NXT, the Women’s Division and Tag Team Division, haven’t significantly improved in the WWE yet. Slightly better for Tag Team division, but it will take him serious time. Women’s wrestling in the WWE is still subpar and the NXT crop of wrestlers following the Four Horsewomen aren’t generating interest like those original 4. Speaking of NXT, the show has actually become worse lately under the Triple H tenure. To his credit, he’s in rebuilding mode but these WWE Performance Center guys are still being trained by Albert who has zero idea how to teach people how to cut a promo, show charisma, or how to present an appealing personality.
UNTIL Triple H an produce a legitimate babyface Main Event star, he’ll appear to be a continuation of Vince McMahon but with a slight enjoyment of smaller wrestlers and tag teams. That’s it… Business as usual.
Just look at how Triple H presents his wrestlers… They are always dark and brooding, much like his 2000’s decade characters were. HHH is making HHH clones of himself as main eventers and the fans just aren’t buying. You need someone who is flashy, charismatic, has a great “larger than life look”, and can cut a promo that gets fans pumped up before a match even starts. How is that the 20 Minute Opening Promos with Steve Austin or the Rock were GREAT and they totally SUCK with today’s talent? Because fans wanted to LISTEN to Rock or Austin say things… They don’t with the current roster.
What is wrong with the WWE is MORE THAN the on-screen product. The inner core is rotten and has been for years. Creative fell apart during late 2000 when Vince promoted Stephanie McMahon to take over as Creative Lead. Talent Relations fell apart not just with Jim Ross being replaced by John Laurinaitis during 2004, but also with Ohio Valley Wrestling being discontinued as the main training territory. On top of that, WWE’s stop scouts, such as Gerald Brisco, were retired or used less in favor of having tryouts of WWE Tough Enoughs. I also believe that WWE’s image has been forever tarnished by the Chris Benoit murders and that has caused a lot fewer MALE athletes trying to become wrestlers and thus you’ve had fewer true athletes want to become wrestlers. Even worse, the influence of Extreme Championship Wrestling has tarnished Pro Wrestling’s image of being just spotfests or pushing violence with stupid things like weapons, tables, lightbulbs, etc. that entices the WRONG people to want to become wrestlers and scares away true athletes as well.
THAT is what needs fixed… And Triple H cannot fix it. We have years of him being a Creative DUD. Strike one! Making matters worse, he has a weak MALE training with Prince Albert and he’s creating an assembly line of poor Triple H dark and brooding clones. Strike two! Triple H’s Talent Relation signings have been very reliant on signing smaller talents or TNA/Impact veterans. Strike three!
And I know, Triple H is your childhood favorite wrestler… Up and until that quadriceps injury from mid-2001, he had a fantastic WWE career. I loved the snobbish Hunter Hearst Helmsley character, but most of you started liking him as a longtime member of Degeneration X. While that heel turn from 1999 took a while to get started, nobody can deny the FANTASTIC in-ring year that he had during the year 2000 and carried into 2001. Then, many of you LOVE what he did in NXT, particularly from 2014-2018. Many of those Takeovers were FANTASTIC and I rated them highly, too. It was a fun alternative to the boring RAW and Smackdowns that Triple H ran Creative on, too. But then by 2019 when NXT became a 2 hour show on USA Networks, you suddenly realized that NXT was great before 2019 because it was under-exposed with a 1 hour WWE Network show and 4 Takeover events. Now, it’s 2 hours of live television that cannot hide errors of developmental talents and that waters down the Takeover appeal.
I understand, Internet Wrestling Community… You WANT to see Triple H succeed as the top WWE manager. You’re marks for his past wrestling career and you loved his NXT product before 2019.
But Triple H’s managerial contributions to the WWE have been all Smoke & Mirrors. His talent signings just haven’t been developed into major stars. HHH was a total failure as Creative Lead during late 2013 through Summer 2019, which the numbers totally prove (RAW lost over 2 million viewers). Why else would Vince McMahon sign Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman as “Executive Directors” if Triple H was really doing a good job? Oh, and then handing those same reigns to Bruce Prichard as well? By the way, Triple H was also producing many live events, too, which has seen nothing but attendance declines.
I like Kevin Owens, but is he really a sustained Main Event drawing talent? He’s a good complement to other wrestlers as an opponent, but isn’t sustainable as a Main Event draw. That’s Triple H’s best signing… Love AJ Styles, but he’s primarily appealing to fans who love in-ring work rather than personality, promos, or charisma that pulls in more viewers. Finn Balor is a Cruiserweight with no personality and bad mic skills that Triple H tried to push in the Main Event. He should have been headlining the Cruiserweight Division instead on 205 Live. Samoa Joe is a veteran with many miles and with many miles, comes many injuries. Many of his other Dark & Brooding developed main eventers have been DUDS in the WWE, too. Others are just too old and have too much mileage (like Nakamura).
And STOP blaming Vince McMahon for mowing through Triple H’s call-ups. From late 2013 through the Summer of 2019, Triple H was EVP of Creative. That is a FACT.
The FACT is that either Triple H refused to stand up for his guys OR he was terrible at Creative himself. Take your pick… Because NXT’s Creative suddenly SUCKED once it became a 2 hour live show on the USA Network. Therefore, I don’t believe Triple H is the big “Creative Genius” that Internet Wrestling MARKS believe that he is. Remember, he was reportedly the one who wanted his Triple H character to have a more diabolical tone to it during 2002-2003 and thanks to him being engaged and eventually married to Stephanie McMahon, Triple H actually had input in his character. It is a FACT that Triple H attended Production Meetings once he began dating Stephanie McMahon, as documented by Steve Austin upon his 2000 return from neck injury that created conditions of backstage problems for Austin. Thus, the Katie Vick stuff and the Booker T racial attacks were ideas either created or agreed upon by Triple H himself.
In my view, Triple H won’t succeed in his new role overseeing Creative and Talent Relations based on past mistakes.
That said, he can improve if he does the following:
– Hires better trainers for the WWE Performance Center.
– Hires qualified wrestling talent to his Creative Team.
– Hires better backstage agents, former talents, to help wrestlers to better put together matches (no more Michael PS Hayes) and finishes.
Why was Vince McMahon so successful in the 1980s and also during the late 1990s? Because he surrounded himself with great talent. Jim Ross did Talent Relations, Gerald Brisco was an agent and scouted talent, Jim Cornette was on Creative and also an agent, Vince Russo was on Creative, Bruce Prichard was on Creative and always reliable, and Pat Patterson was on Creative and was the best finish guy in the business. With time, Vince McMahon lost all of that genius managerial infrastructure and replaced it with either his family (Stephanie and Triple H) or complete yes-men like John Laurinaitis. Gee, I wonder why WWE has lost so many fans? The only good one he has recently hired, Nick Khan, is seriously saving the WWE’s bacon with these media deals that prey on desperate Cable/Satellite channels and streaming services.
Triple H… If you cannot do Creative or Talent Relations that well yourself, surround yourself with a good managerial group that can. NO MAN IS AN ISLAND, as John Donne once said in publications during the 1600s.
Nobody, in the history of Pro Wrestling, has ever been completely successful on their own. Promoters usually had a reliable Booker to help bring in talents for their territory and handled the creative of their shows. They always had veterans backstage helping to agent matches, too, while also scouting other territories for wrestlers to bring in for future dates. Later, Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff had lots of help backstage or in Eric’s case, financial resources to sign Hogan, Macho, Nash, and Hall. Many THINK that Paul Heyman did everything on his own, but all of those wrestlers busted their arses to keep that ECW floating backstage whether it was marketing, merchandise, or booking.
NO MAN IS AN ISLAND.
If Triple H’s ways can sign AND develop a legitimate Main Event BABYFACE wrestler who can carry the business on his back, as seen by others having part of Triple H’s current role, then obviously I am wrong. But Triple H’s track record on Creative from late 2013 through Summer 2019 plus his Talent Relations record from mid 2012 through early 2020 suggests otherwise… And his recent moves haven’t been that good, as Braud Strowman and Karrion Kross already look ordinary on a weak WWE roster.
And just remember, too…
– Triple H helped ruin CM Punk, was a major cause of his exit.
– Brock Lesnar has trust issues with Triple H
– Randy Orton and Sheamus are favorites of Triple H, and he has pushed them beyond belief.
– Triple H was the one who deconstructed Daniel Bryan’s 2013 momentum, wanting a Batista vs. Orton feud for early 2004 instead.
– NXT got whooped by AEW Dynamite head-to-head on Wednesdays
– Triple H thought Andrade would be a big star, look at him right now.
And his wife, Stephanie McMahon, is Co-President/CEO… She has her past issues, too.
Don’t get too optimistic on Triple H’s WWE world just yet. He needs to drastically change himself and his managerial abilities to be successful. He certainly wasn’t during the 2010s in his Talent Relations and Creative roles, as significantly declining numbers (attendance, viewership, and merchandise sales) prove that and WWE is only financially successful because of Nick Khan twisting the arms of struggling media companies who are desperate for content. Until you can prove that Triple H was responsible for causing Fox/Comcast to pay $1 billion each and Comcast more for Peacock for another $1 billion, Triple H’s contributions to the WWE haven’t sparked fan interest at all. If anything, his BAD Talent and Creative decisions caused the WWE to make LESS from these deals. Comcast/FOX would pay MORE for a WWE that was drawing 4 million viewers versus 2 million. Trust me on that.
NO MAN IS AN ISLAND… Get Triple H some help to run this company, please. Stop hiring company executives who will leach off the WWE’s resources and surround him with people who know Pro Wrestling. Find better talent scouts and trainers, for the love of God! For creative… Just focus on creating a credible contender system for your titles. Years of half-arsed Triple Threats or Fatal 4 Ways on a random episode of RAW doesn’t cut it. Also, look back to 20 years ago on what actually drew for female WWE on-screen talent: sex appeal. Each of these ladies have MILLIONS of Instagram followers. Gee, wonder why? It wouldn’t be for their bikini pictures that they post, would it? Yet on WWE television, they draw nothing playing athletes like the WNBA doesn’t draw.
Everyone talks about how HARD it is to do Creative for Pro Wrestling. Yeah, if you make it difficult on purpose. When you have a weak roster combined with pushing the wrong guys on that roster, while lacking any logic with storylines, the outcome will a failure each and every time. Creative was TERRIBLE during the 2000s, too, yet the WWE had better developed stars from Ohio Valley Wrestling to overcome that. Don’t believe me? Look up “Deacon Batista”, who was escorting D’von Dudley to the ring. Need I say more? They shaved 2 guys randomly one day and called them the Basham brothers. Stephanie’s Creative Team was coming up with the absolute dumbest ideas yet Jim Ross, Danny Davis, Rip Rogers, and Jim Cornette groomed talent that could join the WWE and overcome it. Now, the training systems suck and wrestlers join via open tryouts instead of being scouted to become a wrestler. Brock Lesnar was an amateur wrestler whom Gerald Brisco and Jim Ross convinced to become a Pro Wrestler. He obviously was the right guy and great training was in place to make him that right guy.
Until I see Triple H or the WWE fix the rotten parts of their core that ails them, I’m not buying this charade of “everything has changed with Vince gone”. Don’t forget who TRAINED Triple H for his various executive positions… It was Vince McMahon. Vince is still the top shareholder, still Triple H’s Father-in-Law, and has still be the primary mentor in Triple H’s life for the past 27 years.
Unless I see Triple H striking gold on a top babyface Main Event draw, I’ll be proven quite right by this column. It’s “business as usual” in the WWE because Triple H tried his same tactics before and might not be what WWE needs to succeed on Creative or Talent Relations. He needs help, period.
So just chill… Till the next episode!