Planet Kayfabe: Money Mark Khantent
By: “KCA” Paul Matthews
Hello everyone and welcome to Planet Kayfabe. This is my first column since moving to Lewis County, Washington. The air is fresh. Nature is lively. The scenery is beautiful. The weather is… shit.
So, things have been kinda hot since I last posted here in July of last year. At the time AEW was really on the fast track of becoming the more popular wrestling promotion in the US while WWE Raw was dying and Dynamite was on the rise. Acquisitions of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan sure helped in that rise, too. However, it feels like the winds are starting to change. WWE’s business was and likely always will be just fine, but they were bleeding viewership not very long ago. They really had nothing. AEW was new, fresh, and different, and vocally promoted a new perspective on the wrestling business. The EVP’s of Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega was the most vocal, especially early on. What changed since? More on that in a bit.
Life comes at you fast, though. One bad Dark Order angle and reports were that Tony Khan stripped the EVP’s of their power faster than Sunny was ever stripped of her driver’s license. Since then it’s pretty much been Tony Khan show with him active in interviews and on social media letting you know its all a TK brainchild every week… Until the lights go out and they debut The Great Value Khali and suddenly he’s on Busted Open saying it was someone else’s idea. Yeah, Tony loves taking his victory laps, but he sure doesn’t take his L’s in stride.
Are you surprised? I’m not. Early on we were all told by various insiders that the dude has thin skin. I mean, fuck, what is a more thin-skinned, privileged rich kid move than to commission a private investigation to find the true origins of mean tweets that you’ve been seeing on your @ feed. That move should put someone in the Hall of Bitch, but Tony seems to be largely spared by the internet… Even still. Even though he has over-exposed himself a bit and it’s never good.
Tony Khan was a big ECW fan and like most big ECW fans he likely worshipped Paul Heyman. The word “genius” is thrown around a lot, but if you know Paul Heyman and followed his career and listen to his shoots, you know the guy is a bright wrestling mind and, also a key factor, he always has his pulse on the public. Paul Heyman is an unpolished wrestling fan on New York. He one way or another squeaks into the business. Goes from teenage photographer to manager of the stars on national television and next thing you know he is in Philly running his own promotion in a small building under an overpass. He took that and made something really special. ECW has been talked about a lot and there are people more qualified than I to get into their impact, but I’ll just say, if you know you know.
Now, would Heyman have the street level, grassroots following that he did if say he was the son of the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles and owned a fancier building to run ECW shows out of? I doubt it. He also would have an understanding of the people that he had and continues to have as well.
You can tell in interviews and what TV appearances he made and Tony Khan sees himself as Paul Heyman. AEW had and I suppose continues to have a loyal base of hardcore fans, but those hardcore fans loved The Elite. They pretty much followed Cody like he was wrestling Jesus (no not the YouTuber, ladies and gentlemen) Did they like Tony Khan? I mean… sure… I guess? I mean, they didn’t hate him, but most people didn’t know who he was and when AEW fans found out it was like “oh cool, he’s the guy with money, oh well his dad is but this kid is the fan so… thanks?” Cody and The Elite were over huge when AEW started and a part of me thinks that Tony Khan thinks that also means he was over huge as well.
Unlike Heyman, Tony Khan has never said anything that strikes me as an intelligent take on wrestling storytelling or booking. No novel concept that made me raise my eyebrows and nod my head. Really. Nothing. Like… at all. Tony knows the history of things, which is cool I guess, but if you listen to him talk he’s really no different than you, I or any other hardcore fan on a wrestling message board referencing a random Nitro angle from 1997. When Paul Heyman spoke, I felt like I was hearing something fresh and new that guys like Vince McMahon or Eric Bischoff would never say or even understand. When Tony Khan speaks, he sounds like your friend’s YouTube channel with all of 36 subscribers talking about how when he was a kid he loved studying the work of Dean Malenko and William Regal when in actuality he tuned in to watch Debra’s tits bounce around and hear naughty words and dick jokes in promos.
Khan isn’t some great wrestling mind. He’s a fan. A knowledgeable fan of his era of wrestling, but just a fan. “Booker of the year”? Dude… Fuck off with that shit. The only thing Tony Khan knows how to book is a surprise, the literal easiest thing to do in wrestling and even that he does too much of.
Say what you will about “The Elite” crew’s taste and style, but when they had more power, AEW really felt different and I didn’t know what to expect. Now I feel like AEW is just TNA in the late 2000’s. What’s the difference? Funded and ran by a money mark who spends too much of his parents money and is increasingly banking on cheap nostalgia. AEW used to be about giving guys a chance who didn’t fit the WWE mould. Now they’ll take anyone from WWE and give them a hero’s welcome and a push for a few weeks before they’re cycled out for the next old WWE face to come hobbling in for a cheap pop. It’s been said before by many others, but I agree, Tony Khan really is just another Dixie Carter.
When Cody left his executive position as a co-founder of AEW to go back to WWE, the company he passionately lead a revolution against, I think it has peeled back the curtain a bit on AEW. It’s not the “for wrestlers/by wrestlers” promotion it presented itself as early on. It’s a rich kid’s plaything. Now he owns Ring of Honor and is dumb enough to think he can run both full time. This is where his wings start to burn from flying too high. It’s bad enough this company added the very much unnecessary “Rampage” show to their lineup that no one cares about and barely anyone ever watches. WWE didn’t add a 2nd weekly show until the red hot Attitude Era when ratings were booming higher than ever and business was a can’t miss and people actually cared about Smackdown back then. You had to watch it. Often times angles that started on Raw would continue Thursday on Smackdown. Fuck all happens on Rampage but pumping up these meaningless win-loss numbers that no one gives a flying rat’s fuck about.
So, to the fans who took their side in the “revolution” do they now see the company for what it is or what they thought it was in 2019? The crowd that preaches “all-inclusiveness” and “no hate” and “wrestling is for everyone” and “like what you like support all wrestling” and every other platitude you can slap on a Target t-shirt is very angry lately. Angry at Cody Rhodes. Angry because he made a business decision that he felt was right for him and his family. Yeah its ‘if you’re unhappy, leave WWE and come here” but what about when someone is unhappy in AEW and leaves them to go to WWE? Suddenly they’re the enemy again. Thin skin Tony made sure a full-scale investigation was done on what he suspected were anti-AEW bots, but maybe he should look into his own base on Twitter because they’re just like him. Whiny, entitled, and ready to wish death on you the moment you speak out of turn. But hey, all-inclusive, wrestling is for everyone, rainbows, sunshine, happy face, rawr, lolz right? Whatever.
Trust me. Cody didn’t leave for no reason. Dave Meltzer, who I used to defend on a weekly basis on Twitter has lost his mind saying he thinks Cody may have left AEW because he was getting booed on TV. Something a couple of months ago Meltzer described as a “vocal minority” and that Cody was 100% cheered at house shows and only somewhat booed on TV. Every excuse in the book but we aren’t even going to speculate on a falling out between Cody and Tony? No way there could perhaps be a power struggle? A disagreement in the future direction of the company or the current direction? No? No. It must be because Cody wasn’t over as a babyface anymore. That’s why he left his executive position in AEW as a co-founder, almost full control over all his creative and a guaranteed job for life… Because a portion of the crowd turned on him. Dude…
At first, it was the wrestlers who were going to run the show and look out for the wrestlers and even introduce new things that WWE would never do. Like, remember when they presented themselves as some new progressive company that was going to offer healthcare to all its contracted talent? LOL!!!! No mention of that in a while and the AEW faithful never hold Tony Khan’s feet to the fire for it either. Interesting. Yet, WWE still gets shit even though they pay the medical bills of their contracted workers when they are hurt in the ring. That’s what it used to be though. Now its just puppets dancing for a money mark and Cody saw that and cut ties.
This is why right now, for me personally, its not the “best time to be a fan”. So many people say that, but I don’t get it. On one side we have a self-made billionaire… cool, but he’s 76 and out of touch and surrounded by yes-men who are in their 50’s or older who wouldn’t be able to find modern talent if it had a flashing neon sign stuck up his ass and on the other side you have a much younger kid of a billionaire who has no idea what it’s like in the real world is likely more out of touch than Vince McMahon. I mean, shit, at least Vince was once in-touch and part of common society. So, what are my choices since it’s such a great time to be a fan? Impact? I’ve heard they’ve been alright lately. The NWA? They’re still a thing, I guess.
Thanks again for reading, everyone. It felt good to get that rant out. I feel like I’ve been holding it in for a while and I just can’t take this Tony Khan guy seriously. In his mind he is Paul Heyman but in real life he is Dixie Carter. The more interviews he does, the more he exposes himself as a giddy little money mark. I was embarrassed for him when he marked out for himself hard on the Wrestling Observer show where Meltzer had listed off the categories he and the company had won.
AEW army, if someone like Vince or Stephanie said half the shit Tony did, you’d all be burying them hard and you know it. I can only imagine the shit storm if Vince went on Twitter and bitched about anti-WWE bots and then told fans to do their own detective work if they don’t believe him. What a clown. Fucking Tony Klown.
It is a bit frustrating, though. Pun intended, I was all in on this AEW concept early on. It was pretty exciting, but now its just another TNA. Instead of being the for wrestlers/by wrestlers promotion its just another WWE retirement home with a few originals peppered in and I’m like 95% convinced that M.J.F. is WWE bound when his deal is up. So, have fun with that, Tony. Maybe you can pull Bray Wyatt off his couch and do some lame retread of his shitty ass Fiend gimmick because there aren’t enough pseudo emo goth bullshit characters in AEW already.
AEW is alive and well but the so-called revolution failed. The Elite set out to make an alternative to WWE not just in programming but as a business model and since Khan took full control, there really isn’t any different. And just watch. Once this company gets a streaming service, say goodbye to hot go-home shows and enjoy the same ethnic pandering bullshit WWE does because for whatever reason wrestling promoters think that plucking any random Indian dude and putting him on TV will pop the Indian market. Slow down, Tony. WWE’s business is bulletproof. They can take their domestic audience for granted for a bit to take a chance at popping another country. Your company, however, is still in the building phase and you are in no position to just assume your American audience is just going to stick around while you pander elsewhere with random dudes from wherethefuck ever that you’re going to turn into shitty wrestlers in hopes that you get a breakout star in some country you might visit once a year at most. At least WWE was smart enough to take the title off Jinder Mahal when they saw ticket sales were the drizzling shits in India.
That’s a whole other column, though. This ridiculous mindset that you can just take a dude, any dude and just assume that the fans will just love him because he’s from their country. If anything its an insult to the fans, but maybe build the brand up first before doing this shit like WWE does. But yeah, Tony has never actually had to build anything. That’s why he thinks in a mere 2 years he needs 3 weekly shows, can run two separate promotions at the same time, needs a streaming service and wants to pop a country that WWE even almost lost their ass in, but whatever. I’m done talking about this asshole.
Thanks for reading. I’m glad to be back. See you next time. For NoDQ, I’m KCA. God bless and go Red Sox.