Remember when people called Tony Khan “The best booker in Wrestling” and that AEW was a threat to WWE?
Those days seem as ancient as the dinosaur era.
Right now, AEW is in the middle of a full-blown crisis and it’s not looking like there is an end in sight. CM Punk has been fired and is probably ready to go nuclear on the company in multiple ways. Ratings are literally in the toilet and will get worse now with the emergence of college and NFL Football. The EVP’s (Young Bucks and Kenny Omega) are in total power and flaunting it on social media about how they ran Punk out.
And Tony Khan is now the worst owner in pro wrestling since Herb Abrams. The only difference between the two is Tony’s father is a billionaire and funding this operation.
The good news is that there is still time to right this ship and turn AEW into a profitable business. For them to convince WBD to stick with them and not ditch them for the WWE. But for that to happen its going to take some major changes and I am not talking booking or wrestlers behaving.
Wholesale earth shaking changes are required for Tony Khan to become the leader that he thinks he is.
Step 1: Hire a real Booking Team and let them work.
Tony Khan is laughably out of his element, and he is not someone who deals with confrontation well. From the mishandling of Punk, burning bridges with MLW/Impact Wrestling, the Big Swole debacle and even handling the Punk/Elite drama. He doesn’t know how to or want to put his foot down and his storylines are all over the place.
In a perfect world he could have either Jim Ross, Eric Bischoff or Jim Cornette be the head of Talent Operations and have them lead the booking but it’s not happening. Cornette doesn’t want to travel, Bischoff has no interest in being a COO and Jim Ross is too old and dealing with health issues.
Get a three-to-four-man committee of non-wrestlers who understand the industry and also get TV writing. Two men who “get” the wrestling industry and booking matches and one guy or gal who understands TV writing for a mainstream audience.
A combination of Dutch Mantell, Al Snow and Chris DeJoseph for example would be ideal. Other people to target could include Scott D’Amore, Jake Roberts and Freddie Prinze. Guys who understand and love the product but also understand writing for TV fans.
Step 2: Cull the roster!
Currently the roster sits at ONE HUNDRED SIXTY-FIVE wrestlers and counting. That is insane and way too many people for Four hours of programming on television. I am not counting Ring of Honor because nobody cares about that brand and its not on television. At most this roster should be Ninety wrestlers maybe even the eighty range.
Start identifying who is a player for the roster and which wrestlers are literally taking up space. Guys like Miro, MJF, Wardlow, Ricky Starks and Adam Cole are worth the investment. Guys like Dark Order, Danhaussen, Brian Cage, Action Brunson and others are not and just taking up space. Stop bringing in every WWE castoff and New Japan star that does not bring in a huge following (over half million fans minimum) as it does nothing but take up space.
Step 3: Book for a wider audience.
You may not like it but there is a reason the WWE is successful and AEW is not, and a big reason is the audience reach. AEW targeted the “hardcore” fans and books for them exclusively while WWE targets families, wrestling fans and casuals. The results are staggering and its why AEW must rent out stadiums while WWE gets bidding wars for their events.
You can still have great matches without booking Texas Death matches, hardcore and blood all the time. But to get the bigger dollars, the eyeballs and sponsors and a bigger reach you can’t think niche. Too often matches become a breakdown of spot fests, blood and hardcore matches that feel more like deathmatch federations than a pro wrestling outfit.
Its okay to do a hardcore match once and a while but not nearly every other show. Not only does it turn off casual fans but most families are not going to bring their kids to an AEW match if they see blood and hardcore matches weekly.
Step 4: Get rid of The Elite and Perry
It was a huge mistake making any wrestler an Executive Vice President of a company in the first place. A wrestler is selfish, a bit egotistical and puts himself above everyone. You must be that to be great and be a success in an industry where there is no health insurance, stock options or guaranteed contracts. And that is the biggest reason alone why The Elite should never have been VP’s.
But the fallout from CM Punk being fired is even more proof that they need to be removed. From Matt Jackson taking the victory lap, Kenny Omega commenting on the Pepsi to their refusal to meet with Punk earlier, they have shown they get their way.
Imagine being MJF or Ricky Starks and seeing all of this and wondering what everybody wonders. If I cross the Elite in any way or piss them off are they going to run me out of town? They already did it to CM Punk and many speculate they did it to Cody Rhodes. You can bet that a lot of top guys are taking notice and already planning to find ways to sign with WWE when their contracts are up.
Release them and let them go to New Japan, Impact Wrestling or even the WWE. Call it addition by subtraction as numerous professional sports franchises have done it when problem athletes infect the locker room. They cut out the cancers and move on and in many cases it works to a perfect moment. The Young Bucks, Omega and even Hangman Page have behaved like children and kept pushing CM Punk to his breaking point. Get rid of all four of them before they do it to another star wrestler because they don’t get along.
Step 5: Find the real “cornerstones”.
Right now too many belts are going around and too many guys are just being focused as the Main Event stars. Every WWE cast off as given a quick push and then they go to another guy for another push. The original “Four Pillars” have been stuck either in middling feuds (Darby Allin), regurgitated dramas or at times overbooked in bad feuds.
Figure out who the stars are and treat them as such whether its MJF, Wardlow, Sammy Guevara or whomever you think it is. Identify them and have them as either the focal points or near the top of the card. Unlike the WWE, AEW is not a well-known brand so for the company to get more recognition they are going to have to develop their own stars and have them as the faces of the company.
Despite what people think, I want AEW to succeed and become a strong threat to the WWE. If the fall of WCW taught wrestling fans anything its that without competition not only with the fans suffer but wrestlers will suffer also. But now all the momentum and goodwill that AEW built up is slowly being destroyed due to bad management, bad wrestling at times and backstage politics.
And if things don’t get better, AEW might end up like the UWF or even WCW and become a thing of the past.
For more info or to listen to athlete or sports interviews check out the website at www.lastcallpodcast.com or follow me on Twitter.com/LastCallwChrisC