TKW: Debunking False Narratives About AEW That Need to be Eliminated

Why in the hell do I keep defending AEW?

It’s a question that gets posed a lot, and not just towards me, but to many like me within the internet wrestling community. As if we’re supposed to just follow the herd and give in to populist opinions.

What it really comes down to is fighting the consistent false narratives that make the rounds online. These falsities not only hurt AEW, but the general wrestling community as a whole. If a number of gullible fans buy into such narratives and use that ire to tune out of AEW programming, that hurts more than just Tony Khan. That affects the talent, staff, and fan base as well.

And I know what some might be saying: “Oh, it’s all a joke. A parody.” Similar to Alfred Konuwa’s parody of Will Ospreay last week (more on him later).

This is perfectly fine. However, there is a difference between parody and perfidiousness. Making a joke is one thing — spreading lies is another.  Believe it or not, I actually have a history of cementing my own critiques of the company. From a bloated roster to some questionable booking choices, like any wrestling company, AEW is not perfect.

But the false narratives that have sprung up over the past year about the promotion are not honest booking or story critiques. They are completely disingenuous, well beyond parody, and dive straight into a misinformation swamp.

And these are where the problems lie…

It’s been about a year since the last time I wrote an article like this. And wow, has the internet created some pretty inaccurate narratives about AEW since. These largely parroted attacks come from pseudo-experts online that have nothing else better to do than hate-watch a product they don’t understand or like. And the same goes for some of your out-of-touch wrestling podcasters that can’t seem to watch AEW without the lens of a conditioned mainstream fan (They are an alternative for a reason).

And to those who think “trolling” another promotion is “fun” to get fake internet points: It’s not fun. Nothing is funny about lying on the internet to spread a false narrative; pro wrestling or not. It harms the business more than it could ever help.

So with that, another year, and another barrage of false narratives waiting to be expunged.  Let’s dig in.


False Narrative #1 | “AEW Doesn’t Tell Stories”

Response: No, AEW just doesn’t tell stories in the way you’ve been conditioned to receive them. 

Since the beginning, Tony Khan has taken a page out of the New Japan playbook by telling stories in nuance. Plots and stories tend to develop through matches themselves, rather than exclusively in-ring promos. And while both have be true for AEW, most of what occurs in-story does happen inside the wrestling ring.

Contrary to what old farts with podcasts think, there is more than one way to do pro wrestling. WWE has the conditioned, family-friendly, mainstream market cornered. And there is nothing wrong with that. But AEW needs to stand apart from their competitor, and hence, must do things differently.

This means more of a wrestling-focused product, nuanced storytelling, maybe a little more violence, and a roster with global reach. But a lot of influencers will have you believe that there is only one way to tell stories in pro wrestling. That you must have long in-ring segments, multiple video packages, and a level of spoon-feeding the audience a story, over and over again.

Let’s pose a simple question…

Thought Experiment

Disco Glenn and Konnan (among others such as O’Shea Jackson Jr., Eric Bischoff, etc.) often bring up in their podcasts that AEW doesn’t do the vignettes that WWE does to set up their feuds. Before most segments and matches, WWE will often have video packages and highlights to make sure the viewer knows exactly what is going on.

This is fine. That’s part of how they are telling the story.

And I don’t mind more video packages. In fact, I think Khan could benefit from using a little more. However, when you start using it too much, before every match, before every segment — you start to lose time. And suddenly, out of the two hours AEW has on their flagship show, more and more time is given to video packages, and less and less to in-ring matches.

AEW is supposed to be the wrestling-focused alternative. But if less and less wrestling appears on their shows in favor of video packages and in-ring promos, are they not just becoming a lighter version of WWE? And if Dynamite goes three hours to fit all of the wrestling and video packages in (similar to what we saw on 3/20), would that not deter fans who don’t want a three-hour show? Where’s the balance? When is enough, enough, and when is it too much?

Because contrary to popular parroted belief; stories are being told in AEW, but just not in the way casual fans have been conditioned to receive them. But to set the record straight:

Current Storylines in AEW: 

-Copeland vs. Cage/Aftermath TBD
-Swerve vs. Joe
-Statlander/Willow vs. Hart/Blue
-The return of Kyle O’Reilly
-The debut of Mercedes Mone | friction with Willow Nightingale
-Angelo/Ruby romance | Saraya/Ruby feud
-Storm vs. Purrazzo | Purazzo vs. Rosa tease
-Okada’s debut — Kingston/Young Bucks
-Danielson vs. Ospreay
-AEW Tag Team Tournament

The quality of these stories are subjective. You’re welcome to believe that they are good, bad, or in between. But to make a ridiculous statement like ‘AEW doesn’t tell stories’ simply because of  lack of video packages or the occasional randomly booked (“story-less”) match, is disingenuous, and simply inaccurate.

Remember, this is the wrestling-first company. You’re going to sometimes get matches booked simply for the sake of having a great match (as in the case of Danielson vs. Shibata on Collision last week). And while a video package about the two may have been nice, it’s not a reason to jump to extreme narratives.

You’re a grown ass person, with a brain, and endless resources at your fingertips. Stop acting like this is a barrier to enjoy something as simple as a pro wrestling match.

False Narrative #2 | “AEW’s Ratings Are Bad”

Response: No, their ratings are still among the best on their network, and on cable, in their time slot. The numbers prove this. 

In short: All three major flagship shows are performing well right now given modern standards. Raw, Dynamite, and Smackdown, generally do good numbers.

However, this isn’t 1998. This is 2024. 

In 2023, the number of overall cable viewers declined yet again. As stated in an article in Forbes:

According to Nielsen, last year only Fox News averaged more than two million viewers. Ten years ago, when cord cutting and streaming video were both in its nascent stage, there had been six cable networks that averaged over two million primetime viewers; USA, ESPN, Disney Channel, History Channel, TNT and TBS. Furthermore, in 2023 there were only three cable networks that sustained an average audience above one million viewers, compared to five in 2022. – Brad Adgate

Furthermore, the number of traditional TV usage, both in cable and broadcast television, dropped below 50% for the first time ever. In short, less than half of the TV-viewing public tunes into cable or broadcast television anymore. 

Even Eric Bischoff knows that TV ratings don’t matter as much anymore (link). 

And these numbers are only going to keep dropping as streaming/cord cutting continues to rise. It’s the sole reason why Raw has moved to Netflix, as they will make more money on that platform than they would at USA. It’s why Smackdown is leaving FOX, due to low ad rates and a loss of $500 Million on Fox’s behalf because of it, and why Smackdown is moving back to cable.

There isn’t much money in cable television anymore unless you’re broadcasting live sports.

Yes, AEW’s ratings are slipping from last year. Everyone’s ratings are slipping, though. However, they are still performing better on average than any other TBS/TNT original on the network. The only thing AEW is usually outperformed by is the NBA, which is logical.

And this goes for WWE programming as well. 

The above is Raw’s viewership from 2/28/2024. They ranked #1 in cable that night. Yet, they were lower than their show the week before, as well as the current Q1 average. How could this be? In fact, their 2023 annual average was less than their 2022 annual average. Raw has lost over half of their viewing audience since 2010. Does that mean WWE is “in the mud” — or is it the very simple notion that more and more people are tuning out of cable television and finding other means to watch that isn’t measured by Nielsen?

Because we know WWE is a hot product. Their ticket sales are up; revenue is up, everything is trending up. Could it be that TV ratings alone isn’t a great measure of a company’s overall success?

But what does this mean to the laypeople, and for these old fart podcasters, antiquated columnists, and dishonest influencers? 

-Less people are watching cable TV in favor of streaming/cord cutting.
-However, compared to other cable shows, both AEW and WWE are still outperforming shows on their network.
-This is good enough to keep both brands on television in some form.

What Networks Actually Care About

Networks care more about how a show performs on that night compared to other programming, rather than arbitrary numbers. Rankings and 18-49 demos also fall into this category. AEW was #1 in cable TV on 2/21/24, yet only drew 811,000 viewers. Again, what do you think networks care more about? Do you think Warner executives looked at that #1 spot on that Wednesday night and said to themselves “wELl, It wASn’T a mILliOn!” *hands on hips*.

There is a reason why Warner Brothers/Discovery touted 4 million in weekly programming viewership for AEW: Because many aren’t watching on a traditional cable box. They may have a cord cutting service that offers TNT/TBS, or they might even DVR it for later (Live+7 numbers). Otherwise, many could be watching via Fite TV as well (or by other non-legal means).

If you still believe this weird narrative about AEW and their ratings, you’re an idiot. Times have changed, and live sports are the only real draw cable TV has left. Most have moved on to streaming/cord cutting services, and these are not measured by Nielsen.

Get with the times. This narrative needs die a quick death.

False Narrative #3 | “Tickets Are Down”

Response: Actually, according to the numbers, tickets have increased 10% in 2023.

This is the easiest one to tackle. AEW added Collision in 2023. Hence, not only did we see a ticket increase due to a second show, but it also diluted the fan pool a little bit. Meaning you had some low number shows since tickets were split between Dynamite/Collision in a still growing, but smaller fan base compared to the competition.

These occasional shows with low numbers are not good, no. But they don’t represent the bigger picture.

We’d all like to live in a world where both wrestling companies are doing 10,000 per weekly show. But that’s just not the reality. Especially since WWE is hot right now, and literally in Wrestlemania season. Are we really expecting the #2 promotion to pull huge numbers when they cooled off a little in 2023, and WWE struck gold with Cody/Reigns/Punk?

But if we look at this honestly, we know that AEW is heating up and getting back to their roots. We know that by the numbers, tickets have been doing well. 

We know that Big Business in Boston distributed over 9,000 tickets. AEW Revolution did over 16,000 for Sting’s last match. We know that AEW Dynasty in St. Louis is approaching 5,500 and climbing. Toronto did over 6,000 last week. AEW Collision in Vancouver isn’t until May 11th, and has already sold over 5,000 for that show. And tonight’s show in Quebec has sold over 4,000.

It’s ludicrous and disingenuous to think that AEW is going to pull WWE-like numbers at not even 5 years into existence. In general, ticket sales have been up in 2024 (Cultahollic). 

Can we just acknowledge that both companies are doing well right now in their own right? The narrative about low ticket sales and disingenuous “hard cam” shots need to die quickly. It’s not helping the business.

False Narrative #4 | “Their Champions Are Old”


Response: Numbers easily tell you otherwise. Use your brain.

This gem was brought to us by WWE tribalist Alfred Konuwa. And look, if you want to be a diehard fan for a promotion, I get it, I’m a diehard for AEW. But I’m not out there trying to criticize WWE at all costs. I don’t even watch the WWE product to begin with.

And this take is just completely disingenuous. I don’t even have to bring up some of WWE’s aging champions — this is just ageist, tribal B.S.

But to counter with other current AEW champions he conveniently left out of that list:

-Julia Hart – TBS Champion (22)
-HOOK – FTW Champion (25)
-Kyle Fletcher – ROH TV Champion (25)
-Toni Storm – AEW Women’s Champion (28)
-ROH 6-Man Champions – Austin Gunn (28), Jay White (31), Colten Gunn (32)
-AEW Trios Champions – Anthony Bowens (33), Max Caster (34)
-AEW Continental Champion – Kazuchika Okada (36)

Former AEW champions at the age of 30 or under include: MJF, Darby Allin, Jamie Hayter, Sammy Guevara, Adam Page; and upcoming likely future champions include Billie Starkz (19), Will Ospreay (30), and Swerve Strickland (33).

This is the most sewer trough of dishonest takes.

However, I understand why monikers exist. I value my privacy, and would rather write about pro wrestling behind a screen name, as my public name and life is private. And it’s bad enough to dedicate endless hours of your time behind a moniker on X just to contribute to the toxicity of pro wrestling and get paid zero dollars for it. (EX: AEWfulwrestling, JobberNationTV, WWEGareth, WWFCounselor, WWF_Junkie, Julian Weeks, etc.)

But what’s sad is that a former comedian that claims to be “for the culture” in Konuwa continually degrades a promotion that has black representation in upper management, black champions, and black stars. In addition, there are many people of color in high-ranking positions throughout the company. Yet he somehow doesn’t realize that he actively works against said culture by being so divisive and tribal in the first place.

And he does this publicly. Dude, if this is all you have in your life — fill it with something worthwhile other than getting fake internet points by slinging mud at a wrestling organization. Do something positive for both promotions with your voice, instead of vomiting negativity. Use your public voice for good, not low-level attempts at trolling a pro wrestling company.

False Narrative #5 | Dave Meltzer is Anti-WWE

Response: No, he just prefers a certain type of wrestling, and is likely getting fed misinformation on the journalism side. 

Discussions of Meltzer’s current ability to be a good journalist is subjective. We know he’s been on a bit of a cold streak as of late with his reports. But when we look at his work over the last four decades, not too much has changed in approach. I honestly believe he is just getting fed the occasional misinformation by his sources at this point.

With pro wrestling, inside sources can sometimes be wrong, and while Meltzer has been mostly accurate in his long career, he will also make mistakes. He has gotten info wrong on WWE, AEW, New Japan; you name it. Journalists do their best with what information they have, but sometimes it turns out to be incorrect. That goes for most reporters in the general news industry when using inside sources like Meltzer does.

However, this section isn’t about that. It’s about a weird perceived “anti-WWE” bias. “ANTI” meaning “against”. Meaning to criticize at all costs, often unfairly. To actually dislike what you are against. To my knowledge, he’s not criticizing every possible aspect of WWE’s booking, presentation, and match quality, is he? Not like your weekly AEW-hate content farms and podcasters that do literally just that. 

We know Meltzer has a bias towards one style of wrestling. Like me, and many other fans of the Puro/Indies style, Dave has a clear preference towards New Japan and AEW. However, too many fans are living in extreme speculations about the meaning of this.

Just because you prefer one style of wrestling, doesn’t mean you hate the other. Being pro-AEW doesn’t mean you are automatically anti-WWE. I’m very pro-AEW, yet I am not anti-WWE at all — I’m just mostly indifferent to them. My column archive proves this much, as I rarely write about WWE to begin with.

Dave’s Opinions

Why does the opinion of one man matter so much to those who allegedly don’t care about it? Why does one opinion ruffle so many feathers? But more importantly, does his record of 5-star ratings even reflect an anti-WWE bias? 

By the numbers: 

*WWE has been given 6 five-star matches so far in the 2020s. By comparison, only 8 were awarded through the entire 2010s. This correlates with WWE’s improved quality. 

*During the Monday Night Wars (1990s), WWF was awarded 4 five-star matches, while competitors, WCW, was only awarded 2, and ECW, 1

*TNA has only received 3 five-star matches in their company’s history. 

If Meltzer was so “anti-WWE” as some fans believe, wouldn’t he purposely use his opinion to push WCW, ECW, and TNA during their tenures as competitors? But he didn’t, did he? He stuck to what his preferences were, and still are — and that is solely based in his own opinion of what a good wrestling match looks like.

New Japan, All Japan, All Elite Wrestling, All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling, and WWE round out the top five promotions with the most five-star matches. This is very much in line with his personal preferences. If Meltzer was so anti-WWE, wouldn’t his news reports have reflected that his entire career, favoring any competition such as WCW or TNA? But they didn’t — in fact, Eric Bischoff hates Meltzer for leaking info from WCW during the MNW.

Otherwise, dishonest fans, and influencers like Bischoff, Pritchard, and others, give a disproportionate amount of attention to Dave’s opinions. And it’s simply because his opinions don’t fall in line with the mainstream wrestling conglomerate of choice.

Dislike and disinterest are two different concepts. Hate and apathy are two different concepts. The narrative that Meltzer “hates” WWE is a false narrative created by online WWE fans with too much time on their hands that want to link bias against Meltzer with bias against AEW. He doesn’t “hate” WWE — he just likes other promotions a lot more — and that isn’t exactly a crime, is it?

Best of the Rest

Other weird and inaccurate narratives include:

Wrestlers bleed too much! (This has noticeably been turned down, and Moxley hasn’t even bled in an AEW match since November, if I’m not mistaken).

-Too Many Belts! (WWE has 10 titles, AEW has 9) This is not including ROH/NXT, which are mostly developmental brands at this point. Again, the facts are right in your face.

-No Ring Psychology! (There is no right or wrong way to do wrestling) Pro wrestling has changed. As pointed out last week, wrestling has evolved, much like professional sports. You don’t have to oversell what is considered a basic move by today’s standards. Storytelling elements have changed. Not everything has to fit into one box.

-What, do I have to Google who this is? (Sometimes, yes) But this is rarity in AEW, and has happened plenty of times in wrestling’s past to have what amounts to a “random talent” on a show. Excalibur has always explained what the ‘rando’ wrestler is doing there, however.

I can’t even think of anymore, but I’m sure they’re out there. Again, there are legitimate criticisms of AEW. They could use to market their weekly shows a little better. Perhaps adding one or two more video packages per show couldn’t hurt. Some talents that should be booked, unfortunately aren’t, but there’s only so much time in a given show (unless they jump to 3 hours for Dynamite, which they SHOULD).

But AEW is heating up right now. Ospreay is becoming AEW’s top babyface, the arrivals of Okada and Mercedes have created buzz, the women’s division is actually being booked well, and we are witnessing the continued rise of Swerve Strickland, HOOK, and Konosuke Takeshita.

You don’t have to like it. You don’t even have to watch. But if you do, could you at least stop lying about the product? I think it’s a small ask, as false narratives only serve to hurt the business overall.

(Consider yourself lucky if I’m on X, I usually hate social media)