Let me start this off by saying that this is not going to be a “oh my God, AEW is going out of business in five years” kind of piece. Anyone that believes that are not to be taken seriously and they’ve been saying that hot garbage since AEW started four and a half years ago. That being said, there are some glaring problems that Tony Khan would be smart to address if his company is to continue to be the strong alternative to WWE that it has been since its inception. I’m going to discuss what I think those problems are and offer up some possible solutions.
First off, what the hell is going on with the attendance? It feels like their attendance has taken a nosedive in recent months outside of All In at Wembley Stadium. Attendance across the board for Dynamite/Rampage, Collision, and their regular pay-per-views are all down. Two years ago, they were hot as hell, selling out arenas quickly. I believe that despite the quality of the current product, it’s cold right now. There just hasn’t been the level of interest that there was in the past. This could be a result of the public backstage drama surrounding CM Punk and The Elite that lasted way longer than it should have. CM Punk was a legitimate draw for AEW and his suspension/injury and the negative attitude toward members of the Elite have likely turned some fans away from the product. I also believe that a lack of investment in some of their top stars has created a level of disinterest as well. I get that they’re trying to push Takeshita, but quite frankly, it’s not working. I don’t think anyone cares and the biggest spotlight in all of this has been going to Don Callis, who doesn’t wrestle. Kenny Omega was their top star and the world champion in 2021 when they were at their peak. They need to invest in Omega heavily and put him in the top spot he deserves.
There are a number of other stars that could benefit from renewed investment like Miro, Andrade, Malakai Black, Rush, Keith Lee, and Wardlow that could give them a boost they desperately need. I’m not saying everyone needs to have a world title run, but Tony Khan should invest the time and effort into talents that people care about. The names I listed are names that people want to see. Tony Khan needs to give them the spotlight. The women have been suffering from this as well. Britt Baker needs to be back in the main event picture on the women’s side of the show. I’m VERY happy that Hikaru Shida got the title back from Saraya and hopefully she’ll get a proper run with the title. Credit where credit is due though, Toni Storm has been fantastic and absolutely deserves the spotlight she’s getting right now. She got the ball and she’s sprinting for the endzone with it. I love what she’s doing right now, and I hope she gets the belt back at some point. I’m also looking forward to the return of Jamie Hayter who will provide the kind of star power they need once she’s back.
The poor attendance could also be the result of expensive ticket prices. One of the things that drew people to attend AEW shows was not only the quality of the product, but ticket prices that were cheaper than WWE. It is true that ticket prices don’t really matter if your product is hot because people are going to pay whatever the price is to see the show. When your product is ice cold, you really can’t price things the same way. I believe some recent ticket prices have gone down, which is a good sign. Now, if you can develop a product that people are invested in, then people will buy tickets to your show. I hope that Adam Copeland (Edge) can make a difference in that regard. His feud with Christian Cage is off to a fantastic start and if they book it properly, it’s a feud that could bring eyes back to the product.
Tony Khan has an incredible roster at his disposal and a backstage crew of coaches and producers with a ton of knowledge that he needs to rely on for AEW to regain the momentum that they’ve very clearly lost over the last year. CM Punk is gone, your top stars are signed for years to come, and a legend like Edge CHOSE to go to AEW because of the possibilities. Put your top stars in the top spots, let them cook, and give people a reason to care. Tony might want to put the phone away too. Focus on your own house. They counter programmed as much as WWE did. That’s perfectly fine. Keep your eyes on your show and the fans are going to be there.