Sadly, by all accounts, this situation is turning a lot more real than I had originally imagined. Reports are saying that a bad fight happened when the Bucks stormed into Punk’s locker room and the two engaged in a brawl with Punk hitting one of the Bucks (Matt Jackson I believe) and Ace Steel throwing a chair at another guy while biting Kenny Omega. The omens from the online reporters make it seem that in all likelihood Ace Steel is gone while there’s a high chance that Punk might be fired.
The real problem though is that Tony Khan has lost complete control over his company. Oddly, Vince McMahon “retiring” has done nothing but in all likelihood been the best thing for pro-wrestling, or at least the WWE. With HHH returning, a lot of talent I think are trying to make their way back with the latest being Braun Strowman. Along with that, Malakai Black have asked for his release, although supposedly not given it (although the post All-Out reports say he’s done with AEW). Bobby Fish’s contract wasn’t renewed after his public comments about be willing to “go to war for HHH.”
But if you look at the circumstances before all this happened, it’s not surprising either. I’m sure many of the people who worked in the WWE enjoyed it up until the pandemic because they were with the top company. The pandemic made the WWE on equal footing with AEW just because both didn’t have the physical crowd to demonstrate which company looks better from a production stand point. But as that went on, we saw a number of releases that shifted the momentum in AEW’s favor just because the evil billionaire with his pair of yes-men stooges in Johnny Ace and Brother Love were making budget cuts in releasing people left and right. Serendipitously, AEW started picking up a lot of these people and the fans would go nuts over seeing their favorite WWE stars have a second life in AEW.
Yet the problem was that the majority of these people were used terribly once they came in. We didn’t get a lot of dream feuds or massive pushes where we imagined that “now free from the clutches of the toxic WWE corporate environment, they can now move to the top of the ladder” in AEW. Instead, these people were put in midcard feuds with people who were indy darlings with little to no TV exposure up until their time in AEW. Ruby Soho, for instance, had one of the biggest reactions on her surprise debut and even won her match and was set to face Britt Baker. Then for whatever reason, Tony Khan decided to let Britt Baker beat Ruby and it’s been a downward spiral that the AEW hivemind have justified in saying “Well, Ruby Soho’s matches haven’t been that good.” Well, look at the people she’s been working with!
It’s not a surprise that Bobby Fish, a veteran at the age of the 45, didn’t have his contract renewed. Before he was brought into the fold of the resurrected Undisputed Era from NXT in AEW, he was a jobber. He lost to Sammy “I’m a fucking knucklehead” Guevara of all people. The guy probably is smart enough for himself to realize that these guys in AEW weren’t going anywhere and weren’t going to use him well. Mostly, he’s been mute except when Adam Cole was around.
But the biggest piece of drama now is with CM Punk and The Bucks with their clique. In all likelihood, Punk is gone. I wouldn’t be surprised if his injured foot (and possibly arm) is playing a part in his crankiness lately but he probably is seeing the writing on this wall too where he’s telling Tony Khan indirectly to make a choice between him and the Bucks/Omega camp. Because what we’re seeing in AEW is a conflict in philosophy about how wrestling should be done. The Omega/Bucks camp are presenting this specific version which benefits just what they’re doing. However, their style is highly dangerous, unrealistic and appeals to a niche audience. I mean, just after the trios match, it was reported that Alex Reynolds was on crutches. What does that say about what these guys are doing?
On the other side, Punk wants to implement a more traditional based form of wrestling where he’s got a lot of experience and wisdom and knows how to draw money for a company and create intrigue with realistic storylines. He was outdrawing the Bucks/Omega in ratings and it’s clearly documented. Then you have the side story of Colt Cabana with the supposed connection of being nearly fired because of Punk while Adam Page ended up going into business for himself in going off script during the match before their PPV show. Not to mention how Page doesn’t listen to others who might be willing to help him, which offended Punk.
I guess the bottom line is that you have a lot of unhealthy egos at play here and a weak money mark in Tony Khan. Tony Khan has shown that he is easily manipulatable and most likely will side with the Bucks and Omega but it will cost his business quite a bit of the capital they’ve built with the fans. I think after this situation boils over, AEW will be heavily crippled and more of their talent will push hard to get out of their contracts, especially the ex-NXT people.
While Tony Khan will end up being the ultimate person responsible for not figuring out how to control things within his company, there’s another group that deserves a huge amount of blame in all of this: the so-called dirt sheet writers. I think if anything these assholes have been the worst in exacerbating these issues in unleashing a lot of the dirty laundry that really should be kept inside of the locker room. While it is fascinating to hear about all this, I think it brings bad will to the fans and creates unnecessary drama that helps poison the well.
Now for myself, I would never consider myself a dirt sheet writer. I’m not an insider. Just someone with an opinion who is observing things from afar and have been a fan of wrestling for years. All I know is that once the dirt sheet writers came to more prevalence with the internet and social media made the world 1000x worse, wrestling started to suck the life out of me. The last time I quit watching was because of what happened to Chris Benoit and the decline of TNA because of Hogan. But a lot of that started when WCW went side ways and the wrong aspects of wrestling were emphasized with the ratings. Meltzer talked about that nonstop along with the Montreal Screwjob. I feel of everyone a leech like him benefited the most of that situation. It’s just sad.
One thing I didn’t mention about that post show media scrum is that maybe that should be a lesson for Tony Khan to stop doing those. They hurt the business. You let guys go off script or talk about how they feel in front of reporters who think they’re smart and further expose what they’re doing. One of the reporters was blatant enough to ask about turning heel. It was cringe. Tony Khan lets this happen and it’s obvious he has no idea how to handle it.
At this stage, I’m not giving AEW more than a year to live unless Tony Khan hires the right people to help him run the show. He shouldn’t be allowed to book anymore nor be the guy to control the locker room. He’s too weak and sensitive to do the right things.