At this point in time, it’s almost a lock for CM Punk and Bryan Danielson to come into AEW. The hint given by Darby Allin at the recent Dynamite for the event coming up at the Chicago United Center, along with the way the announcers have posed hints about the huge show being planned without giving any concrete names out pretty much allude to CM Punk’s inevitable arrival. Despite all the excitement and talk being generated, I think this situation will ultimately fall flat on its back and come back to haunt AEW in the long term.
The main issue I see in hiring both wrestlers is the canceling effect where CM Punk’s supposed return now is eclipsing the talk of Bryan Danielson signing with AEW. The fact that AEW was apparently able to sign Bryan Danielson at all at this stage should be a major feat. However, CM Punk coming in roughly at the same time sounds massively mistimed because both are major stars. Yet it’s pretty clear that CM Punk’s absence has created a pretty huge void where people now are anticipating his return.
Yet where have we seen these situations before? Clearly, the most memorable was Scott Hall and Kevin Nash’s appearance in WCW. Some people have compared the simultaneous signings as being similar to that event. However, I think the better analogy is when Kurt Angle signed right after Christian Cage showed up in TNA. While at this point AEW may very well be the bigger promotion due to the deep pockets of Tony Khan, I think the situation holds much better.
The problem of Kurt Angle showing up in TNA when he did was that he pretty much overshadowed Christian’s major push. All attention went to Kurt Angle and all the big programs and title matches did as well. Right up until that moment Christian Cage was showing really nice main event potential where a strong title run on top would have done wonders for his career as well as his willingness to work fresh programs with everyone.
Kurt Angle had a decent run in TNA just up until Hulk Hogan with Eric Bischoff showed up. He had great matches with AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, etc. However, Christian began to slide, especially once Hogan showed up. Kurt Angle was always going to be a main event player but Christian lost a lot of momentum and pretty much all that he had built up to that point disappeared as the company went into story mode with the various ex-WWE/WCW/NWO hacks coming into feed.
Worse yet the rest of the roster pretty much got put into awkward positions with bad stories and gimmicks whereas before they were being built up as having good matches with serious potential. Pretty much the combination of events killed TNA to me.
While I doubt Hogan and his buddies will be coming into AEW at this point, what I do see is that CM Punk will overshadow everyone because it’s obvious that he’s going to milk the situation for all it’s worth. So where does that leave Bryan?
The reason why I consider this situation less like the WCW scenario with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall is also because neither were posed as being in the world title shot when they came in. Instead, their situation was very unique in providing a once in a life time angle in the US. Also, financially WWF at the time was not in the same condition as WCW where they were actively trying to get their top talent.
The thing with AEW is that they are signing more and more talent without demonstrating that they are capable of executing long term plans. Right now, the Hangman Page title push that originally was scheduled against Kenny Omega looks to be on hold once again because “plans had changed,” which obviously implies the CM Punk and Bryan Danielson situation.
Yet that’s a very bad precedent moving forward to set. What you’re effectively saying to the talent is that the perceived draws that come in will always overshadow you and that your position on the card isn’t safe. But what happens to someone like Christian who also signed with AEW? He’s still very capable and never has been able to be in the top spot.
But that’s how I’m saying that these signings are only good for a 1-2 night pop. It might give AEW the ability to have a lot of talk generated in the short term and sell out an arena or two (which I attribute mostly because of the long lockdown, which might happen again). But AEW has yet not been able to follow up on plans that they have set into motion early on.
With someone like Hangman Page, at this stage, it might be too late. You’re just pulling the carpet from under him and losing all the momentum that started to be rebuilt. What happens when they try this project in 1-2 years from now? People aren’t going to care because there will be another person who AEW fixates on and may be able to sign then suddenly give them the push that some other deserving person should have received.
Also, what does that say about the way AEW prioritizes it’s internal talent? Or even as how the internal talent may see the bigger picture? Do you think Tony Khan’s so-called mantra of “people need to earn their title shots” will apply to CM Punk? Do you think he’s going to come in and suddenly wrestle Marko Stunt to go from the bottom to the top?
And if these guys come into AEW, do you think they won’t be factored into the title picture? It’s ridiculous to be as big of a name as these two and not be factored into the title picture or top of the card somehow from the get go. I heard a rumor that CM Punk might only do two appearances. While it sounds dubious, it also can be plausible since he’s the kind of guy that might try to milk the situation quickly.
Again, the problem here is my confidence in AEW’s long term booking. They have a ton of guys now and people who might have considered themselves main event worthy like Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, etc. What becomes of these people once these two show up? You’re issue here is that you’re too top heavy.
Also, AEW thinks it’s building new stars by pairing someone like a Jungle Boy with Christian Cage on TV. But he’s only over because of the song. These guys aren’t getting over on their own the way they need to. They are being given the right momentum where you have people on the lower tiers and slowly feeding them wins where people are perceiving that they’re moving up the ranks against bigger and bigger threats that give them credibility. And like I said in the past, there’s no clear focus on someone at the moment. It’s more like a juggling act.
At any rate, outside of a temporary ratings boost for curiosity and a few quick arena sell outs, I think bringing in both these guys will end up hurting AEW more than helping them. AEW needs to correct the problem of its week-to-week booking, produce better TV and shows and have better matches before getting these so-called top names in order to fix their current situation.