I’m just kidding.
This is just my usual weekly column, but did you see what I was trying to do?
I lured you in with a super duper smooth reveal that I had some amazing news for you, but then, after you had already clicked the link, I revealed that my major announcement was nothing more than a popcorn fart in the wind.
The saddest part about it?
I guarantee you that at least one person… someone, somewhere… clicked the link with an actual bit of curiosity to read what the announcement was. That person probably doesn’t follow AEW very much, if at all, and they’re not aware of what was going in, but they clicked, and that was the point.
This week, I’m here for one very specific reason.
Before I get to that reason, it is necessary for me to preface things by saying that I am a really big fan of AEW. I tune in to watch all of their television shows, and I spend my money to legally purchase all of their pay-per-views. Even if I didn’t “have to” do that for my columns, I would still do it, because the product entertains me.
Yes, I do end up writing my columns about WWE more than AEW topics, but that is more based on WWE having a bigger stake of equity in the wrestling scene, and therefore, a lot of their stories are “bigger” and I feel more inclined to talk about them. Even when WWE provides the main topic of my weekly columns, you need to look no further than my Weekly Power Rankings right underneath those stories to see AEW make its presence felt week in and week out.
With that out of the way, let’s finally get to the reason I’m here this week.
I’m so sick and fucking tired of Tony Khan.
Sick of his face.
Of his hair.
Sick of his tweets.
Of his penchant for moving the goalposts when things don’t go his way.
The way he hugs wrestlers like a schoolgirl with a crush, all while cheesing and closing his eyes.
Sick of his “announcements.”
Of the way he screams “GIANNIS ANTATAPOOMPO” or whatever the fuck he said in Milwaukee that one night.
His hair? Wack. His gear? Wack. His jewelry? Wack. His foot stance? Wack. The way that he talks? Wack. The way that he doesn’t even like to smile? Wack.
More than anything else, though, I’m sick of the way he hovers over AEW, on and off-screen, like he’s a fucking mob boss.
Go ahead and watch any episode of Dynamite, Rampage, or Collision. Watch any AEW pay-per-view. You’re going to hear Tony Khan’s name mentioned on commentary, and chances are, you’re going to hear it a handful of times each episode. Excalibur will mention that he just received word from Tony Khan and such-and-such match is now official for next week’s episode of whatever show. Taz will talk about how Tony Khan is going to get to the bottom of things and make sure so-and-so is forced to do whatever the hell they’re supposed to do.
Now, go ahead and scroll through the Twitter accounts of anyone on the AEW roster. Look closely at all of their tweets. You’re going to see a lot of them retweeting, quote tweeting, and responding to TK’s tweets, but that’s normal at this point. NXT wrestlers do it for the NXT accounts and for Shawn Michaels. WWE wrestlers do it for the WWE accounts and for Triple H. It happens. What differentiates TK here is that, almost randomly, you’ll see people tweeting compliments about him. How great of a guy he is, how good of a leader he is backstage, how amazing of a businessman he is, how he is simultaneously a grower AND a shower, and so on.
I will fully admit that I’m a cynical person, but all of that love for TK reminds me of when you see people on social media praising their spouse or significant other out of nowhere, even though it’s not something they normally do. Not the lovey-dovey people who always talk about how in love they are. I mean the people that post about any and everything except their relationships, and then all of a sudden, you get a four paragraph post about how their person is the best, the most loving, the most understanding, blah blah blah.
When you see that, my first thought isn’t “awww” or anything along those lines, even if it’s from someone I know really does feel that way. No, my first thought is to wonder what this person did wrong that is requiring the “brownie points” post on social media for all to see.
I’m not saying that these AEW performers are lying to kiss the ass of the man who signs their checks, so to speak. I’ve never met Tony Khan. All I know is what he has accomplished in his professional life. People like to joke that his father, Shad, is the real string puller and that Tony is merely lucky to be the man’s son and have daddy hand him “toys” to play with. I don’t think it’s anywhere near that. Tony has had a lot of success on his own, and he has clear cut roles for all of his jobs, even if his father is the big boss. TK isn’t just hiding in the background while his dad does all the work. Maybe TK is really as rad, bitchin’, and tubular as people say he is. That’s fine and all, but it’s also not my point.
I want to get back to something I said earlier… the title of this column, and the reason you’re here, whether you got the joke or not.
Tony Khan and his “announcements” are like something out of a Saturday Night Live sketch at this point. This motherfucker absolutely cannot help himself. Time and time again, he will pop up on Twitter to ask fans to tune in and watch whatever AEW television episode is up next (with a couple happening on pay-per-view) because he has some major announcement to make. Of course, that is going to pique the interest of fans that want to know what is up. Is it a new signing to the talent roster? Will he reveal the main event of the upcoming pay-per-view? Recently, fans have started to wonder if we’re finally going to hear about a decision to put AEW’s catalog on a streaming service somewhere.
Earlier this year, he hyped up an important announcement that was going to be “great” for the company. It ended up being the reveal of the “AEW: All Access” behind-the-scenes reality show. At the time, I remember a few people being excited about the potential for a show like that, but what we got was six episodes that weren’t bringing in any viewers, then it was revealed that the show would be moving from TBS to the Max streaming service… and we haven’t had any new information on the show in the last six months.
Last year, TK mentioned that a free agent was showing up on Dynamite to slam the “Forbidden Door” shut. We ended up with two men making their (completely separate) debuts on Dynamite… “Switchblade” Jay White and Keith Lee. It was never revealed who Tony was referring to, but both ended up being weird choices there. Jay White was a big deal in Japan, winning the IWGP Heavyweight Title in 2019 (and would go on to win the IWGP World Heavyweight Title four months after this appearance), but he wasn’t a free agent. His official AEW debut didn’t even happen for over a year after this. Keith Lee, on the other hand, had a lot of hype coming in, even having some people immediately declare that he was going to be the AEW World Champion sooner than later. What ended up happening was that Lee would be on the receiving end of some terrible and/or inconsistent booking, but he would also see his career nearly come to an end after a battle with COVID led to heart inflammation and months on the shelf.
Three weeks after the announcement in the previous paragraph, TK said that he had a big announcement to make. We ended up finding out that Tony purchased Ring Of Honor, and that had people very excited. RoH was never on the level of WWE, but the level of in-ring talent and the quality of storytelling the company had were incredible for years. The overall quality level, and the product’s accessibility, had faded in recent years, so there was a lot of reason to assume that Tony Khan could solve those issues, simply based on what was happening with AEW’s rise in the industry. Over a year-and-a-half later, and one could argue that, at best, RoH is in the same situation that they were in pre-TK, and at worst, they’re in an even worse position than before. Some poor decision making has left fans scratching their heads, and the RoH roster has also been on the receiving end of being trotted out in front of diminishing live crowds. With each passing month, I’m seeing more and more people calling for Tony to take RoH behind the barn and put a bullet in its head to put it out of its misery already.
That’s just a portion of it.
As you see, not all of Tony Khan’s announcements started off as a bad thing, but a lot of them began to morph and become something bad, all because of… Tony Khan. Surprise!
His most recent announcement takes the cake, though.
On the afternoon of October 31st, he would tweet that he had an “important” announcement for “AEW fans worldwide” that would be revealed on the following night’s episode of Dynamite. As always, this started the speculation and the rumor mills. Would we FINALLY get the reveal that AEW’s catalog was heading to a streaming service? Did AEW sign Goldberg?
TELL US, TONY.
Well… he sure did tell us. His announcement was that tickets for next year’s All In(nit) event go on sale on December 1st.
The announcement was that tickets for a show that was nearly ten full months away were going on sale.
Not on sale the following morning.
Not even on sale that coming weekend.
Tickets weren’t going to be on sale for a full month after Tony made the announcement.
Oh, but you could go online and sign up to be a part of the pre-sale for those tickets.
This ho ass motherfucker could’ve tweeted that information out. He could’ve sent that out as an e-mail or a mobile push notification to people that signed up or have purchased things from the company in the past.
If it was the reveal of the show itself, that would’ve been more palatable. Hell, if he wanted to pull some long-term booking by revealing the show’s main event ten months out, I would’ve understood. If he wanted to roll the dice and say that the target for next year’s show was 100,000 fans in attendance, I would’ve at least appreciated the guts that required.
This ended up being one of the worst, and the dumbest, “big announcements” in the history of wrestling. Tony owns the company. He doesn’t need stupid excuses like this to appear on television. If he wanted to sit at ringside for every AEW show in a throne lined with the fur of murdered baby seals, he could.
He is going to become the new version of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. At some point, he’s going to push so many people away (and the numbers seem to show that he’s already doing that), and then there won’t be anyone left to care when he actually comes through with an announcement that matches the hype.
I’m not going to turn this into a “these are the top ten things AEW needs to do to improve their product” column. This is strictly about how Tony Khan is his own worst enemy, and therefore, is AEW’s worst enemy.
Actually, I kinda lied. This isn’t a direct “things AEW needs to do to improve” column, but it is already an indirect “if Tony Khan goes the fuck away, AEW will automatically improve” column.
Stop with the announcements. They aren’t necessary. They’re clearly not the game-changing bits of business that you would hope, as evidenced by just about every quantifiable number going on right now.
While we’re at it, you’re not built to be an on-screen character of any sort. Everyone knows you’re the boss. It’s not necessary to be reminded of it 50 times per episode. There are episodes of AEW programming where the combined number of times you see his face and hear his name top the combined number of times you would see Vince McMahon’s face and hear Vince’s name during episodes of Raw or Smackdown when Vince was an actual on-screen character feuding with main event players. That doesn’t make any sense. At all.
Before any of you AEW hardcores get your grubby fingers ready to bash on a keyboard to respond to me about how Vince McMahon did so many terrible things in his life, or how Triple H did this and Shawn Michaels did that, let me stop you in your tracks. This isn’t about Vince McMahon, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Paul Heyman, Eric Bischoff, Ted Turner, Verne Gagne, “Cowboy” Bill Watts, Jerry Jarrett, Dixie Carter, Cary Silkin, Paul Boesch, Jim Cornette, Ole Anderson, Lia Maivia, Don Owen, Gabe Sapolsky, Leroy McGuirk, Eddie Graham, or anyone else with any sort of power in the wrestling business through the years. It’s about Tony Khan, and nobody but Tony Khan.
Wrestling tribalist fans are hilariously predictable like that. If someone bashes AEW in any way, you will immediately hear the “WHATABOUT VINCE” nonsense. When someone bashes WWE in any way, you’ll be attacked right away with the “WHATABOUT TONY” bullshit. It doesn’t work that way in almost any other walk of life. If I wrote an article about how disgusting Jeffrey Dahmer was as a human being, I wouldn’t be inundated with comments like “OH, SO YOU’RE JUST GOING TO DEFEND TED BUNDY, HUH?” Go ahead and tweet about how unhealthy you think McDonald’s food is. You won’t have to deal with replies of “WHY AREN’T YOU TALKING ABOUT HOW BURGER KING ISN’T GOOD FOR PEOPLE?!?”
Anybody who has read my work for more than a week or two knows EXACTLY how I feel about Vince McMahon, both in and out of the ring. Fuck Vince McMahon and everything he stands for. Me saying that Tony Khan is an annoying cunt isn’t me praising Vince McMahon. It’s me saying that Tony Khan is an annoying cunt. I haven’t even mentioned his multiple meltdowns on Twitter when things don’t go his way, which is absolutely, positively not something you’re going to see WWE management do.
I want AEW to succeed. If it were up to me, both AEW and WWE would catch fire in the ratings, and we’d see all of their shows see major upticks in viewership and demo numbers, with their on-screen storytelling firing on all cylinders up and down the card. Don’t take this column as me bashing AEW at all, or that I’m pointing at them and laughing with my “I <3 WWE” t-shirt on.
I’m turning things over to you. I want to know how all of you feel about Tony Khan. Do you agree with me? Are your opinions of him more positive? I want to hear from all of you, of course, but specifically those of you who feel that AEW is the best wrestling promotion on the planet today. Do you feel TK is holding “your” company back, or do you think he’s one of the bigger reasons you’re an AEW fan in the first place? As always, feel free to hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Now, let’s get on with my Weekly Power Rankings, followed by closing things out with my playlist of what I’ve been listening to as I crafted this column.
Weekly Power Rankings
Will Ospreay vs Shota Umino: Spoiler Alert… when I post the 2023 edition of the Year-End Hussy Awards either on December 18th or on Christmas Day, I have a hunch that Will Ospreay is going to walk away with the #Craftmaster award as my pick for Wrestler Of The Year. He is having one of the overall best calendar years in the ring that anyone has had in a long, long time.
Ilja Dragunov vs Carmelo Hayes: These guys have faced each other three times in singles competition during a three-month stretch from the Great American Bash on July 30th to night two of Halloween Havoc on October 31st. All three of the matches were incredible, and will probably find their way into the discussions for Match Of The Year when 2023 wraps up.
Seth Rollins vs Drew McIntyre: Drew’s slow descent into heel madness continues with a tough loss at Crown Jewel. He hit Rollins with everything in his arsenal, and it wasn’t enough. This was a really fun back-and-forth match, and unlike certain other World Title matches in WWE, there was a legitimate possibility that we could’ve seen a title change here.
The Creed Brothers vs Humberto Carrillo & Angel Garza: When you see Brutus and Julius Creed in the ring, you know you’re about to see some wild shit that you may not have ever seen in a match before. Those guys are, simply put, built different. They’re designed for the main roster, and now, it’s up to Triple H to make sure they build a connection with main roster crowds. Putting on entertaining matches outside of NXT is one thing, but the character work is still important on the bigger stage.
The Creed Brothers vs Chad Gable & Otis: Alpha Academy were the perfect opponents for the Creeds in their main roster debut. There was so much to love about this match, from the technical wrestling to the car crash mentality that the Creeds deliver in their work. I’m not sure about any sort of push that Gable and Otis are going to receive, but it sure does seem like WWE has big plans for Brutus and Julius Creed, doesn’t it?
Bryan Danielson & Kazuchika Okada: It was the biggest “dream match” that I’ve wanted in many years. We finally got it, and I loved every minute of it, especially after finding out that Danielson wrestled a good chunk of it with a broken arm. Now, we’re getting their singles rematch, but this time, it’s on a different stage. January 4th. Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan. New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 18. It will be Danielson’s fourth match in the Tokyo Dome, but the first one since 2004, when he was on an excursion with New Japan. Count me in.
Orange Cassidy vs Claudio Castagnoli: Oh, hey, it’s just Orange Cassidy defending the AEW International Title in yet another great match. We’ve seen this movie before. In all seriousness, that guy is amazing, and he really should’ve been elevated beyond this stage after his first reign with this title ended. I’ll deal with the disappointment as I continue watching stuff like this, I suppose.
Kairi Sane: She’s back, and now, she appears to be a heel… but it works. Kairi has aligned herself with Iyo Sky, which is a nice throwback to their time as partners in NXT a few years ago, but an even nicer throwback to their time as two-thirds of the Threedom (with Mayu Iwatani) stable in Stardom during their time in Japan. I love it. The WWE women’s division just continues loading up.
Penta El Zero Miedo vs El Hijo Del Vikingo vs Komander: Hey, do you like spots in your pro wrestling matches? This one had a ton of them, one after another after another. My issue is that AEW continues to trot Vikingo, one of the most exciting Lucha performers in recent memory, out there with no storylines and nothing to do. Just random matches against people. It is an AEW speciality, and yet another reason I feel Tony Khan has to go.
Rhea Ripley vs Shayna Baszler vs Nia Jax vs Zoey Stark vs Raquel Rodriguez: Rhea, Shayna, Zoey, and Raquel all worked really hard to make this exciting. They worked a good pace, delivering a lot of action, and making it look like a title change was really possible. Oh, and Nia Jax was there, too, if you like that kind of thing.
Bianca Belair vs Bayley: It feels like Bayley hasn’t been “special” in a long, long time. Some would even say you have to go back to her team with Sasha Banks to find the last time she seemed to be on the top tier. She needs something different, in my opinion. Not necessarily a face turn, but that could be beneficial for her, as the idea of cutting promos in 2023 and using “stupid idiot” as your harshest lines on your opponent doesn’t exactly scream being successful. She’s clearly still capable of having good matches, but perhaps with Iyo Sky and Kairi Sane aligning with each other, some changes could be coming for Bayley.
WWE’s Superfan Vladimir Documentary: After a bunch of delays and what seemed like a permanent shelving, WWE finally released this documentary, first on the WWE Network for non-American viewers, and then on Peacock for everyone else. It’s relatively short for a WWE documentary (37 minutes), but it is a wonderful look at Vladimir Abouzeide, who has been in love with pro wrestling for decades now. Multiple generations of fans have seen Vladimir at wrestling shows all over the country, and the documentary shows just how much the sport means to him. It’s a lot more emotionally hard-hitting than I was expecting it to be, so prepare yourself if you haven’t checked it out. I was lucky enough to meet Vladimir once, back in 2015 at the NXT house show during WrestleMania 31 weekend (the famous show where Hideo Itami hit the Go 2 Sleep in an NXT match for the first time after teasing it forever). He happened to be in the men’s room during intermission at the same time I was there, and as soon as I walked in, I heard a “Vlad-i-mir” chant from a bunch of guys also in there. Vladimir seemed genuinely humbled and appreciative of the attention he was being shown. I got to shake his hand and talk to him for a few seconds after we left the men’s room… yes, we both washed our hands before leaving… and he seemed like such a nice and genuine human being. That comes across in the documentary. It’s an important viewing.
Seth Rollins vs JD McDonagh: McDonagh is in such a funny spot with The Judgment Day. More often than not, he’s a punchline for the group, and is used in a “job” role. At the same time, though, he’s still working with The Judgment Day, who are all over WWE programming every week. He gets to have good matches like this, but will it end up going anywhere? We’ll see. I doubt it, but we’ll see.
Butch & Ridge Holland vs Pretty Deadly: With Elton Prince back in the ring after missing a few months with a shoulder injury, it’s time for Pretty Deadly to move up the ladder. They need to be involved in the Tag Team Title picture sooner than later. They’re ready.
FTR, Rush & Preston Vance vs Ricky Starks, Big Bill, Bishop Kaun & Toa Liona: Your usual “random” collection of people in a tag match on Collision. I’m intrigued by the new alignment of LFI, that’s for sure. This was a really good start for them.
Ricochet vs Dominik Mysterio: Dom continues to be a heat magnet, but his improvement in the ring has really kept me on notice. He finds his way on this list on a near weekly basis, and if he keeps working with some of the best names in the company, that is likely to continue. Book him to beat Roman Reigns, you cowards!
Logan Paul: While the match was a bit of a disappointment, he still became the United States Champion in only his eighth match. He has already mentioned that he’ll have to be around more often as the champion, which is good news for people who were worried that this was going to be yet another title that wouldn’t be seen very often on WWE television.
Samoa Joe: As of the day this column goes live, Joe will have held the RoH Television Title for 572 days, breaking Jay Lethal’s 567-day reign as the longest in the history of the championship. He has 17 successful defenses in the almost 19 months that he’s held the title, but three of those defenses came in the last month, skewing the numbers a bit. He has had a few stretches with zero defenses in two or three months, and one-third of his defenses of the TELEVISION TITLE have come on RoH’s Honor Club streaming service, and not on television, but he continues to be doing good work, both in the ring and during his promos. Even at the age of 43, with almost a quarter-century in the ring, he’s still a major threat to anyone he steps in the ring with.
Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa vs Ludwig Kaiser & Giovanni Vinci: To the hardcore fans, a DIY reunion is really cool to witness. However, the average member of the WWE Universe still has no reason to care about Gargano or Ciampa, who were basically brought to the main roster with no introductions or anything along those lines, simply because they’re favorites of Triple H. They just aren’t getting the crowd reactions that they could/should be getting. That is going to limit their main roster ceiling unless the problem is solved.
Mogul Embassy: Defeating “Hangman” Adam Page and The Young Bucks on AEW television should feel like a huge deal. For whatever reason, this didn’t. Yes, the RoH Six-Man Tag Team Titles changed hands, but it was a seven-minute match that seemed to be nothing more than a vehicle to further the feud between Page and Swerve Strickland. Congratulations to the new champions, though, I guess.
This Week’s Playlist: “Now And Then” by The Beatles… “AT THE PARTY” by Kid Cudi, Pharrell Williams & Travis Scott… “Bounce, Rock, Skate” by Paul Wall, Bun B & Chalie Boy… “MORE DOLLARS, MORE SENSE 1994” by DJ Quik, Jason Martin, Problem & Childish Gambino… “Eyes Closed” by Majid Jordan… “Violet” by Majid Jordan… “Die About It” by Bad Wolves… “Death or Glory” by Atreyu & Sierra Deaton… “Higher Ground” by Red Hot Chili Peppers… “The Power Of Equality” by Red Hot Chili Peppers… “Funky Monks” by Red Hot Chili Peppers… “Give It Away” by Red Hot Chili Peppers… “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers… “Come Out and Play” by The Offspring… “Self Esteem” by The Offspring… “The Meaning Of Life” by The Offspring… “Gone Away” by The Offspring… “Want You Bad” by The Offspring… “Mope” by Bloodhound Gang… “The Ballad Of Chasey Lain” by Bloodhound Gang… “A Lap Dance Is So Much Better When The Stripper Is Crying” by Bloodhound Gang… “Balls Out” by Bloodhound Gang… “Ralph Wiggum” by Bloodhound Gang… “Something Diabolical” by Bloodhound Gang… “Pennsylvania” by Bloodhound Gang