I’m going to go ahead and assume that a lot of you are sports fans. “Real” sports, that is. I want you to think about team sports for a moment.
In every team sports league, there are players and/or coaches who can be viewed as “heels” of some sort. Maybe they’re cocky and love to talk the talk before and after they walk the walk. Perhaps they’re just too good, winning all the time, and you get sick of seeing it from a distance. Maybe they’re not-so-decent off the field/court (legal issues, etc.) and that carries over into their jobs. It might be because they’re viewed as a “dirty” player. Whatever it is, you probably have a lengthy list of athletes that you hate in a given sport.
Admittedly, it is to a far lesser extent, but that’s also something you see in pro wrestling. You’ll have fans of one “team” who look across the battlefield and see members of a rival “team” that they dislike for some of the aforementioned reasons I mentioned earlier.
It has happened through multiple eras in wrestling history. In the current day, you’ll see some WWE fans take pleasure in talking trash about certain AEW wrestlers, and the same goes for some AEW fans speaking about certain WWE wrestlers. We’ve seen it between fans of WWE and TNA/Impact. It damn sure happened between fans of the WWF, WCW, and ECW during the 90’s. If you go back even further, you have instances of it happening between fans of the WWF and the NWA.
Right now, I want to talk about this current phenomenon, but how it isn’t just happening with wrestlers on a company’s roster. No, it’s also happening even further up the chain. As a matter of fact, it’s happening right there, smack dab at the top of the chain.
Two very, VERY polarizing figures.
Vince certainly gets his fair share of venom from fans all over the world, but there are a couple major things that differentiate him from Tony Khan when it comes to what we’re talking about today. One, he even gets hate from a lot of WWE supporters for a lot of the decisions he makes. Two, if you catch some diehard AEW fans in a moment of honesty, they will give Vince plenty of praise for what he has done through the years to help make all of us fans of this wacky world of pro wrestling, either directly or indirectly.
Tony Khan has really done a lot to place himself in the crosshairs since AEW first got started. How much of his hate is warranted?
First and foremost, the man absolutely loves to make major announcements. It seems like he makes an announcement every week that he has another announcement coming up soon. Some of them are generally accepted as “wins” by fans, while others didn’t quite seem to live up to the hype. Well, that’s the opinion of some fans, anyway. If you ask TK, he’s hitting a home run every single time he steps to the plate, and every major announcement is bigger and better than the one before it.
Khan’s detractors love to point out how much they hate the announcements. It’s just something that we’re not used to seeing. Khan is much more fan-friendly than Vince McMahon has ever been. Even when Vince was an on-screen face character, it’s not like he was hopping on social media and hyping up a brand new signing that would be making their debut on next week’s episode of Monday Night Raw. Sure, a lot of that has to do with the fact that Vince was 137 years old when social media first became a thing, but my point remains. Even going back to Paul Heyman and ECW, you still don’t see the things that Tony Khan is doing. The ECW fan base looked at Heyman as a God, and he loved to give the “rah-rah” speeches to everyone, but all these announcements and hints at major doings on upcoming shows? Nope.
Do I enjoy the constant promotion on social media by Tony Khan? No, I do not. It’s far too “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! OVER HERE! LOOK AT ME!” for my liking, but hey, I understand it. AEW is still, for all intents and purposes, a brand new company. The company’s television viewership numbers are a bit of a mixed bag. Thus far in 2022, Dynamite’s numbers are averaging about 100,000 more than the show’s 2021 average, but at the same time, Rampage’s numbers are down about 100,000 from the show’s 2021 average. It makes sense that TK would try to use whatever tools he has at his disposal to try and get more and more eyeballs on the AEW product. I just happen to be of the thinking that good writing and good action would be a far better selling point than the CEO of the company tweeting about it.
The more I keep thinking about it, the more it disappoints me that Tony Khan can’t be a viable on-screen character. He is so loved by the AEW fans that he could easily turn that into being a big-time face on-camera. Unfortunately for him, he sounds like a mix of a child going through puberty and Bernie Sanders after a cocaine bender. That pretty much puts the kibosh (or at least it really should) on him ever being any sort of on-screen “Mr. Khan” type of character, face or heel. It’s a shame, really. As I said, he would easily be a major face character because of how much the AEW fans love him. However, because this is pro wrestling we’re talking about, that face character could, without a doubt, become one of the biggest heels in AEW history, too. He’s very easy to hate, as anyone who is on social media these days can agree with.
I keep going back to the “I don’t like it, but I understand” point I made earlier. AEW still needs all the promotion it can get, and Tony Khan has decided to take it upon himself to shoulder the load there. It’s crazy to compare him to Vince McMahon in that aspect. Vince McMahon does not seem to give one single iota of a fuck about promoting WWE.
Yes, I already know what you’re thinking. Stay with me, though.
Vince is in his own bubble, and has been for a long, long time. He is stuck in the world of character creation, matchmaking, and putting the episodes of Raw and Smackdown together. Yes, for better or worse. Now, does that mean WWE gets no promotion because the big boss isn’t big on that? Obviously not. WWE continues to be the biggest wrestling promotion on the planet, making more money now than they’ve ever made before. However, you know Vince has nothing to do with that. He has a “team” for that. That particular team is led by none other than “Daddy’s Little Girl” these days. That’s right… Stephanie McMahon. As WWE’s Chief Brand Officer, Steph is responsible for everything involving the company’s image, marketing, and advertising. Mainstream celebrities like Bad Bunny, Logan Paul, and Johnny Knoxville doing work in WWE? Steph’s hands are all over that. Whatever new toys that WWE has in stores such as WalMart, Target, and on Amazon? Steph again. Campaigns and work with charities like Make-A-Wish, The Special Olympics, UNICEF, March Of Dimes, Girl Up, Susan G. Komen, and numerous others? Once again… Steph. However, even when it comes to Steph, a lot of her work is behind-the-scenes. A quick browse of Steph’s Twitter account doesn’t exactly turn up a lot of “OMG TUNE IN TO RAW THIS WEEK FOR A HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT” tweets. She really is like her dad in so many ways.
Vince’s insular thinking is what helps to make Tony Khan stand out even further. In comparison to Vince, TK might as well be going door-to-door and stapling fliers to our foreheads and screaming at us to watch Dynamite and Rampage while he does it.
I’m not sure that I’ll ever be a huge fan of what Tony Khan does on social media. In the grand scheme of things, that certainly doesn’t matter. He’s not going to stop. It seems to be wired in his DNA. We could fast forward to a point in time where AEW is the top company in the wrestling business, with both of their television shows bringing in four or five million viewers every week, and I’m thinking TK would still be on Twitter promoting another huge announcement on Dynamite, which would end up being the debut of Joe Anoa’i, two weeks after Bronson Steiner debuted on Rampage, and three weeks after Bianca Blair debuted at Double Or Nothing, giving AEW a new total of 1,259 contracted wrestlers on their roster.
Tony Khan is as polarizing as it gets. You will hardly ever find a wrestling fan that doesn’t really have an opinion on him. You’re either going to get fans who LOVE him and his antics, or who HATE him and his antics. Now, I want to know what you folks out there in ReaderLand think. Tell me how you feel about Tony Khan. Do you like his announcements and hyping up AEW shows? How do you feel about his booking choices? What do you think of his fashion sense? I just want to know your opinions about Tony Khan. As always, hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
- Minoru Suzuki vs Samoa Joe: Every bit of the physical contest that it needed to be. It’s still weird as hell to see Suzuki wrestling on North American television, but there he is, still destroying people’s chests at nearly 54 years old. Joe was more than just a sparring partner here, as he was able to deliver a more physical style than we’ve seen from him in a while. Really, really good stuff here. Let’s just forget everything that happened after the match, though.
- “Hangman” Adam Page vs Adam Cole: I’m not one of those people who is saying Adam Cole is “buried” or is being “wasted” in AEW. What I will say, though, is Cole becomes the latest in a long line of new AEW signees that follow a pattern of winning all of their “lesser” matches and then losing all of their “bigger” matches. As of right now, Cole has wrestled 16 singles matches since joining AEW. Only two of those matches have taken place on YouTube, so the company clearly seems to be treating him as some sort of a big deal. In those 16 matches, he has three losses… two AEW World Title shots and a loss that, technically, isn’t a loss at all in a Lights Out Match against Orange Cassidy. Again, those three matches are the biggest ones he’s participated in. It just seems weird to me, and it’s something that AEW needs to be careful about moving forward, not just with Cole, but with a lot of people.
- Santos Escobar vs Carmelo Hayes: Barring a call up to Raw or Smackdown, Carmelo Hayes is a future NXT Champion. I don’t think that’s exactly a stretch. Santos Escobar is someone who is more than talented enough to be an NXT Champion, as well. The problem with him is that he’s going to be 38 years old in a week or so. He’s far less the “future” than the 27-year-old Hayes is. Escobar is also taking a lot of losses these days. Since he lost the NXT Cruiserweight Title on April 13th of last year, he has had five different matches where a title was on the line, and he has lost all five of them. I’m not sold on him holding any sort of title in NXT again, but maybe… just maybe… he won’t be in NXT much longer. He’s more than ready for a main roster run, in my opinion.
- Finn Balor vs Theory: One of the weirdest things I’ve seen in a long time was the post-match here, with a bunch of heels on the Raw roster coming out to congratulate Theory on his United States Title win and celebrate with him. We’ve seen that a million times with faces after their title wins through the years, but with heels? That was different. I liked it. Theory is going to be a WWE/Universal Champion at some point. It’s just a matter of when. As I’ve said a million times before, Vince McMahon was going to fall in love with him, and it appears he has.
- Scorpio Sky vs Sammy Guevara: Sammy won the TNT Title for the first time a little less than seven months ago. In the time since, the title went to Cody Rhodes, then to Sammy again on an interim basis, then to Sammy on an undisputed basis, then to Scorpio Sky, and now, back to Sammy again. That’s too many overall reigns. The title history isn’t even at two years yet, and we’ve seen ten reigns, and it’s 11 if you count Sammy’s interim reign. We’re not quite at “hot potato” status like the WCW World Title in 2000, when the belt switched a whopping 25 times, including being vacated six entire times. I just want to see some more stability here. With Sammy seemingly in the middle of a heel turn, maybe we could be seeing that. Maybe. Possibly. I’ve jinxed the title history before, and now that I’ve mentioned this again, look for someone like Wheeler Yuta or Eddie Kingston to become the new champion before Double Or Nothing next month.
- Jurassic Express vs Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly: This isn’t a knock on Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus, but even though they’re the AEW Tag Team Champions, you could make the argument that they’re the fifth or sixth “biggest” tag team on the roster, and could be even lower than that if you put together teams of singles wrestlers. God forbid AEW brings in more teams like The Briscoes. That’s insane. I know I wasn’t alone in thinking that they were going to drop the titles here, partly because of what I mentioned, but also partly due to the idea of Fish and O’Reilly winning the Tag Team Titles in the same week that Adam Cole won the World Title. Their reign continues on, though.
- Kushida: I’m not one of those “everyone who escapes the sinking ship that is WWE greatly benefits from the move” guys. That is clearly not the case when you look at everyone who isn’t with WWE anymore. However, with Kushida, I think he definitely benefits from leaving the company after having his contract expire. He’s one of the greatest Junior Heavyweight wrestlers of this generation, and he looked like he could’ve been something special in NXT… and then they changed “management” and shifted to a different on-screen product. Putting him in the idiotic Jacket Time team with Ikemen Jiro was a horrible idea and the person who came up with it should be slapped. From initial reports, the Jacket Time pairing is what led Kushida to want out, and now, it seems like a return to New Japan is likely. He was being wasted in NXT 2.0, so he’s probably going to come out as a winner wherever he lands in comparison.
- Lacey Evans’ Video Package: Another week, another good video package that covered her life and history. We’re not even looking at Lacey Evans here. Instead, we’re seeing video packages for the woman behind the character, and that was sorely needed.
- Keith Lee & Swerve Strickland vs Ricky Starks & Powerhouse Hobbs: I mentioned this briefly when talking about Jurassic Express and their “spot” in AEW, but these are two teams who I could easily see competing for the Tag Team Titles much sooner than later. I’m not saying they WILL, or even that they SHOULD. However, it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world for either pairing, especially with the singles roster becoming so crowded, and more so by the week.
- Rhea Ripley: It was a heel turn that we all saw coming from ten miles away, but it was sorely needed for her. With their history together, there is money to be made in a proper feud between Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley over the Raw Women’s Title.
- Cody Rhodes vs Kevin Owens: Cody certainly seems to have acclimated to the WWE scene once again. The WWE Universe seems to be fully behind him, too. Will a WWE Title reign… or a Universal Title reign, or both, or a newly created reign, or whatever the fuck Vince McMahon decides he wants to do with the main event scene in WWE… be coming soon? It might.
- Pretty Deadly vs Dexter Lumis & Duke Hudson: I didn’t know what to expect with this clusterfuck of characters and styles, but I was pleasantly surprised. I’m still not wanting to see Lumis and Hudson as a team on a full-time basis, but they performed well together here, and that’s what matters.
- Rhea Ripley vs Naomi: There’s just something about new champions losing every sort of non-title match they participate in that seems to make Vince McMahon’s dick twitch. Even though she took the loss, this was another fun match from Naomi, who is on the hottest in-ring streak of her career right now. On the other hand, Rhea needed the win, especially with the heel turn that was to come, to show that she can be a major player once again.
- CM Punk vs Penta Oscuro: This is just a wild and crazy idea, but maybe… just maybe… CM Punk should stick to the mat-based wrestling stuff from now on. He might still be rusty after being away for so long, but he has had a couple ugly moments in AEW when he decides to go to the top rope or take extra risks. Other than that weird spot, this was a good match, so at least there’s that.
- Roxanne Perez: While it wasn’t much of a match, she still won her televised NXT debut. At only 20 years old, there is a world of potential with her. It will be interesting to see if she can reach it.
This Week’s Playlist: “Moth To A Flame” by Swedish House Mafia & The Weeknd… “Frankenstein” by Swedish House Mafia & A$AP Rocky… “Lifetime” by Swedish House Mafia, Ty Dolla $ign & 070 Shake… “AfterLife” by Five Finger Death Punch… “Running Out Of Love” by Duke Deuce & Dante Smith… “Face Off” by DJ Kay Slay, Ghostface Killah & Scarface… “Angels Around Me” by DJ Kay Slay & G-Unit… “I’m Gone” by DJ Kay Slay, Eminem & Obie Trice… “Alphabetical Slaughter” by DJ Kay Slay & Papoose… “Drama” by DJ Kay Slay, Lil Jon, Bun B, David Banner & Baby D… “Who Gives A Fuck Where You From” by DJ Kay Slay, Three 6 Mafia, Lil Wyte & Frayser Boy… “Census Bureau” by DJ Kay Slay & D12… “Untouchables” by DJ Kay Slay, Prodigy, Raekwon & AZ… “Colors” by Ice-T… “X.O. Wit Me” by Above The Law & Jayo Felony… “Sumner Days” by Above The Law… “Ain’t No Future In Yo’ Frontin” by MC Breed… “Pinch Me” by Barenaked Ladies… “Hold The Line” by TOTO… “I Could Fall In Love” by Selena… “Dreaming Of You” by Selena… “Cats In The Cradle” by Ugly Kid Joe… “HUMBLE.” by Kendrick Lamar… “LOVE.” by Kendrick Lamar & Zacari… “Starboy” by The Weeknd & Daft Punk