Tony Khan must cease and take a breath, for AEW’s sake

To be frank, AEW is the product of impulse. Tony Khan noticed the momentum that the unique All In had generated, the legions of followers loyal to the Younger Bucks, Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, and a number of different wrestlers in NJPW or on the indies on these shores, and Khan dove headfirst into forming a brand new, main wrestling firm. The entire perspective was, “Why not, let’s do it.”

After All In, AEW was based with the identical ethos. For its complete four-year historical past, the promotion threw collectively matches and tales, totally on free TV, that nobody else would do. Khan’s AEW simply saved giving followers what they wished, what they thought wrestling may and needs to be, and if that meant guys bleeding in all places or Stadium Stampede matches or one-hour time restrict attracts on cable, so be it. AEW would stay within the impulse zone. And it was nice.

The issue is that in the event you preserve operating headfirst by means of partitions with out actually wanting the place you’re going, you would possibly finally find yourself in a blind alley. And it definitely feels that’s the place AEW is in the meanwhile.

Whereas Khan has been capable of produce three banger PPVs within the span of about 5 weeks — All In, All Out, and WrestleDream — his weekly product on TBS and TNT has suffered. The matches haven’t been fairly to the standard we affiliate with Dynamite, the tales are all tangled, and every part appears a bit jumbled, as if it was simply thrown onto a sheet of paper with none oversight. Which might be what occurred, contemplating how stretched Khan have to be from all the roles he has given himself.

Take the Kenny Omega-MJF match from Collision on Saturday, one in every of AEW’s finest in current reminiscence. The premise was that MJF was about to interrupt Omega’s document and grow to be the corporate’s longest-reigning champion. Honest sufficient, works for everybody, straightforward to grasp. And having that degree of match, arguably the corporate’s two largest stars, on TNT as an alternative of a PPV wasn’t all that out of left area. Placing nice matches on TV has been the corporate’s calling card. Three days of construct? Somewhat weirder, for certain, however not exceptional from AEW.

What made it one thing of a gaffe was that it was shoved into the center of one other MJF story, the construct to his match with Jay White at Full Gear in two weeks. That construct has been happening for 2 months. Why did it must be that lengthy? It will have been easy and clear to run a two- or three-week MJF-Omega program based mostly round MJF closing in on Omega’s document, then get to White-MJF afterward for the PPV construct. That might have been cleaner and simpler, and it’s what AEW used to do.

That’s hardly the one occasion of eyebrow-raising reserving. The Full Gear card is shaping up with a good quantity of rematches and feuds that haven’t ended just because they haven’t ended. That was a staple of WWE reserving that drove followers to AEW within the first place. Nothing ever stopped or moved on. Hangman Web page-Swerve Strickland is getting a rematch, regardless that their first match at WrestleDream ought to have launched Strickland to the highest tier and into a brand new program. Jon Moxley and Orange Cassidy can be operating it again from All Out as effectively. Each of those can be nice matches to make certain, however really feel thrown collectively merely due to that, and that Khan didn’t actually put a lot thought into anything. Christian Cage has been coping with Darby Allin for 3 months.

Khan’s additionally gotten right into a boy-who-cried-wolf scenario along with his “enormous bulletins” that always turn into marginally essential at finest. Is it actually “enormous” that they’re operating Wembley once more subsequent yr and tickets are on sale in a month? Shoving Ric Aptitude in entrance of an viewers that doesn’t actually need something to do with him? These aren’t well-considered choices.

What quite a lot of followers are beginning to really feel is that Khan is just stretched too skinny, and he’s stretched too skinny as a result of he saved performing on impulse. It’s straightforward to grasp how shopping for Ring Of Honor appeared like probably the most thrilling factor on this planet to a lifelong fan, as Khan was. However was there any plan past that? ROH is now a weekly streaming present that few watch, principally as a result of probably the most fascinating wrestlers on it spend most of their time on AEW tv. And after they’re carrying ROH titles on AEW TV exhibits, followers definitely get somewhat confused as to what they’re watching. There are simply too many titles on each present. Even final evening, each units of trios titles had been on Dynamite, and it was bewildering. And people are trios titles, which at all times take a backseat to others. That buy of ROH nonetheless seems like one thing Khan did as a result of it felt good.

Beginning a second TV present additionally felt like a damn-the-torpedoes headlong dive. Positive, the roster was large enough, and Collision has a distinct really feel than Dynamite, and the WBD overlords requested for it, however did Khan actually have time to ebook 5 hours of AEW TV, one other hour of ROH, and run Fulham FC, and the Jaguars all on the similar time? Centering the present round CM Punk with out a Plan B, as a result of everybody knew the possibility of a blow-up was definitely excessive, was one other I’ll-never-get-my-comeuppance piece of technique that has left him somewhat rudderless.

Bringing in Adam Copeland definitely grabbed some headlines and possibly sounded thrilling when the likelihood first got here up. However now what? He’s been round six weeks and wrestled as soon as, and any feud with Christian Cage already feels prefer it’s been in impartial for a pair weeks. Was there an actual plan behind it or only a figure-it-out-later shrug whereas consuming the cake?

All of us have bosses, however the growth of TV packages, and now the growth of AEW’s PPV slate all really feel like an try to eat up area for the sake of consuming up area. Is the corporate actually prepared for all this?

AEW has suffered from low scores and a few rocky ticket gross sales, and one can’t assist however surprise if the novelty issue sporting off has an element to play in that. Due to the pandemic, not that anybody needs to undergo that once more, AEW obtained an prolonged quantity of mileage out of going to locations, and arenas for the primary time, or for the primary time in an extended whereas. Simpler to promote tickets in that setting. However AEW has been in all places now, and now it’s bringing extra programming and occasions to these locations which have seen it earlier than. But it’s nonetheless making an attempt to fill the identical quantity.

An absence of ambiance at all times permeates by means of the TV, and final evening’s Dynamite definitely suffered for it (in addition to some wonky sound manufacturing, which shouldn’t occur to a four-year-old firm). AEW would profit from downshifting to smaller, fully stuffed venues that bounce as an alternative of ones the place the TV viewers can hear the vacuum, and attempt to recapture a few of that preliminary pleasure.

AEW nonetheless is exclusive and able to greatness. The Full Gear card, for all its warts, will in all probability proceed the corporate’s development of serving up basic PPVs. But when it will possibly’t get the gaps between these again to the place they had been, the excitement for these PPVs will begin to wane, after which it could possibly be actual bother. Khan must cease diving in, cease gobbling up no matter’s on provide in entrance of him, and get again to what obtained him these alternatives within the first place.

Comply with Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky

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