To Be Elite

I don’t need to wax historical about the advent and rise of AEW. It’s seen all of our wildest dreams come true – a Kenny Omega title reign, a crossover with NJPW, the debuts of Adam Cole, CM Punk, Bryan Danielson and Saraya. It’s seen a lot of ups, and a lot of downs have been bubbling up beneath the surface, only popping here and there. 

But with the apparent end of the honeymoon phase, things are getting ugly.

I don’t think AEW is cooked or done for. Far from it. It’s still doing great, in spite of itself. It’s been sustaining on that in which only its spirit can thrive; from the people that helped build it.

Jon Moxley, who walked in, having been burned so badly from his experience on the WWE road healed his blisters while being a driving force for that which was dying. He took that which was screaming and crying to be let out so the world could see, and carried it as only a champ could. He’s been the beating heart of the company during times the foundations were not present. 

Chris Jericho, who has seen it all and been almost everywhere, took a chance on something new, on a billionaire’s dream, and thus has created so many unique moments. From the moment he stood across from Kenny Omega on New Japan’s cerulean mat he helped change the course of wrestling history, and through AEW’s history, though bumpy his ride might have been, he’s been the launching pad for which some met their stardom. That same Lionheart that fought in NJPW, WCW, WAR, ECW and WWE took the right gamble yet again.

And Bryan Danielson. He joined later on, but his relationship with the force that is AEW started long before the promotion’s inception. A wrestling genius, Danielson told epic after epic in all of the places he went before finessing the WWE system and becoming a star under the name of Daniel Bryan. Now that he’s been in AEW? Very few misses. 

These three men have stepped up to be the locker room leaders the company needed as numerous reports of backstage drama leaked and continued to play out. Some of our favorites have been acting out of pocket – thankfully many of our other favorites have stepped up to the plate to be model workers. 

The Acclaimed, Swerve In Our Glory, Ricky Starks, Powerhouse Hobbs, Wardlow, Samoa Joe, Wheeler Yuta and Claudio Castagnoli have all been remarkable talent on the men’s side, while Jamie Hayter’s story continues to ramp up, as Willow Nightingale, Athena, and Toni Storm continue to impress. Jade Cargill still oozes that championship aura as well. A stacked, yet bloated, that is often being overshadowed by backstage shenanigans.

While AEW isn’t in any immediate danger, it is best to err on the side of caution.

Credit: AEW

Current Women’s Champion Thunder Rosa is injured and has her own drama with Britt Baker. FTR is off working weird shoots. Ace Steel recently has a hunger for flesh. And when Sammy Guevara isn’t pissing off Eddie Kingston, he’s irritating Andrade El Idolo. I don’t work at AEW, I don’t know what the hell is going on, but something clearly needs to be done.

Anyone who’s worked a job has most likely ran into those co-workers, a group seemingly making the entire place miserable. You just want to give them a knuckle sandwich, but unfortunately lunch hour is over. The difference between your work environment and AEW’s work environment, however, is people like us who go into the office would get fired or suspended and discipline would keep people in line to not harass, bully, or fight. Nobody should have to barge into someone’s room and demand an emotional compromise and nobody should have to hide in a room for their safety.

Sometimes conflict in the workplace is unavoidable. People are going to throw hands regardless of what consequence it may bring and many times it will be unavoidable; things get ugly and it is inevitable. But it is up to management to ensure it doesn’t become commonplace, ‘less the environment becomes bedlam for what should be a place of getting the job done.

The most recent instance of physical drama regarding Sammy Guevara and Andrade El Idolo’s backstage fight further cements my point. Sammy had been outspoken in his distaste for Andrade’s wrestling style, but Sammy has been a source of a lot of strife – just ask Eddie Kingston! As a result of their backstage altercation, Andrade was left off the October 5 and October 7 episodes of Dynamite and Rampage respectively. Meanwhile, Sammy Guevara was not only left on the card but won in the main event. I don’t know what happened, as I was not back there. And yet, we are shown a peek behind the curtain when we should not be. We should not be given a glimpse under the lid of backstage machinations, where surprises and drama live. We should not know these things.

In a world where we are constantly having to hear misinformation and missing out on the full story, situations are blown out of control as the masses get their hands on it and the ones with eyes of opportunity will run with it and sensationalize people’s lives and personal troubles. That’s why the world is in such a sorry state, because nobody ever knows the full truth when everyone is telling different stories of the same exact event. Who’s to believe? Who’s to trust? That’s what we’re getting with Andrade and Sammy. That’s what we’re getting with CM Punk and The Elite, which brings me to my next point.

CM Punk and The Elite, perhaps the most egregious (and still talked about) example of AEW’s drama, has caused huge upheaval. The place has been scrambling to fix what was set in motion. The wrestlers that fans awaiting for so eagerly were taken off of television and stripped of titles that they had just won. We don’t know if CM Punk is coming back, some people don’t care. We’re not sure what the status is of The Elite, and that’s heart-breaking.

Credit: Fightful Wrestling

CM Punk, like Danielson, like Samoa Joe, had set the scene for that which would shape WWE’s NXT and Tony Khan’s AEW from a time long passed, strode into the company amid much fanfare. He was beloved and sorely missed. He held that connection that kept many fans hoping for a return to the ring. I’ll never forget the pure warmth and joy when he entered the United Center in Chicago in 2021. And yet, despite the warnings of many shoot interviews about Punk, we believed. Nobody can be blamed for believing in the good of CM Punk. But sometimes old dogs struggle to learn new tricks. Am I disappointed? Yes. Do I want to see him face consequences? Absolutely. Do I want him to leave this industry? No. But man, Punk… If he could just see what he’s been doing, if he could see the legacy he might leave behind instead of the legacy he SHOULD be leaving behind, would he want this? 

While I personally think The Elite should’ve waited to confront Punk over the issue they were none too pleased about, I think it’s unfair what has happened to them. They personally helped build this company from before there was even a day one. Kenny Omega just came back from a bajillion injuries. Kenny Omega, Nick Jackson and Matt Jackson missed the anniversary episode of the company bearing their group’s name. It’s not supposed to be this way. No workplace has to be this volatile. 

What are we doing here? Tony? Hello?

And who could forget the Top 10 Billboard Classic, “There’s a Distinct Lack of Communication From My Boss” (surprisingly not by Fall Out Boy), where many of the talent either don’t feel like they’re being listened to or are just flat-out not being told anything? Marko Stunt, Jack Evans and Jonathan Gresham, among others come to mind. Which, to Tony’s credit, has been addressed with expanding roles of many on the team and hiring others to create more lines of communication, but look at how much has bubbled to the surface leading to backstage incidents this year!

For many fans “in the know”, this type of behavior can be distracting, but it’s only a matter of time before the fans that aren’t as in the loop, that aren’t terminally online start to connect the dots. That much can be garnered by the fans on the Dynamite Anniversary episode October 5 as fans booed and abhorred Sammy Guevara amidst that which we should not have heard about.

Human resources and public relations should be doing heaps of work right now and the work is likely to keep piling up if management doesn’t tighten the mast around this ship and steer it in one clear direction.

I’d have thought that the Big Swole incident would have given more thought into how Tony Khan might run this business, and while in some areas I feel he has improved, he still has a lot to work through. The women’s division, while on its bumpy road, is improving but needs more consistency and effort. To have someone act like they’re running HIS business while berating friends and the EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENTS, and simply nods meekly, only to bash WWE for contract tampering. You’re worried about someone pissing in your lawn that you haven’t noticed your house is on fire behind you.

This is a stressful situation. But if you have the many other people who helped build this, people willing to fight for your dream, you keep that dream worth living for. You have fans who have fallen in love with the wrestlers and stories from AEW and ROH. You’ve changed the status quo and stood against a monopoly.

Don’t let that dream die out.

I say this as someone who enjoyed AEW from the get-go, who fell in love with what I saw outside of WWE. I say this as someone who missed when there was competition and viable alternatives to challenge WWE. I say this as someone who still loves WWE, currently enjoying their product following the regime change. I say this as someone who loves watching the AEW product because I love watching wrestling. Fuck brand loyalty, I want to see everyone at their best.

Keep this dream strong and make it an environment everyone wants to be in, not to leave or worry if they even fucking matter. That’s what they fight for.

Are you going to lift up your arms and fight? I hope so. I certainly hope so.