Originally published at POLLOCK'S NEWS UPDATE: "Can They Co-Exist?" - Tony Khan's major test
POST IT NOTES
**We have a special “Car Cast” edition of Rewind-A-Dynamite after Wai Ting and I attended the show in Buffalo on Wednesday night. The full show is available on your podcast app by searching for POST Wrestling and the video version is on the POST YouTube channel.
**The latest edition of Rewind-A-Wai is out with Wai and I covering the February 3, 1997, edition of WWF Raw from the SkyDome in Toronto. This was the first two-hour edition of the show with a taped show that included appearances by Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels on the show, a No Holds Barred promo, one of the strangest promos from Ahmed Johnson, Vince McMahon & Jim Ross going overboard with their not-so-subtle digs at WCW, and about 60 seconds of footage from the Royal Rumble to justify billing this show as “Royal Rumble Raw”. Plus, we go through the news from this week in 1997 including how close Raw came to Nitro in the ratings with the two-hour format, criticism of Hulk Hogan by a prominent WWF star, an early note on the documentary that would become “Beyond the Mat”, the state of Rey Mysterio’s knee at the age of 22, and lots more. This show is available for all members of the POST Wrestling Café.
**MCU L8R returns tonight on the POST Wrestling Café with Rich Fann and WH Park reviewing the latest episode and comes after WH’s trip to Chicago to attend last week’s shows including All Out.
**This Sunday, Eric Marcotte and I will be live at Noon Eastern for the UFC 279 POST Show on the POST YouTube channel to cover the previous night’s card headlined by Khamzat Chimaev and Nate Diaz.
Tonight: MCU L8R with Rich Fann & WH Park (Patreon)
Friday: Rewind-A-SmackDown with John Pollock & Wai Ting (Patreon)
Saturday: POSTmarks w/ guest Dr. Alex Patel
Sunday: UFC 279 POST Show with John Pollock & Eric Marcotte (Noon Eastern)
Sunday: Wrestlenomics Radio
AEW NAVIGATES THE FALLOUT OF SUNDAY’S BRAWL
After its most contentious and significant locker room issue in the company’s history, AEW took its first step forward to attempt to calm the waters on Dynamite.
While neither was originally booked for the show, Jon Moxley and Chris Jericho appeared as the steady hands on the wheel that were going to take the focus away temporarily from the drama despite it being the cloud they are operating under. The Moxley promo felt it was delivered as much for the talent and staff as it was for the fan base where one could easily equate what the company means to Moxley as how he described the championship.
It also produced a feel-good moment with Daniel Garcia winning the ROH Pure Championship in his hometown and served as a metaphor by ending the show with a glimpse towards the future and looking forward rather than back.
To isolate Sunday’s locker room brawl on its own would be ignoring the root of the problem that had been percolating for months and erupted in public fashion when CM Punk aired his unfiltered grievances at a media availability that places him in a nearly untenable situation to resolve.
These issues were coming to a boiling point and forecasted weeks ago by Dave Meltzer in the August 22nd issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter:
Right now there is a ton of backstage drama involving many of the top guys that has gotten much worse in recent weeks. There’s a part of me where I just think Tony Khan needs to sit everyone down and air everything out before it gets worse. The big thing that started all this is that Colt Cabana is not in the Dark Order with no angle and stopped being brought to television. He was going to be cut but Khan signed him for ROH. This is really the catalyst of everything although different people have different stories as to why it happened, including Page and Punk. But even if that didn’t happen, it was probably going to happen for something else just given the nature of the different personalities involved. It feels like a number of people are close to their breaking point if things don’t get settle.
The problems had been growing with the belief that the decision to move Colt Cabana to Ring of Honor created a lot of unrest and blame placed at the feet of CM Punk, who vehemently denied any involvement in Cabana’s handling. This was backed up by Tony Khan’s similar statement days earlier in the media and reiterated at the press conference. It was Punk’s assertion on Sunday that the story of Punk impacting Cabana’s status with AEW was a falsehood that was dispersed by the EVPs within the company, a claim that has been denied by reputable reporters Dave Meltzer and Sean Ross Sapp.
It’s a major accusation for Punk to make and one that is hopefully backed by enough evidence rather than “source guessing”, which is mere speculation if not backed by concrete evidence and confirmation.
This stems from the May 25th promo on Dynamite by Hangman Page insinuating that CM Punk acts like a champion for worker’s rights (Punk had just tweeted in support of Sasha Banks & Naomi after they walked out) but had demonstrated the opposite since arriving in AEW. At the moment, it felt out of place for a go-home segment before the pay-per-view and left the majority unaware of what he was referencing nor was it a big topic of discussion beyond a line designed to blur the lines between opponents working a program together and a legitimate dislike. That said, Punk took it as a direct shot at him personally and not one to build their program.
One of the countless questions is whether Hangman Page, The Young Bucks & Kenny Omega truly believe that Punk had anything to do with Cabana’s handling before Sunday’s denial. Obviously, it was believed to be enough of an issue that Page raised in a promo with Punk unaware it was coming. Did Page believe what he was accusing Punk of, or was it a rumor going around that fit too perfectly for his go-home promo given the proximity to Punk’s tweet in support of Banks & Naomi? Only the individuals on The Elite side can answer what their true feelings are and whether they come in direct opposition to the on-the-record denials by the head of the company. It’s a key question because if The Elite doesn’t believe Punk affected Cabana’s role in the company then it renders Punk’s accusations completely inaccurate but if they do believe Punk had anything to do with it, it now contradicts Khan and not just Punk.
The immediate result is a third-party investigation and suspensions of those involved with no mention of CM Punk, Kenny Omega, or The Young Bucks on Wednesday’s broadcast with the four removed from the opening of Dynamite.
The AEW championship was vacated, but regardless of Sunday’s incident, Punk was injured in the match with Jon Moxley and expected to be unable to wrestle for months. Dave Meltzer has confirmed he tore a muscle, the specific one is not confirmed yet, but would require surgery and is a major setback for someone coming off a serious broken foot and rehab process, while also turning 44 this year.
Punk’s status with the company is in flux. Would he accept blame by means of a suspension and/or fine if the investigation finds him in the wrong, or would he accept nothing less than complete exoneration or he walks anyway? The fact he’s unable to wrestle for the time being regardless, somewhat makes it a moot point but Punk doesn’t strike me as the type of guy to ever find a hill he’s unwilling to die when it comes to his belief he is in the right. Obviously, Punk felt more than justified to hold up a live segment on Dynamite to issue an unplanned challenge for Hangman Page, labeling Page a coward, that he treated as a receipt rather than an unprofessional act.
This also forces a larger examination of the latitude given to various talents. In re-watching the press conference, it struck me that not only was CM Punk willing to attack key members of the AEW roster in a public environment but had no reservations about doing so in the presence of the owner of the company, who put those people in their positions. The lion’s share of that blame falls on Punk, but again, here is an individual who felt brazen enough to cut his own promo on Dynamite, and if that went unchecked, what message is sent?
It was impossible to deny the disdain Punk had and the lack of respect that makes any type of resolution among the four key performers seem virtually impossible without a miracle mediator.
The investigation should provide clarity from neutral observers and there is likely blame to be spread and all parties having taken ill-informed steps. The question is who crossed a line that cannot be rationalized? For Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks, given their titles as EVPs comes a certain level of expectation, regardless of what stock you put into the titles. They are more than anything, pillars of the company, representatives that just spoke at a talent meeting and are in positions that should never succumb to this level of public embarrassment for the company regardless of whether they were wronged during the press conference.
In 2022, no story is larger than Vince McMahon’s resignation because long-term it will have significant effects, but, the WWE will chug along on and it is only a question of how large and profitable the company will be. The transition has been seamless, numbers are stable, Raw is on fire, major events like the Survivor Series are an immediate sell-out, and there is an obvious momentum shift to their side.
This story for AEW, to me, has a wider range of outcomes and could affect so many different areas of the company and industry. We don’t know who stays and who goes, can Tony Khan maintain a working relationship with the key parties? Is it a case of addition by subtraction? If any of the key members leave AEW, what does that mean for other promotions industry-wide and where do certain people end up?
Can cooler heads prevail? In most cases they do, but I have a hard time imagining all the suspended parties co-existing under one roof again and it will be a management miracle by Tony Khan if he could accomplish that feat. CM Punk is the top star in the company and that comes with a different length of rope than others, but if it’s to the detriment of a sizable portion of the locker room, is the business generated worth the internal strife? There is also the potential of letting your top star go, and risking that star having a Mount Rushmore-sized chip on his shoulder that acts as ammunition to work for the competition that was once thought to be impossible.
These are the choppiest waters AEW has navigated and the mandate is stabilizing the ship but the past several months have been a case study in managing people rather than machines – ones with egos, pride, personality clashes, and deep convictions while vying for top positions.
While a trope within professional wrestling the question of “can they co-exist?” was met on Sunday with a resounding “no”.
**From a live perspective in Buffalo, there was a noticeable downturn in the crowd when Rampage began. For many, they had watched three hours of wrestling and were coming off a terrific pair of matches with Bryan Danielson vs. Hangman Page and Daniel Garcia vs. Wheeler Yuta. It was a credit to Claudio Castagnoli and Dax Harwood, who did the crowd going for parts of their match, which I thought was excellent and a really strong main event this Friday to check out. Having the immediate comparison to attending Raw a few weeks ago, there seemed more engagement in the body of the wrestling matches on AEW and not just reacting to stars, entrances, and key spots. Despite the cloud hanging over the company, it didn’t prohibit the audience from getting into the stars that were present on the show and spoke to the depth when you can lose four top talents and churn out a show like Wednesday’s. Daniel Garcia was incredibly popular on the show and was the perfect way to end Dynamite and going the extra step of having Westside Gunn be part of his entrance and have the post-match presentation of the title by Danielson before Garcia addressed his hometown and felt like a significant step forward in his career.
**Compounded with the issues from Sunday is that CM Punk suffered a serious injury during his match with Jon Moxley. It is believed that Punk sustained the injury after delivering a tope with Dave Meltzer confirming he tore a muscle, although it is not confirmed which muscle but would require surgery. This time, AEW didn’t state that the new champion would be an interim one rather, the regular champion will be crowned at Grand Slam on September 21st with an eight-man tournament beginning on Wednesday. Bryan Danielson defeated Hangman Page in the first tournament match and will face Chris Jericho in an All Out rematch next week in Albany, New York. Darby Allin vs. Sammy Guevara was taped for Friday’s Rampage with that winner facing Jon Moxley on the same show in Albany next Wednesday and two winners going to Grand Slam.
**One week after it appeared the AEW roster would be fortifying itself with many returns, there is now another laundry of talent unavailable. Beyond the suspensions that affect CM Punk (who is also injured), Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks, there are also injuries to Christian Cage (In Jungle Boy’s promo, it mentioned Cage going for surgery), Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, Thunder Rosa, Kris Statlander, Ruby Soho (who suffered a broken nose on Sunday), and Alex Reynolds (who they explained on commentary was hurt and the reason Dark Order & Hangman Page were not wrestling for the vacant Trios titles). Tony Khan also mentioned last week that Mercedes Martinez had an injury but would be returning soon.
**Here are the matches set to air on IMPACT Wrestling tonight at 8 p.m. ET on AXS TV from the tapings in Dallas, Texas:
*Eddie Edwards vs. Heath
*Aussie Open vs. Chris Bey & Ace Austin
*Chelsea Green vs. Taya Valkyrie
*Digital Media Championship: Brian Myers (champion) vs. Bhupinder Gujjar
*Before the Impact: Shane Taylor vs. Crazzy Steve
**The WWE stock closed at $68.10 on Thursday and increased over 2%.
**MLW posted a teaser to announce that Willie Mack is coming to the promotion for their September 18th card in Atlanta.
**New Japan’s Burning Spirit tour goes to Shizuoka on Friday with a card headlined by Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toru Yano against JONAH, Shane Haste & Bad Dude Tito.
**Warrior Wrestling has announced a match between The Lucha Brothers and The Briscoes on Sunday, October 2nd in Chicago Heights along with KC Navarro vs. Trey Miguel, and Brian Cage vs. Jake Something.
**David Otunga appeared in the latest episode of She-Hulk on Disney+, which will be covered on tonight’s edition of MCU L8R with Rich Fann & WH Park for POST Wrestling Café members.
**The Universal Wrestling Podcast has an interview with Ken Shamrock.
REWIND-A-DYNAMITE: The Car Cast
John Pollock & Wai Ting are on the road from Buffalo, NY after attending AEW Dynamite where Tony Khan announced the vacation of AEW World and Trios Championships following CM Punk & The Elite’s backstage incident.
SHOT IN THE DARK
John Siino reviews this week’s editions of AEW Dark, AEW Dark: Elevation, NXT UK, IMPACT Wrestling, NXT Level Up, NJPW Strong, NWA USA, NWA Powerrr, and WWE Main Event in under 15 minutes on Shot In The Dark.
upNXT: Worlds Unify / CM Punk presser
Braden Herrington and Davie Portman review the September 6th 2022 edition of NXT 2.0 headlined by Bron Breakker & Tyler Bate vs Gallus.
REWIND-A-WAI #115: WWF Royal Rumble Raw
John Pollock & Wai Ting look back at WWF Royal Rumble Raw from the SkyDome in Toronto on February 3rd, 1997.
John Pollock and Wai Ting chat WWE Raw from Kansas City featuring Bobby Lashley vs. The Miz in a Steel Cage match for the U.S. title.
WRESTLENOMICS: A dramatic All Out presser, WWE Clash at the Castle
All Out ends a run of three events just outside Chicago for AEW with explosive comments from CM Punk. Brandon reports on his live experience at All Out.
AEW ALL OUT / WORLDS COLLIDE POST SHOW
John Pollock and Wai Ting are joined by Davie Portman & Braden Herrington of upNXT to review AEW All Out from Chicago and NXT Worlds Collide.
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