SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
the all out press conference revealed one of the dirtiest secrets in pro wrestling. From time to time, what happens behind the curtain is more fascinating than what takes place in the ring.
That was the case as Sunday night moved to Monday morning. CM Punk spoke at the post-match press conference and took a flamethrower to the AEW locker room, laying into fellow wrestlers, specifically Hangman Page, the company’s Executive Vice Presidents–who are Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks’ Matt and Nick Jackson–as well as Colt Cabana. The focus of the press conference should have been on the stunning return of MJF, but that major plot line became nearly non-existent as Punk went entirely off-script in his critiques.
Once Punk exited the press room, he exchanged words in a locker room with Omega and the Bucks, which led to a physical altercation. Punishment for that backstage fight, Sports Illustrated has learned, will include suspensions for every person involved. The list of those receiving suspensions includes Omega, Matt and Nick Jackson, Pat Buck, Christopher Daniels, Michael Nakazawa, and Brandon Cutler. Multiple sources have shared that Punk and Ace Steel will either be among those suspended, or will no longer be with the company by the end of Wednesday. Punk met with Khan on Tuesday, so the two had an opportunity to discuss how that exit could be handled.
Per sources, an external third-party investigation will be conducted to examine what transpired. Page had already left the building, Sports Illustrated learned, which explains his absence from the altercation.
Punk’s fury was ignited during the press conference when he made mention of former friend Cabana. Rumors have circulated that Punk had Cabana moved to Ring of Honor, and Punk clearly believes that they emanated from leaks within the company, possibly even from Omega and the Bucks. Punk vehemently denied involvement in any facet of Cabana’s career, and that topic of discussion set him off.
All this occurred at the press conference where Punk sat beside AEW owner Tony Khan. It was an awkward, uncomfortable, and unprofessional scene. Punk is AEW world champion, which adds another layer to this conundrum. The Bucks and Omega are the inaugural world trios champions.
Remarkably, there could still be a positive outcome if Punk and FTR engage in a heated feud with Omega and the Bucks. Punk mentioned to Sports Illustrated two weeks ago that he is in AEW to sell tickets and drive ratings. Real-life strife sells in this industry, especially when harnessed in the right manner–but sources from close to AEW indicated a storyline is not going to come out of this situation.
Khan is CEO, GM, and head of creative. This incident highlights AEW’s major need to delegate. Overseeing a wrestling company is not a one-man show, and not even Vince McMahon at the peak of his power in WWE ever pretended to be that. McMahon surrounded himself with the best minds in wrestling and put them in key roles, as with Pat Patterson, Jim Ross, Jim Barnett, JJ Dillon, Gorilla Monsoon, and Arnold Skaaland. While he signed off on all major decisions, it was never just McMahon behind the scenes managing it all. Yes, McMahon may have been the one to receive the praise and recognition, but WWE’s success under his leadership was the result of a wide range of contributions. AEW’s lack of experience in executive leadership plays a role in these issues. The company possesses a first-rate, world-class roster, yet far less experience in the front office.
WWE also plays a role in all of this. As Khan noted during the press conference, all out did well commercially, but not to the point where it set any company records. That is largely because WWE strategically ran a must-see event the day before in Clash at the Castleas well as an NXT special in War of the Worlds only hours before AEW started its all out pay per view.
For WWE, that all out press conference will undoubtedly be used by newly appointed Chief Content Officer Paul Levesque as their newest recruitment play. Levesque is following a wrestling blueprint created by McMahon in the 1980’s. While McMahon had distanced himself from it, Levesque is back to signing all the top available talent.
Under Levesque, there is a robust new wave of recruitment. What happens if multiple talents in AEW attempt to leverage their releases? That could be very destabilizing, meaning it will likely be a point of emphasis from WWE. AEW built so much of their brand as a contrast to McMahon’s poor booking and lackluster presentation of beloved talent. Yet that is now evolving, as WWE has quickly strengthened its storylines since Levesque took control of creative.
In the shadow of all these are the expiring television rights deals for AEW and WWE. Based on their ratings, AEW should be in a position to receive a significant increase in their rights fees when the current deal with WarnerBrothers/Discovery expires at the end of 2024. But WarnerMedia merged with Discovery, Inc., forming Warner Bros. Discovery, and the marketplace is unsure of their current strategy, creating question marks around AEW’s future. WWE also has a need for new network rights deals, as existing agreements with NBCUniversal and Fox only run through the end of September in 2024. Weakening AEW while further solidifying their own brand is, undoubtedly, WWE’s objective.
For AEW, this is the wrong time for chaos. The company needs to tighten up its internal affairs, as the pro wrestling industry is a far stronger place with two major companies instead of one overwhelming monopoly.
The (online) week in wrestling
• Braun Strowman returned to WWE this past Monday on Rawreceiving a robust response from the crowd.
• Frankie Kazarian offered his insight from 25 years spent in the pro wrestling business.
• How will MJF respond to the recent happenings in AEW? Will he fire back at Punk?
• Johnny Gargano will wrestle for the first time in nine months next Monday on Raw.
Conrad Thompson on Steve “Mongo” McMichael fundraiser: “We’re hoping to be at $20,000 by the end of the week”
The “Money for Mongo” fundraiser took place this past Saturday, with a Hall of Fame cast raising money for Steve “Mongo” McMichael.
Once a physical specimen with the NFL’s Chicago Bears and later a member of the Four Horsemen in WCW, McMichael is suffering from ALS. A nasty, vicious disease, McMichael is dealing with the consequences of this cruel, indiscriminate affection.
The star-studded cast from AdFreeShows.com hosted the “Money for Mongo” stream this past Saturday, which aired for free on FITE. Featuring Ric Flair, Eric Bischoff, Jeff Jarrett, Jim Ross, Mick Foley, Tony Schiavone, and Conrad Thompson, it was a chance for wrestling to look out for a beloved member of the family.
“We were honored to support Mongo, and 100 percent of the money goes straight to him and his wife,” said Thompson. “Wrestling, for all the silly backstage fighting, still has a lot of great people who want to help one another. Mongo is a proud part of that wrestling family, and we are all proud to help in any way we can. All the YouTube ad revenue, that’s all going to Mongo and Misty.”
A former Super Bowl champion, McMichael displayed an undeniable charm whenever he spoke. Despite his giant size, he could disarm people with his gregarious nature. Following his career in the NFL, he had a brief stint in WWE that culminated at WrestleMania XI as one of the football players in Lawrence Taylor’s crew, then ended himself to wrestling fans after he left the WCW broadcast booth and entered the ring.
For those interested, people can still donate to help defray McMichael’s medical expenses.
“His family has a five-figure deficit every month with his health care costs, so it was a big deal to contribute in any way,” said Thompson. “We’re almost at $17,000, and we’re hoping to be at $20,000 by the end of the week.”
Tweet of the week
Wisdom (and note the timing) from John Cena.
#Report #AEW #Members #receive #suspensions #altercation