All Elite Iceberg

It took five years, but it finally happened.

Tony Khan is a character on his own television show, allowing him to live out his fandom of emulating owners of pro wrestling companies in the late-90s. As you can tell from the tone of the opening stanza, I’m not impressed with Tony’s segment that was used in the main event slot of Dynamite this week when he was attacked by Jack Perry and The Young Bucks before wrestlers, and his dad, Shad Khan made the save as the show went off the air.

The viewing audience wasn’t impressed either, as the show drew 683,000 viewers, the lowest rating for an episode of Dynamite in more than three years. It was a 10% dip from last week’s 762,000 viewers for the show. In fact, the biggest rating of the past two months was the 819,000 viewers that tuned in to see the CM Punk/Jack Perry backstage fight footage. So, despite being under contract to the WWE, Punk is still a bigger ratings draw than anyone currently on the AEW roster.

Was it still a good idea to air the footage, Tony?

When it was announced that the footage would air, I discussed why it reeked of desperation and also why there was very little, if any, upside to the segment. Dynamite had a slight boost in the ratings, proving that more fans wanted to see the CM Punk fight than those that usually tune into the show, but it didn’t increase the number enough to make a major difference in the direction of Dynamite. When the ratings decreased the week after, it proved that Punk is still the biggest draw they have, and perhaps as a reaction to the decline the week after the backstage fight footage was aired, Tony Khan took a pile driver in the ring.

The pile driver was so devastating that less than 24 hours later, Tony was able to appear at the NFL draft on behalf of the Jaguars wearing a neck brace. At least Andy Kaufman would be proud. I understand the concept of trying to sell the injury, but if Tony wanted to truly sell it then he wouldn’t have appeared in public at all. In some ways, by wearing the neck brace in such a public setting and on television, Tony gets everyone to acknowledge his wrestling project. “hey, look he has a neck brace from wrestling.” Maybe I’m being too pessimistic, but I’ve seen too much grandstanding and weak comparisons to the Attitude era from Tony not to think that this public display was just another way for him to publicly get recognition for playing pro wrestling promoter.

The same could be said for the stunt that put him in the ring as a character to begin with, as this wasn’t him as the promoter with the mic before a live event to thank the fans. This was Tony Khan as a character on the show and thus selling an attack from the heels. Is this just another way for Tony to play pro wrestling? It’s very possible, but the bottom line is, will it work? Will it increase the amount of viewers that are watching the show? If it does then any criticism is almost moot.

I’ve said on numerous occasions that I sincerely hope that All Elite Wrestling can be as successful as possible because the ability to have options within the industry is key for the overall status of the business. I’ve also said that Tony Khan is almost always unanimously praised as a nice guy, and it’s wonderful that he genuinely cares about the roster. At the same time, being a nice guy doesn’t mean that he can be an effective booker or promoter of a pro wrestling company. The reality of the situation is, the way that he mismanaged many of the problems that AEW had, and his slapstick approach to booking, haven’t provided any indication that they will be a major improvement for the company in the future. A prime example of this was pointed out by Bully Ray on social media this week, Swerve Strickland is the new AEW world champion and he was booked in a fandom opening match against Kyle Fletcher. Swerve wasn’t a focus of the television show, and the angle that put Tony Khan in the ring got the spotlight.

I could be wrong, and in some ways I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think the Tony Khan attack or anything associated with it will benefit the company in any way, shape, or form.

The angle won’t work for a variety of reasons. First, Tony Khan just isn’t good on camera and he’s definitely not a natural performer. That’s why wide shots were used for a majority of the segment when he was attacked. Furthermore, given that the heels attacked him, that puts Tony in the sympathetic baby face role within the storyline. That’s not going to get over, either. The reasons being that it’s difficult for the typical wrestling audience to be sympathetic to a billionaire, and furthermore, he has eroded much of the good will that he had with the audience through the series of mismanaged scenarios mentioned previously. Again, the numbers tell the story, All Elite Wrestling doesn’t have the same level of fan support that it had before so it’s not an automatic baby face role for Tony Khan as the owner that got jumped by the heels. This is where all the cringe worth press conference moments and ridiculous social media posts can come back to bite him.

On some level, Tony working an angle almost reinforces the notion that All Elite is a vanity project. Remember, when he bought ROH, he made a reference to the Nitro segment where Shane McMahon bought WCW so it’s not too much of a stretch to assume that this is Tony putting himself in the late-90s owner role.

The whole series of events that have taken place since the CM Punk MMA Hour interview, including this segment with Tony reeks of desperation. The way that it was portrayed since the show went off the air implies this is another way for Tony to play pro wrestling more than anything else.

When he was interviewed for a show about the NFL draft, proudly wearing the neck brace and looking like a doofus since the 683,000 number proves that most people had no idea why he had it, Tony called All Elite Wrestling the Pepsi of pro wrestling. Now, I’m a Coca Cola fan, but AEW is more RC Cola than Pepsi. Tony also called the WWE ” the Harvey Weinstein of pro wrestling,” which prompted the host to wrap up the segment rather quickly on the show. Listen, Vince is sleazy and it’s very possible that what he allegedly did was criminal. If that’s the case then he should undoubtedly face the consequences for it. However, Triple H, Cody, and The Rock had nothing to do with Vince’s depraved behavior. Cody is the baby face world champion that has fan support, Triple H as the new leader of the company has fan support, and the endorsement of Paul Heyman during his Hall of Fame speech, which will only add to the level of fan support, and The Rock is an extremely popular figure in the entertainment world. From a PR prospective, those are the guys at the top of WWE, not Vince McMahon, who just sold his remaining stock in the company anyway. Is Tony really going to try to vilify Cody, Triple H, or The Rock to the public?

It’s ironic that Tony putting himself on television as an on-screen character, the ultimate vanity move, might be the iceberg for the All Elite Titanic. No, All Elite Wrestling isn’t going to fold as long as Khan’s billionaire family wants to fund it, but this might be the angle that sinks any chance the company has of rebounding to the momentum it had at its launch. The estimate for the Dynasty pay-per-view is around 100,000 buys, a noticeable decrease from Revolution last month and Worlds End prior to that. If the mission for AEW seems to be more about Tony’s chance to play Vince McMahon or Eric Bischoff than to spark the wrestling industry, which is what many thought was the initial intention, than it will continue to erode the company’s good will with the fan base. At that point, Tony’s project will be self-serving, not serving the audience, which can sour the fans. Sure, AEW generates revenue, but the company lost an estimated $34 million last year, and the true barometer of success from a business prospective is profit. Taking into account that less fans were willing to order the Dynasty pay-per-views it should be an indication that something should be fixed within the product, but is anyone in the organization going to tell Tony that? As mentioned, AEW will continue to exist, but if the perception of the company doesn’t improve than there will be a ceiling on the level of success it can achieve in the industry.

Some might cite that Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff became on-screen characters during their heyday, but Tony Khan isn’t Vince or Bischoff, and if he realized that then AEW might be in a better position than it is right now.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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