All Elite Vanity

Social media is a dumpster fire.

I know I’m not breaking any news with that one, and since Elon’s takeover of Twitter, my account was banned because the algorithms he installed a day before assumed that my account was a robot, I’ve naturally seen less of the sewer of social media since last December. (you can still find me on Facebook, Instagram, and threads) Still, with as tribal as the pro wrestling circles are, stories emerge from social media interaction, and at times, can reveal some of the motive or mindset within the industry.

Since the CM Punk/Jack Perry brawl at All Out, Tony Khan’s social media posts have been somewhere between ridiculous, ludicrous, or both. When WWE brass stacked an episode of NXT that went head-to-head with a special Tuesday night Dynamite and then drew a bigger rating than Tony’s show, the czar of All Elite had a series of bizarre tweets, claiming that Dynamite took viewers away from the John Cena and Undertaker segments, but the fact that NXT had better ratings for the night disproved that theory.

Khan was grasping at straws to try to spin the story in any way possible to avoid the reality that more people watched WWE programming than Dynamite on that particular night. That’s not to say that the episode on TBS was subpar or that it was some indication of doom for the organization, either. But, the way that Tony Khan handles or doesn’t handle his business provides a lot of insight into why All Elite Wrestling is absolutely a vanity project. That’s not saying that there still can’t be great matches or moments for the audience, but rather to point out that AEW is strictly in existence for Tony to get the chance to play Vince McMahon and book his E-fed on the internet in real life.

From almost all accounts, Tony Khan is a nice guy that cares about his roster, and in a vacuum, that’s a great. However, the harsh reality is that the legitimate business world is about revenue and profit, that’s the barometer of success. Perhaps, that’s why All Elite Wrestling, which had a tremendous amount of potential and momentum when it launched five years ago, has fallen short of where it could’ve been otherwise. As we know, money is no object to Tony Khan, and All Elite Wrestling will continue to exist as long as the billionaire family wants to fund it. But, when the money isn’t the top priority, the best business decisions don’t get made for the company. That’s why Tony Khan tweeted about winning The Wrestling Observer’s booker of the year away instead of Shawn Micheals in the past. As I said at the time, how much money is made from The Wrestling Observer award? Unless there’s a mega cash prize, Tony Khan should book for what the audience is willing to pay for, not what’s going to get him brownie points with Meltzer.

But, more often than not, that’s the direction that Tony takes the company, because when he was 15 and booked dream match cards on the internet, he was a longtime subscriber to Meltzer’s newsletter. The booker of the year award from The Observer goes along with why Tony wanted to start his own company in the first place, it allows him to live his dream from when he was a kid. That’s a nice thought, but again, this is the business world. By definition, Meltzer’s newsletter is a niche demographic. Granted, credit where it’s due, he found a profitable niche and made a living from it for more than 40 years, but even Dave recognizes that his newsletter isn’t for casual fans.

That’s why there’s such a culture clash with AEW programming, Tony books for a diehard audience on a main stream platform.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place, and was a demand for, a pro wrestling product as an alternative to WWE’s sports entertainment business model in 2019, but if a show is going to be on national television, the general public must be taken into account. If the casual fan isn’t considered, at least to some degree, then Tony should’ve ran independent shows, not something on TBS.

Taking nothing away from how talented the roster is, there were several occasions when Tony promoted a “dream match” with performers that the TV audience had no idea who they were or why it would be considered a special event. But, hey, it was considered a dream match for Tony so he put it on television. Dave Meltzer raved about El Vikingo so Tony booked him against Kenny Omega in a main event segment of Dynamite, despite that he had no prior exposure on AEW TV.

That’s why the latest social media rift between Eric Bischoff, a longtime critic of The Observer, and Meltzer isn’t surprising. It’s even less surprising that Tony Khan got involved and responded to the former WCW boss with “reading would be your friend, Eric” a common response from Dave when he trolls random Twitter accounts with 12 followers. The disagreement started over ticket sales for AEW, which is really just cannon fodder criticism now so that alone isn’t newsworthy, but the fact that the owner of the second largest pro wrestling company in the United States is parroting a niche report speaks volumes about why All Elite has plateaued over the past two years.
Furthermore, as we’ve seen some official accounts from organizations will sometimes harmlessly troll online just for a comical effect. Wendy’s is the champion of this type of social media so Dave Thomas deserves a championship belt in heaven. The USA network account asked the cagematch rating in response to a reporter’s tweet, and not only did Tony Khan find the tweet, but took the time to try to discredit a segment that featured The Rock on Raw. I’m not sure if Tony was completely unhinged or being sarcastic, but he criticized the use of Jinder Mahal when he all know that Jinder was used as a clever way to swerve the audience before The Rock’s surprise appearence. Jinder gave The Rock a foe throw over the ropes before the conclusion of the segment. Reportedly, the segment had over two million viewers, which is more viewers than any AEW program garnered in the ratings. Did Tony really not understand why Jinder was used in that spot or is he just trying anything to spin the narrative?

The Rock is more popular than anyone AEW has or will probably ever have on its roster so Tony’s criticism of the segment is silly. The bigger point is, the fact that Dwayne Johnson is a bigger star shouldn’t matter to Tony Khan, but rather the ability to make a profit with AEW.

That’s why this situation, especially as a wrestling fan that wants to see All Elite be as successful as possible so that the entire industry benefits, is so frustrating. The circumstances of a billionaire that wants to start a wrestling company with the connections in the television industry to get a TV deal for main stream distribution are incredibly rare. Make no mistake about it, the existence of All Elite has undoubtedly made the industry exponentially better than it would’ve been otherwise, but that doesn’t mean that All Elite will continue to expand to have a bigger impact in the business. If anything, as I wrote before, AEW is almost in danger of being typecast as a secondary organization the way that TNA was during the vast majority of its existence during the Dixie Carter regime.

If I had to guess, and I sincerely hope I’m wrong, All Elite will remain in a rather stagnant position, and over the course of the next few years, its influence on the industry will noticeably decrease. The reason being, the novelty of the new promotion wore off and the substance or lack thereof is what remains, a disjointed presentation that has some great stuff, but doesn’t maximize any of it. From a talent perspective, we’ve seen a slew of competitors that made the jump to All Elite and then decided it wasn’t for them so that has an impact on the free agent market as well.

Generally speaking, Tony has a slapstick approach to booking the product. The key to maximizing the payoff of a storyline isn’t simply the wrestlers written on the page, which is the only booking strong suite Tony has, if that counts as a strong suite, but rather the circumstances and presentation of the match. There are underwhelming conclusions, random angles, and wrestlers that disappear from television for months at a time, make for an almost exhausting viewing experience.

So, you have to ask, is Tony Khan booking for himself rather than what will generate money from the audience? Is the praise of Dave Meltzer or the booker of the year award more important to him than profit for AEW? The boss of the second biggest promotion in America is arguing on Twitter. If Tony Khan is in the major leagues as he claims to be, would Triple H argue with anyone on social media?

If not, Tony should reevaluate his approach, but he won’t because money is no object and that’s why All Elite will remain a vanity project. According to Wrestlenomics, All Elite Wrestling lost $34 million last year, but maybe Tony will win the best booker award?

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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