Looking At Tony Khan’s Slapstick Approach

Moe Howard and his brothers, Curly and Shemp, along with Larry Fine perfected the slapstick genre. Originally in vaudeville when Curly was still known as Jerome before he joined the act, The Three Stooges didn’t get compensated fairly during their careers, and sadly, didn’t get the credit they deserved for the iconic mark they left on the entertainment world until after they passed away.

Slapstick, is still a staple of the entertainment business, though. However, it’s the sports entertainment business with this week’s addition of AEW Dynamite. As I penned in an article last week, Tony Khan’s use of the “big announcement” shtick to try to get an artificial ratings boost as a substitute for compelling programming actually saw a decline in viewership compared to the number from the prior week. Last week was an example of how the promotional tactics can erode the audience, but this week saw why the ham-handed approach to booking can also fuel a decline in the viewers.

This week’s edition of Dynamite was a prime example of how thrown together and truly slapstick the All Elite product has become over the course of the past two years, which essentially shows the lack of substance the company had after the novelty worn off.

The show opened with a very good Jon Moxley/Dax Harwood bout, and this was the type of segment that could truly set All Elite apart as a true alternative in the industry. It was a physical, hard-hitting contest that had a level of aggressiveness and believability not often seen in the modern era, including on AEW programming. This was a quality segment, and more proof that despite being underutilized in All Elite, Dax is one of the best workers in the business. That said, when he’s not being underutilized in the tag division, he has basically been typecast in “the tag guy that loses in good singles matches against bigger stars” role. There was nothing done within the past few years to truly establish Dax as a bigger star or FTR as a more prominent team within the AEW landscape because the follow-up to their stellar work is always minimal. There were a few problems with the post-match segment, as Moxley didn’t release the submission, implying that he’s a heel. Claudio did a run-in, and FTR were beat down. If The Blackpool Combat Club, a faction that doesn’t have anyone from Blackpool as a member, are supposed to be heels, the booking of their character hasn’t established that. They still get cheered, and if there’s nothing that Tony can book to get them heat then perhaps they should just be presented as a baby face group. It creates such a flat presentation when the team that is attacking the baby faces continues to get cheered by the audience because it almost gives the impression that the audience doesn’t care about FTR. It goes beyond just this week, as the BCC still get cheered regularly, and it sends a conflicting message when certain members like Bryan Danielson get cheered, but Moxley and Claudio act like heels.

The lack of clearly defined heels and baby faces is such a fundamental mistake.

Next was Wardlow doing the same squash match now that he was doing when he originally debuted in the company four years ago so how much progress was really made? The guy looks to have all the potential in the world, but continues to be relegated to the same role with more or less the same status within the organization. As I’ve said before, if Wardlow is truly going to evolve and make progress in his career, he will have to go to WWE because for whatever reason, he was completely mismanaged in AEW.

On the surface, Adam Copeland vs. Daniel Garcia was very well done, but when you consider the presentation of the match along with the status of the characters, the segment doesn’t gel as much as it could’ve otherwise. The former Edge was theoretically a boost in star power for the organization, but within a relatively short time, he became just another guy on the roster. Maybe that’s because he hasn’t worked with any of the All Elite main event talent yet, but going 50/50 with the mid-card almost automatically seems like a step down compared to where he was in the WWE last year. Don’t get me wrong, someone like Konosuke Takeshita or Powerhouse Hobbs should be considered projects and made to look strong against someone the caliber of Copeland, but the whole “veteran willing to work with the young guys” routine can sometimes be counterproductive. In this case it is, especially because the shows have struggled to maintain ratings. Nothing against Griff Garrison, he’s still very early in his career, but when Copeland made the jump to All Elite, nobody wanted to see him in preliminary matches, especially because his age limits the realistic amount of time he has for his in-ring career. Edge/Omega, Edge/MJF, Edge/Ospreay, or Edge/Samoa Joe are the type of key matches that can get the fans to take notice of a show.

Garcia is a great athlete, but he was positioned as a glorified jobber in the Continental Classic. Sure, the dance is popular with the organization’s shrinking live attendance, but as a character, is Garcia someone that should be able to work a fairly competitive match with Copeland? It’s another example of a disjointed presentation that ultimately doesn’t maximize the assets that the company has on the roster.

Outside of Christian, who could still be considered the best heel in the business despite the somewhat hokey stable, Copeland hasn’t worked with any main event stars on the AEW roster during his tenure. Edge is 50, what exactly is Tony Khan waiting for to book him in the marquee matches?

For a show that hasn’t maintained viewers over the course of the broadcast, I’m not sure The Young Bucks/Top Flight was a match that would retain the audience that wasn’t going to watch the entire show anyway. Top Flight are a young team that have time to develop, but this particular match up was seen previously, and nobody in the building or watching at home believed that Top Flight had the chance to win. Top Flight haven’t been on television as team in over a month, there’s no reason to expect them to defeat the more established team. Furthermore, this was basically the same match these two teams had on Dynamite before. As much as The Young Bucks heel turn tried to use the perception that they are selfish EVPs for their on-screen persona, the storyline has been rather flat.

Willow Nightingale vs. Sky Blue was fine for what it was, but when you take into account the complete lack of direction in the women’s division for the past few years, the entire segment seemed moot.

The main event of Matt Taven vs. Orange Cassidy in a Texas Death match was the prime example of the nonsensical and slapstick approach that Tony Khan takes for his product. Sure, booking countless gimmick matches is a superficial way to prop up an E-fed, but it does nothing to progress All Elite Wrestling because it renders gimmick matches useless in situations where they could be used to emphasize a feud. Matt Taven is a good athlete and a former ROH champion during the Sinclair era, but up until five or six weeks ago, he was a lackey in the lame attempted comedy skits with Adam Cole and Roderick Strong. Logically, is Matt Taven a character that should be involved in this type of match? There was a rather random match-up so does the situation justify the gimmick? Most importantly, besides the fact that the show was held in Texas, why would a Texas Death Match be booked at all?

These guys took risks and bled buckets for what amounts to a one-off segment. This wasn’t some rivalry that was built up and culminated in a bloody fight, it was risks and bloody just for the sake of it, which hinders the effectiveness of these types of matches in the future.

This wasn’t a memorable Orange Cassidy/Matt Taven showdown that was used to draw money on pay-per-view, it was a bloody match on free TV simply because the company had a show in Texas. Tony throws this stuff at the wall on a week-to-week basis, and even his infamous charts and graphs don’t make sense of it. Ultimately, these rather fundamental mistakes are not only why the company hasn’t maximized its assets, but also why it has been stagnate for the past few years.

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

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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