When Tony Khan Jumped The Shark

(Photo Credit: AEW)

Tony Khan is a pro wrestling promoter.

He might’ve bought his way into the business from the outside with his family’s money, but he’s a promoter that saw a trend in the sports entertainment genre and was willing to put up the massive amount of money required to realistically take it national. Tony saw the popularity of New Japan with the introduction of The Bullet Club, and the resurgence of the organization through the Bushiroad ownership that also spotlighted excellent native talent like Okada, Naito, Shibata, and others. Kenny Omega, an absolutely tremendous performer, received rave reviews and an extra spotlight through The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. At the same time, The Young Bucks used social media to build a dedicated following that wanted to see them succeed. Along the same lines, Cody Rhodes bet on himself and left the corporate structure of the WWE, pursuing the independents to prove that he was more than a mid-card comedy act. Given his current status, Cody was right. The pieces of the puzzle organically fell into place for an opportunity to create an alternative, and The Elite, a group of stars that joined together, used Ring Of Honor as an American platform to further establish their brand. It was a win-win scenario, as the Elite had the chance to showcase their talents, and ROH did the best business that it had generated in years.

Cody’s ambitious exit from WWE, The Young Bucks’ popularity on social media, and Kenny Omega’s notoriety in New Japan that all happened at relatively the same time was something that can’t be planned or scripted. It was a spontaneous shift toward an alternative to a WWE product that had become cliche and stale. In 2018, the original All In event proved that there was an audience on a major scale for an alternative in the industry in the United States.

Tony Khan, who worked in sports with his dad for years, took the blue print of All In and created the concept of All Elite Wrestling, a brand that drew very well after the initial launch since fans wanted another option to be established in the business.

Naturally, as the novelty wore off, the product had to stand on its own merit, a scenario that has yielded a mixed bag in recent years. As commendable as Tony Khan’s efforts are to spark the industry that had become so stagnant, his only qualification for being a promoter was that he’s a big wrestling fan. Unfortunately, fandom isn’t enough to generate success and this week’s edition of Dynamite was a prime example of that. All Elite ratings have generally dipped this year, and occasionally, it seems like Tony scrambles to attempt to get a one-week fix for numbers that slip with increased sports competition.

Again, Tony Khan is a promoter so course, he’s going to shameless hype his product, that’s his job, but this week’s “major announcement” was a clear indication of his lack of the ability to build a compelling storyline on a weekly basis.

The “major announcement,” which some speculated might have to do with a streaming deal for pay-per-view events, was simply that tickets for next year’s All In at Wembley Stadium will go on sale in December. Yes, the big announcement that the American television audience had to tune in for was that tickets will go on sale for a European event that is scheduled to take place almost a year from now. Granted, pro wrestling isn’t known for its ethics or moral standards, but this was such a flimsy bait-and-switch tactic that it gave the impression instead of booking an angle that will make the viewers want to tune into the show, he’s just trying to make a cheap excuse as to way they shouldn’t change the channel.

Similar to the “game changer” acquisition of talent that lost its luster after the term was overused anytime more or less anyone signed an AEW deal, the whole “major announcement” shtick doesn’t have any credibility after this week’s episode of Dynamite. This isn’t really anything new from the Khan playbook either, as he would announce a “major surprise” before an All Elite broadcast, which more or less eliminates the element of the surprise on the show.

Again, this all seems like cheap swerves to try to keep the audience from changing the channel, but the roster has the talent to maintain an audience. The problem is, it’s the booker’s responsibility to put those pieces of the puzzle in the right place to maximize the payoff that can be generated from the angle. One of the biggest criticisms of AEW is that so many talents are either underutilized or lost in the shuffle.

A prime example of that from this week is the continued misuse of the world champion, MJF on the show, as well as the booking of the Omega/Friedman bout on Collision instead of pay-per-view. First, the world title match was a tremendous bout that actually had a decline in viewers from the previous week so a legitimate money match for pay-per-view was more or less wasted on a minimal audience for the Saturday show. It was an attempt at a one-week ratings boost for Collision, not an angle that could be used to build to a payoff on pay-per-view. Furthermore, the Wardlow backstage segment from Dynamite made MJF look like a total geek. How is cowering against the wall the trait of a world champion, even a shady heel? It’s even more of a counterproductive segment when you take into account that depending on the perspective that MJF is supposed to be either and edgy baby face or a ruthless heel. Would Steve Austin do that? Would The Rock do that? Would Roman Reigns do that? Would Samoa Joe do that? Quite simply, if someone is terrified during a confrontation and gets more to look like a total dork, they aren’t presented like a world champion? This all goes along with the honky and lame attempted comedy skits with the MJF/Adam Cole storyline that hinder his character.

As far as Tony Khan, he’s a promoter so you have to expect him to hype his product, but the “major announcement” about ticket sales for London completely jumped the shark. More than anything, it was an indication of the overall lack of direction for the company.

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Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, & Threads @jimlamotta89