How can AEW move the needle?

All Elite Wrestling is stuck in a rut. It has been since September when the AEW All Out Pay Per View ended, and CM Punk decided to air his grievances with The Elite in front of the assembled media and prompting a full-blown crisis. Since that happened, people seem to have started falling out of love with AEW. Viewing figures have settled in the 800K-900K range, which is two hundred or three hundred thousand (ish) down from where they were six months ago. Punk was the company’s big draw, and he’s not there. MJF is a compelling new champion, but he’s not a name that’s known to the mainstream like Punk is – or, at least, not yet.

There’s a limit to how much AEW can do to draw eyeballs at this point. Tony Khan has bought ROH already. He’s already done a joint pay-per-view with New Japan Pro Wrestling. He’s snapped up the best talent he could from WWE. Some of that talent has since started finding its way back – or trying to do so. AEW can’t pop people with surprise debuts the way it could a year ago because there are almost no people left to debut. The old tricks aren’t going to work anymore.

Since Triple H took over the running of WWE from Vince McMahon, who departed in disgrace, the long-running promotion has seized the initiative. It’s rehired people it had previously let go. There’s been a shake-up to creative. The company feels like a happier, better-organized place, and that’s dangerous to AEW. It’s high time AEW took a few risks. That’s something the promotion and its owner should know about, as the first video game it ever released was a casino game. The game hasn’t ever troubled the rankings of the top casino games at any, but if you make casino games, you know a thing or two about when to gamble and when to take risks. It’s time for Tony Khan to get in the mindset of someone playing the casino game, splash the cash, and do something that’s going to win back viewers.

Tony, if you’re reading this and you’re stuck for ideas, we’ve got a few for you.

Bring in Mercedes Varnado

Mercedes Varnado, formerly known as Sasha Banks, has been missing from the professional wrestling world since May this year when she and Naomi walked out of a WWE RAW taping in protest at their booking. Since then, there have been conflicting reports on whether or not they’ve been released from their contracts. Recently, Varnado filed four new trademarks. Those trademarks are “Mercedes Mone,” “Bank Mone,” “Mone Talks,” and “Statement Maker.” Those sound like pro wrestling trademarks, and she wouldn’t need them if she went back to WWE because she’d go back to being Sasha Banks. That sounds to us like Sasha is willing to wrestle – she’s just waiting for the right opportunity.

If she’s willing to work, she’s the only (probably) free agent on the market worth breaking the bank for. Fans would tune in to see Mercedes Varnado, and she’d make a world of difference to the AEW women’s division, which Khan has done a mostly terrible job of booking up until now. Bringing in Saraya was a good start, but Varnado would take things to the next level.

Drop Ring of Honor

When Tony Khan announced that he’d bought Ring of Honor, most fans saw it as “a good thing.” Dedicated pro wrestling fans understand the history of Ring of Honor and also the value of its tape library. The brand, the tape library, and all of the titles now belong to Tony Khan. It was the hope of the few remaining ROH fans that Khan buying the brand would mean a new TV show for it and an influx of money for the company. What we’ve got instead is Ring of Honor on AEW television, where it gets in the way of AEW programming and floods the show with too many belts.

All of the ROH titles come off as secondary to the AEW titles. The longer ROH hangs around on AEW television, the cheaper it becomes, and the less TV time there is for AEW talent. You can trace the decline of AEW to the introduction of ROH content to AEW television. It’s not a coincidence. Either find Ring of Honor a TV home of its own, relegate it to YouTube, or let it die. In its current form, it’s doing nobody any good.

Phone CM Punk

Very few situations in wrestling have been reported on in the past few years as much as the one that currently exists between All Elite Wrestling and CM Punk. Various reporters have said that Punk wants AEW to buy out his contract so he can leave. Depending on who you believe, those talks might have broken down. Only two people truly know everything there is to know about the situation, and those people are CM Punk and Tony Khan. So long as his contract is still valid, there’s a chance of bringing him back.

There is no feud in any promotion in the world that would draw as much money right now as CM Punk versus The Elite or even a heel CM Punk versus the whole company. Top wrestlers should know that sometimes you have to be professional enough to put your differences aside and make money. Kenny Omega and CM Punk might despise each other, or they might not, but they can make a lot of money together. If Tony Khan isn’t already working as hard as he possibly can to make that happen, he doesn’t understand the first thing about booking a wrestling promotion. If Punk doesn’t want to do it, then he doesn’t want to do it, but Khan should try funnelling money at him until he does.

All Elite Wrestling will still exist in a year’s time, no matter what happens. It has TV deals in place, the ratings it draws are acceptable, and it sells tickets to events. It will never become a competitor to WWE if it doesn’t grow, though, and it’s not growing in its current form. It’s high time for a shake-up – and these ideas would achieve that.


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