Last night’s AEW Media Scrum after All Out 2022, was further evidence that CM Punk is out of control and Tony Khan needed to address it but failed to do so. Tony Khan needs to address it and run AEW like he’s the boss.
Say whatever you want about Vince McMahon or WWE, but they would have NEVER allowed this complete display of unprofessionalism to take place. For those of you that have never worked in an office, I can assure you it is not professional or acceptable to openly bash your superiors and co-workers. To end the night with this disaster of a press conference it was an absolute embarrassment to AEW, CM Punk and Tony Khan. I’ll get more into this a little later, but first I want to discuss the MJF return.
MJF’s Long Awaited Return:
For a night where the focus should have been the big return of MJF after months of him being missing from AEW TV, that was completely diminished significantly by this absolute embarrassment of a press conference. I wrote not once, but twice, that AEW dropped the ball with this MJF angle as it was clearly an angle that had the most potential to help elevate the company since it was based on an element of realism.
The one comment I got both times was well they are waiting for CM Punk to return, well Punk not only returned, but I’d argue his behavior at this press conference did more harm than potential good. Although as I said, I think and still believe AEW made a mistake silencing MJF for months.
He should have been running his mouth burying Tony Khan and AEW because it would have added elements to realism blurring the lines between what is real and what is storyline.
We all knew that they turned a real-life story of animosity between MJF and Tony Khan into a storyline and it was leading to another CM Punk and this time for the AEW World Championship. One of the only real highlights from this year’s All Out, was how the MJF return was handled.
During the Casino Ladder match, the stable that Stokely Hathaway was building for an unknown person arrived dressed in their best WWE’s Retribution gear and attacked the participants of the ladder match.
Allowing the masked joker to arrive and be handed the chip by his henchman, Stokely. Although it was clear to me and everyone else on the WRTD Watch Party, that the masked joker was clearly MJF. The mannerisms were unmistakable, I really like that they didn’t do the quick unmasking. Instead, they brilliantly waited until the end of the night after Punk regained the AEW Championship.
On a side note, it was completely ridiculous that they had Moxley squash CM Punk to unify the titles a few weeks ago, only for CM Punk to regain the title at All Out. I’m sure Tony Khan thought oh this will pop a rating on Dynamite and add to the intrigue of the title match at All Out…well it didn’t in my opinion. It was way more intriguing if they just continued to run their mouths at each other and they didn’t face each other to unify the titles until All Out.
Anyway, playing the infamous ROH CM Punk promo about the greatest trick the devil ever played was a smart play and one that was utilized the last time MJF, and CM Punk feuded as well. Playing the “voicemail” Tony Khan left MJF begging for him to return offering him the Joker spot in the ladder match “more money without an extension”, was actually a very smart move, because it tied up loose ends.
That loose end being MJF’s phenomenal pipebomb begging Tony Khan to fire him. This explained why MJF would be willing to comeback to AEW because he was being given what he wanted from a storyline perspective in the form of money and a title shot that gives him a chance of revenge against his hated rival CM Punk.
Ending the night on this high note, of MJF revealing himself as the Joker and staring down CM Punk should have been the last compelling image leading into Dynamite, but that press conference from hell severely damaged that as the only focus on social media today is about what happened there and not the MJF return.
CM Punk Out Of Control Press Conference:
Literally, right after a moment that should have been a highlight in AEW’s short history, was completely overshadowed and ruined when CM Punk decided to go on a complete self-serving rant against Colt Cabana for absolutely no reason.
No one appears to have asked him about Colt Cabana based on the video above, it was just something that he initiated just because he recognized a reporter who used to do improv with Colt Cabana. There have been rumors that CM Punk was responsible for Colt Cabana’s absence in AEW, so I completely understand why he’d be annoyed if he had nothing to do with it but based on the video no one appears to have even asked him about it.
“It’s f**king unfortunate that I have to come up here and speak on this one on my time, and this is a f**king business.
Why I’m a grown ass adult man and I decide not to be friends with somebody is nobody else’s f**king business, but my friends if I fall backwards will catch me. Scott Colton, I believe, never would have.
My problem was I wanted to bring a guy to the top that did not want to see me at the top. You can call it jealousy, you can call it envy, whatever the f**k it is.
A relationship with Scott Colton ended long before I paid all of his bills. I have every receipt. I have every invoice. I have every email. I have an email where he said, and I quote, ‘I agree to go our separate ways. I will get my own lawyer; you do not have to pay anymore.’ That’s an email I have.
The only reason the public did not see [that email] is when I had to counter-sue him for discovery, we discovered that he shared a bank account with his mother — that’s a fact. As soon as we sent a subpoena to old Marsha, he sent an email asking, ‘oh, can we please drop all this?’
Now, it’s 2022. I haven’t been friends with this guy since late 2013/2014 and the fact that I have to sit up here, and we have irresponsible people who call themselves EVPs who couldn’t manage a target, and they spread lies and bullshit, and they say that I got him fired when I want f**k all to do with him.
I want nothing to do with him. I don’t care where he works. I don’t care where he doesn’t work. Where he eats, where he sleeps and the fact that I have to get up here and do this in 2022 is f**king embarrassing and y’all are at fault, then f**k you. If you’re not, then I apologize.
But, what did I ever do in this world to deserve an empty-headed dumb f**k like Hangman Adam Page to go out on national television and go into business for himself? For what? What did I ever do? Didn’t do a goddamn thing.
I’ll tell you why I am upset about it. If you’re an EVP, you don’t try to belittle your top babyface to try to get your niche audience that’s on the internet to hate him for some made-up bullshit rumor.
Really pissed me off. Stepping on your own dick. Trying to make money, sell tickets, fill arenas and these stupid guys think they’re in Reseda.”
While it is true that it really is nobody’s business why or why not, CM Punk and Colt Cabana are no longer friends, it is absolutely inexcusable and unprofessional to go on this tirade against Colt Cabana, Colt’s mother, Hangman Page and the Bucks. This doesn’t appear to be a part of some storyline that they are trying to sell especially since it is pretty clear Punk’s next program is MJF.
I get Punk’s frustration in that he feels the stories about his involvement in possibly trying to get Colt Cabana fired would annoy him especially if they aren’t true. I get he blames the Elite as the possible sources of this due to their close relationship with a certain journalist.
If the EVPs are going to the media burying one of their three biggest household names in the company besides Chris Jericho and Sting, then that is incredibly stupid and shortsighted since that hurts the company. However, two wrongs don’t make a right and you certainly don’t handle things unprofessionally by going off at a press conference.
Tony Khan just sat there looking mortified as CM Punk just sat there burying his co-workers, enjoying cupcakes, calling out EVPs that helped found the company with him and said absolutely nothing.
CM Punk clearly felt comfortable essentially saying whatever he wanted because he clearly had no fear of Tony Khan doing anything about it. It gave the impression to everyone that Punk is above the professional rules of conduct and as Forbes said:
“As Tony Khan sat silently, just a few feet away, it’s fair to question just who is the boss of this company. AEW is violently close to the inmates running the asylum, if that hasn’t happened already, as Tony Khan’s locker room continues its downward spiral into descent.”
There is absolutely no excuse why Tony Khan did not shut this down immediately when Punk cut his promo weeks ago taking a shot at Hangman on Dynamite despite them not being in a program.
This makes Hangman look bad that he is actually called out and he doesn’t answer it. For Punk to say he is all about building up AEW, why bury one of their biggest homegrown talents?
Then at the press conference, he should have shut this mess of conference down immediately because this only hurt everyone involved.
Tony Khan did not come across like a boss here, he had a terrified look on his face like he was being held hostage and afraid to act like a boss and put his foot down.
Like I said, this mess would have never happened in WWE. Punk knows AEW needs him more than he needs AEW. Financially, Punk likely has a lot of money and clearly doesn’t appear to fear or respect Tony Khan as a boss because if he did, he wouldn’t have done this unprofessional tirade.
This rant took away from what should have been a great moment for AEW as they setup the best possible program for them with Punk and MJF for the world title. Instead, the only thing anyone is talking about was this disaster of a press conference.
This tweet is all about working together, but it seemed clear watching this press conference that Punk doesn’t really believe this anymore even though it was a little less than four months ago. You’re all adults, handle it like adults behind closed doors not to the detriment of the company by dragging out this stuff publicly, which does nothing but hurt the company’s image.
Tony Khan Needs To Step Up & Address It:
If it wasn’t bad enough that Tony Khan sat there like a deer in the headlights as Punk kept going off and wouldn’t stop and Tony failed to stop him either, it actually got worse. When it was Tony’s turn to answer questions, he also came off in my opinion as unprofessional.
Since AEW’s existence they have continuously taken shots at WWE and for the most part WWE really just ignored them. When you’re the industry leader and way ahead financially and brand recognition it is just smart business to keep an eye on the distant number two, but no reason to acknowledge them unless asked.
Tony Khan and AEW loved bragging about their ratings wins over NXT when they went head-to-head on Wednesday nights. However, now that Triple H is now in control of the kingdom, AEW is feeling the pressure. WWE’s ratings are going up, the audience appears to be liking the changes Hunter has made and on the other side of the fence AEW is being plagued with rumors of backstage drama and ratings not improving.
So instead of answering the question professionally on his thoughts of WWE holding two shows this weekend for the first-time during Labor Day weekend when AEW ran unopposed in previous years. What Tony should have said was something like this, “I’m only concerned with giving the AEW fans the best show, and I look forward to the competition. I feel we have a superior product and we showed it tonight”.
However, this was the response he gave about WWE competition and All Out’s buyrate:
“There’s a big difference between this year and last year. We were the first professional wrestling show and the only professional wrestling show on Labor Day weekend last year. We were the third professional wrestling show of the weekend this year. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. And when I talk about things I wasn’t thrilled about, I was a little surprised we were the third professional wrestling show this weekend, and it’s probably a little bit more challenging in the marketplace when it becomes a little more crowded. So, our performance…in prior years, we never had this kind of competition. This was kind of a first for us in AEW to see this kind of a crowded marketplace. I’m not sure if this is what we’ll see from now on. If it is, when the fight is brought, I will continue to bring a fight of my own. I have unique ways to do that. I have a lot of money to fight with. This is not a game to me. This is my life, and I don’t think it is a joke. I take it very seriously.
When I compared myself to Jim Crockett Promotions this weekend, I think I got a taste of the same medicine Jim Crockett Promotions took, but I have a lot more f***ing money than Jim Crockett did. I’m serious. I’m not gonna sit back and take this f***ing shit.”
This comes off as incredibly petty and ridiculous for a variety of reasons in my opinion. First off, WWE did not go head-to-head with All Out, they had a show the day before and a show earlier in the day that ended hours before All Out was set to begin.
When the WWF held Survivor Series against JCP Starrcade that was direct head-to-head and even threaten the cable companies that if they carried Starrcade they wouldn’t get WrestleMania IV. This was certainly not the situation here with AEW.
Second, WWE’s Clash at the Castle and NXT’s Worlds Collide, were literally included for either $4.99 or $9.99 depending on which tier of Peacock or WWE Network that they have so it was not a situation for a majority of the fans that they were forced to choose between buying All Out or that month’s network subscription.
AEW chooses to charge $50 for their PPVs and families finances may not support buying All Out when AEW just had Forbidden Door and ROH’s Death Before Dishonor, which are two events the AEW audience had to shell out another $90 for those two shows that they didn’t have to last year.
Third, as a whole in my opinion, this year’s All Out failed to deliver from the storytelling build up and match quality including three squash matches on their biggest show of the year. It had its moments but was significantly underwhelming compared to last years. As I wrote about last year’s All Out, I absolutely loved the show last year. This year’s show lacked that feel of AEW’s version of WrestleMania, unlike last year where it felt like this was a MUST SEE show.
A huge reason for that is CM Punk was making his long-awaited return to the ring after a seven plus year hiatus. Another reason as detailed by my esteemed colleagues at the Republic Ramble, Clark Taylor and Coby Galenzoski, having to book both Forbidden Door and Death Before Dishonor, where AEW decided to hold two additional PPVs on their calendar that prevented them the ability to build to All Out like previous years where there was normal three months in between Double or Nothing and All Out.
This potentially hurt the storytelling and injuries as well impacted the quality of the buildup to this year’s show. Just Forbidden Door might not have been so bad for them, but since ROH has no independent TV, AEW’s TV time had to be used to build to DBD, so the combo certainly impacted AEW.
Finally, there are three groups of wrestling fans, those that only watch WWE or AEW and those like myself who watches everything. So, knowing this WWE holding events the same weekend should have had little to no impact on AEW’s All Out buyrate. The truth is AEW just didn’t give the audience a card strong enough to exceed last years, so it isn’t WWE’s fault in my opinion.
Competition is the best thing for the industry as a whole, so instead of complaining about it or bragging about how much money you have, just shut up and compete. Let the quality of your product do your talking and if you have the superior product the fans will do the talking with their money as they buy and watch the shows.
You are not going to see Triple H go on these type of tirade rants at a press conference and Tony has been doing this long enough he shouldn’t still be having these hissy fit rants at press conferences. Seriously Tony here is some advice, if you want to be respected and not looked at as a rich guy playing wannabe promoter, you need to step up and carry yourself as a professional especially during press conferences. I get you have passion, but you gotta do better in choosing your words here.
It’s not just about having more personal money, it’s about what you do with the money. WWE has consistently shown they know how to compete and turn a profit. WWE has record profits at the moment and honestly we don’t know how financially successful AEW is doing since they aren’t publicly traded like WWE is. It’s a business and Tony needs to focus on AEW’s product not bragging about bank accounts.
It is one thing to be passionate, but you need to channel that energy so that you can get a positive result. Tony’s point was he is willing to compete, but that wasn’t what people likely took away from watching it because it came off to me as somebody that is upset that he has potential competition now on Labor Day Weekend.
It is not so much what you say, but how you say it and Tony Khan needs to do some seriously evaluation on how he carries himself in press conferences and he needs to step up and get his locker room in order.
You have to separate friendships and boss/employee, so he needs to address it and realize that not everyone is going to like the decisions he makes. Things are coming to a legitimate head in his locker room as his co-founders are threatening to leave over Punk.
He already lost one founder and EVP this year when Cody Rhodes returned home to WWE. Tony needs to step up and set the ship right and he is likely going to be forced to choose between the Elite and CM Punk and now the question is which side will he choice if he cannot fix this gigantic problem.
As I co-wrote with Coby Galenzosk, a few months back that we felt MJF is jumping to WWE in 2024 and we still feel that way and a toxic locker room where the inmates are running the asylum is certainly not going to help their chances of keeping him in AEW.
Tony needs to set things right as soon as possible, because WWE isn’t AEW’s biggest threat it is the toxic drama inside the company that is its biggest problem. CM Punk needs to put his ego aside and decide if he truly wants to help AEW to put his ego aside and work with these people or if it would be best to leave. The Elite have the same question to answer do you stay and try and make this work or do you leave like Cody did.
AEW’s future depends on what happens here, do they lose Punk or the Elite or neither. This all depends on Tony Khan’s leadership and the egos involved.
Photo Credits – AEW and Denise Salcedo