POLLOCK’S UPDATE: The Most Important Year in AEW’s History

Photo Courtesy: AEW

THE MOST IMPORTANT YEAR IN AEW’S HISTORY

It feels like every few months AEW arrives at its latest crossroads – engulfed with extreme praise and criticism in ample amounts – in 2024, all roads lead to the next set of television negotiations with all decisions and directions having its conclusion when that deal is announced.

Dynasty is the promotion’s latest pay-per-view addition with a calendar that has grown to meet the demands of its paying audience with few arguing that AEW is producing the best pay-per-view/major shows from an in-ring standpoint. They occupy one of the deepest rosters for any national promotion and the embarrassment of riches is outlined by who is not available from Kenny Omega, MJF, Adam Cole, Darby Allin, Britt Baker, Rey Fenix, and Jamie Hayter while not having Jon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli, Christian Cage, Konosuke Takeshita, Ricky Starks or Hangman Page booked on this show.

Over the past two weeks, the focus has returned to CM Punk both through circumstances beyond their control and those they did control. Everyone knew that Punk’s addressing of his AEW tenure and September 2023 exit would be addressed and it happened to land on WrestleMania Week when he spoke on The MMA Hour for nearly two hours. Your takeaway from the interview would vary based on your opinion of AEW as it either discounted the merits of the top competitor WWE has faced since WCW or reinforced your belief that it’s not a well-run company.

Later that week, AEW announced its decision to air the security footage from backstage at All In between CM Punk and Jack Perry and lit a firestorm of people shaking their heads at this decision to invite more attention to CM Punk – a figure that has both brought the company to great highs and greater lows.

The airing of the footage was dismissed as a promotional tactic and defended by Khan after the show drew a 0.30 rating in the 18-49 demographic. This followed 0.23 ratings in back-to-back weeks. If the rating justifies the means, it opens Pandora’s box of what can be justified regardless of its message and long-term effect on the brand and fanbase. By the same token, Khan could instantly release everyone from their NDAs and have the Young Bucks share their side of the All Out 2022 incident next week and it would draw a number, but to what end when the key figure involved is working for the competitor?

While the security footage was hardly the “jumping the shark” moment some likened it to, the long-term arbiter of this tactic will rest on Jack Perry’s return and whether the Scapegoat character becomes a money player and adds an edge and substance to his portrayal. Last Friday’s performance at the Windy City Riot provided a lot of optimism that they have something special with Perry regardless of whether the audience is behind him, or against him.

In this contract year for AEW, it’s the year you go all out and garner as much momentum within reach. It’s one of the key reasons Khan’s decision to release CM Punk was such a tough choice to make knowing how valuable he was despite the inherent problems that came with it.

While live attendance has not been strong, it’s the television audience that WBD and other suitors are judging. Dynamite remains among the strongest cable properties at WBD with a consistent placement on Wednesday nights that only trails the NBA, which is nothing to hold one’s head down over. Collision remains a work-in-progress on a tough night for television viewership but is posting respectable numbers but is a solid #2 show to Dynamite rather than a 1-A and 1-B correlation.

The ripple effect of WWE’s television moves is unknown concerning what it means for AEW. Will Fox/FS1 have an appetite for non-WWE wrestling at a cheaper premium than SmackDown was commanding? Does Netflix gobbling up such a sizable amount of WWE’s international rights create regions looking to fill those holes over the next year with AEW? Is this the year AEW strikes a sizable streaming deal for its content? Is there a mystery suitor we are sleeping on? Is WBD testing the waters for a three-hour block of AEW programming? What will WBD’s stake in the NBA rights be?

All these questions are why casting matter-of-fact conclusions on AEW is fruitless.

The weaknesses have received the larger spotlight and with good reason. AEW has been impacted negatively by the resurgence of WWE over the past eighteen months making it tougher to be the alternative when the industry leader is satisfying its audience. It becomes a dangerous game for AEW to judge itself against WWE or become reactionary rather than proactive in its direction. The narrative of 1999 was how WWF was destroying WCW and while creatively, WCW was in the doldrums, their business was more than respectable throughout most of 1999 and didn’t truly collapse until 2000. It was an example of a company caught in the trap of winding up and going for the one-shot knockout every week and missing spectacularly while the opponent saw those openings and lit them up with multi-punch combos that landed flush. Those are the comparisons many felt when seeing the one-week knockout attempt by airing the Punk footage and trying to justify it as a decision to enhance its programming but came off as reactionary to the Punk interview and a stunt.

The credit Khan deserves more than anyone else in his “challenger brand” role is the ability to score meaningful television deals throughout his tenure. From the jump, Khan got on board with WBD and secured two hours of prime-time programming with a modest television deal on a great platform, which included production costs being covered by the network. You could not have asked for a better start to the AEW era on television and while many look at the December 18, 2019, program with the Dark Order beat down of The Elite as a low point creatively – weeks later, WBD tore up its contract and upgraded their deal with AEW. It is not hyperbolic to look back and say that the upgrade saved the company as no one could have predicted the next eighteen months of a pandemic on the horizon and AEW’s ability to sell tickets being restricted.

Of all the personalities and companies that have tried to succeed without the letters of “WWE” from TNA, Billy Corgan, Jeff Jarrett, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Lucha Underground, MLW, and many others, no one has been able to secure the level of television distribution and licensing fee as AEW has, and Khan did it on his own without a percentage cut out for an agency representing them.

The list of pros and cons attached to Tony Khan runs several deep but his ultimate test is securing the television deal(s) of a lifetime this year and if he takes this company to profitability, then it’s mission accomplished of what AEW set out to do as a start-up promotion in 2019. It greatly outpaced expectations but has experienced rapid turbulence over the past two years and made All In such a fascinating show with the highest of highs on camera and the lowest of lows backstage.

POST IT NOTES

**The April 2024 edition of the ASK-A-WAI Mailbag Show is available for POST Café members as we answer all your questions with topics including separate locations for WrestleMania, WWE’s handling of Vince McMahon’s legacy, TV wrestling versus PPV/PLEs, backstage fights in traditional sports, social media etiquette, responding to criticism, WWE production changes, WWE’s handling of Cody Rhodes and Jade Cargill, and lots more.

**Rewind-A-SmackDown is live at 10 p.m. ET tonight for POST Café members as Wai Ting & John Pollock review SmackDown and take your calls.

**Collision Course is back on Saturday at 11 p.m. ET with John Siino & Kate from Montreal reviewing AEW Collision & Rampage on the POST Café.

**We will be live immediately following AEW Dynasty on Sunday on the POST YouTube channel.

**Next week, Rewind-A-Wai is covering HUSTLE 3 from May 2004 at the Yokohama Arena headlined by Kevin Nash & Scott Hall vs. Naoya Ogawa & Shinya Hashimoto, Toshiaki Kawada vs. Mick Foley and matches involving Dusty Rhodes, Tiger Jeet Singh, Mark Coleman, and Riki Choshu.

POST SCHEDULE

Tonight: Rewind-A-SmackDown with John Pollock & Wai Ting (POST Wrestling Café)
Saturday: Collision Course with John Siino & Kate from Montreal (POST Wrestling Café)
Sunday: AEW Dynasty with John & Wai
Monday: Rewind-A-Raw

WRESTLING NEWS

**Netflix will stop reporting its quarterly subscription numbers beginning next year. The streamer stated that it will be focusing on revenue, operating margin, and engagement time as its key metrics rather than quarter-to-quarter subscription numbers. The change will begin with the first-quarter results in 2025 and Netflix still plans to release revenue by region and guidance. During its earnings report on Thursday, Netflix announced the addition of 9.3 million subscribers during the quarter and a worldwide number of 269.6 million with revenues of $9.4 billion. WWE Raw will launch on the service in January 2025 and it remains to be seen if there will be any weekly/quarterly data released on Raw’s viewing figures and its international performance. (The Hollywood Reporter)

**Friday Night SmackDown is at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh with the last update from WrestleTix at 12,499 tickets distributed. The challenger for Cody Rhodes at Backlash will be determined between AJ Styles and LA Knight while Bayley makes the first defense of her women’s championship against Naomi. The show will be airing against the NBA Play-In tournament with back-to-back games beginning at 7 p.m. ET as the Miami Heat face the Chicago Bulls followed by the Sacramento Kings vs. New Orleans Pelicans. Below is the match listing for SmackDown:
*#1 Contenders Match: LA Knight vs. AJ Styles
*Women’s Championship: Bayley © vs. Naomi
*#1 Contenders Fatal Four-Way Match: AOP vs. New Catch Republic vs. Street Profits vs. Angel & Berto

**The WWE European tour hit the O2 Arena earlier today in London, England, and wraps up on Saturday in Belfast, Northern Ireland at the SSE Arena. There are two domestic house shows this weekend with Erie, Pennsylvania on Saturday and Fort Wayne, Indiana on Sunday. Monday’s episode of Raw is in Columbus, Ohio with Awesome Truth vs. DIY for the World Tag Titles and Dominik Mysterio & JD McDonagh vs. Ricochet & Andrade.

**Dos Caras has been accused of domestic violence by former partner Diana Patricia Mondragon with a criminal complaint launched against the famous wrestler. Mondragon has accused Caras of attacking her, forcing her to kiss his feet, and alleges that Caras’ son, Guillermo a.k.a. Hijo de Dos Caras, threw acid in her face. Luchablog noted that Dos Caras issued a statement on social media defending himself and stating that Mondragon had threatened and harassed his family for the past three months and he filed a criminal complaint against her last month. He denies the accusation made by Mondragon and believes he has been defamed. Dos Caras is the brother of Mil Máscaras and Sicodélico and father of Alberto El Patron

**Wrestlenomics reported that the peak segment from Dynamite was the opening quarter with 971,000 viewers for the Jon Moxley promo and the beginning of Adam Copeland & Willow Nightingale vs. Brody King & Julia Hart. The peak in the 18-49 audience was the second quarter featuring the ending of the tag match and backstage promos from Mercedes Mone and Samoa Joe with 381,000 viewers, which also had the hindrance of having two ad breaks during that quarter between 8:15 and 8:30 p.m. ET. The six-minute overrun did not have the intended impact as the audience dropped ten percent and the demo audience fell by six percent.

**The final ticket count for this past Wednesday’s Dynamite at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum was 3,012 and essentially the same amount they drew last September in the same venue. (WrestleTix)

**Max has announced that “The Iron Claw” will begin streaming on the platform on May 10.

**AJPW kicked off its Champion Carnival tournament on Thursday and was a very good show with the final three matches all delivering including the major upset of Ren Ayabe pinning Kento Miyahara. The other recommended match would be Davey Boy Smith Jr. vs. Yuma Aoyagi. The Carnival continues Saturday in Hamamatsu with the following tournament matches streaming on All Japan’s streaming network:
*BLOCK A: Shotaro Ashino (2) vs. Ren Ayabe (2)
*BLOCK A: Kento Miyahara (0) vs. Hokuto Omori (0)
*BLOCK A: Yuma Aoyagi (2) vs. Kuroshio TOKYO Japan (0)
*BLOCK B: Hideki Suzuki (0) vs. Jun Saito (0)
*BLOCK B: Yuma Anzai (2) vs. Lord Crew (2)
*BLOCK B: Suwama (2) vs. Hartley Jackson (0)

**NJPW’s Road to Dontaku tour begins on Saturday in Tokyo with LIJ’s Tetsuya Naito, Yota Tsuji, Shingo Takagi, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI vs. David Finlay, Gabe Kidd, Clark Connors, Drilla Moloney & Gedo in the main event. The tour heads to Nagano on Sunday, and back-to-back nights at Korakuen Hall beginning on Monday.

**GCW’s How High card on TrillerTV+ on Saturday from the Ukrainian Cultural Center features 2 Cold Scorpio vs. Joey Janela, Bad Dude Tito & Che Cabrera vs. Zilla Fatu & TBA, Mance Warner vs. Dark Sheik, Effy & Allie Katch vs. The Stoner Brothers, Human Tornado vs. Santana Jackson, Maki Itoh vs. Sandra Moone, Jack Cartwheel vs. Broski Jimmy, and Blake Christian teams with Shane Mercer & Kerry Morton against Grim Reefer, Ruckus & Mr. Danger. On Sunday, they are in Albuquerque, New Mexico with a show at 8 p.m. headlined by Blake Christian vs. Effy for the GCW title and Nick Gage vs. Broski Jimmy.

**MLW’s War Chamber II show will be airing on YouTube and beIN Sports on Saturday at 10 p.m. ET with the following taped matches:
*War Chamber: Raven, Jimmy Lloyd, Jake Crist & AKIRA vs. Sami Callihan, Rickey Shane Page, Cannonball & Doctor Cornwallis
*MLW World Heavyweight Championship: Satoshi Kojima © vs. Bad Dude Tito
*Matt Riddle vs. Timothy Thatcher (this was taped when Riddle was still the NJPW Television Champion)
*MLW Tag Team Titles: Tom Lawlor & Davey Boy Smith Jr. © vs. Alex Kane & Mr. Thomas
*Virus vs. Star Jr.
*Zayda vs. Sofia Castillo
*Brett Ryan Gosselin vs. Budd Heavy

**Cody Rhodes appears on Good Morning Britain.

**NXT performer Lexis King has been added to Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling card on May 11 in Texas City but no opponent has been announced yet.  

**STARDOM has posted the trailer for the upcoming biopic on Mayu Iwatani.

**WWE released a video of Randy Orton and Mick Foley watching their match from Backlash 2004, which occurred twenty years ago this week. The program kicked off nearly one year prior when Orton sent Foley down a flight of stairs and resumed in late 2003 with an angle where Orton spat in Foley’s face and he walked away rather than fighting Orton. It led to a handicap match at WrestleMania 20 with Foley teaming with The Rock against Orton, Batista & Ric Flair in a match that Foley was disappointed by and felt he was caught up in the moment and didn’t deliver his best performance. The redemption came one month later with Foley describing Backlash as his career highlight and was a significant moment in Orton’s elevation.

**The PFL is at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago tonight as its season continues with welterweight and featherweight fights. The main card airs on ESPN at 9:30 p.m. ET against the NBA and the last thirty minutes of SmackDown. Below is the card:

MAIN CARD (9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN & ESPN+)
*Andrey Koreshkov (26-4) vs. Magomed Umalatov (14-0)
*Brendan Loughnane (27-5) vs. Pedro Carvalho (13-8)
*Logan Storley (16-7) vs. Shamil Musaev (15-0-1)
*Justin Gonzales (14-2) vs. Gabriel Braga (12-1)
*Goiti Yamauchi (28-6) vs. Neiman Gracie (12-4)
*Kai Kamaka (12-5-1) vs. Bubba Jenkins (21-6)

PRELIMINARY CARD (7 p.m. on ESPN+)

*Adam Borics (18-2) vs. Enrique Barzola (20-7-2)
*Brett Johns (19-3) vs. Timur Khizrive (12-0)
*Laureano Staropoli (9-5) vs. Murad Ramazanov (11-0)
*Brennan Ward (17-7) vs. Don Madge (10-4-1)
*Tyler Diamond (12-3) vs. Otto Rodrigues (14-1)
*Thad Jean (6-0) vs. Romain Debienne (10-4)

**PFL has added cards on June 13 a Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, June 21 at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, and June 28 at Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

**The UFC is running a Fight Night event at the KFC Yum Center on June 9 in Louisville, Kentucky. The UFC has only run two events in Kentucky in its history with the lone show in Louisville occurring in March 2011, which featured an incredible fight between Diego Sanchez and Martin Kampmann.

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About John Pollock 5572 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.