If a newcomer to the wrestling world wanted an exhibit on why AEW makes so much noise for such a new company in the industry, last week it would be that. It showed everything the company does well, as well as being exemplified the problems he has and, above all, how he deals with them. You really couldn’t get a clearer view of everything.
Although AEW has become very popular, considering where they came from and how quickly they did it, because President Tony Khan runs the company as a wrestling fan, that also means he can lean on the worst trends of wrestling fans, and in particular AEW fans.
One aspect of AEW that has turned some off is the “AEW exceptionalism” among its fans. Because AEW does so much good – and they do, considering the games they’ve played, the stories they’ve told, the stars they’ve created – there’s a feeling among their most ardent followers that they can’t do anything wrong. The criticisms of the AEW have always been met with resounding defenses, if not even hurled. Yes, this is a symptom of sports and politics fandom in general everywhere, and whether AEW is better or worse than others is up for debate for another day. We can safely say that there is.
It all started when Big Swole, aka Aerial Hull, who recently left the company, he spent some of his complaints with AEW and some of the reasons why he decided to leave. And nothing Swole had to say was unreasonable, or even incorrect. Swole pointed out the lack of TV time for the women’s division, which is absolutely true, even as the roster continues to grow. He went on, saying that although AEW places a lot of faith in wrestlers with regards to their creative direction, not all wrestlers have a great command of their character and direction. And there is no one around, like a writer, to help them do the things they can point them out and eventually they bring them on TV. The irritation of executives at any criticism of how things are handled has also bothered Swole, who is back in a big way as we will soon see.
Swole’s biggest criticism, and another completely correct one, was the lack of diversity on the roster. It is certainly not the first. Especially on the men’s side, Swole was quick to point out “there is no one who looks like her. “And so it is. As for the black fighters who are around the AEW or TNT title scene, is there … none? Powerhouse Hobbs has had a hit with CM Punk, but hasn’t been seen since. The tag split is slightly better, with The Acclaimed or Private Party, and certainly there is a fair amount of Latin representation, but it’s still not great. The women’s split just crowned Jade Cargill as TBS champion, but once again … that’s it. Red Velvet aired briefly on TV at times, and that’s the point. Certainly Nyla Rose as the only transgender wrestler on any mainstream TV is worthy of praise, but that doesn’t mean the road is. been traveled.
However, what’s important to remember as we delve into Tony Khan’s reaction to all of this is that Swole was saying it to open up the discussion. Here’s the kicker:
“I think the company is making great strides compared to before, but a couple of things need to be resolved. You have to be able to call people because not everything is perfect, “he said.” I hope they listen to this with an open heart and not just, ‘Ah, he’s just saying that because of XYZ.’ I sincerely want them to be successful. I love this art form. I love wrestling and I want it to be successful and I want the people in it to be successful if they are authentic people. “
Tony Khan did exactly what Swole said he didn’t want.
Khan opted for “I have a lot of black friends!” defense, which is never defense. Fans don’t see the executives Khan refers to. Mentioning wrestlers who got “a” victory on TV or YouTube isn’t really the problem. That’s what we see at the top of the roster. It’s not really listening to what Swole was saying, but rejecting criticism simply because it’s critical, and then trying to discredit her by trying to paint her as bitter and not good enough in the ring. It is denial, not discussion, which is exactly what Swole said he was looking for.
Swole wasn’t calling Khan a racist, but Khan reacted as if he did, which was the apparatus that paralyzed any discussion of racism anywhere for a couple of centuries. Swole is basically saying, “You are not aware of it, but this is how we see it and we would like to talk about it.” Khan’s reaction was: “I’m not a racist!” Which is not quite what Swole was saying.
Still, AEW does what it always does, which buys her as much catwalk as possible despite the problems she has, putting on two big shows last week. Last night, Hangman Page and Bryan Danielson somehow got through their first match with the second. Cargill won the TBS title in a great match with Ruby Soho, the largest AEW collection from WWE on the female side. The show ended with a big tag match between Jurassic Express and the Lucha Brothers that was sadly tainted by a gruesome injury to Rey Fenix. Last Friday, Anna Jay and Tay Conit v Penelope Ford and The Bunny was a chaotic, violent heavy metal bloodbath that is the best match the four have ever had (both the women’s streetfight and last night’s title match. showed AEW delight in bleeding, which is another better / worse debate at a much lower level).
At the end of the day, Khan gives the fans what they want, which is just great wrestling.
Or above all what they want. There are some who want to see more women’s matches on TV, better representation at the top of each division, etc. And just because Khan does so well doesn’t mean he does everything right. It’s disappointing that he decided to use the former as an excuse not to listen to the latter either. But because of the former, he still has a lot of time to change his ways and hear what people have to say about what is missing. Didn’t use it this time, I hope it will next time.