SI.com Wrestling Week is published weekly and provides coverage below the surface of professional wrestling activity.
The All out press conference revealed one of pro wrestling’s dirtiest secrets. Sometimes what happens behind the curtain is more fascinating than what happens in the ring.
This was the case when Sunday evening changed to Monday morning. CM Punk spoke at the post-match press conference and took a flamethrower into the AEW locker room, knocking down other wrestlers, especially Hangman Page, the executive vice presidents of the AEW. company – who are Kenny Omega and Matt and Nick Jackson of the Young Bucks – as well as Colt Cabana. The focus of the press conference should have been on MJF’s jaw-dropping return, but that major storyline became almost non-existent as Punk went completely off-script in his reviews.
Once Punk left the press room, he exchanged words in a locker room with Omega and the Bucks, which led to a physical altercation. Punishment for this backstage fight, Sports Illustrated learned, will include suspensions for everyone involved. The suspended list includes Omega, Matt and Nick Jackson, Pat Buck, Christopher Daniels, Michael Nakazawa and Brandon Cutler. Multiple sources have shared that Punk and Ace Steel will either be among those suspended or no longer with the company by the end of Wednesday. Punk met Khan on Tuesday, so the two had the opportunity to discuss how this exit might be handled.
According to the sources, an external third-party investigation will be conducted to look into what happened. Page had already left the building, Sports Illustrated learned, which explains his absence from the altercation.
Punk’s fury ignited at the press conference when he mentioned his former friend Cabana. Rumors swirled that Punk moved Cabana to Ring of Honor, and Punk clearly believes they stemmed from leaks within the company, possibly even Omega and the Bucks. Punk vehemently denied any involvement in Cabana’s career, and this topic of discussion triggered him.
This all happened during the press conference where Punk was seated next to AEW owner Tony Khan. It was an awkward, uncomfortable and unprofessional scene. Punk is an AEW World Champion, which adds another layer to this conundrum. The Bucks and Omega are the first World Lines Champions.
Remarkably, there could still be a positive outcome if Punk and FTR engage in a heated feud with Omega and the Bucks. Punk mentioned at Sports Illustrated he’s been in AEW two weeks ago selling tickets and driving notes. Real-world conflict sells in this industry, especially when leveraged in the right way – but sources close to AEW say a storyline won’t come out of this.
Khan is CEO, Managing Director and Chief Creative Officer. This incident highlights AEW’s major need to delegate. Overseeing a wrestling business is no one-man show, and even Vince McMahon, at the peak of his WWE power, never claimed to be. McMahon surrounded himself with the best minds in wrestling and put them in key roles, such as with Pat Patterson, Jim Ross, Jim Barnett, JJ Dillon, Gorilla Monsoon and Arnold Skaaland. Although he approved all the major decisions, there was never just McMahon behind the scenes to handle it all. Yes, McMahon may have been the one to receive the accolades and recognition, but WWE’s success under his leadership was the result of a wide range of contributions. AEW’s lack of executive leadership experience plays a role in these issues. The company has a top-notch world-class roster, but far less front office experience.
WWE also plays a role in all of this. As Khan noted at the press conference, All out did well commercially, but not to the point of setting corporate records. That’s largely because WWE strategically held a must-see event the night before. Showdown at the castleas well as an NXT special in War of the Worlds just hours before AEW begins its All out pay per view.
For WWE, this All out press conference will no doubt be used by new content director Paul Levesque as a new recruiting piece. Lévesque follows a wrestling plan created by McMahon in the 1980s. While McMahon had moved away from it, Lévesque is back to sign all the best talent available.
Under Lévesque, there is a new wave of robust recruitment. What if multiple AEW talents try to leverage their builds? It could be very unsettling, which means it’s likely to be a point of attention for WWE. AEW built much of its brand in contrast to McMahon’s poor booking and lackluster presentation of the beloved talent. Still, that’s changing now, as WWE has quickly ramped up its storylines since Levesque took over creative control.
In the shadow of it all are expiring television rights deals for AEW and WWE. Based on their ratings, AEW should be able to receive a significant increase in its rights fee when the current deal with WarnerBrothers/Discovery expires at the end of 2024. But WarnerMedia merged with Discovery, Inc., forming Warner Bros. Discovery, and the market is unsure of its current strategy, creating question marks around AEW’s future. WWE also needs new network rights deals, as the existing deals with NBCUniversal and Fox only last until the end of September 2024. WWE’s goal is no doubt to weaken AEW while further strengthening its own brand.
For AEW, this is not a time for chaos. The company needs to tighten up its internal affairs, as the pro wrestling industry is a much stronger place with two big companies instead of one overwhelming monopoly.
The (online) week of wrestling
• Braun Strowman returned to WWE last Monday on Rawreceiving a vigorous response from the crowd.
• Frankie Kazarian offered his perspective from 25 years in the world of professional wrestling.
• How will MJF respond to recent events in AEW? Will he retaliate on Punk?
• Johnny Gargano will fight for the first time in nine months next Monday the Raw.
Conrad Thompson on Steve “Mongo” McMichael’s fundraiser: “We hope to be at $20,000 by the end of the week”
The “Money for Mongo” fundraiser took place last Saturday, with a Hall of Fame cast raising money for Steve “Mongo” McMichael.
Once a physical specimen with the NFL Chicago Bears and later a member of the Four Horsemen in WCW, McMichael suffers from ALS. A wicked and vicious disease, McMichael faces the consequences of this cruel and blind affliction.
The star-studded cast of AdFreeShows.com hosted the “Money for Mongo” stream last Saturday, streamed for free on FITE. Featuring Ric Flair, Eric Bischoff, Jeff Jarrett, Jim Ross, Mick Foley, Tony Schiavone and Conrad Thompson, it was a chance for wrestling to seek out a beloved family member.
“We were honored to support Mongo, and 100% of the money goes directly to him and his wife,” Thompson said. “Wrestling, despite all the stupid bickering behind the scenes, still has a lot of great people who want to help each other out. Mongo is a proud part of this family of wrestlers, and we’re all proud to help out in any way we can. All of YouTube’s ad revenue goes to Mongo and Misty. »
A former Super Bowl champion, McMichael displayed an undeniable charm every time he spoke. Despite his giant size, he could disarm people with his gregarious nature. After his NFL career, he had a brief stint in WWE which culminated at Wrestle Mania XI as one of the football players on Lawrence Taylor’s team, then endeared himself to wrestling fans after leaving WCW’s broadcast booth and entering the ring.
For those interested, people can still donate to help defray McMichael’s medical expenses.
“His family runs a five-figure deficit every month with their health care costs, so it was a big deal to contribute in any way,” Thompson said. “We’re almost at $17,000 and hope to be at $20,000 by the end of the week.”
Tweet of the week
Wisdom (and note the timing) of John Cena.