10 Moves Tony Khan Must Make To Save AEW

That title might read as hyperbole - but tell that to AEW's advance ticket sales...

Tony Khan ROH
AEW

AEW is in a spot of trouble, the extent to which isn't as obvious as the statement.

It's still the best promotion on the planet, but what, really, does that mean these days? Not one company, despite WWE's numbers and the optimistic narrative surrounding it, is operating at the peak of its powers. WWE is overly reliant on long matches that are good, not great, and not heated. NJPW has felt stale for a long time, and the other Japanese promotions won't feel anything more than bittersweet until packed, full-throated fans are all the way back for good. ROH is...well. Read on. Impact is probably more consistent than ever, actually, but the highs are nowhere near what they once were. GCW appears to have had its time. PWG, its identity subsumed, has lost the old soul that once resided in Reseda.

Is AEW in a similar place?

If not quite facing an existential crisis - Warner Bros. Discovery are reportedly "very happy" with its performance - AEW is in danger of losing that which made it so wonderful. Then again, look at those advance ticket sales. Yikes is the word; the November 4 live Rampage taping has sold just 1,022, which is frightening - particularly since AEW tends to shift the majority of its tickets in one early surge. Ultimately, despite strong enough TV ratings and mostly good or at times great shows, AEW doesn't feel like AEW. The magic is vanishing.

It can however feel like AEW again...

10. Make A Rule #1: End Or Severely Limit Recruitment Storylines

Tony Khan ROH
AEW

All worthy, traditional narrative fiction adheres to a set of rules.

For it to make sense - and for the audience to invest - it must be trusted. Things have to matter, characters should behave in a certain, consistent way. Establishing a fixed set of rules allows the author/show-runner/booker not to fall into traps and make a sloppy, trope-ridden mess. Break this discipline, and problems mount.

In short, Tony Khan must remember that which made AEW so vital at its peak.

Khan needs to erect a dry erase board and bind himself to a certain set of rules. The core issue, and it's a sprawling one, is that there's so little narrative discipline to AEW's product of late. It is imperative that Khan tightens his sh*t up.

The faction-boss-recruits-new-acts thing is almost laughably passé at this point. It used to work as a key narrative driver, but what's happened is that joining or forming a stable is hardly a guarantee of career progression, and the device is unconvincing.

Consider Private Party. They were once over because they burst onto the scene as a breakout indie act with agency. Now, they've spent the last two years under the guidance of Matt Hardy, and then Andrade, and now, Matt is trying to win them back. It's ridiculous. Why would they bother? They're in the semi-frequent Rampage abyss. They're better off on their own. The premise of this story is impossible to take seriously.

In turn, so is AEW all too often.

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Contributor

Writer, podcaster and editor. Deft Punk. Author of Becoming All Elite: The Rise of AEW, which is available to purchase at the following link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Becoming-All-Elite-powerful-Wrestling/dp/B09MYSNT71