Ex-AEW Man Slams The Company: "I Wouldn't Treat My Worst Enemy Like That"

This former AEW name didn't hold back in his criticism of the promotion.

Kevin Kelly

Having been fired by AEW this past March, Kevin Kelly has not held back in his criticism of the company and how he was treated during his exit from Tony Khan's promotion.

A part of the Collision commentary team, Kelly was released by AEW after he and fellow commentator Ian Riccaboni had a falling out that found itself eventually playing out online. The 57-year-old New Yorker has now given his side of the story, chastising AEW for its behaviour and how he wouldn't treat his worst enemy like how he was treated during his finals days with the company.

Speaking during a virtual signing for K & S WrestleFest (via POST Wrestling), Kelly detailed how he helped get Riccaboni hired in Ring of Honor, that Riccaboni badmouthed him to the ROH office, but that things seemed to be okay between the two when Riccaboni recommended Kelly to Tony Khan once Collision was in the works.


As Kevin Kelly explained:

"I start doing this AEW thing, and Tony Khan told me, ‘I first wanted Ian Riccaboni to do Collision but he couldn’t because of his day job’. Okay, so Ian recommended me. Great, cool. I go away, they knew this, I go away to do [NJPW's] G1, I’m gone five weeks. I come back and it’s, like, Ian’s hammered me on Discord on this New Japan message board about, you know, I did all these different things to him over the years, which I never knew. I had no clue, and then, to top it all off, he accuses me of being some QAnon conspiracy theorist for supporting a movie that was against child trafficking. That’s neither here nor there. The part that bothers me so much is that I thought we were friends, and if he would have called me, we could have talked about it. 'Hey Kevin, listen, you’re really pissing me off', and even if we would have agreed to never be friends before, if he would have just called me up and said, 'F you, I hate you, I never wanna see you again', at least I would know where I stood and then I could work towards fixing what I had done wrong. But instead, the way that he went about it painted me with a nasty brush, and it was done on purpose so that the fans would turn against me because he did it in a New Japan Discord board, and people were messaging me that I’m friends with because I’d go there all the time."

Kevin continued:

"That’s how I found out about it. Jet lag, post-G1, I wake up. I was, like, ‘Oh, let’s see what they’re saying about us. Hey, wait a minute. What the hell?’ And people that I’m friendly with in there were like, ‘What is Ian doing? Why is he doing this?’ ‘I have no idea’, so I message him and it’s, like, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ ‘Well, you said and did a bunch of different things to me over the years and I’m pissed off about it.’ ‘Okay, but, well, let’s talk about it.’ ‘Well, I’ll only talk to you if you guarantee that you’re not gonna record the call’. I’m like, ‘I wouldn’t know how to record a call off a cellphone. What are you, crazy? Yeah, sure. We need to talk about this, we need to talk about this’, and we never did, and then things started to change within AEW, and it was almost like hand in glove. It was never a good fit, me being there. I came from New Japan, where I was left alone and I knew what I was doing and I was calling matches that were just like AEW, and all of a sudden now, I’ve got all these people in my ear and I’ve got all this format stuff and it’s, like, ‘Why do we have to do things the same way Dynamite is?’, is what I said. ‘Why do we have to be the same show? Don’t we want Collision to be different? Isn’t this a different thing?’ Whether it was split because of CM Punk and The Bucks, I have no idea, that was never even brought up. But it was a separate show. Saturday night, great, let’s make it different, let’s do some different things."

On how he and AEW weren't a good fit for one another, and how his time there started to impact his mental health Kelly said:

"Why can’t we as announcers be different? Because I’m different than Taz and Excalibur and [Tony] Schiavone, and just the handwriting was on the wall and it wasn’t gonna work, and I was getting more and more pissed off and I talked to the AEW office about it. I talked to them and I told them that I was mentally getting really in a bad spot over this, too, and I vented, and when I vented, that’s when they let me go. Again, no harm, no foul with AEW, no. Big blame. Big blame there, but I always wanted to straighten things out with Ian, and I feel terrible that he was mad at me over something he never told me and it led to a bunch of different problems. One incident in particular, he did spell it out for me and I did say it to him. I meant it in like a... I won’t go into it, but I didn’t get the chance to explain it but I understand how it could be taken the wrong way and, oh, the other thing that he said was that I knocked him for wearing a hat on Collision, which I did, a cowboy hat, because he’s sitting right next to Jim Ross. Because they’re in Calgary in Stampede and I was, like, saying it because, guess what? You’re gonna get heat with JR if you’re wearing a cowboy hat sitting next to him at the announce desk. Whether he says it’s okay or not, that doesn’t matter. And it was born in Calgary, it was born at the Stampede, and he’s the one who wears the f**king cowboy hat. Why would you do that? Whatever. Listen, Ian got upset about that. Give me a break."

On his AEW exit, Kevin Kelly was clear to state how he has ill feelings on how that came about, how the communication from AEW was poor, how this all took a toll on various aspects of his life, and how he was fired one day before an appointment with a company-approved psychiatrist.


As Kelly put it:

"Of course [I have ill feelings towards AEW]. I wouldn't treat my worst enemy like that. [SVP & Co-Executive Producer] Mike Mansury [told me I was being released]. The Executive Producer, and the new Vice President of Human Resources who I'd never met and spoke to before. I knocked the company on Twitter and vented on a voicemail to the HR lady that I had been working with. Problem was, I never knew where... I brought up this whole thing with Ian [Riccaboni] and they said, 'Yes, good. Thank you for bringing it up'. 'What's going to happen?'' I said, 'What's the process?' 'Well, we'll discuss it, we'll let you know', and apparently the disciplinary got together, committee got together, and made a decision. 'Okay, what was the decision?' 'Well, we can't tell you because it's private'. 'What a minute, I was the one who was the victim here, I need to know what happened so I could put this to be in my mind'. 'Well, we just can't tell you'. 'Okay, this is very upsetting for me, you have to understand this'.' Nah, we really don't understand and we don't care'. So, whatever, they'll get theirs."

On the impact all of this had on him, Kevin noted:

"My mental health was not good, from when this began, and it was taking a toll on my marriage, on my family, on me personally, physically, mentally, and I mean, it’s really nobody’s business but, my mental health was not good. It’s better now, thank God. I’ve gotten some help, I’ve gotten fixed. Well, working on being fixed, as we all can be. But, for a company that cares so much about their athletes… I booked an appointment with the psychiatrist and I got all the text messages of me just ranting and raving with the poor guy, David Weinstein. I set up an appointment with him on Thursday because we were taping TV that next day, and then they fired me on Wednesday. So, you guys really care about the people that you employ? So, yeah, it wasn’t about Ian at that point anymore, but I did kind of lump him in in all of it. But now, it’s like I’m trying to process it, so forgiving him is easy. Forgiving him, it’s already done as far as I’m concerned. But, again, you cannot do something like that. It happened to a much greater extent, I’m not comparing myself to it at all, but to Hana Kimura. Because, when you bring down the force of social media onto a person, wrongly accusing someone, there are consequences. You can’t do that, you shouldn’t do that, and I mean, what happened to Hana, of course was much worse than what happened to me. I’m not even comparing those but, again, it’s the same type of thing, and that’s really just it. I was not a fit for AEW, I just felt like it was a very different kind of place and very stressful. So many people. There was so much chaos and it just really stressed me out a lot. So, I was much happier in New Japan, except for the flights."

Elsewhere during this virtual signing, Kevin Kelly also questioned whether CM Punk leaving AEW played a role in his own firing. As in, Punk didn't want Excalibur - a close friend of The Young Bucks - calling Collision. With the Second City Saint out of the company, that wasn't so much of an issue anymore. That said, Excalibur is still not a part of the Collision commentary team, which nowadays consists of Nigel McGuinness and Tony Schiavone.

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