In a world of conspiracy theories, AEW have hit the wrestling headlines again. With CM Punk’s ill-judged post-fight saltiness and seeming inability to get another wrestler out of his mind. We bring you part 2 of our series Work or Shoot?
From there came an apparent altercation in Punk’s dressing room between him and the Elite with Christopher Daniels in tow and Kenny Omega saving Punk’s dog from the shenanigans.
Seems a bit of a mess, doesn’t it? Lack of control, possible overreaction, possible tantrum, possible lack of company stringency.
Now Punk is no longer champ and has been suspended and the Elite are away for a while too.
Seems awful, doesn’t it?
But What If It Was A Work?
It isn’t a Work. I don’t think it is anyway. Or do I just hope it is?
If it is, it’s a return to form for AEW. Remember when the company formed? How they drip-fed us tidbits of info and we snapped them up and did the marketing for us by fulminating about the possibilities.
And that remained for a while. Remember the analysis of the Moxley video? How many column inches were dedicated to the ‘Where’s he going?’ discussion? Tony Khan, with his love of swerves (not Strickland and his family, although I’m sure they get along), with his love of the business of selling wrestling, kept fans guessing.
Punk and MJF happened. And it was a shame. Why? Because Maxwell Jacob Friedman did such stunning work. And because it was so badly served.
MJF’s promo work was so good that even hardened fans, hurt by years of retirement matches you can’t trust, injuries you can’t believe, suspensions you can’t help but laugh at, were pulled in. I pulled in.
At my age, that hardly ever happens.
I was invested. I wanted it to be true. No, not true, there’s no such thing as ‘truth’, but I wanted it to be better than angles has been, special, to buck the trend. MJF’s work demanded it.
And then it lived down to expectation/fears, it used well-worn wrestling tropes to micturate all over that special, almost real, work.
It was followed by MJF’s anger at the boss. Swearing, seemingly going into business for yourself, just makes the eyes roll. It’s been done before. And even when he took his leave of absence, the Max move didn’t seem to cause that much furore.
Perhaps he was genuinely angry at his boss and withdrew his labour. Perhaps he wasn’t and they attempted an elaborate Work. Didn’t matter. By this time, fans were worn out.
And so, asking if this is a Work makes me feel a little dirty. But, putting that is-it-isn’t-it debate to one side, there’s a gigantic reason why this is good for AEW.
The Heavyweight Title Picture
CM Punk won that title. Fans knew it was a nostalgia win and some could go with that, some couldn’t. Then he was injured. And Mox won the title.
Except he didn’t. He won the interim title. The not-quite-title. And that tarnished the title; you can’t sell a Mox title match if you only get a slice of the title if you win. That’s why commentary kept referring to Mox as the world champ.
Did you believe them? I didn’t. It was a mess.
And it was even more of a mess when Mox quickly won it on Dynamite, only to pass it back to Punk at All Out. A bauble looking less and less shiny as events take place.
And the response to the CM Punk win? Mixed, as you may expect. He’s a divisive figure, some have opinions on what they think they know of his personal dealings, some point to his legitimacy as an MMA fighter, and some, me included, look at his time in AEW as more about the past and social media than wrestling.
I think AEW was captured by the social media talk of when and where he was going to return. Plus the remembrance of what he did in the WWE.
But that was years ago. And like a guest star who hangs around for too long, the more he was involved in AEW, the more the original shock, delight and warm glow of nostalgia was going to cool.
So, say AEW realised that putting the belt back on Punk was a divisive move, less divisive than leaving it on Mox, but couldn’t make the move to take it off him so quickly after Mox had lost it so recently.
That fight/issue/debacle would give AEW the perfect chance to reset. After the 2-man deal they’ve had for so long, this could inject much-needed freshness.
How do you do that?
That’s it. AEW could have gone back to familiar tropes. Jericho perhaps. They could have put the strap on MJF. But they didn’t.
Because this way, it gives them possibilities. Possibilities to shock. Possibilities to rebuild. Possibilities to swerve.
And possibilities for Swerve too.
This gives them a chance to keep us guessing too. They painted themselves into a corner. This situation has allowed them to leap free.
And Even I’m Talking About It
So are Sports Illustrated who said;
‘The All Out press conference revealed one of the dirtiest secrets in pro wrestling. From time to time, what happens behind the curtain is more fascinating than what takes place in the ring.’
Yes, as much as I deride the chatter, this has got me thinking. It isn’t a Work. It can’t be. But Shoot and Work are so closely wound in wrestling, why wouldn’t you work with one to deliver the other?
It’s been done before. And this just might be AEW’s best yet.