Roll The Footage

On last night's AEW Dynamite, we finally saw the backstage footage of All In and..yeah, it backfired.

Roll The Footage
Photo Credit: AEW

You could argue that All Elite Wrestling was in a lose-lose situation. Riding the momentum of arguably the biggest WrestleMania week in history, CM Punk interviewed Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour and said a lot of things about his previous employer—from their style of business to some medical differences he noticed and the infamous All In a backstage tussle with Jack Perry. It had to be expected at some point because if there's one common thread in Punk's career, he's not known to mince words about places he's been.

Even before last night, AEW had off-hand addressed it with Adam Copeland's promo that kicked off the April 3rd edition of Dynamite. (Interestingly, they allowed a previous long-tenured WWE wrestler to make that promo.) Copeland's central thesis is correct; it is a great time to be a wrestling fan. The business is healthy, and there are so many choices. You want deathmatches? There's probably something going on. If AEW wanted you, they could have left things right here and gone on about building up their upcoming pay-per-view Dynasty. But they couldn't stay away from the shiny object of previous controversy.

Controversy has long been a tool in the wrestling industry, used to generate more interest and intrigue. AEW, with its work/shoot style, has been at the forefront of blurring the lines between reality and fiction. But when is it time to move on from a dark cloud?  This is the question that arises with AEW's decision to air last year's All In footage, a move that could be seen as either a strategic choice or a risky gamble.

If you look at the YouTube video, you will see that it completely scrubs out the backstage confrontation between Punk and Perry. After I saw the segment, I tried to look at it objectively and came up with two possible reasons why AEW went this route.

  1. This may be their way of throwing some blame on Punk to garner sympathy in another way.

Here's the thing: everything goes down the way Punk said it did in the MMA Hour interview (give or take a couple of details). We know about Perry's "real glass" comment before it happened, and we can't hear what was said between the two before they got into an altercation. Punk was the aggressor, and I don't think anybody is advocating for workplace hostility. If AEW was trying to show "CM Punk Bad," it backfired. Most fans laughed at it and made jokes. The biggest question surrounds Perry himself: who doesn’t come out looking the greatest by releasing this footage? He’s wrestling in New Japan on an excursion with the “scapegoat” gimmick— something The Young Bucks are putting their arms around. How will he be perceived when he comes back to AEW? It seems they didn’t consider this when making this decision. 

2. They are trying to turn a bad situation into making money and building a feud. 

Another issue with this line of thinking is that they had this chance when Punk was around the second time and blew it. The aftermath of “Brawl Out” could have turned into possibly the highest-grossing feud in this company’s history- now it’s devolved into fighting a ghost of bad vibes. Ironically, AEW is aware that we’ve seen A LOT of matchups between The Young Bucks and FTR. FTR’s reaction was supposed to be us; why would you even show this in the first place? Better yet, a fresh matchup from up-and-coming tag teams would have destroyed the need to do this in the first place.

They didn’t count on the CM Punk chants that occurred during the footage and immediately after. This took the air out of the show and made the fired guy the number one topic of Dynamite. You only have a short time to solidify stories on what looks like a pretty solid Dynasty card. Unfortunately, it's like the Sideshow Bob/Simpsons skit when he steps on rakes over and over again.

I'm not ready to call this the "Fingerpoke of Doom," and AEW won’t close up shop tomorrow because so much is happening in wrestling now (which they should have known). Despite that, this shows their worst knee-jerk tendencies to be reactionary instead of working on why they are the pure alternative. Don’t become the reactionary promotion; they don’t tend to stick around long after that.