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AEW’s big problem: The Elite pushed CM Punk out, and they can’t draw a dime

Chris Graham
the elite aew
Photo: All Elite Wrestling

The Elite won the backstage war with former AEW world champ CM Punk. The bad news for AEW: they’re losing, big time, in the ratings war.

This week’s “Dynamite” drew an average of 870,000 viewers, the three-week average is at 856,000, and the longer-term trends have the show below the million mark, a psychological barrier that has been there for the company since its launch in 2019.

Three weeks, coincidentally, is how long the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega have been back with the company since the end of their two-month suspension following the locker-room fracas with Punk at “All Out” in September.

The return on Nov. 16 was an on-screen graphic inserting The Elite as the challengers to AEW trios champs Death Triangle (Pac and The Lucha Brothers) at “Full Gear,” then we got the two teams in the ring for a match in the best-of-seven series that nobody wanted on Nov. 23.

The Nov. 23 match drew 864,000 viewers for the 9-9:15 p.m. segment, according to Wrestlenomics, down 1.8 percent from the average of 880,000 viewers for the two-hour episode, which topped out in the opening quarter-hour, which featured a William Regal-Jon Moxley-Bryan Danielson live promo that drew 1.019 million.

This week’s match between The Elite and Death Triangle was boosted to the main event, and bombed, drawing 792,000 viewers, down 9.1 percent from the 870,000-viewer average for the show, which peaked in the opening 15 minutes at 1.03 million with the Moxley-Adam Page confrontation and the beginning of the Danielson-Dax Harwood match.

The bigger problem in the here and now is lack of anything compelling in terms of rivalries or billed upcoming matches to get fans to want to tune in, and stay tuned in.

The months-long build to MJF winning the AEW world title is over, and there’s no one in line to be his logical next big challenger – and, no, and no offense to Ricky Starks, but it ain’t Ricky Starks.

MJF seemed to hint at wanting to face Danielson at some point down the road, and his beatdown of Danielson’s mentor, Regal, at the end of his first promo segment as the champ likely points us in that direction.

But then, Danielson hasn’t had any kind of build as a possible top contender. Danielson has been just sort of floating around on the periphery of several short-term storylines for months. There’s no momentum behind him to get a title shot, and even less to get fans to expect that he’d be a viable challenger.

The tag champs, The Acclaimed, got a 60-second promo Wednesday night, and like MJF, it’s not readily apparent who their next dance partner is or even could be.

Same for FTR, who might as well be on the back of milk cartons as a tag team, after being used more in singles and trios matches than as the best tag team in the world for going on a couple of years now.

It’s almost as if Khan is booking FTR and The Acclaimed into oblivion for some reason, same as he booked Wardlow, who was white hot in the spring at the end of his feud with MJF at “Double or Nothing,” was booked to win the TNT title, and then … was forgotten.

Khan is at least trying to build Wardlow back via a feud with Samoa Joe, which, as long as it lasts more than a couple of weeks, should do the trick.

Outside of MJF leading the muddied world title picture, The Acclaimed and FTR being the most over at the top of a horribly booked tag team division, and then the reclamation project with Wardlow, Khan has a ton of talent doing nothing for him.

Meanwhile, he’s allowing the EVPs that he let convince him to do this whole AEW thing in the first place back in 2019 book themselves into a prime spot that the company’s fans don’t seem to care about or want to watch.

But hey, good for them, they got rid of Punk.

It’s looking more and more that the end to “All Out,” which had Punk winning the world title from Moxley, and MJF’s surprise return, ahead of Punk’s pipe bomb at the media scrum that precipitated the locker-room brawl with The Elite, was AEW’s jump the shark moment.


Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].