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Opinion

Cook: AEW Can’t Hire All Of Their Friends

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Heath Slater AEW Chairshot Edit

I remember a time where mass WWE firings were an expected part of the pro wrestling year.

We had a special name for it too: “Spring Cleaning.” Every year right after WrestleMania, WWE would clear out some of the deadwood on the roster to make room for new talent. There would be a name here or there that would come as a surprise, and inevitably there would be a name or two per year that was exceedingly popular with the Internet fanbase. Typically, it was WWE dumping a bunch of people they didn’t really need. At least not at that moment. Plenty of people that got fired during various purges would come back to WWE at a later date. Some would thrive during their second opportunity. Some wouldn’t.

This practice, from what I could surmise, came to an end for two reasons. One was Linda McMahon’s political career. She liked to take credit for being a job creator, so it was a bad look when WWE would eliminate jobs. Even if she wasn’t with the company at the time, people would hold that against her because she was still technically married to Vince. The other was Paul Levesque’s obsession with having every wrestler in civilization under contract. This was a thing before All Elite Wrestling was formed, but it got even worse once that happened. Triple H liked having toys on the shelf, whether he played with them or not. The Performance Center has been well-stocked since it was built, and ideally there would be Performance Centers all across the globe full of wrestlers to be kept on shelves and used when it was convenient.

This stood to be WWE’s way of doing business going forward for a long time to come. Until the coronavirus came along and changed everything. Vince McMahon had to take a look at what was going on around him, for the sake of the profit margin if nothing else. Ticket revenue would no longer be a thing, and the less said about the ratings for wrestling shows right now the better. So Vince had to find a place to trim some fat, and to be perfectly honest, the talent roster had plenty of it.

This led to the assumption that All Elite Wrestling would absorb all of these talents. After all, isn’t that what the #2 wrestling promotion always does? WCW was more than happy to sign all of the WWF’s top stars once Vince decided they were too old. That was a darn good business plan for a number of years. Then TNA came along, and they thought that featuring everybody that WWE ever fired on their programming was a good idea. They didn’t get the point that even WCW got.

Some ex-WWFEers were worth promoting. Some weren’t. WCW pointed out the big signings and phased some of the other guys into the mid-card where they belonged. TNA had everybody cutting promos on Vince about how they were held back and now the chains were off. Some guys actually had chains, and did excel in TNA, but a lot of them didn’t. It got to the point where TNA got ripped on for signing everybody WWE fired.

Why would AEW want that smoke?

Let’s be honest. All Elite Wrestling’s roster is already pretty full. I’m not saying there aren’t weaknesses that could be improved, but there are certain roles that are already filled. When AEW looks at these new free agents, they should be questioning whether or not the person brings something to the table that AEW doesn’t already have. That’s more important than having WWE TV exposure.

I’m not saying AEW shouldn’t sign any of these people. The Revolt/Revival would fit AEW like a glove. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson might have some unfinished business with New Japan, but they’d fill a role in the AEW tag team division too. Rusev would be a great signing. Deonna Purrazo would be a tremendous addition to the women’s division. AEW just needs to be smart about it. They can’t sign people just because they were in WWE forever. They need to pick and choose the ones that can fill roles & have a ton of potential.

Unfortunately for fans of Zack Ryder or Heath Slater, those two guys might not fit either qualification. Cody had some words on Instagram Live about Zack Ryder, which my BFF Jeremy Lambert  was kind enough to transcribe:

“Zack Ryder is the best. He’s got over two million followers on Twitter and over a million followers on Instagram. Very broad influence, incredibly famous, more famous than many guys out there. But that doesn’t always translate. The biggest hurdle he’ll face is his friendship with me. He’s one of my only really close friends in wrestling. Maybe my only friend in wrestling. I have my brother (in AEW), I have my beautiful wife, and they all do the work. This can’t be All Friends Wrestling. You have to handle it the best way. If you put on the Nightmare Family jacket, you’ve got a massive bullseye on your back, just in the locker room alone. It’s a total heat seeker. But I’m looking forward to what he does next. He’ll turn a lot of heads. I think and hope our paths will cross down the road. He’s just entering wrestler prime. Men’s wrestler prime is 35 to 40.”

Well it’s good to know I’m in the early part of men’s wrestler prime.

Somebody asked about Slater, and Cody was all like “we’re not interested”, which some take to be an angle, but should be completely accurate. What does Heath Slater bring to the table that nobody on AEW’s roster can? Kids? I can name a few AEW roster members that have created life at one point or another. Red hair? Well, longtime readers of mine know that I would recommend for AEW to sign Taeler Hendrix first if that’s what they’re into. Workrate? OK, give me any Heath Slater matches that ever went above three snowflakes. And don’t say “WeeLC” because that was all Hornswoggle & El Torito with their friends along for the ride.

Listen, I feel as much for Ryder & Slater as anybody else does. Losing a job you’ve had for over a decade…well, I can’t really identify with that because nobody’s paid me for that long. I imagine it sucks. And it would be nice if they could just call their buddy Cody and get hooked up to that sweet Khan money. I’m also aware that some people are employed by AEW because they are friends with somebody important. I cut Chris Jericho getting Dr. Luther in a little slack because Luther’s been at it a long time and has never been with a major North American promotion. I cut Anna Jay getting a match due to being a Nightmare Factory trainee and then getting hired by AEW some slack because she’s had less than ten matches and already shows a hell of a lot of potential.

My bit of a thing for Anna Jay is completely irrelevant here.

If you’re going to bring in friends and risk the “All Friends Wrestling” moniker, I would prefer it being over people that have never gotten a chance to shine under the bright lights before. Give new people a chance! When it’s over people that have been on worldwide television for over ten years and have never escaped the mid-card…ehhhh.

I choose to believe that AEW has learned the right lessons from TNA. Bring in the WWE folks that actually have potential. Nobody blamed them for signing Matt Hardy or Brodie Lee. Matt has a large fanbase & a creative mind, while Brodie had a ton of potential wasted. You find the people that fit under those requirements and sign them. Unfortunately, there are a number of names on that list that were in WWE for over a decade and weren’t actually underutilized.

My favorite mid-card act in AEW is Best Friends with Orange Cassidy. Orange has gotten tremendously over by doing nothing, but those in the know can tell you he’s very talented. Trent is a former WWE guy that got to hone his craft by working Japan and everywhere else for years before reappearing on national television. Chuck Taylor was on the indies forever and finally found something by hooking up with Trent & Orange. He’s a fellow Kentucky Gentleman so I gotta respect it.

People will yell and scream for AEW to sign Zack Ryder & Heath Slater. Ryder & Slater would be replacing Best Friends & Orange Cassidy in the mid-card if they reach their full potential. Who would you rather watch? I’ll stick with the BF & OC. They’re easier to root for in my book than people that got to cash a check from WWE for over a decade.

My advice to guys like Ryder, Slater and anybody else that was employed by WWE and did nothing forever? Do something that makes people take notice. My example: Jake Hager. Jack Swagger certainly had his ups & downs in WWE, and by the time he left the bloom had come off his rose. Lucha Undergound made him a champion, but that might have helped kill that promotion. Hager dedicated himself to MMA & had some success. By the time Chris Jericho needed to form an Inner Circle in AEW, Jake Hager seemed like a pretty great addition.

A guy like Zack Ryder could make a killing in the indies once they start back up. You know PWG would put him in the BOLA. ROH would give him some dates. Not to mention all the feds that love booking former WWE Superstars. There could be some seminar work too. If Ryder busts his ass and becomes a talked about worker as Matt Cardona, then AEW has to take notice and he can be part of the Nightmare Family or Cody’s newest rival or whatever.

“Do The Work”

That’s one of Cody’s taglines, right? Have these guys do the work. Then once Zack Ryder or Heath Slater or any of these other guys that were with WWE forever and did little of note appear on AEW television, it might mean something. Don’t bring them in for a cheap pop and a “shoot promo”. Today’s audience has no time for that. Neither did yesterday’s, but nobody had the heart to tell those promoters.


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Opinion

AJ’s Controversial? Wrestling Opinions 10.12.21

AJ feels like spouting off about a few wrestling topics that bug him. How controversial are they though?

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As Eric Bischoff, President of WCW once said, Controversy Creates Cash…no I’m serious; it’s even the title of a book that he did. Everyone has their hot takes on professional wrestling and some are always wide eyed and kind of shocking to some. There are some of us that will have same opinions or chastise me on a show or an article maybe but hey, don’t hate the player, hate The Game.

Maybe there are some that the readers at home agree with or you want to also be the one to chastise me, @PhenomenalAJB on Twitter. This one is going to be fun!

#1- There are more things than just WWE/AEW and are better majority of the time

There are many people that will rant, rave and complain that the mainstream product is so bland and boring and the classic, “Who even watches this trash?” Whether you love the flippy dippy do’s like I don’t or long drawn out storylines that peter out very quickly because fans aren’t invested in a story or character. To those people, I will say something very bold, very confusing and very… very controversial…

THERE ARE OTHER COMPANIES YOU CAN WATCH ON VARIOUS PLATFORMS IN VARIOUS MEANS ON YOUR OWN TIME!

I don’t know how and I don’t know why that this is even a topic. “TNA has been dead for years” No it hasn’t. Pay $1 USD for Impact Plus on YouTube so you can watch it without commercials at 8:30 Eastern. “Two hours is too long!” NWA and MLW both go for an hour on their respective YouTube Channels as well and if you want to watch, you can hop in at any time. Everyone has something for everyone and you might find your new favorite wrestler in a matter of minutes into an episode. I would never have known who Eli Drake (now LA Knight on SmackDown Live), Alexander Hammerstone or even in the early stages of TNA Impact, AJ Styles, was! You can watch more than what is broadcasted on your TV. Is it easier? Of course but, there is so much more than just the popular option.


#2- Belt Collecting now is just redundant and moronic

Back in 1996, Ultimo Dragon famously has a picture of him holding TEN championships looking like an amazing superstar with amazing defenses. What people don’t know is, that was because eight championship belts were united in a tournament called “The J-Crown Championship” with the adage of ‘All or Nothing’. He lost them one by one but, it was to show that he was the best Junior Heavyweight (or Cruiserweight/Light Heavyweight) out of everyone in various promotions.

People after that really haven’t belt collected other than unifying championships to a grand caliber… then Austin Aries showed up. Aries kind of revised the gimmick and brought it back to light. Newer fans might have thought this was cool but older fans kind of groaned and grumbled. I was one of them but, nothing is original in anything anymore so it’s a fresher concept at the time back in 2018. He did surpass Ultimo with ELEVEN championships but it seemed everyone started doing it to an extent after. Matt Cardona, after being released from WWE, started doing it, getting up to six championships before dropping them. As of right now, not necessarily solo belt collecting, The Bloodline has a stranglehold of the World Championships for both Singles and Tag Teams, we had Becky Two Belts, Bayley wanted Dos Straps but nothing makes this worse than Kenny Omega’s stint as a belt collector.

I am not and will never be a Kenny Omega fan. I don’t see the appeal, I don’t see the amazement or anything like that out of him. I’m impressed he did three 35+ Minute IWGP Championship matches against Okada because that takes a lot of stamina to do so but, that’s about it. When he won the AEW Championship, alright. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that since he helped build the company up. The Triple A Megas Championship… nothing too wrong here. I hate that he had five defenses in two years but he vacated it due to his injuries. It wasn’t until Don Callis and Omega popped into Impact and made the Hogan Era of TNA look like a dream… okay ALMOST but still. Kenny defeats Rich Swann and Moose in two different matches and has everyone else carry the belts while holding the AEW Championship. I understand heel tactics and mentality but at one point in an interview about going for the Impact Championship, he compared it to a common Comic Book and the AEW Championship as Superman Issue #1. I understand trying to be a heel in this story but you boost your clout, not rain on what you are going after. Heel or Face, belt collecting has just been a cluster within itself in the past four years and it honestly needs to stop.

#3- Overuse of Certain Moves

This one is a more recent problem that I have seen and no, I wish EC3 paid me to say this but it is true and very annoying to even bring up but here I am, wishing for Carter money and a fifth Rum & Coke…

Stop. Overusing. Moves. Because you think. They were cool.

If I had a shot for every time a Canadian Destroyer, Superkick, Suicide Dive, Avalanche (Insert High Spot here), Dual Dropkick spots where they cancel each other out or opposing members do back to back high spots on the prone partner spot… I would not have written this article due to death… even if it was water, I would have died due to drowning. They don’t look cool anymore when everyone does it. It’s bland. When Petey Williams wrestled in his last return to Impact, the Destroyer looked very… stale. Superkicks are the new DDT apparently (another Finisher turned common everyday move) and most people that do dives mess it up in some way shape or form whether it’s their feet get caught in the ropes, they didn’t get a full launch or they overshoot it. Having your own move special to you is difficult now but different wrestlers do their own styles or the pay homage to a family member or a wrestler that they interact with or ask permission… or asked to stop.

How’d you feel if you watched WCW and WWF in 1997 and saw DDP do the Diamond Cutter and HHH did the Pedigree Pandemonium and say they do the same move? That is exactly what happened too if Dallas didn’t ask Hunter to stop using it. We might not have the RKO out of nowhere or an iconic move that seldom bigger names use today.


That’s my list. I said before if you agree with my list and if you don’t and want to throw hate my way… @PCTunney is the hate mail account so enjoy!


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Opinion

AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns

With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

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With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.

With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.

1. Johnny Gargano

Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?

WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen  the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.

2. James Storm

This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.

Watch your Money and your Alcohol.

Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”

3. Big Cass



Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.

Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.

4. Bronson Reed



The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.

Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?

5. Bray Wyatt

And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.

To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.

– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!


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