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By Tony Staff (@TonyDonofrio)


– AEW’s TV rights deal is not going to fall apart, but God willing, it will peak this summer. There was a report saying that Tony Khan was “disappointed” with the first offer he received from Warner Bros. Discovery. The adjective “disappointed” has been used in a number of ways over the past few weeks. As an outsider, I see every sign that AEW is giving up its exclusive window with WBD so they can sell all their TV rights to other networks.

I still think the relationship between AEW and WBD is strong, and that’s where Dynamite ends up for sure. Beyond that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Collision and/or Rampage ended up somewhere else. I can’t believe Tony Khan would be looking at that open window if he didn’t want to spread his TV shows across a few different platforms. I think the usual suspects would be in play – Amazon, Disney (be it FX, Hulu/Disney+, ESPN+, or any of the non-ESPN-owned networks), and Paramount (Paramount+ or even Paramount Network; CBS would be shocking, and CBS Sports Network would be a huge disappointment). I suppose Fox could be a player, but I’d be surprised if AEW was seeded on anything above FS1, just as I wouldn’t expect it to air on anything better than ESPN2 with Disney. Hypothetically, and in a best-case scenario, I could see Collision and/or Rampage ending up on Amazon or FX as the best possible options.

The pay-per-view rights are where things get a little more interesting. I see possibilities of AEW ending up on Max, Amazon Prime, ESPN+, or maybe the new ESPN/Fox/WBD project that will be called Venu Sports. All of this sounds fun and there could be lots of possibilities. How realistic all of this is is another story. And then there’s the ROH dilemma. But for the sake of sanity and to appease Dot Net contributor Will Pruett, let’s continue as if ROH doesn’t exist. So what exactly is happening? I wish I knew, I’m just a guy with a column.

However, as we near the end of the negotiating window between AEW and WBD, I will be making my official predictions. Disclaimer: Do not bet on this as I have no inside knowledge and just want to document my predictions for fun. Dynamite: TNT or TBS. Collision: Amazon Prime. Rampage: TNT. PPVs: Max or Venu Sports.

– Should Swerve Strickland’s AEW title win be cut short or not? That is the question. I don’t know if there is a right or wrong answer. However, there are strong arguments both ways. There have been AEW title runs that have been shorter, but it is not AEW’s style to pull the rug out from under a wrestler so quickly. There is also the notion that if Swerve is stripped of the title, he didn’t have a fair chance to run with the ball. With that in mind, I think it’s time to turn his back on Will Ospreay.

That’s not to take away from Swerve. I think he’s a great talent and deserves to be a major player in any company he works for. But AEW hit a lucky break with Ospreay. The live crowd gives Ospreay the best reactions of anyone else on the roster and, quite honestly, it’s not really that close. Strike while the iron is hot hasn’t exactly been AEW’s strong suit. That could change this month. Giving Ospreay the world title could also help iron out some other issues by the end of the summer. Osprey already holds the international title. He could also be AEW world champion by the end of June.

This brings us to All In at Wembley Stadium. I could well see Ospreay defending both titles against Continental title holder Kazuchika Okada in the match at All In. There should be a full unification of these titles and the dissolution of at least one of them. For my taste, I would abolish both the Continental and International titles and combine the three into a unified world championship. In a less dire case, the International and Continental titles could be combined and renamed the Intercontinental title.

The winner of the Continental Classic tournament can earn a shot at the World Title. It doesn’t have to be as complicated as it was in year one, when the Continental Title was supposed to be defended every year during the tournament at the end of the year. It’s just not necessary. That said, I’m OK with Ospreay winning the World Title at Forbidden Door. He checks a lot of boxes. He’s a huge success and definitely has a cool factor that fans really love right now. You could also argue that he’s the best in-ring wrestler in the world today. With his cool factor and in-ring talent, he resonates with casual fans as well as the AEW base and could be a huge push to get the company back in the right direction.


-Is WWE buying TNA? Or at least does WWE have any interest in buying the company? I need to be clear. I have no inside information on this. But if you’re someone who pays attention to TNA’s business model (or lack thereof), this must be on your radar. It seems like no one can really explain how TNA makes a profit and stays in business. They very rarely make the top 150 cable TV shows. In comparison, WWE and AEW are usually at the top of those charts. For that reason alone, their advertising revenue is likely to be close to zero.

I know there are still a lot of “haha TNA” people out there, but somehow this company still manages to pull through and employ a lot of wrestlers and people who help with wrestling. Their booking over the past few years has been solid across the board. Most importantly though – especially for WWE if they were interested – TNA now houses a 20+ year library that includes wrestlers like CM Punk, AJ Styles, Cody Rhodes, and Drew McIntyre. Not to mention it also features WWE Hall of Famers like Kevin Nash, Booker T, and Kurt Angle (among others).

If anyone knows how to leverage and monetize a library, it’s WWE. It’s not lost on me that the days of DVD and Blu-ray sales are over. However, WWE still has a partnership with Peacock and a partnership with Netflix coming soon. The TNA library and even retrospectives of the names I mentioned earlier could definitely drive viewership to those platforms that have a penchant for nostalgia and history (I’m in that group). Time will tell, but if WWE doesn’t put TNA through the wringer, then maybe they should.

– There has been a lot of talk over the past few weeks about Ricochet’s impending free agency. He was apparently written off Raw this week. Most insiders are pretty sure he will go to free agency and try his luck there. This surprises me since his fiancée, Samantha Irvin, is still with the company and they presumably travel together. However, I can point to many pro wrestling couples who are now in separate companies and there is a strong case to be made for Ricochet betting on himself in free agency.

Personally, I hope Ricochet ends up working for New Japan Pro Wrestling. New Japan isn’t as hot as it was before the pandemic and a guy like Ricochet could really shine there. The “smart guess” is that he ends up in AEW. Tony Khan isn’t afraid to go all out to sign the latest “hot free agent” and Will Ospreay recently said he’d love to work with Ricochet again. But that doesn’t mean he should go to AEW. In WWE, Ricochet seemed to have reached his limit as a mid-card wrestler. In AEW, the limit could be the same.

If it were 2019, I would see things very differently. AEW’s roster is bloated and there are already far too many moving parts that need to be positioned. I could see Ricochet getting a strong start and then fading into obscurity in AEW, as has happened to many others before who have made the jump. In New Japan, Ricochet could give his career a boost. The crowd there would welcome him and he could become a star again like he was during his time before WWE. Given the strong working relationship between New Japan and AEW, he could also team up with Ospreay later on.

Of course Ricochet will do what makes him happy and what is best for him. Maybe being in Japan and away from his fiancée would be a burden too. I actually wonder if he ends up staying with WWE. I expect we will find out soon enough.

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