Before jumping into the specifics of how All Elite Wrestling would be incredibly foolish to not have this weekend’s post-pay-per-view drama lead to a comic-book-style Civil War angle, with the locker room’s figureheads jostling for control of the company based on their vision for professional wrestling’s future, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room when detailing the off-camera world of theatrical athletics: This could all be a ruse blurring the line between reality and entertainment.
However unlikely it appears now, and that’s astronomically in the reality sphere compared to an original, cutting-edge storyline, every action between CM Punk, The Young Bucks, Hangman Page, Kenny Omega, AEW backstage producer Ace Steel and a few others could have started as an elaborate game of the fans’ emotions. Anywho, it appears AEW will be without every aforementioned name and then some in the near future, if not permanently, for their role in a backstage brawl, allegedly taking place in the early hours of Monday morning, minutes after All Out went off the air.
Sports Illustrated reports Omega, Matt and Nick Jackson, Brandon Cutler, Christopher Daniels, Michael Nakazawa and AEW Vice President of Talent Development Pat Buck will be suspended by the company. Punk and Steel will join those who are suspended or will be fired by AEW by the end of Wednesday. Punk, who won the company’s world championship in the All Out main event and is, therefore, the in-cannon top guy on the roster, reportedly met with AEW CEO Tony Khan on Tuesday to discuss how a separation could take place.
The news of the suspensions was also reported by Dave Meltzer and Sean Ross Sapp.
SI also reports an external third-party investigation is being conducted to look into the specifics of the brawl. Page will not be suspended, as he’d exited the Chicago area’s NOW Arena before unchoreographed punches were allegedly thrown. Multiple other news outlets have independently confirmed the brawl took place. Fightful reported the Village of Hoffman Estates police department was not dispatched to the NOW Arena at any point during Sunday’s event and aftermath.
The boiling point occurred after CM Punk’s comments during a post-show press conference. He took repeated verbal jabs at Page, Omega, and the Jacksons, going out of his way to insult his co-workers. Punk displayed a rare kind of visceral hate after a several-minute tirade against former friend Scott “Colt Cabana’’ Colton and the alleged misinformation about their past. The post-show media scrum is still available in full on AEW’s YouTube channel. Another confirmation of the fight was Chris Jericho, who spoke last at the scrum, being caught on a mic saying to Khan “We got to talk after this. Some shit went down.” Footage of a security guard running backstage from the scrum has also surfaced.
After Punk left the press conference, he was allegedly approached by the Bucks and Omega, confronted about his comments. It’s unconfirmed who started the fight, but multiple reports have stated Punk threw punches, at least one Jackson brother, Nick Jackson, was knocked out during the exchange, while Steel threw a chair and bit Omega. The reported fracas took several minutes to break up.
AEW, nor any individual involved, has commented publicly on the suspensions or on the incident at all, with Wednesday’s episode of Dynamite from Buffalo going on as scheduled live on TBS. The Young Bucks’ weekly YouTube show, Being The Elite, is routinely uploaded at noon on Mondays. For the first time in recent memory, it was delayed to a Tuesday release. In June, BTE was canceled for a week after Jeff Hardy’s arrest. No one involved in the brawl is expected to appear for the company this week.
This was the explosion of lingering talent-relations drama backstage at AEW. Last month, Khan led a company-wide meeting to attempt to get all employees on the same wavelength in terms of expectations. The issues appear to stem from Page and Punk’s real-life hatred for one another that spilled into promos and media interviews as part of their on-camera feud to promote their world-championship match in May. Whatever efforts Khan and AEW’s leadership team took for everyone to make peace didn’t work. Then again, the Young Bucks and Omega are supposed to be three of the company’s leaders, as all three hold executive vice president roles.
There is also a recent precedent for AEW suspending talent for backstage altercations. Eddie Kingston was taken off the road for multiple weeks, per Fightful, for an incident where he struck Sammy Guevara. The alleged dust-up between Guevara and Kingston appears to be a paper cut compared to the public nature of Punk’s beef with the Elite and Page. Guevara’s YouTube vlog also released an episode on Tuesday, ending with him wanting to spread positive thoughts because “there’s a whole lot of negativity going on in the world.” He doesn’t expressly mention the brawl, but it’s easy to connect the dots. BTE doesn’t mention the incident at all either.
Punk told his truth about AEW’s culture, but he helped foment whatever fire exists. He’s the arsonist trying to blame others for the flames. The Elite also isn’t blameless in this situation. What did they think was going to happen with them aggressively approaching a clearly ticked-off Punk, who had little time to cool down? Punk was pissed about Page and the Young Bucks saying inflammatory things in the media. Yet, here he was spouting vitriol directly to reporters. Punk’s lack of self-awareness is stunning.
I don’t think I’m understating this issue to proclaim how AEW navigates this adversity will set the tone for the company moving forward, and could burn it long-term if peace isn’t made between the huge egos that reside with its biggest stars. If Steel’s actions are found to be accurate, he should be fired. Throwing a steel chair at somebody’s head could be lethal. And what reason would AEW have to keep him? Because he was in Ring of Honor’s Second City Saints stable with Punk and Cabana? No shot.
Punk deserves the chance to make major amends, should he want to. Going from winning the world championship on Sunday to being unemployed within a week is sloppy form. It’s also a horrible work acumen to openly trash colleagues like a narcissist. Depending on the aggressiveness of the rest involved, varying suspensions should be doled out. The biggest thing that needs to change about AEW from this incident is the culture of how Punk and the Elite thought they could act unprofessional. Khan needs to regain control of his roster by sending a clear message from this incident.
If there’s a path forward to turn this into a storyline, AEW has to do it. There’s unrivaled interest in the company because of the chaos. Matt Hardy and MJF are two examples of wrestlers that have used personal vendettas to advance professional storylines. All involved would be dumb not to capitalize on it. As of now, Punk, the Elite, and Khan are wrapped up in a scenario that’s the complete opposite.