While he is not involved in the backstage production of All Elite Wrestling, wrestling legend Konnan has been linked to the promotion for some time. Konnan serves as a member of Impact Wrestling’s creative team and has worked as a booker for AAA in the past, two companies that have working relationships with AEW. Aside from the behind the scenes ties, Konnan has made one on-screen appearance for AEW Dynamite, during the Inner Circle’s Las Vegas trip.
Speaking to Lucha Libre Online, Konnan revealed some of his criticisms with AEW, specifically mentioning their roster present at ringside.
“To begin with it, I’m not a big fan of wrestlers being there as fans,” Konnan said. “I mean, they just are missing the cheerleading pom-poms. I saw a match where Austin Gunn and Billy Gunn were there like cheerleaders and then they were in the main event of the show. That was very strange, I said, ‘Holy f–k, how’s that possible?'”
Beyond the presentation, Konnan mentioned that AEW’s viewership could be looked at as an area for concern. AEW Dynamite premiered to 1.4 million viewers back in October 2019, and went on to average just over 800,000 viewers for the entirety of 2020.
“A thing that scares me a little, I’m going to tell you, is that if we see the first AEW show and now we see the last show that they did, their viewers are almost at half,” Konnan said. “They have lost half of their audience, although they bring a very new audience.”
Konnan attributes AEW’s viewership concerns to what he calls their inability to book strong yet authentically hated heels.
“I think they generated their own competition. When WWE was not doing what they wanted, the fans left with AEW and one of the problems that I saw with them is that they are not very good at booking heel heat, they cool them a lot,” Konnan said. “They bring in a lot of heels and then they are defeated. I mean, it happened with Brodie Lee. He came in, they made him lose, then they tried to rehabilitate him, they gave him the championship and then they took it away. Lance Archer, who was a monster, and they killed him later. Brian Cage came in, then they killed him. I mean, they don’t build the heels well and then they have to rehabilitate them.
“The thing that Kenny Omega is doing right now should have been done from the start. He was there for a year eating s–t, doing nothing. I mean, the dude they said was the best wrestler in the world, where was he? When he came to Mexico we took advantage of it perfectly because he came to Mexico, we put him in his element: long matches in Japan style, with good people, the best in the world. Rey Fénix, Dragon Lee, Laredo Kid. I mean, you don’t have to be a genius to do that, but they weren’t doing it. They were putting him into six-man tag team matches, that if you didn’t know who Kenny Omega was and someone told you he was the best wrestler in the world, you’d say, ‘Him?'”
Besides the heel booking, Konnan says there are a number of guys on weekly television that he believes do not belong there.
“Also, two things that I always say,” Konnan said. “Number one: Most of the guys who are wrestling in Dynamite, they should be in AEW Dark. Number two: How come you have nothing interesting, nothing important for LAX (Santana and Ortiz), Rey Fénix, Pentagón Jr., Jack Evans and Angélico? And I’m not saying this because they were in Mexico, but because they are f–king great and ready for television.”
One of the biggest moments in AEW’s short history was the debut of Sting. In the weeks that have followed, Sting’s AEW appearances have routinely been an entrance and a stare down, which Konnan sees as a big missed opportunity.
“And let me tell you another mistake,” Konnan said. “And I get along with Tony Khan, but they are mistakes, man. They are rookie mistakes. I’ll give you a good example, I had this discussion on my podcast: When Sting came out the first time, there was a guy on my podcast who told me: ‘He just came out and did nothing.’ And I said, ‘Well, he doesn’t have to do anything, he came out and it’s a surprise, and it’s Sting, man.’
“Then the second week he told me the same thing and this time I told him that he’s right. That’s why the ratings dropped so much, because the guy has been out three times and literally they haven’t done anything. I mean, they have had 3 chances to make a breaking news ‘bomb’ with this guy, and you haven’t done anything.”
On the WWE side of things, Konnan had major praise for one specific storyline and superstar. According to Konnan, the attention to detail in the Tribal Chief angle is what makes Roman Reigns the best thing going today.
“There’s no better character in wrestling than Roman Reigns. Bro, that story is excellent. Excellent, man. And Paul Heyman, he’s playing his role perfectly. He’s letting it be. Roman speaks, he is the attention to detail.
“[Paul is] scared when he has to be scared. Look at him, the little things Paul Heyman does are amazing. Roman’s excellent. Jey has looked great too. That’s a good story. They can grow from there, there are people like Sami Zayn who are very entertaining. But WWE still has a lot of comedy, and bad comedy.”