Having spent a couple of months observing X (formerly Twitter), I already know what is coming. I will be called an “E-Drone” just for the headline of this article. There will be calls of tribalism. You see, no criticism of AEW is valid even from experts on the industry like Jim Cornette. I will get even more heat for mentioning that name but Cornette has spent most of his life working all levels of professional wrestling. His analysis matters, even if you, or I, do not agree with his opinions.

I am not an expert. I am a fan and a critic. I have spent 40 years devoted to and studying this crazy business. Thousands and thousands of hours have been spent watching wrestling, reading about wrestling, listening to podcasts, watching shoot interviews, and digesting any opinion or analysis I could. At one time, I subscribed to not one but two newsletters. As I said, that does not make me an expert. But my opinions are not just formed from watching WWE for the last 20 years either. With that in mind, I think AEW needs to be cancelled for the good of this industry.

The May 26 pay-per-view, AEW Double or Nothing, was the culmination of years of bad decisions and mismanagement. As my colleague John Powell wrote it in the PPV recap, it brings up memories of WCW in its dying days and the lunatics are running the asylum. Only what they are doing is far more dangerous than anything WCW, ECW, or TNA ever did. They set a man on fire on Sunday night after the tease on Wednesday.

There will be excuses and explanations for setting Jack Perry on fire. Just writing that sentence is surreal. I have seen fire used in wrestling. Wrestlers have used flash paper for decades now, like The Sheik and Jerry Lawler. At AEW Dynamite and then Double or Nothing, however, they used a flamethrower. Yes, a flamethrower. In someone’s adolescent brain they thought this was a clever idea. Wrestlers may do stunts but they are not stuntmen. They are not trained to take flamethrower spots. Plus, this was live and not in a controlled environment like a movie set. What would the headlines have been on news stations the next day if things had gone wrong? How long before reporters, who ignore AEW, suddenly took an interest in the many other stunts and distasteful angles this company has put on its TV?

Darby Allin, the man with the flamethrower, did a bump a couple of months ago that would make for some great clickbait for national news outlets. He went up on a 12-foot ladder and fell threw a plate of glass to the arena floor. There were no tables to break his fall. No crash pad either. They setup chairs to hold the glass, but he fell between them. The glass went flying into the audience as well. Tony Khan, the owner of this whole clown show, assured us that they had a plan for the match if Darby Allin was incapacitated. Let me repeat that. They had a plan if he was incapacitated. So, they knew there was a chance he could be seriously injured, and they let him do it.

Any sane human or even insane wrestling booker/promoter/executive would have looked at whoever suggested that spot like they had worms crawling out of their eyes. Even if they did not care about the wrestler at all, and a lot of them did not, they would know that someone being seriously injured on their show was a bad idea. The fallout would have cost them their promotion. Yet what does AEW do? They follow that stunt with a flamethrower.

This was not the only bad idea on Double or Nothing, which was held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in the Las Vegas suburb of Paradise, Nevada. Adam Copeland, known as Edge in WWE, decided to jump off the top of a cage. After bleeding buckets in a barbed wire cage match, a man who once had to retire is jumping from cages. The barbed wire cage, a garbage match to begin with, was not the main event. It was a mid-card match that will not be remembered in a week, other than Copeland is now out injured. If they mention it on Dynamite at all, that will be the last mention on their TV. So, Copeland took a risk like that for a throwaway match in the middle of the card. Again, someone tell him no.

Even the opening match of the main pay-per-view featured a stupid bump. Will Ospreay is a tremendous wrestler, but somebody needs to tell him that he does not have to do everything in every match. His match with Bryan Danielson weeks ago is one of my all-time favorites. They did not take any risk beyond the typical risks of a professional wrestling match, either. Yet Ospreay, in an opening match against Roderick Strong, does a spot where he is on another wrestler’s shoulders, on the outside of the ring, and another wrestler, neither of these guys were in the match, misses a punch and Ospreay goes down anyway and lands face first on the floor. They were inches away from a neck injury for an opening match with, what should be, one of their biggest stars.

One of these spots is going to go seriously wrong and they are going to open Pandora’s Box. Someone is going to break their neck and the media will suddenly know AEW exists. Then what? It is not only the spots, but what about the angles? How would grown men putting jockstraps in each other’s mouths look to the public? Or women kissing each other gratuitously? If they dig any further, how would it look to see a grown man having a wrestling match with a nine-year-old? Or that same man having a match where he put his finger in another man’s anus? I know those matches were not in AEW, but Kenny Omega is on the roster.

At this point, it is a matter of when and not if. Many members of the roster have spent time on the injured list with neck injuries. Trent Barretta, Ricky Starks, Lance Archer, and MJF are just a few who have had near devastating neck injuries and had to sit out. They were centimeters away from much worse. Julia Hart, who has only been wrestling for five years, had a near catastrophic injury when she did a bump backwards through a table and nearly landed on the metal barriers, neck first, outside the ring. Again, centimeters away from something worse.

There is no one there that has the guts to stop these guys from doing these spots. Tony Khan allows them to do anything their minds can imagine. All in the name of “creative freedom.” At some point, their luck is going to run out. If they do not change, and there is no indication they think they need to, someone will get seriously injured or die on live TV. Then what? The news outlets will descend. The most bizarre and dangerous stunts and angles will be made public. Then what?

When this happens, and again it is not if unless they stop themselves, it has the chance of affecting the entire industry. WWE is a multibillion-dollar company that will survive public backlash and, with its corporate machine, will be seen as wholesome and safe compared to AEW. But it will have the capacity to devastate the independent scene. Who will want to go to their area promotions once they have seen someone seriously injured on TV? Or seen wrestlers put each other’s faces into barbed wire? Or put jockstraps in each other’s mouths? No one outside the wrestling bubble will want to be part of shows like this. The number of new fans will be limited.

This is an out-of-control promotion. The fact that someone had the idea of the glass spot or using a flamethrower is indicative of how little freedom this roster should be allowed. Even worse, their “management” allowed it to happen. Tony Khan is a terrible booker who does not understand wrestling, but that is not reason to shut down AEW. Even the jock straps or bad language or women kissing each other for male amusement are not reasons to shut down AEW. But when you lose control and risk everything for a spot then it is time to either stop this or go away.

For the health of the wrestling industry, we need a well-funded, less corporatized promotion that is professionally run. AEW checks off two of those, but professional, the most important part for its survival, is not an adjective I would use. When wrestlers are allowed to fall through glass or set each other on fire with flamethrowers, you are just asking for something to go seriously wrong. Ask Martha Hart, who was in attendance, what it is like when a stunt goes wrong. Despite the need for another national promotion, for the betterment of the industry AEW needs to be shut down.

TOP PHOTO: Darby Allin with the flamethrower on the May 22, 2024, episode of AEW Dynamite. AEW photo by Ricky Havlik