I was watching some highlights from the latest Dynamite, because I was interested to see who won the match between Bryan Danielson and Daniel Garcia. But during the match I couldn’t help but notice that the turnbuckle pads had something other than an AEW logo on it, and at one point, I had to scrunch my brow when I realized that it was literally the crest for House Targaryen.
Why was the House Targaryen crest on turnbuckles of an AEW wrestling show?
Well, the answer wasn’t hard to determine, because outside of any shot that wasn’t zoomed in to where you could see the turnbuckles, pretty much everywhere else in the West Virginia arena was like an explosion of Game of Thrones branding. Since TBS is a Turner Network and Turner bought HBO and HBO owns the rights to Game of Thrones, naturally it was decided that AEW Dynamite would be the perfect venue to cross-promote the impending premiere of HBO’s House of the Dragon prequel series.
So instead of continually pushing awareness for AEW, or their shop’s website, or perhaps promoting any upcoming pay-per-views, all through the entire night was Game of Thrones shit, all over the place.
If I didn’t know what AEW was, and I was flipping channels and landed on Dynamite, I probably would’ve thought that some mega nerds* had created a wrestling promotion based on Game of Thrones, and I was watching some LARP of some Dothraki slave pit fighting instead of professional wrestling.
*I realize this is kind of an oxymoronic descriptor to describe Tony Khan, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks
But this is a good example of why it’s hard for me to take AEW seriously sometimes. No matter how genuinely good their wrestling product is capable of being, they just do so much shit on the business side or over social media or their performers, that just pumps the brakes on the progress they are totally capable of making, if they just didn’t get in their own way so much.
AEW’s entire show was completely hijacked by Game of Thrones this week. A few weeks ago when I went, the entire show was completely hijacked by Discovery/Animal Planet plugging the ever-living fuck out of Shark Week, to where they had a match where Jericho’s cronies were suspended in a diver’s cage. And a little while back, just about every AEW show was paintbombed by Draft Kings logos all over the place.
I’m not sure if it’s Tony Khan’s choice, or if he’s being strong-armed by Turner Ben Afflecks, but AEW is basically this cheap vehicle to promote other things, completely sacrificing their own brand identity and integrity whenever they do. They’re like a Tesla Model S, with a vinyl wrap for Juan’s Paint and Windows, and they’re required to drive it around in prominent communities and log a substantial amount of miles to justify the ad space.
If it’s TK’s choice to allow his pet promotion to be pimped out to plug shit that isn’t his, then shame on him. If it’s Turner being Turner and fifteen old white guys with VP titles are all jabbing their fingers into the AEW pie to try and make their mark, then that’s really nothing out of the ordinary for Turner’s modus operandi, and we can continuously count the days before AEW copies WCW in another manner; being managed to death by Turner.
But the bottom line is that it’s really hard for me to take AEW seriously when they participate in shit like this, and it’s got to be hard for even them to continuously try to declare themselves the alternative to the WWE, when they’re constantly being handcuffed by shit that makes it hard for people to take them seriously. As much as the WWE is so often seen as this corporate soulless entity, they take their brand seriously, and they almost never cross-promote with anyone or anything, not without at least some substantial benefit to them.
There’s absolutely zero benefit for AEW when they help plug Shark Week, House of the Dragon or Draft Kings, and until the company can grow a backbone and push back on bullshit orders to cross-promote, they’ll never be taken as serious as they should be capable of commanding respect.