McGuire’s Mondays: Five things I learned from AEW and WWE’s big Memorial Day weekend

By Colin McGuire, Staffer

Is Memorial Day weekend now the most important weekend in American mainstream pro wrestling? OK, yeah. It’s probably still WrestleMania weekend and it will probably continue to be WrestleMania weekend for a long time. But when it comes to WWE and AEW running PLEs or PPVs or STDs or whatever acronym you want to use, Memorial Day weekend this year might just contend to be the leader in the clubhouse.

Consider: Depending on the time of year, AEW has no problem calling Double Or Nothing its marquee event if only because it ties back to the company’s origins. If I had a dollar for every time someone referenced Sunday’s PPV marking five years of AEW I’d have … well, I’d have enough dollars to pay for one of those dumbass season passes that keeps coming out for the brand’s “Fight Forever” video game. WWE, meanwhile, upped the ante with its King and Queen of the Ring PLE by proclaiming that the winners of the tournaments would receive world title shots at SummerSlam later this summer. Funny how some blood money can get a company to magically increase the relevance of a tournament that hasn’t mattered since Stone Cold was born.

Either way, it was a lot of a lot over the last three days. Of that a lot of a lot, here are five things I took away from the madness of Memorial Day weekend 2024.


I’m sure anyone from either side would tell me it’s just coincidence, but god damn, the notion of coincidence between AEW and WWE sure does seem prevalent more often than not. A mere handful of days after WWE announced that its winner for the King of the Ring and Queen of the Ring tournaments would receive a world title shot at its biggest summer event, AEW proclaimed that the man and woman winners of The Owen Cup would receive respective title shots at its biggest summer event, All In.

Truth be told, I like both decisions from both companies. Annual pro wrestling tournaments can be hit or miss in my eyes, but what has given New Japan’s G1 more weight than its counterparts stateside is that for more than 10 years now, winning it has guaranteed the victor an IWPG World Heavyweight Championship shot at the ensuing Wrestle Kingdom. When Paul Levesque announced the stip only one day before the KOTR and QOTR finals last week, it gave both matches a much-needed boost of intrigue. I can only assume that the same will be said for the Owen Hart Cup finals (because Will Ospreay is going to have to be in the mix … right?).

If nothing else, this allows companies to set up Big Deal Matches without having to show champion and challenger glare at each other for 18 seconds in a promo and magically determine that’s good enough to heat up a world title bout. In AEW’s case, this adds a layer of honor to Owen Hart’s legacy, considering how the winner of the tournament named after him will earn something meaningful – a nice touch for those who may have thought merely naming a tournament after him wasn’t enough.

As for WWE … well, now that you mention it …


I’m not the first person to publicly hop on this soapbox this weekend, but damn it if I hadn’t planned to step onto this soap box before one of pro wrestling media’s biggest names pointed it out in his weekend banter: Don’t tell me sportswashing doesn’t work. And more importantly, don’t tell me it didn’t go exactly as planned in the case of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud and what he hoped to accomplish with his combat sport friends.

Remember the days when wrestlers protested going to Saudi Arabia to perform? Remember when conversations about women’s rights, free speech and basic human decency in the context of the Saudi Arabian government stood at the forefront of the days leading up to whatever event WWE wanted to produce over there? Remember when morals in pro wrestling mattered?

Oh, wait.

Daniel Bryan. Roman Reigns. John Cena. Kevin Owens. Aleister Black. Those are some of the names that quickly surface if you head to the “WWE in Saudi Arabia” Wikipedia page (because yes, there’s actually a Wikipedia page for this thing). They all reportedly protested performing in Saudi Arabia at some point (Owens, it was said, because his boy Sami Zayn wouldn’t make the trip). Weird, because Cena had no problem heading over there late last year to do a job for Solo Sikoa while Kevin Owens was last seen helping his friend Randy Orton walk to the back after losing the King of the Ring final on Saturday.

Throw that on top of all the fabulously fabulous beach photos all the WWE women couldn’t wait to share on their social media throughout the weekend and down goes human rights in a sixth-round TKO. Nobody even talks about this stuff anymore. And now, with rumblings that the Saudis want a Big Deal event – cough, WrestleMania, cough – we are only three middle-eastern Make-A-Wishes away from entirely forgetting that the leader of this country once ordered a hit on a journalist for doing his job.

WWE: Come for the hypocrisy; stay for the free bottles of Prime.


It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a guy dressed in Triple H cosplay.

MJF returned at Double Or Nothing Sunday night. He confronted Adam Cole, gave his obligatory pep rally speech for AEW And revealed (what I think will ultimately be a fake) tattoo cementing his loyalty to Tony Khan’s company. First, the good: MJF is back. It’s a small sentence but it means something much bigger to a business that has been plagued by unfortunate injuries and a lot of unflattering chatter in recent months (years?). As I stated on the Pro Wrestling Boom podcast last week, I’ve missed MJF. And I’m not even the type of wrestling fan who feels voids when wrestlers are out. But, hell. I missed that guy. AEW missed that guy. His return should provide a drastically needed spark to, at the very least, the company’s television programs.

Now, the not so good: If there’s one criticism I have of Max, it’s the one that takes me out of his believability every now and then. I bought into the idea that he might jump to WWE – maybe not during this go-around, but perhaps somewhere down the line. And, of course, he still might. But after hearing him weave a potential contract war for his services into his promos for all those months, there’s just a tiny bit of something that feels disingenuous about his rah-rah-ing when it comes to his decision to stay in AEW.

I’ve always been of the mindset that what makes MJF such a star isn’t the fact that he’s a dick; it’s the fact that we believe he’s a dick. He was a breath of fresh air, the guy who kept kayfabe at autograph signings and built a legend by being mean to everyone around him, no matter the walk of life. Being funny or inventive in his insults was only a byproduct of the conclusion that we were all sure he really, truly was an asshole. Basing your character for the better part of a year off the idea that the grass is probably greener somewhere else only to ask for everyone to forget that via the conduit of a bad tattoo feels …


But, hey. MJF’s back. That’s a good thing.


Quick question: How confident are we that either the King of the Ring or the Queen of the Ring will ultimately become a WWE champion as a result of their newfound royal status? It is May 27. SummerSlam is August 3. Between now and then, Clash at the Castle – complete with a title match for hometown hero Drew McIntyre – will go down on June 15 while Money In The Bank will commence on July 6 in Toronto. In other words, I’ll bet you those dollars I earned earlier in this column that Nia Jax vs. Bayley and Damian Priest vs. Gunther won’t be the title matches in Cleveland. One of those? Maybe. But both? Nah.

So, what happens? Who knows. But that’s the fun in this. Drew has to be the odds-on-favorite to dethrone Priest next month. But then there’s that Money In the Bank thing and because WWE waited so long to have the 2023 men’s winner cash in, I don’t think it’d be unreasonable to believe a quicker go of it might occur this time around. Is CM Punk involved? Does Drew lose that belt by the time the circus gets to the home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in August? How about the women? Bayley vs. Jax feels like it could be great if the company spends the summer building it properly. But why couldn’t Jade Cargill slip into the equation somehow and we get the match we were robbed of on Smackdown between Jax and Cargill?

Then there are the almost-winners. Or, well, the almost-winner (sorry Lyra). Randy Orton vs. Cody Rhodes had “SummerSlam main event” written all over it. Is there a higher-profile opponent for the American Nightmare on the blue brand? Not unless Roman Reigns walks through that door, and we have been told he ain’t doing that for a good, long time. Is there a chance we still get Orton vs. Rhodes somehow, some way?

It’s shaping up to be a fun summer for the WWE main title pictures. Who knew a tournament with actual stakes could help spice things up this much?


The scene is Sunday night. I’m sitting on the couch, feeding my six week old son, watching the Florida Panthers/New York Rangers NHL playoff game. That ends. My partner (his mom) is sitting next to me. I turn the TV to The YouTube to hop in on the Double Or Nothing Buy-In. The three of us are watching Renee, RJ, and Double J discuss the upcoming night’s events. The pre-show matches come on. We watch them. The main show is about to start and my partner kindly asks me if I’m going to buy the show. I say no. She then offers to actually buy it for me (it had been a long weekend of driving and family and friends and newborn crying). My response? “No. Really. Honestly. No. Don’t do that.”

I turned on the Mavs/Timberwolves game. That was my night.

For the first time in (as AEW liked to remind us all weekend) five years, I was not only not compelled to buy one of the company’s PPVs, but I actively felt disgust towards the idea of them taking my 50 bucks. The pre-show matches were not good. The pre-show main event, featuring The Acclaimed, was particularly offensive because while I can’t tell if Max Caster is on his way to becoming a heel, I can tell that someone needs to get his entrance verses off the stage. Those raps used to be appointment viewing; now, they’re relegated to the pre-show and his faux-clever one-liners inspire less than a yawn from those sitting in the crowd. On top of that, the wrestling was bad.

It summed up my position on AEW, yes, but it also provided me with perspective on the PPV/PLE game. You know what? I’ll gladly pay six or eight or 10 bucks a month for Peacock and if I feel like checking in on a PLE any given Saturday, I’ll do it. If I don’t, that’s OK, too, because I use Peacock for more than just WWE content. With AEW expanding its slate of PPVs per year, those people are asking us to pay $400-$500 a year on these shows. Shows that run too long, ultimately exhaust this viewer by the time the matches I want to see get in the ring, and can sometimes yield mixed results.

This, of course, means nothing to you, the reader who either loves or hates AEW (because don’t forget, there’s no in-between!). But to me, it really has me wondering if I’ll ever pony up the cash to sit through one of those things again. I know I whine about the company from time to time in this space, and I’ve been constant in questioning some of its business and/or booking practices every now and then. But, I mean, really: I like AEW. Or, well, I think I like AEW? Maybe I liked AEW? Now, I just tolerate AEW? How about I hope for the best for AEW?

I don’t know. It was a surreal feeling and one I was not anticipating. And with the beginning of summer now unofficially official, I’m going to quietly try to get to the bottom of this AEW existential crisis. Is it them? Is it me? Is it both of us? Perhaps stepping back through the Forbidden Door can provide me with some answers …


Readers Comments (4)

  1. Why did I read this?

    • This mark has his head so far up Vince McMahons a$$, i’m sure he has to be on one of the McMahon text messages.

      • Wow, I agree with what the readers who’ve replied so far have said. Ya need to check yourself Paul, this was a total waste of time article much like an Episode of RAW….or Smackdown…or NXT these days. Just say you hate AEW so much it now interfere with you doing your job (which should include watching both companies ppvs or ples) and be done with it. Much like a WWE PLE match we can see the outcome of your articles coming a mile away.

  2. Funny how some blood money can get a company to magically increase the relevance of a tournament that hasn’t mattered since Stone Cold was born

    Get of your high horse Mister.

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