Tony’s Takes: Ricochet’s future, AEW TV rights, WWE and TNA, Swerve Strickland and Will Ospreay

By Tony Donofrio, Contributor (@TonyDonofrio)


-The AEW TV rights deal won’t go away, but God willing will come to a head this summer. There was a report that stated Tony Khan was “disappointed” in the first offer that he received from Warner Bros. Discovery. The disappointed adjective has been broken down in various ways in recent weeks. As an outsider looking in, I see all signs point to AEW getting out of its exclusive window with WBD so that they can shop all of their TV properties with other networks.

In my mind, I still believe the AEW-WBD relationship is strong and that’s where Dynamite lands for sure. Beyond that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Collision and/or Rampage land somewhere else. I can’t believe that Tony Khan would be looking to this open window if he doesn’t want to diversify his TV shows amongst a few different platforms. I feel like the usual suspects would be at play – Amazon, Disney (whether it be FX, Hulu/Disney+, ESPN+, or one of the non-ESPN proper networks), and Paramount (Paramount+ or even Paramount Network; CBS would be shocking and CBS Sports Network would be a huge disappointment). I suppose that Fox could be a player, but I would be surprised to see AEW slotted on anything above FS1, just as I wouldn’t expect it to air on anything better than ESPN2 with Disney. Hypothetically and best case scenario, in my opinion, I could see Collision and/or Rampage ending up on Amazon or FX as the best possible options.

Things get a little more interesting when it comes to the pay-per-view rights. I see possibilities of AEW landing on Max, Amazon Prime, ESPN+, or perhaps the new ESPN/Fox/WBD venture that will be called Venu Sports. All of this sounds fun and there could be many possibilities. How realistic it all is would be another story. Then there’s the ROH conundrum. But, for the sake of sanity and to pacify Dot Net staffer Will Pruett, we’ll continue on as if ROH doesn’t exist. So, what exactly happens? I wish I knew, I’m just a guy with a column.

Having said that, since we are near that AEW-WBD negotiation window closing, I’ll give my official predictions. Disclaimer: Don’t bet on these as I have no inside knowledge and just want my predictions documented for fun. Dynamite: TNT or TBS. Collision: Amazon Prime. Rampage: TNT. PPVs: Max or Venu Sports.

-To cut Swerve Strickland’s AEW Title reign short or not? That is the question. I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong answer. However, you can make strong arguments for either direction. There have been AEW Title runs that have been shorter but it’s not in the style of AEW to pull the rug out from a wrestler’s run that quickly. There’s also the idea that if the title is taken off of Swerve that he didn’t get a fair chance to run with the ball. With all of that said, I think it’s time to pull the trigger on Will Ospreay.

That’s not taking away anything from Swerve. I think he’s a major talent and deserves to be a main event player in any company that he works for. But, AEW has found lightning in a bottle with Ospreay. The live crowds give Ospreay the best reactions of anyone else on the roster and, quite frankly, it’s not really that close. Striking while the iron is hot has not been a strong suit of AEW. That could change this month. Putting the world title on Ospreay could also help eliminate some other problems by summer’s end. Osprey already holds the International Title. By the end of June, he could be the AEW World Champion also.

That leads us to All In at Wembley Stadium. I could easily see the match at All In being Ospreay defending both titles against Kazuchika Okada. the holder of the Continental Title. A major unification of those titles and dissolving of at least one of them should take place. For my taste, I’d get rid of both the Continental and International and consolidate the three into one unified world championship. As a lesser case scenario, combine the International and Continental and rebrand it as the Intercontinental Title.

The Continental Classic tournament winner can earn a shot at the world champion. It doesn’t have to be convoluted like it was explained in year one in that the Continental Title would be defended each year during the yearend tournament. It’s just not necessary. Regardless, I’m on board with Ospreay winning the world title at Forbidden Door. He checks a ton of boxes. He’s over big time and definitely has a cool factor that the fans are really into right now. It can also be argued he’s the best in-ring wrestler in the world today. Between the cool factor and the in-ring talent, it plays well to casual fans as well as the AEW base and it could be a big push in getting the company going in the right direction again.


-Is WWE buying TNA? Or, at the very least, does WWE have some interest in purchasing the company. I need to be clear. I have no inside information on this. But if you’re someone that pays attention to TNA’s business model (or lack thereof), this has to be on your radar. It feels like no one can really explain how TNA makes a profit and stays in business. They very rarely crack the top 150 cable TV shows. In comparison, WWE and AEW typically live near the top of those charts. Just based on that alone, their ad revenue has to be close to nothing.

I know there’s still a strong contingent out there of the “haha TNA” people, but somehow this company continues to push through and employ a lot of wrestlers and those that help produce wrestling. Their booking the past few years has been solid across the board. Most importantly though, especially to WWE if they were to be interested, is that TNA now houses a 20-plus-year library that includes wrestlers like CM Punk, AJ Styles, Cody Rhodes, and Drew McIntyre. Not to mention, it also includes WWE Hall of Famers like Kevin Nash, Booker T, and Kurt Angle (among others).

If anyone knows how to utilize and monetize a library, it’s WWE. It’s not lost on me that gone are the days of DVD and Blu-ray sales. However, WWE still has a partnership with Peacock and a partnership coming soon with Netflix. The TNA library and even retrospectives on the names I’ve already mentioned could definitely drive viewership to those platforms that are a sucker for nostalgia and history (I’m among that group). Time will tell but if WWE isn’t kicking the tires on TNA then maybe they should be.

-Much has been made in recent weeks about the looming free agency of Ricochet. He was, seemingly, written off of Raw this week. Most insiders are pretty certain that he will go to free agency and take his chances there. This is surprising to me as his fiancee, Samantha Irvin, is still with the company and they presumably travel together. Having said that, I can point to plenty of pro wrestling couples that now work in separate companies and there is something to be said for Ricochet betting on himself in free agency.

My personal hope is that Ricochet ends up working for New Japan Pro Wrestling. New Japan isn’t as hot as it was pre-pandemic and a guy like Ricochet could really excel there. The “smart money” is saying he ends up in AEW. Tony Khan isn’t shy about going all out to sign the latest “hot free agent” and Will Ospreay recently said he’d love to work with Ricochet again. That doesn’t mean he should go to AEW. In WWE, Ricochet seemed to have hit his ceiling as a mid-card wrestler. In AEW, the ceiling could be the same.

If this were 2019, I’d feel much differently about this. The AEW roster is bloated and there’s already way too many moving parts to position. I could see Ricochet getting a strong push out of the gate and then falling into obscurity in AEW like many have before when making the jump. In New Japan, I could see Ricochet jumpstarting his career. The crowds there would welcome him and he could be a star again like he was during his pre-WWE run. He could also work with Ospreay down the line given the New Japan and AEW strong working relationship.

Obviously, Ricochet will do what makes him happy and what is best for him. Perhaps being in Japan and away from his fiancee would be a strain as well. It actually makes me wonder if he won’t end up staying put in WWE. I assume we’ll find out soon enough.


Readers Comments (8)

  1. TheGreatestOne June 11, 2024 @ 6:35 pm

    Absolutely nobody with Disney, CBS, Amazon, or Fox is remotely interested in a garbage wrestling fed with no fans.

    • And you know this how exactly?

      • Andrew, when you run across poor, pathetic souls like “one”, you ignore them. Your attention is what they thrive on, and they don’t matter, so just ignore ’em.

      • TheGreatestOne June 11, 2024 @ 9:33 pm

        Common sense. They’re not paying to put a show on TV that draws 300-350k viewers most weeks. They can’t even get a good offer from WBD or we wouldn’t be talking about other networks.

        NXT gets better ratings than Rampage and Collision combined some weeks and it’s moving to CW, a network that gets fewer viewers than MeTV, Grit, and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. AEW isn’t going to do better than that for their shitty second and third shows.

        • Good article! Actually fair minded which is refreshing for opeds here. I could definitely see AEW on FX but I ultimately feel WBD will come through retaining AEW Television rights exclusively for another five years.

  2. >>There was a report that stated Tony Khan was “disappointed” in the first offer that he received from Warner Bros. Discovery<<

    This has been debunked by numerous people, but hey, CNN is looking for new reporters, so please apply. You'd fit right in.

    • Taking one line of an article and using it out of context is a take. There’s a reason that the adjective was in quotations. I went on to say that I believe the relationship is still strong and feel like the bulk of the TV/PPV rights would remain w/ WBD. I also never claimed to be a reporter, I referenced a report that was out there and broken down various ways. You can be “disappointed” with something that is still a good deal overall. But thanks for reading.

    • Hate on CNN all you like, but Fox paid $787 million to Dominion for lying to you, Angry Mike. And I wouldn’t say it was debunked. An AEW friendly reporter rushed to say Tony wasn’t disappointed. Here’s the thing. It’s negotiating. You’re supposed to be disappointed by the initial offer or the other side isn’t doing their job.

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