“All the things you thought would happen didn’t, and you’re pissed.”
— Ass Ponys, “Gypped” (1994)
Wrestling fans felt swerved big time this past week by both AEW and WWE. Honestly, “swerved” doesn’t begin to cover it. It was grander, like a furious blast of music, almost symphonic. Let’s call it swervature. [Feel free to add that word to your personal lexicon.] But, as Triple H would say, here’s the thing. Fans, it’s all our fault. We did it to ourselves. There’s no one else to blame for this past week’s non-events. We have met the marks, and they are us.
On Tuesday, January 10, 2023. WWE announced that Vince McMahon had been unanimously elected as the Executive Chairman of the Board. At first, McMahon was said to be back in the company he left in the wake of allegations of being a demonstrably gross human being to assist with media rights negotiations. That didn’t last long. Before we knew it, he McMahoned himself back in charge of the Board of Directors.
Hours later, Stephanie McMahon resigned from her position as Co-CEO. That was a surprise. The common theory was that the McMahons would hunker down with co-CEO Nick Khan to make WWE more profitable while still keeping it in the family. With Steph out of the picture, we braced ourselves for another outrageous power play from Vince. It could have been anything. Vince could have gotten on television and declared himself the King of Connecticut and we wouldn’t have batted an eye. Oh, okay. I guess Vince is King now. WWE stans everywhere would have welcomed their new wrestling overlord.
That’s when a rumour started, to the surprise of no one, on Reddit. A contributor to the Squared Circle subreddit, who has allegedly given proof of their connections within WWE to forum moderators, announced that WWE had been sold. Within an hour, the internet was abuzz with unconfirmed news that WWE had become the property of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) via its Public Investment Fund.
Selling WWE to the Saudis was the worst thing fans could imagine, but it made sense in a twisted, diabolical way. Why wouldn’t Vince, an alleged embezzler and sexual predator, align with the KSA, which reportedly has been perpetrating human rights abuses for decades? It was a partnership made in the depths of the biblical trash piles of Gehenna.
The outcry was instantaneous and vicious. WWE employees were ready to walk. Fans angrily posted about Vince’s betrayal of his family, his country, the wrestling business in general. What would happen to the business? Would the television presentation change? Would the women have to add sleeves and head coverings to their established ring gear? What about the catalogues, the years of wrestling footage from defunct companies acquired by WWE? Would those important pieces of ring history be lost to time, censorship, and bureaucracy?
Not all of them, mind you, but a great number of fans and wrestling journalists bit hard on that story. It dominated social media timelines for hours.
It was also false.
Look: every wrestling reporter I personally trust made sure to emphasize that the news was unconfirmed. Some of the big players, such as Wrestling Observer founder Dave Meltzer, didn’t touch the story while it was exploding. Because it wasn’t news. It was a wet cardboard box filled with nothing, the soggy packaging of a massive chunk of fan-created swervature.
At the same time, AEW fans were salivating at the thought of Mercedes Monè appearing as Saraya’s mystery tag partner.
Tony Khan’s wrestling company, now in its fourth year of existence, has conditioned its fans to look for clues, hints to what’s happening next. Surprise appearances by wrestlers have been AEW’s bread and butter. Why wouldn’t Monè show up, even for only one match? It fit the already established pattern.
We had already seen Dr. Britt Baker, DMD, proclaim herself to be “The Boss,” a sly nod to Monè’s old nickname. Monè had recently debuted in New Japan Pro Wrestling, a company with solid ties to AEW. It didn’t matter that Saraya had already announced that her partner would be former AEW Women’s Champion Toni Storm. There was a tease of a heel turn from a shocked and angry Hikaru Shida, but that didn’t diminish hopes that Monè would sashay down the ramp. Many fans were convinced that Khan would twist the Saraya/Baker storyline around so that Monè’s appearance would make sense.
To be fair, Khan never said Monè would show up. He barely even teased it. And just like that, it didn’t happen. We didn’t get the Shida turn on Dynamite. We didn’t get Mercedes Monè. Hell, we didn’t even get Mercedes Martinez and, let’s face it, that would have been super funny.
Could Monè still show up during an AEW show, making jaws drop and the internet implode? Sure. Could Vince McMahon achieve his final form as the Supreme Evil Being and sell WWE to the KSA? Absolutely, he could. He’s got the Board-given power to decline any media deals thrown his way. If the Saudis pony up, then Vince could ride away into the sunset with his saddlebags full of cash.
But those things haven’t happened. They were nothing more than the monster under the bed, the surprise birthday party that no one attended.
I repeat: we did this to ourselves. The wrestling community allowed their dreams and fears to take precedence over reality. Love Mercedes Monè or not, fans want her to be happy because if she’s happy, we’re happy. Conversely, we were appalled at the idea of Vince selling WWE to the KSA. It seemed selfish if not self-destructive, a frittering away of the company’s history, that ruthless and strangely beautiful legacy. There was even online conjecture that WWE itself floated the idea of a Saudi sale to see how the wrestling community would react. If that’s the case, WWE got the answer with a quickness.
Fans were ready for either of the aforementioned situations, eager to give flowers to and give defenses for everyone involved. Our collective fight-or-flight reflexes Hulked up. When everything whiffed away, we were left with a wasted adrenaline rush, a hormonal hangover that made us tired and cranky.
Full disclosure: it happened to me, too. There I was, texting when I should have been sleeping, ready to eviscerate McMahon and be happy for Monè. Wrestling has a way of sucking you in. I should have known better. My journalistic instincts should have kicked in. But if you listen to fools, well, you know the rest.
But that’s the wrestling business, isn’t it? Eyes on screens, butts in seats, call the super secret hotline for private behind-the-scenes information. It’s an industry based on malarkey and misinformation. We, the avid supporters and ride-or-die fans, worked ourselves into a shoot and now there’s nothing left to do but take deep breaths and wait for next week.
The tape machines are rolling. More swervature is on the way, and I’m wondering if the fan community will handle it better next time. Maybe they’ll do things like check facts, wait for actual confirmation before jumping into the fray, or encourage others to stay calm and trust the process.
Probably not. Oh, well. I’ve been following this game for a long time and I can’t remember when things were any different.
Then. Now. Whatever.