Solving Problems of Trust in AEW, Workplace Democracy, and Decentralized Creative Cultures

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According to numerous media reports, CM Punk is expected to return to AEW on a new show on Saturdays called AEW Collision, with disputes in the locker room reportedly still unresolved, a situation that threatens the existence and identity of the movement itself. AEW has been a beacon of self-governing creativity and alternative culture in pro wrestling. What are the implications of this development on the continuation of the authentic AEW movement and culture? Note that I am trying to be optimistic in this episode and am not speaking in terms of wrestling programming or ideals, but rather putting the “mediator” hat back on. I explained the significant issues associated with his return to AEW in my prior episode on CM Punk and in a few episodes before that as well. Simply put, these are not the best circumstances to be in and had we not had him disturb the order of AEW, we would not need to have this discussion.

I highly recommend you read the Beyond the Gripebomb article I wrote for for a primer on power and leadership in AEW, understanding it for the alternative culture it is, as opposed to business as usual in the sport of pro wrestling:

  • Starting with the intent we started with: The “vision of” changing the world, as Adam Page would put it, “but the world got into us”
  • AEW is a tremendous example of spontaneous order, like you’d see in a skatepark
  • Dr. Neftalie Williams’ (my professor at USC) article about shared language and customs among skateboarders sans rules or formal authority:
  • Self-governance has never really existed in wrestling before Young Bucks and Elite Era
  • Shared trust is key, if you don’t have that you have nothing and you have to start cracking down like we’re seeing
  • The irony of someone who claims to be punk working people into cheering for Tony Khan to morph into a strongman authoritarian boss, which he isn’t, in order to give Punk what he wants
  • Just saying “I have a business to run and I need to make money” is the WRONG approach.
  • Wrestling fans misunderstand the nature of AEW as a social movement and an alternative culture as compared to a business.
  • The sustainability of the movement, not short-term gains, should be the priority
  • Much of the following is from Anarchism as a Theory of Organization – Colin Ward:
  • Workers’ self-management and cooperative governance is a thing, with much academic and practical backing
  • You can even have self-governance with unruly children: Study of Pioneer Health Centre in London
  • Letting people have space to create and do what they want.
  • The ironically named Wayward Youth book shows the success of self-governance among maladjusted youth
  • Leading architect Walter Gropius “proclaims what he calls the technique of collaboration among men, which would release the creative instincts of the individual..”
  • Hayek’s conceptualization of worker freedom: do what’s best for profit in the end
  • Avoiding a situation like Sears where competition destroys from within
  • This is where libertarian socialist governance within the firm differs from libertarian capitalist governance. Creative coexistence and cooperation versus just competition
  • If you were really building a cooperative organization, though you would just let CM Punk go for the sake of protecting the workers who have shown they can self-manage and can make the choice
  • When there is order created from disorder, establishment figures or those indoctrinated in establishment ideas don’t understand it
  • Had CM Punk not disturbed the successful order in AEW created by The Elite’s cultural approach, we would not have these problems
  • But when you are in a situation like this, where they have to work together somehow, it’s a necessity to separate adequately to avoid another bad Collision (pun not intended)
  • The brand split is a necessity and a prudent and good idea under conventional corporate ideas, and also possibly for self-organization
  • And there’s plenty of precedent in corporate America for competing brands being made by the same company
  • The Anarchist Systems of Organization article does talk about self-organizing crews in a way, that could be what is being done with Collision
  • How we will know this is authentic and true to the movement is with 100% buy-in on the principles, even if not the creative direction.
  • The re-signing of Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, and Adam Page will be the key sign this is legitimately going to work and not just a money grab

Got questions, concerns, or worries or fears about this situation or any other dilemma in sports, politics, or society today? Call in and leave a voicemail any time, day or night, toll-free at 844-477-PUNK (7865)
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