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It sounds like AEW tried to keep Ace Steel’s re-hiring a secret

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We’ve heard two different accounts of what happened between AEW and CM Punk this week, describing what are likely each side’s version of the circumstances that led to his name & image being removed from Warner Bros Discovery’s promotional materials for the new TNT show, AEW Collision.

The latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter fleshes out one version of the story. In reconstructing the timeline based on what we now know, Dave Meltzer generally confirms a detail from Nick Hausman’s alternative report — that Steel was re-hired at least a couple months ago.

It also seems that word started to go around in press circles about the possibility Steel could be brought back after he was fired for his role in the post-All Out fight that led to suspensions for Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks. But whenever Meltzer checked with his AEW sources about that talk, he got denials.

And it sounds like reporters weren’t the only ones getting denials. “Top people” at the company, and “key talent” were kept in the dark too. Meltzer writes:

I don’t believe anyone, past Punk and whoever he may have told, knew about Ace Steel (Chris Guy) returning until a few found out about a week ago. It also should be noted that while we had heard talk about a Steel deal to return as a producer for Collision from multiple sources, we had also been told from the top in checking that we were told it was not true.

... we had that [Steel’s re-hiring] denied to us when asking several weeks back, but based on what we were told by others weeks ago when the name first started surfacing, the claim had been he was hired a few weeks before that, so about six or seven weeks ago would fit that time table. But at the time those close to him said that it was a closely kept secret and he would actually return at the first Collision show. Even top people in AEW at the time were unaware of this and most still didn’t know until this week. When key talent found out about two weeks ago, they were shocked.

Whether you agree with it being classified as a misunderstanding or think it was the “ultimate blow up”, the secrecy makes it easier to believe that Punk and AEW head honcho Tony Khan somehow miscommunicated about whether or not Steel could be present at Collision tapings. It can be harder to be clear when you’re trying to keep something under wraps.

The question is, why keep it a secret internally? Even if Steel was going to continue working from home as Punk’s personal creative consultant, people would have found out eventually. The ones who wouldn’t like it would be upset regardless. Delaying telling them doesn’t buy you much, and creates risk they’ll find out before they’re officially told and generating even mistrust in the process.

Managers at organizations of all shapes and sizes, in all kinds of businesses, make bad decisions. But it’s frustrating for everyone rooting for AEW to succeed to see the promotion continue to shoot itself in the foot with ones that could be dealt with some definitive and clearly articulated decision-making.

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