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Tony Khan sharply criticizes WWE’s treatment of Rusev

Miro has been on the AEW roster for roughly three months. His presentation as Kip Sabian’s best man who gets angry when his video games are broken isn’t exactly the kind of material that sets the world on fire.

Earlier this week on a media call, Tony Khan was asked about Miro’s slow start in AEW. All Elite’s head honcho first explained that the AEW ranking system made it difficult to give Miro a big push right out of the gate:

“Miro’s gonna be a big star here. It’s really hard for people to come in to AEW when you have a ranking system, unless they come in at the beginning of a new year cycle, and I didn’t want to wait until January to bring Miro in...I couldn’t just put Miro in the main event with no record and no history here. So he’s got to build up and build stories.”

Khan indicates that the Miro you see on Dynamite is not a character idea they came up with for him. The AEW version of Miro strongly mirrors the real life Miro:

“Whether people know it or not, we’re re-contextualizing Miro. I don’t know what Miro was supposed to be before he came to AEW. I don’t understand what he represented. I think most of the great characters in wrestling have some element of their personality, there are exceptions to this, but where they bring themselves into it. And the Miro you’re seeing is the Miro I know, which is an awesome awesome interesting person who’s got an amazing sense of humor...It’s not some great invention of a character. This is him. I want people to get to know him better...As you get to know more of him and see more of him, I think there is a bigger chance of Miro becoming a big crossover star in multimedia, and this includes gaming, which is such a big interest of his.”

Tony doesn’t pull any punches when criticizing WWE for how they booked Miro (as Rusev) over the last several years:

“I’m just kind of rebuilding him, to be honest with you. I thought he got beaten down so bad. I saw some jackass on Twitter was like, ‘This guy drove a tank at WrestleMania, and now he’s doing this.’ And I was like yeah, and then he got kicked in the nuts and they treated him like shit for years. You drove a tank out five years ago. That’s not the guy I signed. The guy I signed had been abused for years. He’s being rebuilt. He’s gonna be a huge star in wrestling. And he is a huge star. He’s a huge name in wrestling now, but he wasn’t treated like it for a long time. You’re gonna get to know him better, and it’s a marathon, not a sprint. So when 2021 resets, I think he’s gonna be somebody that’ll have a chance to build a record over the course of the year and be a big star here. But I wasn’t just gonna put a guy in with a 0-0 record and say he’s the number one contender. That’s not how it works.”

It’s hard to disagree with the notion that WWE dropped the ball with Rusev, particularly when they failed to capitalize on his extremely popular Rusev Day gimmick. WWE somehow booked Rusev to go winless on pay-per-view across a roughly three year span, which is a recipe for failure. I have been underwhelmed with Miro’s run in AEW so far, but what he’s doing now is at least better than a cuckolding or erectile dysfunction storyline.

That being said, Khan’s use of the ranking system and calendar as a way to explain Miro’s booking isn’t very convincing. Brodie Lee debuted in April and was the number one contender for Jon Moxley’s world championship on the pay-per-view in May. Brian Cage debuted for AEW in May and challenged for Moxley’s title in July. Eddie Kingston quickly earned two AEW world title shots in the fall without some amazing win-loss record to back it up.

Miro has been in AEW long enough now where they can book themselves around a kayfabe ranking system if they really wanted to. The truth is that AEW’s upper card and main event scene is very crowded right now, and there isn’t an urgency to rush Miro into that spot. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. In fact it’s probably better to take the slower approach and allow Miro time to form a meaningful connection with the AEW audience.

The fact that Miro is not in an upper card story in AEW is unrelated to why his run has been a disappointment. The big problem with Miro thus far is that his character hasn’t done anything that’s worth caring about or being invested in. Getting upset about his video games being broken isn’t going to cut it. If that’s the kind of content that the real Miro wants to bring to the table in AEW, and he doesn’t care if it’s not clicking, then this problem could persist for quite a long time.

The secondary issue is that AEW has more of a focus on great ring work and matches than WWE, and Miro has yet to really stand out on that front either. He’s only had one good match during three months in AEW. But what do I know, maybe Tony Khan thinks I’m a jackass for feeling that way.

The bottom line is that we are still early in Miro’s tenure in AEW, and there is plenty of time to turn it around. Khan’s sharp criticism of WWE’s booking of Rusev is warranted, and now it’s AEW’s turn to show that they can do better.

How do you feel about Miro’s run in AEW? Do you think the calendar flipping to 2021 will be his turning point towards a bigger push up the card?

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