All eyes are on how AEW handles Malakai Black and Buddy Matthews situations


All Elite Wrestling has continued to be the talk of the wrestling industry in recent weeks, but not always because of the product that takes part in the ring. Recent reports about potential performers asking for their release have created interesting dialogue around whether the company will release them or not. Opinions will differ, but this forces the spotlight onto the narrative of fans convincing themselves that AEW would behave differently than other promotions when faced with similar challenges.

Malakai Black and Buddy Matthews were rolling in the House of Black storyline. They had fans pushing for the group to be included in the AEW Trios title picture, and perhaps Black being featured as a challenger for the AEW World championship. That never came to fruition as the group was eliminated early from the tournament and even after a hot start with the company, Black never reached title challenger status.

Now both men are seemingly stepping away from AEW. First, reports were that Black was granted what is deemed a “conditional release” that includes a lengthy non-compete clause. On Sunday, reports broke that Matthews spoke during the Fight Life Pro Wrestling show on September 24 and stated that he needs to “go away for a while.” Now what that means is not clear, but that hasn’t stopped fans and wrestling media personalities to speculate on the situation.

How AEW manages this situation will be interesting to watch. In positioning itself as “Not-WWE,” one thing the fans have latched onto is the company treating performers differently, especially those that were formerly a part of WWE. If Black and Matthews have expressed an interest in leaving AEW to return to WWE, sooner rather than later, and requested their release from their contract, how should AEW respond? Will they be the company that keeps individuals sidelined like WWE did with Mustafa Ali and PAC in past situations? Or will AEW let the person go with slight restrictions on what they can do?

According to reports, there seems to be a middle ground. AEW could hold these individuals to their long-term contracts, and instead of releasing them outright, they could do so with some contingencies in place, IE their own version of a non-compete. How will fans respond to that? Will they have the same response that they’ve had with similar situations in the WWE? That point will be one angle to watch.

Another side of the matter is how AEW finds ways to keep its growing roster happy and engaged. With three hours of on-television content, AEW must find a way to involve more members of its roster, especially the women, to avoid more talented performers from being unhappy with their places. That will become an even more perplexing challenge when the Ring of Honor brand is factored into things on TV. These may not be a direct influence on the current situations with Black and Matthews, but it is a talking point that continues to come up when discussing AEW’s use of its roster.

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The business side of professional wrestling is much like things are across professional sports, where contract matters can get ugly, especially as they play out in public. All Elite Wrestling has a challenge on their hands to live up to the expectations placed on them by fans and that they’ve played into. How they manage these situations with Malakai Black and Buddy Matthews are the first hurdles in doing so.