As the second biggest wrestling promotion in the United States, AEW has managed to get heads turning for its variety of in-ring styles and sports-oriented presentation. In spite of its highs, the organization has also experienced many lows. Company management has mishandled situations, with Tony Khan being a promoter in his infancy still having much to learn about running a territory. There’s the talent aspect as well, as a stable locker room is dependent on the civil coexistence amongst its wrestlers. With this in mind, performers will inevitably butt heads with management having to pick up the pieces and maintain order. This is apparent as the roster bloats with the acquisition of new talent, who are all vying for a spot on television. It’s also worth noting that wrestlers are celebrities, expected to preserve an image that fits in line with the company. As public figures, they are subject to scrutiny for present and even past actions.

2022 in particular has seen several problems in the company’s booking structure and corporate hierarchy coming to light, with claims of "backstage chaos" causing discourse among the online wrestling community. That’s not to say all hope is lost for Khan and the EVPs, as they’ll hopefully learn from their mistakes and use them to improve the young company as it continues growing. Nonetheless, AEW has survived many obstacles and will have to endure more as time goes on. Here are 15 of AEW’s biggest controversies to date.

Speaking Out

In June 2020, indie darling David Starr was accused of sexual assault. In the following weeks, associates of the wrestling sphere spoke out on their experiences of sexual misconduct perpetuated by colleagues. Rebecca Crow, ex-girlfriend of Jimmy Havoc, accused him of abuse and sexually assaulting another person. PROGRESS’s David Lloyd accused Havoc of punching him at a bar after an event. In a public statement issued by AEW, they announced that Havoc was released from his contract and receiving mental health and substance abuse counseling. Hawlee Cromwell accused Darby Allin of emotional and sexual abuse during their relationship between 2016 and 2017. While he was still with ROH, Jay Lethal denied claims of harassment by Kelly Klein, a few years after Taeler Hendrix made similar accusations in 2018. NJPW’s Will Osperay was accused of having independent wrestler Pollyanna blacklisted for making accusations towards a friend of Ospreay, which he has denied.

Havoc makes a living as a delivery driver in Kent, England and hasn’t wrestled since. Allin wasn’t disciplined for the controversy and has become a staple of the company as one of the promotion’s Four Pillars. Lethal became All Elite at Full Gear 2021, his signing being met with interest and criticism from commentators. NJPW pushed Ospreay in that summer’s G1 tournament in spite of the accusations, forming the United Empire and debuting for AEW in May 2022. Ospreay’s debut was met with similar mixed emotions.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Guevara-Banks Podcast Comments

As a part of the Speaking Out movement, past comments made by Sammy Guevara on the "Raw’s 4th Hour" podcast came to light. Discussing his tryout with WWE in a January 2016 episode, he commented on Sasha Banks’ appearance and said he wanted to sexually assault her. The news was met with massive outcry, with Guevara issuing a public apology in a now-deleted YouTube video. AEW released a statement on their Twitter page, condemning the comments and suspending Guevara indefinitely without pay. Conditions of the suspension included mandatory sensitivity training and his salary being donated to the Women’s Center of Jacksonville. Banks and Guevara had a private discussion, with Guevara apologizing and The Boss issuing a statement on her Twitter page. Condemning Sammy’s words and holding him accountable, Banks’ statement closed with "We all have to do better, not just for ourselves, but for generations to come."

Guevara served a 30 day suspension and returned to television alongside his Inner Circle stablemates. Tony Khan spoke to Sports Illustrated, optimistic that Guevara was able "to use that time to try and become a better person." Speaking to talkSPORT, Guevara reflected on the incident saying "they were bad comments … just immaturity and I’ve grown since then."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).