AEW President Tony Khan discusses Moxley contract terms, weight divisions, C.M. Punk, PPV schedule, Pac controversy, iTV, UK plans, WWE

By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor

Tony Khan talks no roster split in AEW
Tony Khan (image credit Rubin Jay @ PWTorch)


Tony Khan, the 36 year old President of the upstart formidably funded pro wrestling organization AEW, met with media last night after AEW’s debut event, Double or Nothing, in Las Vegas, Nev. at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. AEW debuts on TNT this fall with a weekly pro wrestling series. The following is a transcript of the “media scrum” where he answers a free flow of questions from a gathering of reporters after the event. [Thanks for PWTorch reader Rubin Jay for recording the session and supplying PWTorch with the link to the Q&A.]

•On his initial review of Double or Nothing: “I’ve seen, like I said going in, every wrestling pay-per-view ever, and I had very high expectations this would be amongst the best and I feel we delivered. I think it’s one of the best pay-per-views anyones ever done, anybody’s going to see.”

•On his belief that this was a successfully event: “Just trying to do the best possible shows we can. Everybody’s trying to do the best shows they can. We weren’t trying to compete with anyone or be better. We’re just trying to do the best show. I think we’ve done the best PPV anyone’s done this year.”

•On when he struck a deal with Jon Moxley, a/k/a Dean Ambrose, formerly of WWE’s Shield faction: “As soon as he was out of his deal and wanted to talk to people, he came to me and I was really excited to talk to him when he was able to talk to me. He was great. I’m really excited he’s part of the roster.”

•On the best moment of the night: “My highlight of the night was at the end of the show after Mox [Jon Moxley] took down Kenny, we go off and we realize we’ve done one of the all time great PPVs. There’s nothing that can stop us now. It looked like Kenny was okay. I thought Kenny was okay. Kenny is okay. That was pretty much my only concern at that point. I knew we hit a home run of a show. At that point I relieved and I knew everything was okay.”

•On Bret Hart’s condition after he fell when leaving the ring: “Bret slipped and fell. He didn’t come in the way he left. I was at Gorilla and I think that’s what happened.”

•On early indications of PPV buys for the $49.99 priced event: “I think commercially we’ve done very well. We had good expectations to do the best numbers anybody’s done since WCW, nobody other than WWE had done numbers like this. I think we’re in position to do the best numbers anyone has done since and hopefully be a really strong national, international company.”

•On whether he’ll become an on-air personality like most other pro wrestling executives over the years: “No no no. We have way too many performers for that… You know me really well. Did I ever try to suit up [with the Jacksonville Jaguars]?”

•On Cracker Barrel: “They are a sponsor, they are a great sponsor. They provided some excellent catering. Everyone really enjoyed it on top of being a great sponsors and friend of AEW. They love our performers, they love our guys. We try to work in their props.”

•On the controversy with Pac, a/k/a WWE/NXT wrestler Adrian Neville: “It would have been great if Ben would have been able to be here. I’m a big Pac fan. I’m a huge Pac fan and we love Pac and hopefully he’ll be doing a lot of shows for us in the future. It didn’t work out. There were a lot of reasons why. I think the show came together great. And I think we would have loved to have him here and we’d love to work with him here in the future. We love Pac. We all respect him as one of the best performers. Super professional.”

•On whether being a super-fan of pro wrestling himself will help him succeed as head of AEW: “I mean, yeah, by loving wrestling and watching a lot of wrestling, it is going to help. I think I understand what a fan wants to see from top to bottom. I feel like today I was able to go in and sit with the guys. Everyone had great opinions on what was going to make this a great show. That’s what makes this such a great collaborative process with the group we have for booking. We communicate really well. I think I offer a little bit different perspective not just as a fan but as a businesssman too. It’s a little different from what the guys are used to. It’s great synergy, not just the tip executives, but the whole roster. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. There’s real synergy of us all working together. We all bring something different.”

•On the ITV deal in the U.K.: “The ITV deal came together long before there was an AEW or a roster of wrestlers. I live in England a good chunk of the year. I had gone to the folks at ITV sport. ITV entertainment had been running the wrestling at ITV and they had done this World of Sport. I know the sport people very well from English Football and that’s where this connection paid off. I told them that there is a real chance to have a wrestling product that is a huge huge huge hit that does the kind of numbers you’ve dreamed of for wrestling on ITV and would be a real success. We’d have a lot of advantages working together. I know those guys personally and they trust me. We had a couple of meetings. As stuff developed, they saw everything I was saying was legit… It’s been a great relationship. Those guys are awesome.”

•On the AEW Women’s Division: “What is great we have really, really diverse amounts of executives and coaches who are super knowledgable about women’s wrestling. Dave [Meltzer] is here and I’ve honestly learned about a lot of the great female performers from reading the Observer. Kenny Omega had found a lot of names and sent me a lot of videos. Kenny and Brandi and I together have done a lot of work on that. So, internationally it’s a great time for women’s wrestling and we’re going to be a big part of it… We had really top people. Kenny was proud of it. He was proud of his match, but he was proud that the ladies he’d found for us delivered and had a great match.”

•On the shots taken by Cody at Triple H: “I’ve seen people say that there’s not a party line, like ‘they need to have a company line.’ Nah, we don’t. Everybody’s trying to get something different out of it. We all just want to do the best shows. If any of us, if it fuels our fire, the competition, that’s great. I’m just trying to do the best shows possible. I hope their shows are great. At the best times of wrestling, honestly, everybody was doing great stuff. There was a time 20 years ago when all the shows were great. Maybe 21 years ago more than 20 years ago; 1998 was a really great year. [laughs] I think we can get there again. I’m so excited when we get to weekly. We got a show we can hang our hat on that we’ve done one of the great wrestling pay-per-views. I’m really excited when we get to weekly. It’s going to be a better quality of life. The work is going to be better than it’s ever been. It’ll be like it was 20 years ago where you can watch a lot of wrestling and it’s not going to be a chore, either. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

•On when the AEW World Title match will happen, and if it will be Aug. 31 at All Out: “Hangman [vs. Chris] Jericho, I believe it’s a TBD. I don’t believe anyone has announced a date for Hangman-Jericho yet. We’re going to make an announcement. It will be for the AEW World Championship and Hangman and Chris are going to have an awesome match. We’re all very excited about it and we’ll announce the time and date soon.”

•On the weigh-in and whether that means there will be weight divisions: “No, because I’m not planning on weight divisions. It’s like shoot sports stuff and the weigh ins is a neat thing about sports. You’ll see a lot more elements like that, you’ll see more Tales of the Tape. As we build up stats and wins and loss records, what has and hasn’t worked in matches, you’ll see a lot of that in our TV presentations. I hope it’ll be like what you see in combat sports… I think that resonates with viewers and that’s what people want to see. You’ll see the wrestlers with the best records facing the champion. I think we’re kind of past the point of weight classes because to me a lot of the best quote-unquote ‘heavyweights’ would be the junior heavyweights and then what are you saying about the junior heavyweight belt when the best junior heavyweights aren’t competing for that. So I just think we’re going to have a world championship. We’re not calling it ‘heavyweight.’ With weights, it’s just a legitimate fact about sports. There will be David vs. Goliath matches. Sometimes there will be a big disparity and it will be an interesting fact.”

•On how feels right after Double or Nothing: “I’m not surprised. I’m glad everything came off. I’ve been through a lot of stuff. There’s a difference between knowing that you have the group of professional performer teed up – not just the wrestlers, but production, the coordinators who work backstage, the people top to bottom who made this happen. I really trust everybody. We’re not working against the common enemy. There’s a big difference between doing this and being at Foxboro and playing [NFL quarterback for the New England Patriots] Tom Brady. You can’t control that, and we had a lot of things we can control. It’s nerves, but it’s a totally different kind of nerves from other situations, if that makes sense.”

•On what his dad, Shahid Khan, the self-made Pakistani-American billionaire immigrant (worth an estimated $6.8 billion) who is the lead investor of AEW: “He really enjoyed it. He’s glad commercially it’s going to do well and he’s very happy about that as well.”

•On the plan for AEW’s pay-per-view schedule: “The definition of what a pay-per-view is is changing. An event like this will probably be a quarterly show. We certainly won’t be doing just quarterly shows. This is the biggest kind of show we can do. I think we’ll be doing a lot of big shows, but these four hour shows with a one hour pre-show will probably be a quarterly thing.”

•On streaming plans for other events other than those quarterly PPVs: “Our media partners are very excited about how some of this came off. I don’t want to commit to anything yet, but I’ve had a very good night. [laughs] I think we’ll see where we end up and where that content goes.”

•On C.M. Punk: “What’s a one person wrestling company? There’s no such thing. He was on the first roster when I sketched out a list of, ‘Hey, I want to start a wrestling company, who are all the names you’re going to get.’ Everybody we got is on that list, and he was on that list, to be honest with you. But a lot of people were on that list. Most of them are here, to be honest with you. I got almost everybody I wanted on this show. Phil is great and I have a good relationship with Phil. I think he’s awesome. He was not here, as you saw. That’s not the story of this show and it’d be a real insult to all we’ve done to make that the story of the show.”

•On whether he will run again in Las Vegas: “Yeah, I do imagine running Vegas again soon. Every year, if not more often than once a year.”

•On the ITV deal perhaps leading to an AEW PPV in the UK: “Yeah, I expect that. The announcement on that is not imminent, but I expect we will be doing that. We’ve had great support in the UK. We’ve put a lot of effort into branding in the UK. I am really appreciative of my really good friend Jack Whitehall. The support we’ve had from ITV has been amazing. I expect we’ll do a PPV in the UK. I haven’t booked a date for it and I haven’t booked an arena for it, but I think we will do it.”

•On the Jon Moxley contract details: “He is a multi-hear contract and he will be on a full time deal. When we go weekly, he’s going to be working full time. But same as with some of the other guys, especially when the schedule is light, I’m going to be open about him working some international indy dates. But he is full time with us, domestically he is essentially our guy. He’s definitely an AEW full time wrestler.

RECOMMENDED: 5/25 AEW DOUBLE OR NOTHING PPV RESULTS: Keller’s report on Omega vs. Jericho, Cody vs. Dustin, Battle Royal, more

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