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Tony Khan’s responses to Friday’s head-to-head competition with WWE are calculated in nature and rooted in the history of AEW.
In an interview with the New York Post on Thursday, Khan discussed AEW vs. WWE and why he felt the need to publicly address WWE programming a commercial free 30 minutes of Smackdown against AEW Rampage.
“From the beginning of the launch of AEW, before we even had TV, a lot of the strategy was rallying the fans on the internet, rallying the fans online around the company and our wrestlers,” Khan said. “And people really liked AEW, the people who watch the shows, they like the wrestlers. We have a very positive sentiment and in the position that we’re in, like I said, actions speak louder than words and I’ve always wanted everyone to watch all the wrestling they want. So if somebody’s going to put a show head to head with us I want people to know, very much in the spirit of wrestling competition. (With) the “Monday Night Wars” there was a lot of pride in the companies and people wore that on their sleeve. In this case, there are a lot of AEW fans and a lot of them are online. That’s how we were built, through a digital fan base. We can build a big audience for this weekend. We’ve never had anything like this before with three hours of live wrestling on TNT on a weekend other than a pay-per-view. There are a ton of things happening at this time of year, there’s a lot of sports. There’s a lot of competition outside of wrestling. So if we’re going to start trying to directly head-to-head compete with each other at this time of year where there are all these other things happening in sports, let’s go. I’m not the one who threw the gloves off, but if somebody has to do the talking and sell the fight I will be the one to do it. In this case, I am doing all the talking and all the selling of the fight. I do think we need to go back to an era where there is all this excitement about the shows. It’s clearly built buzz because a lot of people are talking about it.”
For the first time ever, WWE Smackdown and AEW Rampage will compete head-to-head on Friday night. Due to the MLB Playoffs, Smackdown is moving to FS1 from Fox and will last 30 minutes longer than usual, overlapping Rampage. AEW will feature a special “Buy In” show on YouTube with Bryan Danielson vs. Minoru Suzuki during the second hour of Smackdown. Smackdown is promoting Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks and an appearance from Brock Lesnar to drive interest and C.M. Punk vs. Matt Sydal will anchor AEW Rampage.