By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW President Tony Khan spoke with the pro wresting media on Tuesday, September 26, 2023 to promote Sunday’s AEW WrestleDream pay-per-view. Refresh the page for the latest updates.
-Tony Khan opened the call by saying he believes WrestleDream will be a great event. He said the family of the late Antonio Inoki will be in attendance.
-Khan was asked for his thoughts on Jade Cargill moving on to WWE. Khan said he has only positive things to say about Cargill. He said she’s always welcome in AEW. He felt she had a great run with the company and has a bright future, and he wished her well in the future.
-Khan was asked about monthly pay-per-views and whether they will land on a streaming service soon. Khan said he’s excited about WrestleDream. He noted that he’s never said they will do monthly pay-per-views. He said they’ve added some huge shows this year and feels that the success of All In shows that there’s room for more pay-per-view events. He’s happy with the online reaction to WrestleDream and how fans have embraced it. Khan said he feels Forbidden Door, All In, and All Out is the best run of three pay-per-views they’ve done, and also touted the success of AEW Grand Slam. Khan said he’s “very open” to putting AEW on a streaming platform. He said it sounds like a new deal to him and something that would be part of a new media rights package. He said it’s something he would really like to do. Khan said it’s been the best year in AEW history with the success of All In and the even being near the top of their pay-per-view sales list. Khan feels they can add new events and he feels there’s potential to do that, but he said he hasn’t decided on a number yet. Khan acknowledged that the top platform would be Max. He said he feels there’s mutual interest, but there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of figuring out how it makes money for everyone. Khan said he’s not interested in doing a three-month trial on a streamer because he feels they’ve proven themselves.
-Khan was asked about Adam Cole’s health and his status for the ROH Tag Team Title match at WrestleDream. Khan said the match is still slotted for the event. Khan said Cole was “a little bit ginger on that leg.” He said it would be addressed on Wednesday’s AEW Dynamite.
-Khan was asked if there’s any truth to the rumors that he acquired New Japan Pro Wrestling. Khan said he was surprised to see the rumors given their great relationship with NJPW. He spoke of how they have been partners for two years. Khan said he wants to continue that partnership and said they have something good going. Khan said he doesn’t know where the speculation came from, but he’s happy there are a lot of people talking heading into WrestleDream.
Powell’s POV: It’s worth pointing out that Khan never outright said no regarding the rumors.
-Khan was asked about the possibility of running future WrestleDream events in Japan. Khan said he felt it was a great opportunity for American fans to celebrate Antonio Inoki. Khan spoke about having a rotation of three shirts at one time that featured Taz, Darth Vader, and the Wrestling Peace Festival. Khan spoke about the WrestleDream event being held on the one-year anniversary of Inoki’s death.
-The Bryan Danielson vs. Zack Sabre Jr. match was touted by a caller. Khan spoke about both men and their history together and noted that they’ve both “built their bodies up” and are different men than the last time they met. Khan said they both possess “mastery of grappling” and have “probably the most complete skillset of any professional wrestler.” Khan said it’s a dream come true to have on pay-per-view. He said he wanted to have this event on the original Forbidden Door event, but Danielson was unable to wrestle due to suffering a concussion.
-Khan was asked about the “end of an era” comment and was asked if he would go so far as to say that he is not acquiring New Japan Pro Wrestling. Khan laughed while saying he has no intention of clarifying his comments because he wants people to order the pay-per-view. Khan said the internet ran away with the speculation and said he’s not sure where it started. Khan said there are things he’s very excited about. He said he’s made bold proclamations before and felt he was proven right. He said they have taken big swings at doing new things this year. Khan said he feels 2023 has been the company’s most adventurous year. Khan said he would be happy to debunk that this is what he was implying because he doesn’t know where the rumor started. Khan’s line got choppy, but it sounded like he said anyone who says they are not doing the best shows should wear tinfoil hats. He said no one is telling more stories than they are. Khan said there are a lot of hard working people in AEW and they’ve had to change some things at times, and they really roll with the punches and put great shows on. Khan said they’ve never been more organized and said the quality of the show has never been stronger. He said the same thing happens in football and you have to go out and play without injured players. He said nobody feels bad for you that it affects your game plan. Khans said he’s very happy with what they are doing. He said he wasn’t ready to spill the beans, but he feels it will be the beginning of a new era.
-Khan was asked about the Eddie Kingston vs. Katsuyori Shibata match at WrestleDream. Khan called it “a great match” and spoke about both men. Khan spoke about how Shibata said he isn’t wrestling to die, he’s wrestling to live. He said he think it means a lot to Shibata to come to America and work (his phone line dropped out for a moment). Khan said Shibata is having fun and has become a great part of the crew.
-Khan was asked if Warner Bros. Discovery owns a minority piece of AEW and whether there are negotiations for that. Khan said they have talked a lot. He said they keep some things between the two parties. Khan said he has 100 percent voting interest in the company and all of the decision making rights. Khan said he is open to minority owners and would be open to WBD “having a piece of a bigger piece potentially” but he wants to retain majority ownership and control. Khan said there would be nothing bad about it. He said we’ve seen a change in ownership in pro wrestling this year, but he has no interest in that.
-Khan was also asked about Wardlow’s status. Khan said he’s been a great star for AEW. Khan said he’s a very big fan of Wardlow and said he will “surely be back on TV when the time is right.” Khan said Wardlow is still a very big part of what they are doing.
-Khan was asked what lessons he’s learned. Khan said it’s a challenge to run a wrestling company. He said it’s easier on paper than it is in real life. Khan said it’s really fun and a dream come true, but it’s also around the clock work. Khan said it’s great to work in pro wrestling and said it’s what he’s really always wanted to do. Khan said the company looks different than it did a year or two years ago, and he feels that’s good. Khan said it’s been a great week with Grand Slam drawing the biggest audience they’ve had this year. Khan said there are no weeks off and there are also no weeks off from being a pro wrestling fan. He spoke about how TV viewership patterns can change as people go through life. Khan also spoke about his appreciation of the fans and said it’s heartfelt when he appears at shows and thanks the fans. Khan said there are no weeks off for him and a lot of the crew, but he loves it and wouldn’t have it any other way.
-Khan was asked if there would be brand separation between AEW and ROH. Khan said ROH has an incredibly strong lineup of champions. Khan said he enjoys the ROH shows. He said the stars who won title swill be defending their titles in ROH. Khan said Athena is doing some of the best work in wrestling today and sang the praises of the story they are doing with her relationship with Billie Starkz. Khan said they’ve leveled up in some ways with ROH, but he feels they’ve always had strong champions in ROH. While Khan was talking about Brian Cage and Gates of Agony, Khan noted that Tully Blanchard, the original manager, didn’t show up at one event and that ended their relationship. He praised Prince Nana for stepping up and making the most of the situation when he replaced Blanchard as their manager.
-Khan was asked about the evolution of Julia Hart. Khan said it’s very exciting. He said it’s crazy to think about how young she is and noted that she’s been with the company since she was a teenager. He touted how many people came out of “the Daily’s Place era.” Khan said Hart has been “on fire” and called her a pleasure to work with. Khan said she has great ideas and is a gifted athlete. Khan said she brought up the idea of being a cheerleader for the Varsity Blondes. He credited her with taking the opportunity to be with House of Black and running with it. Khan spoke of how long Hart has gone unbeaten and said the last person to beat her with Kris Statlander. Khan said Hart has become “a top star.”
-Khan was asked about Rob Van Dam’s status with the company and whether there’s any interest in running the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. Khan told the story of his father being backstage at the first Grand Slam event and telling Hook about seeing his father work at ECW Arena and how he should be proud of him and what those guys went through. Khan touted the success of AEW Collision against strong college football competition. Khan said RVD was a big part of that. He also said RVD is on a case by case deal and would be happy to work with him again.
-Khan was asked about MJF. Khan spoke about the Better Than You Bay Bay tag team racking up merchandise sales.
-Khan was asked if he views Fox as a potential bidder for AEW rights now that they are not retaining Smackdown rights. Khan said he didn’t think it would be fair to talk about that when they are in business with WBD. He said there’s not a lot of loyalty in the entertainment industry and there should be. Khan said that he runs a family business and wouldn’t cut 30 wrestlers just because he took a punch in the face. He said that’s the different between a family business and a corporation. Khan said their deal with WBD will be up at the end of 2024 and he would like to stay with them forever. He assumes there will be a lot of bidders and the idea that caller mentioned would make a lot of sense, but he hopes to be with WBD long term. Khan said he appreciates everything WBD has done for him and he doesn’t think it would be fair for him to speculate about other people. He said he has a great relationship “with the other company you named” due to having worked with them via the NFL. Khan said he would probably take “a penny or two less” to stay with WBD. Khan spoke about the difficulty of doing everything he wanted to do with three hours of television. He said the addition of Collision came along at the right time and he’s done everything he can to make it a good show.
-The final question regarded The Righteous tag team. Khan was asked what he’s seen from them that makes him comfortable putting them in a match with two of the top stars of AEW. The line was choppy again, but Khan spoke about how he’s been impressed by them. He also mentioned their history in ROH and said that was part of the reason he brought them into the fold. He said they’ve done so well that they started incorporating the into AEW. He said heels their interviews and videos are “pretty captivating.” Khan said he felt like it made a lot of sense to have them be a part of WrestleDream, which will feature wrestlers from various promotions and from around the world.
-Khan closed out the call with some comments. He mentioned that he takes pride in people not accusing him of doing a cash grab by adding WrestleDream.
Powell’s POV: An interesting call, particularly when it came to Khan’s decision not to confirm or deny the reports or speculation that he is or has acquired New Japan Pro Wrestling. I was hoping that someone would ask about whether proper protocols were followed when Jon Moxley was injured on Dynamite. I submitted that and one other question, but my number didn’t come up.