AEW CEO and President Tony Khan was recently interviewed by Dave Meltzer on Wrestling Observer Radio to talk about CM Punk, AEW All Out, hiring WWE talent, the future of Jim Ross and much much more. You can check out a transcribed recap, courtesy of u/hikingbeginner from Reddit.
The interview is long, I decided to put it into two parts. Will write up the rest soon. WOR Interview Part 1: Up till Minute 29:55
Garrett tries to start the conversation but Dave immediately cuts him off to ask the first question (he does this a lot xD)
Tony begins by saying that CM Punk's return exceeded his incredibly high expectations. Had to format that early break in as he knew Punk would not make it to the ring quickly.
"Everything I expected and bigger"
Talks about the success of the ratings since July, being #1 on Cable for many of the weeks. Notes making sure the company was in the best possible shape ready for the return to just put them over the top.
More on CM Punk that we've learnt over the past 2 weeks. Talking to him for almost 2 years, during the pandemic when the football was shut down, there was down time for him. Keeping in touch with Punk led to a good friendship between the two.
"We had met up in Chicago a few years ago and it was super pleasant and I liked him a lot. And even if it wasnt the right fit it was good to know him. He just wasn't going to be the Guinea pig for the company and I completely understood that."
Says Punk wasn't ready to come in for a startup company, once the new TV Deal was locked in he thinks that made it much more attractive to wrestlers such as CM Punk.
"We had a great foundation at the beginning" Notes the core of The Elite and Jericho and Moxley alongside the young talent crop including Jungleboy, Darby,Sammy and MJF.
The opening 10-15minutes is about CM Punk, it's very similar to what they said in the scrum and the earlier interview this week, which you can find on this sub with a search. Search for "Tony Khan" and you'll find all the quotes quickly :)
"Only myself and MR.Punk knew, what I was doing" when talking about the interesting way they promoted it. From a business aspect, they had to get viewers and a sellout with short notice. So he took his idea and ran with it, where it was "99% expectation, 1%doubt". The buildup of anticipation made the moment that much greater.
Says he's been booking the United Center in his fantasy booking as he chuckles. Doing Dynamite's in his books since 1995 and Rampage began 10 years ago.
Asked about Daniel Bryan. "I can't answer that question." More on this quote can be found in this thread :)
Tony is looking for multiple additions in the next 4-6 months. "And I think there'll be some activity in the near future."
"We've expanded consistently and made smart additions."
Says All Out will be the biggest PPV in their history. Tony has the match Order pretty much set but notes that there's usually one or two changes in the week leading up to a PPV.
"I don't want to say which way I'm leaning right now, but I've been leaning in a direction a long time and I've been feeling better about it than I ever have... I feel good about what's going to close on the show."
Will be closing with one of Omega/Christian, CM Punk/Darby (HEY DARBY ALLIN YOU WANT A TASTE?) Or Bucks vs Lucha Bros.
Tony's idea of the steel cage for this Tag match was his idea for a while. Notes how the story is the GM will get fed up with the interference and makes them fight on a level play field. "The fans know they'll get a straight up match. I think it makes good sense. Some companies make Cage matches for no reason."
Talks about the 2 year anniversary of the Ladder match at All Out 2019 and how well they've done to keep the two teams apart for so long. "It was one of the best things we've ever done."
Dave mentions how Rey Fenix is a blow away performer every time and The Bucks are so adaptable to the strengths of their opponents. Tony Khan agrees.
"I completely agree with that. When you look back at a lot of their defense, teams that have a great future I think have also gotten better by being in the ring with The Young Bucks." **Names the Varsity Blonds vs Bucks Dynamite Main event and how that really elevated the young team.**Impressed with their improvement.
The chemistry that the Young Bucks and Lucha Bros have is phenomenal. Tony thinks they've done a great job keeping the 4 men in a tag match separate while still having them connected through trios and multi men matches.
Praises Jurassic Express and their rise.
Tony Khan talks about Jon Moxley being a certified Hall of Famer. The first big free agent to jump over from another company so quickly. "I sat there in his kitchen talking about how the days of 200 matches a year are over. it all made sense to Jon." Specifically notes how Moxley gambled on himself and praises his business savvy mind.
Praises Jon Moxley doing fantastic as a world champion during their hardest time. More on this quote can be found in this thread.
"It meant the world to me that he put his faith in a company that was just getting off the ground. A huge part of our plans going forward and really a massive part of our history." editor note: Moxley must pay for calling our Cowboy an emo bitch. He must pay. Hangman vs Mox please. Anyway, back to the notes.
"Nobody knows the future. I do always always have backup measures in place." Says they had protocols from the first pandemic show and are ready IF they need to go back to that. Praises the great shows they put on during such a tough time and created many special moments.
Says that Omega vs Christian was be the perfect Rampage first match ever for TV.
Notes that he walked up to both after the match and said to them "you guys just had a 4 and a half star 16 minute match."
"They're going to do better at the PPV. more time and less restrictions than TV. I believed I could juice up the story with Christian winning back the Impact title. Something that gives him an edge over Kenny who hadn't been pinned in a singles match in almost 2 years."
Says that he isn't surprised by people changing their minds about the All Out match after their Rampage encounter.
Dave mentions Tony Khan making references on twitter to WWE's new rumoured "type".
"There are people that look great that will never be good at this. You can pick 100 good looking people and you might find 0 that are great at what wrestlers do. A lot of the best wrestlers, if you took 100 people, they'd probably be in the last 10."
Mentions the best wrestlers breaking through with the fans. Says people like Foley, Dax Harwood and Darby Allin wouldn't necessarily be the first picks of a company.
"Watching somebody wrestle is the best way to get a sense of how good of a wrestler they are. And watching them talk is a good way to see how a good talker they are."
"Everybody in England knows who Anthony Ogogo is." As a brit... Tony be lyin here .__.
Says "90 something %" of our talent are coming from other places, whether it be Japan, the indies or WWE.
Says jokingly "It's good for AEW and New Japan. It's intriguing and interesting. If you're going to leave those wrestlers I'll be happy to take them!"
Garrett mentions that WWE is still the dream for many wrestlers and young stars. Mentions Gable Steveson.
Tony responds by saying he's been talking with CM Punk! Awkward laughter ensues from all. Notes Steveson is a fantastic athlete and has great potential.
Says Dan Lambert is great. Dave and Tony mention his crazy belt collection.
"I thought they have great chemistry. They did so well with Sting and Darby, I really believe in both of them." When talking about the team up of Dan Lambert and Scorpio Sky/Ethan Page.
Dave asks about a time frame on any shows in England.
"I don't have an exact date but I do want to come to England. It's a huge part of my life... we have some great wrestlers from the UK. I can't announce the exact dates. To give you a big scoop, I want to bring AEW to Craven Cottage, very much so."
Talks about the New Craven Cottage once everything is refurbished (the riverside stand) being the perfect stadium in England for AEW.
"Likely if things stay on track, I'd like to bring AEW to California... around Double or Nothing." More on this quote and England in this thread :)
Tony was googling stadiums with a roof and was blown away when he found out that no one had ever run Arthur Ashe Stadium before. Thinks it's crazy how he himself and the company have done so many new things from bringing back wrestling to Turner and breaking attendance records.
Talks about Britt and Darby losing every big match and would still be the most over people in wrestling. "They work their asses off, you have to give 90% of the credit to them"
Strongly says that it's very important for young stars being booked in a way where they never look weak even when losing. Notes the Darby/Cody feud and Jericho title match on Dynamite episode 3.
"Dante will be an example of this in the future... just because somebody doesn't win the big match, that doesn't mean they won't in the future."
Says he hates the word "buried". You're able to lose and still be protected, have character development to later get those big wins. Talks about fans being dissapointed with some losses (guessing he's talking about the reaction to Hangman/Dark Order loss) and understands, but states that will never result in people being buried for a lack of a better term. There's always a reason and a story to tell.
Praises Britt Baker and mentions Kenny being the one who brought up her turning heel. "Britt the character is Britt the person turned up 100%". Says her character and the alignment does not need to be explained. He wants to just let the crowd react to her as a character. Keeping the character consistent is important.
"There's some people in the middle where they can transcend in the middle." Uses Britt and Ric Flair as examples. Where they would stay consistent in their characters but would be booed or cheered depending on opponents, eg Thunder Rosa and Sting.
"What's the point of burying these people who love you. No point in going to these towns and getting cheap heat. Just be cocky and arrogant and be yourself. Britt's being Britt and people love it. She's really arrogant and they key is not pandering to people."
Talks about Diesel and how "fucking cool" he was, only to then being forced into being a smiley babyface.
Says Malakai Black is a heel. Showing that he's a bad guy is important, but will never force fans to go a certain way.
"I want it to be all organic. react how you want. It's a cool thing about the company."
Not sure about Jim Ross' future. Says it's all completely up to Jim. "I'm really happy with what he's brought to the company." Says going forward calling matches and continuing on this route is the plan. Would have to sit down if there is a change.
"I like going 4 big shows a year." Talking about his approach and structure in a calendar year, says he's very excited about the 4 core big shows that have been big hits. "Every one of the franchises (PPVs) has improved on the prior year".
Was surprised at Full Gear 2020 doing more buys than 2019 because of the pandemic. The first year he mentions being great with the buildup on those first 6 Dynamites before Full Gear 2019.
"At that time of the year NFL does bring up some challenges. I've done everything for Full Gear to not go head to head with NFL and college football. It's a huge part of American football and it's hard to take it on but we've done really well. I'm very happy but you can't ignore that it's football season."
Garrett talks about Giannis being in Milwaukee. Tony immediately gives "100% of the credit to Mark Henry". Says he would be late but would be there for Rampage and ringside for the Tag match on Rampage.
"I got an authentic AEW title made up for him and wanted to celebrate him in front of the crowd. But all credit goes to Mark Henry for making it happen."
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