Tony Khan appeared on “Wrestling with Freddie” this week to talk about challenges he saw going into AEW, what actually ended up being a challenge, and the first time he saw MJF.
Tony Khan was asked to talk about what challenges he thought were going to be hard ended up being easy and vice versa when starting AEW:
“The biggest things to me were, I think, is that when you get in, you’re kind of learning from the ground up because you have all these experiences watching wrestling on television, and then you get to work in a company and a lot of what you believe as a fan really translates to the business, and a lot of things you’re seeing for the first time when you get behind the curtain,” Khan said.
“For my first show, I had big picture ideas, big picture thoughts, like, I felt really strongly about certain aspects of the card. For example, Kenny Omega versus Chris Jericho, I really felt like it had to be the first main event. It had done huge business for New Japan as the main event of the Dome show a year prior. I really felt like a big part of my business case was seeing how successful that show had been around the world and knowing that bringing that to America, on American Pay-Per-View, there would be an audience for that match.”
Tony continued, “From the beginning, I was entering it as an educated wrestling fan and put a business plan together from the beginning. So as far as challenges, like you have ideas that are great ideas, and there’s a big difference between booking on paper and booking in real life because you’re dealing with actual human beings, and it’s very different dealing with people than dealing with wrestlers on paper or in your imagination.”
“I was overseeing everything, but it was probably more of a collaborative thing the first several months. I just felt like it wasn’t as organized as I would like it to be,” he revealed.
“We had risen to such great heights. It was such a great opportunity, and it was all so close. At the end of 2019, we launched the show. It had a huge debut, did really good ratings, and now are doing really great ratings these past few years. But after the first two months or so, maybe even after the first six or seven weeks, I started to see a dip. I think it was probably around late November into December, and it continued through December. It was a trend. I didn’t like the way the ratings were going, and clearly the way the ratings were reflecting that the fans didn’t like the direction I was going or we were going. So I made a lot of changes going into 2020 that I felt really good about in terms of being more organized and doing all shows by hand. They’ve been a lot more focused. It’s great having lots of ideas coming from lots of different places, and I do utilize them and have lots of different contributors bringing ideas to the table, but it’s hard”
Tony Khan talking about the first time he saw MJF:
“The first time I saw him was on MLW. That summer of 2018 was really big for me,” he said.
“The only people that really first took this seriously were Matt Jackson and Chris Jericho. I talked to both of them almost every day. From there, they brought in a lot of other really good people. Obviously, Matt brought Nick, his brother, and his wife, Dana runs our merchandising, and she’s a big part of the company too, and then obviously, with Kevin, Kenny Omega and Cody Rhodes.”
“When I went to talk to Matt, I wanted to get the Bullet Club together, especially in particular, the Elite with Matt, Nick and Kenny, which I thought was the best trio in the world. I really saw Kenny coming in as a singles headliner, and Matt and Nick as the top tag team, and I wanted to get Jericho,” Tony said.
“The business case, I knew there were a couple things happening. So let me go back to MJF who was the person you asked about and that’s the person we’re focusing on here. But the way I found him was on MLW. I was watching a ton of wrestling, and other people liked him too. Once I started talking to Cody, Cody brought up that he thought that would be great. In my scouting, he was one of the first people I saw outside of that group of names I just mentioned.”