AEW President Tony Khan deep dives into multiple topics.
Heading into the 2022 installment of AEW All Out, it was reported by both PWInsider and Fightful Select that there was a talent meeting held and AEW President Tony Khan said Megha Parekh, Chief Legal Officer, sent an email to WWE’s Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan saying not to tamper with AEW talent.
As a part of Super Bowl LVII Radio Row, Tony Khan returned to The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz and dove into the alleged tampering by WWE. Khan reiterated that he cannot confirm that independently, but a lot of staff and wrestlers of AEW have told him about the tampering.
I can’t really comment on what their (WWE) internal struggles, internal strife’s are because I don’t work there and I’m not there. I can only speak to the challenges we’ve had and I got a lot of wrestlers come to me and allege that WWE reached out to them to tamper with their contracts and ask them to break their contracts. I can’t confirm that specifically. I can only tell you what the wrestlers have come to me and said. But I’ve had multiple wrestlers and staff report that to me. It was very disturbing, and I’ve had to go out and try to put on good shows despite this alleged tampering, stuff like that. But frankly, I don’t think it’s stopped us because the quality of the product and the quality of the shows is at an all-time high right now.
Further speaking about the dynamic between AEW and WWE, Khan described it as a ‘war’. He expressed that the two companies ‘hate’ each other and it makes for good TV.
He went on to state that the original business plan for AEW was to create a free agent market and said that is definitely a real thing present day.
The wrestling business is very dirty. I can’t speak to the fight business but certainly, I think it’s more organized than the fight business, as far as there’s two, I think, well-organized promotions competing with each other. Again, I don’t know if these things have happened. I only know what people have come to me and alleged. But, I do know it’s a real war between AEW and WWE and the fans are interested in it and that was part of the original business model of AEW was I knew wrestling fans, frankly, are very interested in wrestling free agency and wrestling wars and I believe we could create a free agent market that is definitely a real thing now and that would be a big part of the story. I think wrestling fans, at the end of the day, that a lot of what happens in wrestling shows is sometimes story and that’s why people like watching the shows. They like stories and the exciting matches and especially, the combination of the two when the stories lead to exciting matches and vice versa. Now, what’s interesting is the story that is the most real, the most intense and the most hatred in all of pro wrestling is that between the two wrestling promotions. I think we truly, truly hate each other and I think it makes for really exciting TV and it makes for an exciting wrestling war.
In 2021, Khan reacted to the report that WWE CEO Nick Khan got in contact with New Japan Pro-Wrestling about establishing a partnership.
Tony looked back on that and recalled contacting NJPW after he saw the initial story and they confirmed that WWE reached out to form a relationship. Tony said NJPW executives told him that they do not trust WWE and wanted to continue working with AEW.
I’ll give you a good example (of the hatred between our two companies). About two years ago, there was a rumor I read on the internet that my business partner, New Japan Pro-Wrestling, had gotten a phone call from Nick Khan about switching over to work with them and I was really just getting started with New Japan. We only had been working together a short time and that also had been, frankly, a tumultuous relationship. But, it was getting pretty good and to this day, it is an amazing partnership and I called the New Japan executives and said, ‘Is this true? Did WWE call you and try to get you to turn on me?’ And they said, ‘Yeah’ and I said, ‘Okay, well are we still doing the stuff we have planned?’ Because at the time, we had a match set up for Wednesday night Dynamite where there was gonna be a New Japan Title match in AEW. It was the first of many of those such matches and they told me, ‘No, we don’t trust them. We wanna work with you and we wanna stay with you’ and ever since, our relationship has been incredibly positive and it gave me motivation to say, okay, again, I don’t know if that’s true or not. I only know what my business partner alleged to me and what I read on the internet and they were both the same thing so, following up on that, if that’s the case, I know they’re out there to get me, I know they’re out there to hurt AEW’s relationships with our business partners if that’s the case allegedly and you know, it made me want to work that much harder to make AEW stronger and then that probably ended up being the biggest year for growth we’ve ever had.
Earlier this month, Bloomberg released their profile on All Elite Wrestling. Khan is very happy with the feedback from the article and said he’s never had more interest in AEW from a partnership, sponsorship or licensing standpoint.
I’ve never had this kind of support and interest in AEW on a business level, sponsorship and licensing since this Bloomberg story came out about AEW last week… I think it is the best coverage we’ve had in the business world and I think it really raised a lot of eyebrows and I’ve never had more interest in partnership and sponsorship and licensing for AEW.
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If the quotes in this article are used, please credit ‘The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz’ with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.