Tony Khan is a busy man; he’s got a role with the Jacksonville Jaguars, a role with Fulgham FC, and… oh yeah, the multi-hyphenate at the top of AEW, the first promotion that has fielded a legitimate challenge to the supremacy of WWE since WCW closed up shop some 20 years ago.
When the draft rolls around, Khan uses his analytics firm – yeah, he owns one of those, too – to help his team find underappreciated assets like James Robinson. When the transaction window opens up in FC, Khan will pay extra attention to his UK-based other football team. And on Wednesdays, some Fridays, and roughly eight weekend days a year, Khan is all about professional wrestling, where he runs the show for AEW with a little help from performers like Q.T. Marshall and Shawn Dean.
Does this feverish schedule, which Khan reportedly manages himself, get hard to navigate? Fortunately, Jason Jones of The Athletic was able to interview Khan and ask him about that and oh so much more.
Tony Khan says AEW has exceeded his expectations.
Asked if AEW is where he thought it would be now in its third year of operation, Khan delivered a very interesting quote explaining that, in fact, the promotion has actually exceeded his expectations.
“I think we are well ahead of my expectations at the launch of the promotion,” Khan said. “We’re in our third year, and as we’re getting to Year 4, it’s amazing. When we launched, we had a partnership with TNT for two hours of television, and now we actually do three hours — two hours on TBS and one hour on TNT. We’ve had great growth year after year, even quarter over quarter: Q4 in 2022 has been higher than Q4 in 2021, which is pretty amazing.”
“We’ve got AEW on over 130 countries around the world now. In the U.K., we’re by far the No. 1 wrestling TV audience for our shows. Our rating just hit new record highs, higher than ever is AEW on ITV and ITV4 in the U.K. We have great partnerships across the world — Sky Italia, Sky in Germany, TSN in Canada. It’s grown so quickly.”
“Our pay-per-view business has taken off this year. We’ve expanded and added a fifth event with “Forbidden Door” in partnership with New Japan Pro-Wrestling, which was a huge success. It actually had the biggest debut of any of our pay-per-view franchise debuts. All year long, we’ve had really great support from the fans on pay-per-view and TV, and next year, we’re running live events in exciting new places that we’ve never been on the West Coast and looking to do more international events. We just had our first international event last month in Toronto, and that was a great success, so I think we’re well ahead of the curve. We’ve built a lot of homegrown stars but also signed some of the biggest free-agent names. That’s something that I think has helped us build a very unique and strong roster.”
Khan is definitely correct about that last part, as AEW has built a very strong stable of homegrown stars, and the connection fans feel to these performers has played a big part in their overall success. After leaning into adding outside talent from WWE, NJPW, Impact, and otherwise during the pandemic, when a slew of interesting options became available for one reason or another – read: Nick Khan firing dozens of wrestlers due to “budget cuts” – five of AEW’s seven championships are held by non-WWE performers, with just Samoa Joe and PAC, then known as Neville, having had any real runs in The Fed.
Still, Jones asked Khan if he finds time to watch other promotions throughout the week and his response probably isn’t too surprising.
“I watch some of those shows,” Khan said. “A lot of times, I have conflicts where I can’t watch other companies’ shows live, but I do go back and try to watch as much as I can from those companies and others.”
Does Khan actually avoid watching, or at least skimming WWE’s weekly programming to see what the industry leaders are doing? It’s hard to say, Khan is very busy but knowing what the competition is doing is an important part of formulating a strategy, especially as a challenger brand. If WWE does something big, Khan obviously knows about it but all things considered, it’s nice to know that Khan believes that AEW is doing well, progressing well, and ultimately inching towards even bigger things down the line, especially after making nearly $7.5 million off of Full Gear alone.
— Jed I. Goodman © (@jedigoodman) October 6, 2022