AEW Owner Tony Khan Hints at Big Things Ahead Amid Warner Bros. Discovery Merger


Over the summer, All Elite Wrestling has faced a string of injuries to top talent including its world champion CM Punk. Tony Khan saw this series of unfortunate events as an opportunity to give emerging stars the time to shine. And rather than vacate the AEW title, the owner also decided to crown an interim champ through a tournament won by Jon Moxley. He’ll defend against the inaugural AEW champion Chris Jericho on the August 10 episode of Dynamitethemed as Quake on the Lake.

Khan, who believes both men are at their best since signing with the company, looks forward to the show kicking off busy weeks heading into the September 4 tentpole All Out and September 21’s second annual Grand Slam. The enthusiastic leader expects to finish the second half of the year on a high note with a stacked roster and celebrating exciting milestones like the first-ever AEW video game.

He also maintains confidence in his network partnership with WarnerMedia under the new powerhouse Warner Bros. Discovery merger. Less than 24 hours ahead of Quake on the Lakewe caught up with the company visionary who teases big things to come.

Last week you announced the expansion of your talent relations and development team. What was the thought process in making those moves?

Tony Khan: The people that receive promotions recently had been doing great work for a long time. I think all of them stepped up and helped the company in ways that made me feel really comfortable about entrusting them. I’ve been looking to add more depth to coaching across the company. That includes women’s wrestling, and I thought Madison Rayne would be a tremendous addition for us. She came with tremendous references including great references from people who work for AEW already. She is widely respected by her peers and by wrestling fans all over the world. I was really excited to add Madison Rayne backstage and now also in the ring because she is a tremendous wrestler. She’ll have her first title shot against the undefeated TBS champion in Jade Cargill at Quake on the Lake. I think it will be a great match. Jade is going to learn a lot. We’re happy to have Madison part of the team going forward for a long time.

Do you feel having individuals in these key spots will streamline communication and operations a little more?

It helps me to have a great team around me. Those people who have been promoted have worked those hours alongside me. I’ve seen a lot of growth from a lot of people in the company: people who have been here for a while, people who have come in recently. I think it’s tremendous. I think the people I promoted do really well with communication. So I think communication will only get stronger with their elevation.

It’s incredible to me that we’re gearing up for an AEW video game only a few years into its existence. How exciting is it for you to see that come together?

We’re excited about AEW Fight Forever. It’s a project that has been in the works for a while. We put a lot of thought and care into developing the game. It’s something that is a positive for AEW as a company and the wrestling fan who follows AEW. It’s going to be a great game and a lot of fun to play. Also, hopefully, it will open new doors and make new fans around the world. And also as a business, we expect it to be a profitable venture. We’re working with a great publishing partner in THQ Nordic to ensure the best possible release.

There is so much speculation out there. What’s the backstage atmosphere these days in your eyes?

I think the atmosphere has been extremely positive. We’ve had a great reception to Madison Rayne as a new women’s coach and the promotion of several hard-working, well-liked people that have been doing those jobs and stepped up. I think things are only going to be better as we go on in the year because a lot of the great stars in AEW we’ve all missed, they’re going to be returning. I think that’s great for everybody, because we built a great team and environment. We really bonded as a group to do the show through the lockdown at Daily’s Place for over a year. Now we’re back on the road for over one year and I think that has built a really strong traveling family. There is a lot of excitement as we head into a big time of year. Quake By the Lake is going to start us down a path toward All Out and Grand Slam. We have a really good thing going.

Tony Khan with CM Punk

AEW

Then there is this merger with Warner Bros. Discovery. How would you describe the relationship with your television partners? What’s the vibe you’re getting from them?

I’m very excited about the reception we’ve gotten from the management of Warner Bros. Discovery, which has been the most engagement we’ve had, and being involved in the company’s biggest initiatives. It was in a meeting with several of the top executives in the new Warner Bros. Discovery family several months ago when they mentioned the idea of ​​getting AEW involved with Shark Week in co-promotion. I suggested Fyter Fest and Shark Week would go together perfectly. It was an incredibly successful promotion for everyone involved. Management from Warner Bros. Discovery reached out to say they were very pleased all-around with that partnership. That integration was one of two slides in the recent main presentation that involved AEW as company highlights, which is so great for us because we have this hands-on management with Warner Bros. Discovery. They are putting their stamp on the new company, and we’re part of their plans.

That’s good to hear when television contracts come up in 2023.

For such a hands-on, strong, and respected management team to have identified AEW multiple times in their presentation is something that is important. Privately and in business, I’m seeing it like that on a daily basis. Since the Shark Week integration was such a great success, we’re working on another huge partnership that I’m very excited about in terms of creativity and a hugely prestigious IP that we’re being trusted to partner with. I believe it’s because we have shown we can do a good job with integrations and be easy and fun and collaborative and have a good audience that makes us good partners. We recently also collaborated on a panel with AEW representation at Comic-Con through the Warner Bros. Discovery PR and media team. They were so helpful. That was a huge success. Now I’m excited about another integration that hasn’t been announced yet. I’m very pumped about it. It’s going to be very soon. The IP is very prestigious in the world of television. The partnership represents another really good sign that Warner Bros. Discovery likes what AEW is doing.

Coming off the heels of a strong Ring of Honor Death Before Dishonor pay-per-view, how close are we to seeing more content from that newly acquired company and brand?

It was the first time Warner Bros. Discovery worked with Ring of Honor because Bleacher Report carried the pay-per-view. It did some of the best numbers in the history of Ring of Honor. For Bleacher Report, I think it exceeded their expectations. They’ve seen there is interest in Ring of Honor, so that’s very exciting. They were the media partner that helped launch AEW into the world. If there ever were to be a weekly Ring of Honor show, I’d love to have them be involved in it. Hopefully, that’s something that will happen someday. Only with their blessing, I think it would make a lot of sense. Now we’ve seen Ring of Honor is very viable on pay-per-view. They are going to have a very strong future in the world of wrestling going forward.

AEW DynamiteWednesdays, 8/7c, TBS

AEW rampageFridays, 10/9c, TNT

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