Why Tony Khan Says Ric Flair Is Essentially Paying AEW For His Appearances

AEW recently brought controversial WWE Hall of Famer "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair into the fold, leading many to wonder why the oft-moralistic Tony Khan –who famously banned Hulk Hogan and his ex-wife Linda from AEW in 2020– would bring the former NWA World Heavyweight Champion into the company, especially after Flair's fall from grace following allegations of harassment in the "Plane Ride From Hell" episode of "Dark Side of the Ring." The answer appears to be advertising dollars.

In a new story from the New York Post, AEW CEO Tony Khan said that AEW is not paying Flair for his appearances on AEW programming, as it's essentially the other way around. Though Flair is not paying money out of pocket for the TV time, AEW is collecting ad revenue through the company's partnership with Flair's mushroom-infused Wooooo! Energy Drinks for his appearances.

Flair debuted in AEW as a gift for Sting, as Sting prepares to wind down his career, culminating in a retirement match at AEW Revolution on March 3 in Greensboro, NC's historic Greensboro Coliseum. According to The NY Post, Flair and his energy drink brand approached AEW independently which did not affect Sting's decision to retire. Flair's time in AEW is said to mean a lot to Sting, who was described as "very loyal" to Flair.

Flair's appearances in AEW have caused plenty of controversy, with AEW recently forced to edit uncouth comments by the Hall of Famer out of a broadcast of "AEW Rampage," after Flair threatened to disappear from television altogether in the wake of the response.