Conrad Thompson has made his name in the wrestling industry through hosting various podcasts such as Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard and 83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff.
But Thompson also put on a successful wrestling fan convention called Starrcast held last year during the week of All In. Starrcast will be returning this year during AEW’s Double or Nothing weekend and Thompson joined WINCLY where he talked about AEW and his friendship with president Tony Khan.
“I’ve been friends with Tony for a long time,” said Thompson who then added that Khan listened to his podcast and they started communicating over Twitter. “We started chatting and I realized how much of the same type of wrestling we really enjoyed. So, we just became fast friends.”
Thompson said this was years ago and before All In or Something to Wrestle even existed. Thompson got into touch with Cody and The Young Bucks to hold the Starrcast event in conjunction with All In and they all decided to work together again for Double or Nothing in May in Las Vegas.
“It wasn’t until the guys sort of settled in on, ‘Hey. We’re doing it and we’re doing it in Las Vegas,’ that I started to say, ‘Okay. Let me see how difficult that will be to put together because we really had the perfect storm [for All In] being in the suburbs of Chicago for Labor Day,” said Thompson.
“…We were removed enough from any sort of tourist destination, but that’s all Las Vegas is. For a real vacation weekend like Memorial Day, this is gonna be tough.”
Thompson said he has a great staff that found a way to make the experience affordable for fans.
“I thought, ‘Maybe this isn’t going to be as expensive for fans as I thought,'” stated Thompson. “So, we found a way to make it work and now we’re proud to say that tickets go on sale next week.”
With his relationship with both Khan as well as Cody and The Bucks, Thompson sort of played the role of the middle man in helping to connect the two sides for AEW.
“When the opportunity arose [for AEW], it was really a perfect storm with everybody’s contract coming up around the same time, and you had proof of concept with All In,” said Thompson. “It was a no-brainer for somebody looking to get into the business, and had the passion and the balls that Tony did to put together AEW.
“I’ve been friends with Tony for a long time, it’s not a secret. Now that everybody knows, a lot of people are starting to connect the dots in reverse and think maybe it wasn’t this big secret all along because he’s been such a massive fan for so long.”
One of the things that AEW stated would be different that other wrestling promotions is that all full-timers would have health insurance. Thompson said that talk was a little premature, but the Khans do have experience with unions thanks to them also being NFL owners.
“In order for a union to work, there are dues and guys have to be making money,” said Thompson. “At this point they haven’t even run a show, so some of that stuff was premature.
“The Khan Family is very familiar with [a union]. That’s a foreign concept for the McMahons, but the Khans are very familiar with the NFL Players’ Union. They found a way to make that work so I can’t imagine them not finding a way to make it work here.”
The Khans are familiar with running pro sports franchises but don’t have any experience at running wrestling promotions. Thompson was asked if we can expect the Khans to run AEW more so like an NFL franchise.
“I think what you would see is Tony swinging for the fences with licensing deals because that’s where the NFL has cashed in and that’s how so many of the owners have done so well,” stated Thompson. “That has always been a metric for WWE and one that has dwarfed what a lot of fans who grew up in a different era still look at.
“Yes, ratings are important, but if you get a television rights deal, that’s different. [Ratings] are still important, but you’re getting paid either way.”
Thompson then speculated that things like ratings and house show attendance won’t be as important to AEW because of all of the different revenue sources available to them.
“People are so hung up on house shows with WWE and how attendance and live events are down,” said Thompson. “But I think Tony is going to have a different approach because there are very valuable NFL properties that don’t have sellouts every game. Yes, it’s important but it’s one line item and you have tons of other streams of revenue as an NFL owner and I’m sure Tony has some outside-of-the-box-for-wrestling experience that he can apply here and do real well for AEW.”
AEW will be hosting a pool party in Vegas tonight that is open to fans. Thompson revealed what fans can expect at the party in anticipation of Double or Nothing in three months.
“I would also imagine that you might maybe see some new roster additions ? I’m just guessing,” Thompson said. “To me it makes sense, if we’re going to market a PPV, we probably should learn about a match or two.
“So, it would be cool if we left the rally and knew what the card looked like and maybe who else would be joining that card.”
Starrcast II will be taking place in Las Vegas from May 23-26. A pre-sale starts on Feb. 12 and tickets for the general public will go on sale Feb. 15. You can find out more information here.
You can listen to Conrad’s full WINCLY interview in the embedded player below. In it he talks further about his relationship with AEW, what to expect from Starrcast 2, how he was convinced to do another Starrcast and more.