On the latest episode of AEW Unrestricted, AEW President and CEO Tony Khan joined the podcast to talk about where the idea of AEW came from. Khan talked about meeting the president of TBS and TNT and getting his attention about a wrestling show on their network. That led Khan to develop a list of people that he would like to work with. Aubrey Edwards asked who he had in mind and many of the wrestlers now with AEW were part of his original list.
"I started really developing the idea in my head. I started to go out and put together a list of who we would want to work with and who are the people that are gonna be available next year that you could put a viable wrestling company together with." Khan said. "A lot of those people are here now.
"They [Young Bucks, Kenny and Cody] were the first people on my mind. Everyone you just named, Chris Jericho and CM Punk, and Chris had said he wasn't gonna wrestle in America for anybody but WWE. But he had gone to New Japan shows even though when he did those he said those were just in Japan, it made me think he might be interested in working."
Khan praised the young talent of AEW specifically MJF who has risen to one of the biggest stars of AEW after turning heel on Cody at Full Gear. Khan talked about MJF learning from veteran wrestlers which he has talked about before.
"Look at how Max, MJF, from the beginning has been treated here. You could tell he was someone we really believed in that we're gonna put in a special position. It's funny because we did a contract extension with him through the summer, and now we've signed him through 2024.
"But he's done a great job whether people like him or not. Whatever he says, people are compelled," Khan said. "He's such a young person. People don't probably understand. I don't know anybody his age that has a greater appreciation for the history of the wrestling business learning from everybody who's done it, learning what to do and what not to do."
Last summer, MJF reportedly signed a five-year deal with AEW, and Khan talked about earning MJF's trust due to his previous contract with MLW.
"Working on these things has been a privilege for me like scouting out the next young group of guys. A bunch of these guys I've made promises to them like an MJF. Like you're gonna come here and become a star. Stay with me. Sign a long contract. This is somebody who, I don't wanna say burned but had signed a contract where he was getting paid not a lot of money like a couple hundred-something bucks a shot before this," Khan said. "To get him to sign a long-term contract involves trust and commitment. He trusted me and trusted that this was gonna be a real thing, and now that's a guy that's gonna be a TV star for a long time to come."
AEW was also able to sign Jon Moxley, fresh off a long run with WWE. When Edwards called last year's Double or Nothing a love letter to pro wrestling, Khan agreed but also mentioned that Moxley's debut on the show was something that he had not planned for.
"To me, one of the things that, like you said it's a love letter to professional wrestling in many ways, to me I think it's a perfect show," Khan said. "One of the things that I never expected to happen was, when we launched the company, that Jon was gonna be there because you mentioned all these people that were out of contract in 2019, never did Jon's occur to me that would be a person that would be available."
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit AEW Unrestricted with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.