A recent episode of The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast featured AEW President Tony Khan on a media call where he discussed last Saturday's All Out event and AEW. Khan explained how signings like FTR can help a company change it's plans for the better.
"It's been crazy," Khan remarked. "When you add people, you do have to change plans, and at the same time, there's some people that come in and they make it very easy for you to change your plan. And when you get a top talent like FTR, who are one of the best teams if not the best tag team in the world, they fit into your plans like a glove.
"When you want to have the best tag team division in the world, you can't go wrong when you sign arguably the best tag team the world and pair them in a division with a lot of the other candidates for the best tag team in the world, including Kenny [Omega] and Hangman [Page], including The Young Bucks. I thought Kenny, and Hangman, and The Young Bucks set the standard for American tag team wrestling this year with their match at Revolution."
Khan recalled AEW's situation early in the pandemic where they were forced to tape multiple shows in a short amount of time. He said that made him nervous heading into Double or Nothing.
"As far as bringing in other new people and pivoting - I really appreciate you asking this because I never thought we'd be in a situation. It was kind of a dream situation in terms of being able to hone your craft being in Atlanta with less than 30% of your roster, and trying to put together shows and having them make sense, and not knowing whether you're doing four shows, or five shows, or six, or how long it's going to be that you need to stretch these days and all the things you need to think of to get through that... I was so worried about Double or Nothing, and how we were going to do Double or Nothing and make it a great show. And we did."
Khan also recalled AEW World Champion Jon Moxley being pulled from Dynamite due to his wife Renee Young testing positive for COVID-19. He admitted that it's a lot easier to run shows when you can add people rather than working with less people.
"It's that much harder when people aren't there. Going into Fight for the Fallen when we had some changes to Fyter Fest, it wasn't exactly as we were originally thinking of doing it but it worked out incredibly well, I thought, under the circumstances. And all the shows did really good numbers," Khan noted. "So yeah, it's fun but it's a lot easier when you have to pivot because you sign great new talent like FTR as opposed to when you have to pivot because people aren't available in a pandemic."
Khan addressed the idea of "the COVID push". The idea stems from wrestlers getting more opportunities because other wrestlers are absent due to travel restrictions or health concerns. Khan admitted that "the COVID push" is real, and he elaborated more on the challenges of building to Double or Nothing with very few members of their roster available.
"So I think we've had unique experiences that have helped us do it," Khan stated. "There's an expression I saw somebody use on Twitter. Somebody used the expression 'the COVID push.' I was like, man, that is a harsh expression, but it is, frankly, a thing. That in the pandemic, when based on availability, there are people that have really stepped up. And that's what they got, and they're people who have made the most of it. It's not just in AEW, also in WWE, and any places that have been wrestling now.
"New Japan's back up, and you push the people you got, and we're seeing people trying to be creative and do the best they can with what they got. I thought Double or Nothing was a hand we were dealt and what we had to build up. And then coming back May 6, we'd already kind of put in the first layer of the house, the foundation, setting up Cody vs. Lance Archer and the TNT tournament, and then implementing other stories and reintegrating some of the people you'd only seen on video packages or promos for the past five or six weeks."
The topic of AEW's testing plan was brought up, and Khan detailed how AEW approached the pandemic and kept the health and safety of their wrestlers and staff as top priority. He said that once that was established, then they could think about bringing a small capacity of fans into shows.
"First and foremost was a testing plan. We shut the company down in April until we could come up with a way to make it safe to do shows for the wrestlers again," Khan recalled. "So we did that, and my number one priority, A and B, are wrestler health and safety, and fan health and safety. So we came in, and it's like, first, to do a wrestling show, we need to make sure we can do this to keep the wrestlers, and the crew, and staff safe. So we implemented a testing plan, and we returned at the beginning of May with a live show and have been doing this with testing and have had great results, which really shows that the people have been doing the right things and social distancing because we've had people come in.
"We've had very, very few positive cases, and we do rigorous testing. Once we got that implemented, I started to look at how we could utilize our outdoor space to safely have some kind of live event experience, and we've been we've been putting tested people, fans at ringside, but they weren't really fans. They were wrestlers, and crew, and staff, but it added a sense of normalcy."
AEW is currently selling tickets again to their shows at around 10% capacity. Khan talked about the approach AEW has taken and the steps staff members have been taking to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved.
"Well, Daily's Place has three levels and is a very big, outdoor space. Eventually, we kind of had staff spaced out in the bowl, and I started to wonder about the top two bowls," Khan explained. "There's not a bad seat in the house as far as the stuff we've allocated.
"We spent the last several months working on it, and then we did kind of a soft open. We invited some staff, and some sponsors, and local friends to come and sit up there, and did temperature tests and all the stuff we're doing now for them as kind of a soft open. We slowly started to hire more security personnel. Then, a week before, we went live with fans. We had done, again, kind of a soft open. We brought in some security.
As noted, Tony's media call aired as part of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.