Pro wrestling has had a renaissance of sorts over the last few years with the arrival of AEW, the expansion of WWE and numerous other promotions making their marks on the industry. However, the pandemic greatly affected the wrestling industry and the presentation of the product with no or limited fans in arenas.
AEW President Tony Khan was asked about the current state of pro wrestling with so many thriving promotions when Khan joined Oral Sessions with Renée Paquette.
“I think it’s great. Before the pandemic, which has obviously changed the way wrestling’s presented, you would have said a year ago, or 10-11 months ago, that what a great time it is to be a wrestling fan. I still think you feel that way, but there’s nothing anybody can do to control the pandemic to stop COVID. But certainly, I think when the arena’s been full, the competition has been very, very good and it’s been a great time for wrestling,” said Khan.
“I can only imagine how frustrated wrestling fans would have been through this if there had not been an AEW frankly. I think it’s been the best show through the pandemic. I’m very biased. I’ve seen other good shows and I’m not saying it’s the only good show. But it’s been consistently the best show. I’ve seen other people do great stuff and I think we all push each other. Likewise, I think the competition is good for us too and mostly I think it’s good for the fans. Certainly, right before the pandemic when Jon [Moxley] won the title, I was saying this is the best time to be a wrestling fan.”
Renee agreed with that last statement and then asked Khan if he watches other wrestling products for creative inspiration.
“Not as much for the creative process, but you don’t wanna be doing the exact same stuff. I think it’s important to make sure you’re not doing the exact same stuff that somebody is already doing,” stated Khan. “But I also just like watching wrestling. And I watch a lot of shows – I’ll watch New Japan and the big Triple A shows. Kenny Omega’s match was excellent vs. Laredo Kid. I watched it on Twitch and it was great.”
Khan said he appreciates that promotions are trying to keep the fans entertained and also keep everyone employed.
“That’s something I take a lot of pride in. We’ve maintained our staff and the integrity of our staff has actually grown as a company through the pandemic,” revealed Khan. “We actually have more people than we started with [laughs].”
Tony Khan is more than just a wrestling executive as he’s a legit pro wrestling fan and has followed it since he was a kid. Every wrestling fan has their list of favorite matches and Khan shared his when Renee asked him what his go-to matches would be to an incoming wrestling fan.
“It’s changed a lot over time. When I was real young, it might have been Steamboat vs. Savage at WrestleMania III or it might have been Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect at King of the Ring in 1993,” said Khan. “Then I got Ric Flair-Ricky Steamboat matches; I would have said those. The Chi-Town Rumble was a tape I had when I was young, before I had even seen the Music City Showdown in Nashville or the New Orleans Clash.
“Then later, I might have said the John Cena-Brock Lesnar match when they beat the hell out of each other. Not the short one, I’m talking about Brock’s first match back at Extreme Rules in 2012 where he absolutely beat the sh*t out of John Cena.”
Khan then singled out matches that feature a couple of wrestlers who now work with him in AEW.
“Then I would have said a lot of matches that involved The Young Bucks and The Golden Lovers. I had seen the Golden Lovers and I really liked The Young Bucks a lot and I thought these guys were gonna be the next Hardy Boyz in 2009-10. That’s what I thought and I think a lot of wrestling fans felt that way,” stated Khan. “They’ve come to transcend tag team wrestling and they’re so important for our division. And the emphasis we put on it, so much of it comes down to The Young Bucks and their belief in it and how great they are as tag team wrestlers. Their mind for tag team wrestling is so great.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Oral Sessions with Renée Paquette with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.