In an appearance on Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take, AEW President Tony Khan talked about running AEW shows in Jacksonville during the pandemic. Khan compared how they did it to how his family also handled running Jaguars games, and talked about why he preferred live fans to a Thunder Dome style setting.
“It’s been great being able to stay engaged with the Jaguars, but it’s also been a great home for AEW,” Khan said. “AEW, we started bringing fans back and doing live shows in August, and safely. We’ve been doing shows since August, outdoors. We started at 25% in our 5,000 seat amphitheater. So we would have crowds, we’d do a thousand and then upped it to 1,250. The Jags then, a couple weeks later when the NFL started, the Jags and Chiefs were the only teams in the NFL that had fans week one. The Jags went the whole season with no transmissions. Doing these outdoor shows were great.”
“My philosophy early in the pandemic, when our competitor wasn’t doing any live shows with fans and went with virtual fans. I kind of went the other way, and I pushed back a bit on the idea of virtual fans. I knew it was possible to do shows, if we were outdoors in this amphitheater in Florida, we should be able to get 25% like a drive in movie theater. I was like ‘let’s bring it back.’ And we were the first ones to do it. This whole time we’ve had fans, and we were doing PPV’s all through the pandemic, for over a year, with like 1,250 people. And yeah, it’s not the full 5,000 but it still resembles a wrestling show. And it was hard watching, other people are watching people up on a jumbotron in these little boxes. It’s not the same, and the piped in crowd noise is not the same. But there’s nothing like the packed houses, and we’re going back to that in July.”
Khan also talked about what he’d like to see from AEW in ten years, saying he was hopeful they could continue to establish Dynamite and the upcoming Rampage show as strong TV products. He also revealed that AEW will be holding another fan fest event in Chicago during Labor Day weekend, prior to their All Out PPV. Finally Khan took a moment to put over this and last year’s Double or Nothing PPV’s, comparing them favorably to competitor WWE’s WrestleMania event.
“I’ll tell you something; Double or Nothing last year and this year, in my opinion, was a better show (than WrestleMania),” Khan said. “I liked this year’s WrestleMania a lot better than last years. They had some fans this year and everyone there worked their ass off both years. This year I thought, both (were) good shows. They did atwo night show and it was a good show. But I thought Double or Nothing this year was outstanding and it was the best wrestling show of the year so far. And last year Double or Nothing, during the pandemic, it kicked the s--t out of WrestleMania last year. The pandemic version last year? Not even close. Double or Nothing was a much better show.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Pardon My Take and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription