AEW President Tony Khan stopped by Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take podcast to talk AEW, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham F.C. Khan revealed when he first pitched the concept of AEW to his friend, former President of Turner Kevin Reilly, which happened to be at a party.
“I was at a party with some friends in Beverly Hills,” Khan said. “And I saw my friend, who was the President of TNT and TBS. And it all just kind of clicked. It’s probably something I thought of a million times. And I went up to him and I said ‘Kev, are you looking at bidding on the WWE TV rights?’ And he said ‘yes, yes I am. I’m not looking to bid on both packages, I’m looking at bidding on one of them.’ And I said ‘oh’, knowing that that’s of course Smackdown. He said ‘it’s going to go for probably over $150 (million).’ It ended up going for $205 million annually to Fox, but they (Turner) were in on the bidding, at least initially in the initial wave.
“I said ‘Kev, that’s interesting. But have you ever considered that maybe we can do this?’ He said ‘what do you mean?’ I said ‘well the company you operate owned and operated twenty years ago today, which was true when I said it, the number one wrestling company in the world.’ And he said ‘really?’ I asked if he had ever heard of WCW. He had not. But WCW, if people don’t know, was formerly a competitor to the WWF. They ended up getting sold by AOL/Time Warner and they got shuttered and it’s not a thing anymore. AEW exists, in my opinion, because of the failure of WCW. Because they vacated this great timeslot, this great relationship with TNT and TBS that we have. That was the success of WCW. It was the outlet, the penetration they had with TNT and TBS. And of course the fans. There are all these fans that wanted an alternative. So anyway, that’s how.”
Khan talked further about the pros and cons he had learned from WCW. Specifically he called out WCW’s creative control clauses, the writing of Vince Russo and WCW’s management style as things he tries to avoid.
“I’ve learned from the pros and the cons, and I think some of the things that went wrong for WCW, in my opinion, were the creative control,” Khan said. “They gave creative control to a lot of the wrestlers, and some of the storylines were asinine. Some of the ideas were great, but it was a very disorganized show. And when they brought someone else in from the WWF to be a writer named Vince Russo, he made it ten times worse. He took a problem, it’s like they had a massive hangnail and he just chopped off the arm. So that was part of the problem.”
“Another major, major issue for them, in my opinion, was the management. Most wrestling companies that have been really successful over time have had one supreme commander at the top, who’s like owned it, booked it, done everything. Run the the place, run the management. Whether it was Vince McMahon for years, organizing everything, Cowboy Bill Watts, Eddie Graham, Fritz Von Erich and countless others. And so I think that made sense as a business model, and I told Kevin that. It’s like the strong management WCW didn’t have, I can provide.”
Khan also reiterated, to the hosts disappointment, that he had no plans to be a character on AEW TV.
“I’ve done stuff on other wrestling shows that kind of promote AEW and cross over,” Khan said. “But that’s kind of the line I don’t want to cross, because I feel like you disappear up your own butt when you start writing that way.”
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