AEW President Tony Khan joined Le Batard & Friends – South Beach Sessions to talk about CM Punk’s debut in AEW this past Friday at AEW Rampage: The First Dance. Khan particularly talked about the success Punk’s return to pro wrestling brought AEW across the board, from ticket sales to ratings to merchandise.
“I think this was our number one best weekend we ever had,” Khan said. “It was number one in so many metrics. We set our attendance record for the most fans we’ve ever had at the United Center on Friday night for AEW Rampage. We broke every social metric. I heard from ESPN that the traffic that they got was so beyond anything that anyone had anticipated. It was in fact the most traffic on any one social post they’ve had since May, which includes the Summer Olympics and NBA Finals. So the amount of interest for CM Punk returning to wrestling and joining AEW is unprecedented in the world of wrestling and this year in the world of sports.
“It’s huge for our company, it’s huge for everyone who works here, it’s huge for all our fans. But I would also say that CM Punk really had a great time. He was so happy to be back, and I think that made it that much better for the fans to see how happy Punk was, to be back in the ring in Chicago. And the First Dance was just a huge hit for us in every sense of the word.”
One thing Le Batard wanted to know was whether Punk’s deal with AEW, the terms of which are still undisclosed, had already paid for itself given the success of the previous week. Khan didn’t reveal that initially, but didn’t hide the fact that he felt this was among the best deals he had ever made in his short tenure in wrestling.
“I believe this was one of the best deals I’ve ever done in my life. And I don’t think it was really all about money,” Khan said. “If you listen to what he (Punk) and I said on the press conference we did, we did a scrum that was like 50 minutes. And he gave so much of his time, he was so generous with everybody that night, in terms of obviously wanting to spend times with fans. But then also creating this great moment by buying thousands of thousands of ice cream bars so that everybody in the United Center was able to go out and get their free ice cream bar. That was pretty amazing, and that’s something people will always remember. It was just a really cool thing for him to do for the fans. He was also really cool about going backstage and offering really, really kind advice, being really good with his time with the wrestlers.
“He’s a super, super friendly person and I just think some of the stuff he did in terms of helping our young wrestlers become stars at the next level, it’s really significant. And it’s going to help us grow the business and sustain AEW for many years to come. So I think it’s one of the best deals I’ve ever done. In so many ways it wasn’t about money. Like he and I said at the press conference, it was really about us getting to know each other. And that was one of the side effects of the pandemic, that people had a lot of time indoors. I spent a lot of time talking to him on the phone, getting to know each other better and build trust in each other. So this was a long time coming. We’d been talking a lot for a year and a half.”
Not to be denied, Le Batard did once again ask Khan if he felt Punk’s deal had already paid for itself. This time, Khan gave Le Batard an answer.
“Yeah. I mean I do think so,” Khan said. “In terms of what this has done for our business, I really believe that, as soon as we saw the results from this, before we even got started, I knew this was the best deal we could’ve possibly done.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Le Batard and Friends – South Beach Sessions and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription