It was Tony Time yet again on Busted Open Radio this week as AEW President Tony Khan made his weekly appearance on the show. Khan started by talking about how excited he was that AEW Rampage: The First Dance in Chicago’s United Center had sold out. So excited that he revealed there are plans in place for AEW to put more tickets on sale for the event.
“It’s so awesome,” Khan said. “We’ve got some really big shows coming out. The announcement that the First Dance sold out was great, and now we’re going to try and open up more tickets and find more seats there. But everything’s been going so awesome.”
Many have attributed the First Dance sellout to rumors that CM Punk will be making his return to wrestling at the event. Khan acknowledged that the illusion of what could happen had played a part, but also said that the fans trusting AEW and seeing how AEW cares for them has also helped them believe something special will happen at the show.
“I really think we’ve built that awesome goodwill with the fans,” Khan said. “We show that we care about what the fans think, and really now I think the fans have shown some trust in us. And for us to sell out The First Dance with no card announced, really only making an illusion to what might happen, it’s pretty incredible.
“It’s the most tickets we’ve sold for any of our events to date. Of course AEW Dynamite: Grand Slam coming up in New York, that’ll be even bigger. We’ve got so much awesome stuff coming.”
The sellout of the United Center, Punk’s potential return and Daniel Bryan’s potential jump to AEW have led to additional momentum for AEW. According to Khan, a wrestling world with this level of competition is what he envisioned when he pitched AEW to WarnerMedia three years ago.
“It’s the dream. It’s also a lot of what I pitched to TNT. This is all a dream come true,” Khan said. “Three years ago, I was in TNT’s office. I hadn’t signed a single wrestler. And I was telling them ‘we can do this. We can recreate the competition in wrestling that will rise wrestling as a whole.’ And really, wrestling fans, things changed a lot when the internet came around. People learned a lot about the happenings of wrestling and how a lot of things are done. And everybody then became kind an internet expect, but in a good way. Like we should embrace it.
“So knowing that, I went to TNT and TBS, WarnerMedia, and said ‘hey, I really believe there’s an opportunity here to recreate the competition in wrestling that existed twenty years ago.’ And really hasn’t fueled wrestling. People know about a lot of the happenings of wrestling, but the one thing that everyone knows is true and real is that these wrestling companies hate each other. Especially the big ones. This competition is real, free agency is real, people going back and forth, people showing up on a new show is hot and exciting and a lot of what fueled the industry in the 90’s.
“That competition not existing I think led to some staleness up until a few years ago. And really we’ve seen a really exciting time around the wrestling business, and the pandemic came at a time when the momentum had really picked up. And now the fans are back, the momentum is not only back but really I think we’re on a stronger course than we’ve ever been, a real trajectory… That hasn’t happened, where another wrestling company outside of WWE, has had the number one show on cable three weeks in a row since the peak of Nitro. And I don’t think anybody necessarily three, four years ago would’ve predicted there was going to be this kind of competition in wrestling again. But it is absolutely the best story in wrestling, in my opinion, that the industry, this sport, is coming back. And it’s coming back in different ways. It’s coming back in digital, it’s coming back on TV, it’s coming back on PPV. But the numbers are up and no one can deny that wrestling is hotter than it’s been in a long time. And I’m very, very proud of that as someone who loves wrestling.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Busted Open Radio and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription