AEW President Tony Khan was on a recent episode of Le Batard and Friends – South Beach Sessions. Khan has said in the past that Vince McMahon was an idol of his, and Khan responded to Dan Le Batard wondering if McMahon cares about his product.
“He does care. I read a lot of books about Vince,” Khan stated. “I’ve never met Vince. There was a time when he was building his company in the ’80s. I’ve tried to undertake a similar amount of work, in terms of shouldering a ton of responsibility and taking a ton of one-on one-meetings. You hear about Vince going to convince Hulk Hogan, going to convince individual people to come in and work for the WWF, convincing a sponsor to come on. Vince was taking all these meetings and all this responsibility, and he was a similar age to me, and I think I’m inspired by that.
“I’m trying to do it a very different way, and I’m not trying to run all the other wrestling companies out of business. I’m not trying to take out every regional wrestling company, and eat their lunch and put them out of business. I don’t think that makes sense. He took a very different approach, and it worked for him really well, but he was all over the place, and [took] tons of meetings and he made lots of deals. And I’ve tried to do that over the past three years.
“The amount of people I’ve gone out and convinced to join AEW, signed, built relationships with that I now have under the umbrella of this company and so I tried to take a lot of inspiration from what Vince did in the ’80s building the wrestling empire and expanding it because I think that’s probably the last time anybody expanded as much as we have, and I put an asterisk on that because WCW under Eric [Bischoff] did expand a lot from a money-losing business into a business grossing hundreds of millions of dollars, but it’s still a little bit different than us where we weren’t a business at all and came from scratch. But I have to give Eric and WCW a ton of credit too. Basically, for me, I have a ton of respect for the way that company was built, and that’s why I don’t want to go out of my way to trash it.”
Khan noted that he is not McMahon when it was said that Khan is in a similar position that McMahon was. Khan also spoke on as a fan and gave his opinion of when he enjoyed WWF shows.
“I am not him. I try to wear some of the similar hats, especially that he wore when he was younger,” Khan said. “I will say this, and I don’t know what good it does me or what purpose it serves me, but I’ll just say it as a fan of wrestling and somebody who loves wrestling, I always thought their shows were better when Vince wrote the shows in the backyard with his friends vs. when they hired 25 writers to write shows. But that’s neither here nor there. I really enjoy putting the shows together, and through the pandemic, that was one of the things that I was able to actually get more organized on.”
Le Batard continued as he wanted to get a “wrestling persona” out of Khan when talking about WWE as competition. That led Khan to discuss the Wednesday Night War and his views on it.
“What would you call NXT? Their show went head-to-head against me for over a year, before they had to move it,” Khan pointed out. “That’s just the truth. That’s a black and white statistic. I don’t want to say anything bad about anybody. That’s just a fact. That was a fight. That was the hardest fight I’ve been through. I mentioned the end of 2019 and trying to get more organized, there was one week at the end of 2019 where they actually won the demographic, and I think it ended up being in 76 weeks head-to-head, we won 75 to one and the one week they got it, I was up against the wall.
“And that’s when I was talking about getting reorganized, changing things around, making sure that 2020 was going to be a lot stronger than the end of 2019, and it was. We were in a fight. I think we are still in a fight in many ways, but I also don’t think it needs to be a hostile thing where you can’t support both companies because I never want it to be something where a fan feels like they should only support one or the other.
“There clearly are a lot of people who feel that way because I think there are a lot of WWE fans that maybe don’t like AEW because they see us as the opposing team, like if the Jaguars were playing another team, and you have to pick one or the other. Well, I don’t think it has to be like that now, especially now that the shows are not on head-to-head anymore. You don’t have to make that choice. You can watch it all, watch what you want.”
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