In a recent interview with The NY Post, AEW President Tony Khan opened up about the competition he sees brewing between WWE and AEW, especially this Friday night when the Buy In to AEW Rampage airs during WWE SmackDown. But the AEW founder is confident that the AEW diehard fans will remain faithful and keep their eyes on the product.
“From the beginning of the launch of AEW, before we even had TV, a lot of the strategy was rallying the fans on the internet, rallying the fans online around the company and our wrestlers. And people really liked AEW, the people who watch the shows, they like the wrestlers,” Khan said. “We have a very positive sentiment and in the position that we’re in, like I said, actions speak louder than words, and I’ve always wanted everyone to watch all the wrestling they want. So if somebody’s going to put a show head to head with us, I want people to know, very much in the spirit of wrestling competition. (With) the ‘Monday Night Wars’ there was a lot of pride in the companies and people wore that on their sleeve. In this case, there are a lot of AEW fans and a lot of them are online. That’s how we were built, through a digital fan base.
“We can build a big audience for this weekend. We’ve never had anything like this before with three hours of live wrestling on TNT on a weekend, other than a pay-per-view. There are a ton of things happening at this time of year, there’s a lot of sports. There’s a lot of competition outside of wrestling,” Tony added. “So if we’re going to start trying to directly head-to-head compete with each other at this time of year where there are all these other things happening in sports, let’s go. I’m not the one who threw the gloves off, but if somebody has to do the talking and sell the fight, I will be the one to do it. In this case, I am doing all the talking and all the selling of the fight. I do think we need to go back to an era where there is all this excitement about the shows. It’s clearly built buzz because a lot of people are talking about it.
“We got a great opportunity to draw people on the weekend in a new position for us. Rampage has launched very recently and we’ve had this great run of Wednesdays where we’ve had six straight weeks as the No. 1 show on all of cable television on Wednesday,” he continued. “And now, Dynamite is being moved to a relatively unfamiliar Saturday night time slot. Three hours of weekend wrestling is very different. I put together the Buy In as a response, but that took some time. I wasn’t able to do that right away, so I wanted to let people know the gloves are off.”
Competition and head-to-head shows are something Khan thinks will bring out the best in both products. And after going on the record saying last Monday’s RAW “sucked”, Tony hopes the rivalry will have positive results for WWE and AEW both.
“In wrestling, we’re worth more against each other and we’re better off against each other. I believe there is greater value in the wrestling market when we’re fighting and people want to see competition in wrestling,” Khan explained. “I think it’s one of the reasons people lost interest in wrestling was because there was not true competition for 20 years. Now with AEW in the mix and competition back in wrestling, I think there are more people excited about wrestling than there have been in a long time with the free-agent movement and good shows. At the end of the day, it has to be good shows. Through the 90s there were a lot of great wrestling shows. Every week, every month there would be great stories and great matches and you couldn’t miss it. I think it’s starting to get that way again.”
Now that the “Wednesday Night War” between NXT and AEW is a thing of the past, Tony is now focused on competing with bigger shows like RAW and SmackDown. He also commented on WWE seemingly matching AEW in their effort to show less commercials during their shows.
“It’s a little bit different than the Wednesday Night Wars because that was from the very beginning of Dynamite, and we put our head down and it was an every-week thing. This seemed like pretty predatory, which is fine if that’s how you want to play it. It’s not outwardly how they’ve (WWE) shown they wanted to play it. I’ve coined a phrase which is WYW, watch your wrestling. Whatever people what to watch, I want them to watch it. Unfortunately, if we are on at the same time, it’s harder for people to watch their wrestling, at least live.
“We can take the commercials out of it. If you want to take the commercials out of it, I can do that too. It doesn’t seem very civil, but I have more money than they do, so I can afford to do that longer than they can. But that’s how we make money at the end of the day, so I was surprised when they took those out.”