AEW President Tony Khan was recently a guest on Z100 New York with Josh Martinez. CM Punk’s arrival in AEW was the beginning of a huge momentum swing for the company, and Khan recalled his conversations with Punk on how to debut him in AEW.

“It totally changed our business, the arrival of CM Punk. Him coming in has lifted at least six different business metrics, and all the big ones, and it’s really great what he’s done for us in terms of our TV ratings, our live events, our pay-per-view numbers, which have hit a record high,” Khan noted. “And we’ve never done merchandising like this. It’s amazing, and it’s really awesome to have him, but also, his debut match was a great match against Darby Allin. And that event, The First Dance, it was kind of, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

“The idea that Punk and I had sat down together, we came up with. He wanted to have his debut be a surprise. I wanted to get all of the business, so how do we do both? And we came up with this great idea, which is make it the world’s worst kept secret. We sat down together and I had this language for Darby, and nobody knew what Darby was gonna say in his promo but me and Punk. I gave Darby this line, which was ‘anybody can come to AEW and that’s where you prove if you’re the greatest, even if you think you’re the best in the world.’ And that line, it totally woke up a lot of people. It got a huge pop in the arena. People couldn’t believe it, and that’s when everyone really knew.”

Punk and Darby Allin faced off at All Out, which was a big success for AEW. At the end of the show, Adam Cole made his debut and reunited with The Elite. Soon after, Bryan Danielson made his debut, and Khan discussed the logic behind the back-to-back debuts.

“He’s been another huge lift to our business,” Khan said. “I think a lot of people, in addition to the debut of CM Punk in AEW, his first match at All Out, we set business records for this pay-per-view and people really loved it. That was the best part was it’s the most pay-per-views we’ve ever sold, and it was the best response any wrestling pay-per-views gotten in years, and Bryan Danielson, his debut was the cherry on top moment.

“CM Punk’s first match, and then this moment at the end where Adam Cole arrives, we reform The Elite. We form this new Super Elite, these four back together for the first time in years. Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks and now with Adam Cole, standing tall. Well, I thought it would be perfect just then, when people thought that was it, to have Bryan Danielson come in and then set these battle lines and put Bryan Danielson on the opposite side, and build up to the Bryan Danielson – Kenny Omega match.”

Sting’s AEW debut is coming close to its one-year anniversary. Sting and Allin seemed like a destined pairing, but Khan noted how they lucked into that.

“You know what’s crazy, I was building up Darby before I knew Sting was available,” Khan noted. “Darby was being built up as a top star, and I had Darby up in the rafters almost like the next generation of Sting, really an homage to Sting. And Sting didn’t know this, and he hadn’t been watching wrestling, and we talked. Now, look, up almost a year later, he’s had these matches. He’s so into it. He works his ass off, and he’s such a great person.

“When he first talked to me, I said, ‘There’s a young kid, please look at him because I think you’d be so great together and it’d be such a great pairing.’ And now, in real life, they’re such close friends, and they’re such a big part of each other’s life. They have so much in common. They’re both these straightedge, gray-hearted people who do all this great work, charitable stuff for kids. Neither of them does drugs, drink, nothing, and they’re both completely straightedge, and they’re both just so cool and have so much in common. But they had never met, and bringing them together and now seeing what it’s become to people around the world, it’s one of my favorite things about wrestling.”

If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Z100 New York with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.

counter