Tony Khan On How Many Wrestlers From Each Round Of WWE Releases He Usually Signs

AEW President Tony Khan recently made an appearance on The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz. Khan talked about AEW's fast rise over the past two years of its existence, and Tony Khan noted the achievements AEW has done in the past two years.


"When you start a company, you make big investments, and we did put huge money in upfront to start AEW and now we've been rewarded time and time again," Tony Khan noted. "I was here in this building. I went into your dressing room in January of 2020, a couple months before the pandemic hit and negotiated a TNT contract extension that I'm still working off of. We did a four-year contract and it was about 175 million for four years, and that was only after we'd been on TV for over three months.

"The show had been so successful, and that contract also provided to launch another show, a one-hour show that's now Friday night Rampage, and we built this pay-per-view business since the last time I saw you. Every pay-per-view we've done has been up and up and up, and the last show we did Labor Day weekend, All Out, where CM Punk made his in-ring debut and also a bunch of new stars arrived for the first time, Bryan Danielson, Ruby Soho, Adam Cole. It was really big for us. Another thing that I have to say, not only did we hit new highs in pay-per-views, live attendance, we did the Arthur Ashe stadium where the U.S. Open's held.


"We sold out for AEW Grand Slam, which is our biggest attendance with 20,000 people. It's the biggest attendance for a wrestling show in New York in over a decade. So many things have gone well but also from a talent acquisition standpoint, some crazy things have happened. I mentioned CM Punk, Bryan Danielson is one of the great wrestlers of all time. He was a free agent. People knew him as Daniel Bryan when he wrestled in WWE, but Bryan Danielson is his real name. It's pretty easy to figure it out, and that's what he wrestled as for many years. He was a legendary independent wrestler before that. To get him and another wrestler, I don't know if you're familiar with him, his name is Adam Cole, pretty amazing.

Tony Khan continued as he talked about Cole's impact on NXT. Discussing how key it was to have Cole on their roster now after the Wednesday Night War, and about how much of a boost other recent signings like Ruby Soho have been for AEW.

"Adam Cole, when he was on NXT, I think it was 76 Wednesdays we were head to head, and I've worked in sports a long time. I've seen a lot of things in sports and a lot of game planning. So my 76 weeks head to head in pro wrestling, I did look at it a little bit like preparing for an opponent, and a two hour show is eight quarter hours. And I'll tell you, that the entire head to head run, the main guy on the other team was Adam Cole. He was a guy who you would game plan against. It's like signing the free agent that you used to game plan against and try to contain and you would say, 'We can't let this be the guy to beat us.' It was 75 to one in the demo. The one episode we lost was December 18, 2019.


"I was in Corpus Christi. They did an Adam Cole vs. Finn Balor match. They did a long match with no commercials, and I think they did the first half hour no commercials and that's the only time, in almost the whole entire run that we lost the demo. And I took it very personally, but I also have held him in such high regard, and every Wednesday, he was the guy you'd worry about. So now to have him on our team and he can be a young guy you build around and also a great veteran, like Bryan Danielson coming in, it's changed the game. Our women's wrestling has gotten so much stronger since we started, and that's come also through free agency.

"Ruby Soho's a great wrestler from WWE, who got fired, and there's been a lot of great wrestlers that have gotten fired recently. And this is something that I've been able to take advantage of since I started up because they do these mass layoffs. And they fire 20-25 people at a time, and I don't mean to make light of it because the exact number of counts. Every one matters. I'm not, trying to make anybody a statistic because it's terrible when anybody loses their job, and that's why I've never done these mass layoffs.

"Since we've started, a couple people here and there I have had to let go, but I've never let 20 people go on one day or anything like that. And each time, I look at the list, there's always a few people in there that can help us, and I feel terrible for say 17 out of the 20 who don't sign with AEW, but I feel like every time I look at it, there's three people that can make our team that much stronger, and it keeps happening, so it's something to keep an eye on for us, and it's definitely helped grow the company."


If you use any quotes from this article, please credit The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.