Tony Khan On Believing In Britt Baker, Cody Rhodes Being A Critical Factor For AEW

AEW President Tony Khan recently spoke with Sports Illustrated's Justin Barrasso and had major praise for TNT Champion Cody Rhodes and Women's World Champion Britt Baker.

It was noted that Baker is one of AEW's most important stories from 2021. Khan was asked what gave him his initial belief in Baker.

"Sometimes you get to know a person in real life and you see an element of their personality they should be presenting in wrestling," Khan said. "Kenny [Omega] thought Britt would be better as a heel, and I agreed. She got a lot of great coaching from people like Kenny, Cody and Chris Jericho, but she also committed to it. During the Jericho Cruise, we talked about doing a promo where she belittled Tony Schiavone for working at Starbucks. We thought that would generate a lot of heat, and that was the start of it.

"Not everyone gave Britt a chance at first as a heel when she was developing. I remember all the criticism she received, so it's an important lesson not to give up on a young, determined wrestler. She was clearly getting better every week, and she kept getting better and better. She focused on her character, and I made it a priority to expand her presence on the show. She found such great chemistry with Reba, and it's been really fun to see her grow into this role as a top champion and villain."

Khan continued and talked about some of Baker's in-ring work, noting that he's really looking forward to seeing her title defense against Riho at Battle of The Belts on January 8 in Charlotte.

"Her wrestling in 2021 took a huge step forward, too," he continued about Baker. "She had some great, great matches, and I'm really looking forward to her match against Riho at Battle of the Belts, which a live special we're holding on TNT on Jan. 8. Britt has great matches when she's defending the title. She had the great match last month against Riho. The pay-per-view match against Tay Conti is the best match in Tay's career. Ruby Soho at 'Grand Slam,' the title match against Hikaru Shida. And the 'Lights Out' match against Thunder Rosa is one of the greatest in AEW."

Rhodes became a three-time AEW TNT Champion by defeating Sammy Guevara on last week's Rampage episode. Khan was asked what makes Rhodes such a critical factor for AEW.

"Cody is important on and off camera," Khan said. "He's a great person backstage, but he's also a tremendous star on camera. That was a great pro wrestling main event he had with Sammy Guevara on Christmas, with a very polarizing result that got people talking. It's great buzz going into this week.

"Cody has the ability to generate that type of buzz and have that caliber of great matches. He's also doing a lot of charitable work off camera with our community outreach team. He worked with WarnerMedia to become a prominent part of their shows, too, but his bread and butter is still pro wrestling."

Rhodes will defend his title against Ethan Page on this week's AEW Rampage episode. You can click here for spoilers from the taping.

Stay tuned for more.