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AEW gets ready to go head to head with WWE

In this article:
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Yahoo Finance’s Reggie Wade is joined by Tony Khan, AEW CEO, GM and Head of Creative to discuss the evolution of the wrestling industry.

Video Transcript

- Today we got a smackdown. Come in for "WWE SmackDown". A wrestling match to end all matches here as "All Elite Wrestling" faces off in primetime with "WWE SmackDown" for the first time. A very interesting back and forth shaping up for the battle in primetime.

"WWE SmackDown", of course, going to be on "FS1". AEW going to be on "TNT". And we've seen "AEW" add a bit of a pre-show to, I guess, further fuel the battle taking place and the overlap between the two wrestling giants.

And for more on that battle brewing tonight, very happy to bring in the CEO of "AEW". Tony Khan joins us here, of course, also co-owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars alongside Yahoo Finance's Reggie Wade, who, of course, is a big wrestling fan.

And Tony, I mean, when we look at this, I'm sure you're looking your chops to get a chance to go up head-to-head with "WWE SmackDown". But talk to me about what you're doing to maybe make it a no-brainer for fans out there?

TONY KHAN: Well, "AEW" right now, we're on a great run. We've had great shows. It's a little bit different for us this weekend. We have, normally, a Wednesday night show, "Wednesday Night Dynamite", and we have this great show we do every Friday, like we're doing tonight "Friday Night Rampage" on "TNT"

And this weekend, because of a lot of sports on "TNT", they've time shifted "Dynamite" to Saturday, which is kind of crazy for us because we've had six straight weeks recently where "Dynamite" has been the number one show on all of cable Wednesday nights.

So we're on a great run and now we're launching "Friday Rampage", which has also had some great weeks and been ranked as high as number one on cable a few times. So tonight's a huge opportunity for us. I was surprised when I found out we had head-to-head competition tonight because it's kind of a first. But we rise to these challenges and we have the best wrestlers in the world and the best wrestling in the world.

So "AEW" on "TNT". I strongly encourage people to check it out. We've grown our fan base internationally and built a big audience also overseas and in Canada, where we've been the number one-rated wrestling show. And in the UK where every single week we have the most watched wrestling show at "AEW". So tonight on "TNT", "AEW Rampage" Is going to be the best wrestling show through Friday night, for sure.

REGGIE WADE: Tony, Reggie Wade here. On September 22nd, you guys went into Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, and as I was pulling up to the show, the line stretched all the way to Citi Field, which is across the street. And there was just electricity and magnetism in the air, and you love to see it as a wrestling fan. But my question is, are you leading a wrestling revolution or is this an evolution?

TONY KHAN: Well, it's a great question, Reggie. First of all, thank you so much for coming to Arthur Ashe Stadium and being there for "AEW Grand Slam". We had a great event there, and because of great fans like you, we made it the most attended wrestling show in New York City in over a decade by any wrestling company by anybody. It was a huge success to have 20,000 people there, including you, Reggie. It was a dream come true.

And I think what we're doing is both. This is a revolution for the fans. That happens to be the name of our Q1 pay-per-view event, which has been very successful for us. And we built this bigger audience on TV and on pay-per-view and have really evolved the business model, I think. I try not to oversaturate the pay-per-view world with too many shows, and when we do them, they're huge.

So we've had four quarterly linear and streaming pay-per-view specials. Those have done really, really well for us. We do, like I said, for a year and each of them are up year over year. So the Q1 pay-per-view is up year over year. Our Q2 and Q3 shows, "Double or Nothing" and "All Out". Now we've done those three times and each year they've gone up.

And our last show "All Out", which was just last month in Chicago area, it was right before that "Grand Slam" show Reggie was at. That was our biggest pay-per-view of all time, and it was the biggest pay-per-view done by any independent wrestling company, any company other than the WWE since the 90s.

We just sold over 200,000 units, over 205,000 worldwide, I think, now, and it's been a huge success for us. Thanks to great wrestling fans like you, Reggie. So thank you very much.

REGGIE WADE: Tony, "AEW" has a stacked roster. How do you balance between the already established superstars, the CM Punk's, the Bryan Danielson, the Chris Jericho's, the Jon Moxley's, and how do you balance that with the Jungle Boy's, the Darby Allin's, the MJF's, the Sammy Guevara's? Is there enough room for all of those names?

TONY KHAN: Abdolutely, that's what's great about the launch of "AEW Rampage". Now we have two shows and more opportunities-- tonight "Friday Night Live" on "TNT" and then also "Dynamite", which this week is going to be on Saturday, but normally, about 50 times a year, you're going to see on a Wednesday. And this just happens to be one of the rare occasions where we're not.

But I'm very excited about the opportunity. I mean, it's a great thing in sports when you have a very deep roster. And when you're in management, trying to manage our roster, as I have to when you're booking the matches, it means you have to really take advantage of the opportunities you have.

And to have another show now with "Rampage" on Friday nights has allowed us more opportunities. And also you can do both. I mean, CM Punk made his return to wrestling on this huge all-out pay-per-view last month. He'd been out for seven years. He is quite possibly the biggest name in all professional wrestling, and it's been a huge attraction for us. And he came back against Darby Allin, and they had a tremendous match.

Darby Allin is a young, exciting wrestler, and CM Punk absolutely put a spotlight on a young star. And Darby Allin has been a star for us. He's been the longest reigning TNT champion and went into his 10th defense of the title. So we've had a mix. And MJF, who you mentioned, is really one of the young rising stars in wrestling of any age. Forget about the fact he's not even 25 years old. So it's really a great time for us.

- Tony, we have to ask you really quickly about the Jaguars and all five record bumpy rides since Urban Meyer took over. And you said that he needs to regain your trust and confidence when the viral video--

TONY KHAN: I didn't say that. My father said that.

- Are you confident that you can finish--

(CROSSTALK)

TONY KHAN: That was a statement my dad put out. I've spent a lot of time with Urban and I worked together really closely with him and, of course, with my dad. And I manage the statistics and analytics for the Jaguars, which is, of course, for you here on "Yahoo Finance", being numbers people is really right up your alley.

So what I do for the Jaguars is my father owns the team. I've to look for undrafted players and try to use analytics to find efficiencies in the game. And I think we've done a good job of that aspect of the game. James Robinson is a player who I found using analytics and managing the undrafted free agent process. He's one of the players that I've overseen signing.

But as far as what's been happening, we absolutely want to win games and I'll leave it to my dad and Urban to make the statements on the rest of that.

- And of course, Urban Meyer making his "AEW" cameo earlier this year as well, which I'm sure the cross over there is likely to continue. But Tony Khan, I appreciate you coming on here and chatting with us today, "AEW" CEO. We'll see how the SmackDown battle goes tonight, alongside, of course, our Thanks to Reggie Wade as well.