All Elite Wrestling has taken the pro wrestling world by storm since the company was formed in 2019.
Leading the way is founder, CEO, GM and head of creative of the organization, Tony Khan. Along with running AEW, Khan is also the owner, director of football, GM and sporting director of the Fulham Football Club.
It is a big week for the company. AEW revealed on Tuesday that former undisputed heavyweight champion and boxing legend, Mike Tyson, returns for the first time since last May on Wednesday's edition of AEW Dynamite.
Ahead of all the events, Khan spoke with DAZN News on Tyson's AEW return, running the first house show and the situation of Chris Jericho appearing on "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's podcast.
Due to popular demand, additional seat pods are available to purchase for AEW's #theHouseAlwaysWins , Friday, April 9 with a 7pm Bell Time. All tickets are $30 (plus fees)... https://t.co/rFcIFUPD6k , via email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 904-633-2000 pic.twitter.com/1xbKqJkZ5t— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) April 7, 2021
(Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
DAZN: You guys sent the press release about Mike Tyson appearing on Dynamite. How did it all come about so quickly, because it was something we hadn't seen Mike since he was on the show in May?
Tony Khan: Mike and I are good friends. Mike and I stayed in touch over the past year. He was at Double or Nothing and then Dynamite last May. I was really excited about Mike's fight with Roy Jones (in November). I talked to him as he was training, and I talked to him right after the fight, too. He called me right after he got home. He was really excited about coming back to AEW. I told him you got to rest your body, and when you're ready, we'd love to have you back, and we'll try to find a date that works for everybody. So we were staying in touch, and this is a date that worked out for everybody.
DAZN: This is a huge week for the company. You got Mike appearing on Dynamite, and then you have your first house show this coming weekend at Daily's Place in Jacksonville. What was the main reason for wanting to put on your first house show?
TK: It's great for us that we have a really good Dynamite card this week and a great crowd coming, and we have a big crowd for Dynamite that we expected this week. We thought it would be a great week that we've got the ring set up. We've got a great crew in town in Jacksonville, and we have the ring, the stage, and Daily's Place all set up for a wrestling show. Friday night is a great night for the fans, and it felt like it would be a good opportunity to experiment with putting on a great card for the live fans and doing something for the people in Jacksonville. I must stress how important the fans in Jacksonville have been.
They've helped AEW. They've helped the wrestlers and the matches. They've helped our shows, but they've also helped fans around the world enjoy the show. There have been a lot of moments in AEW where the live crowd in the past year made a huge difference. I think probably the most important was the Brodie Lee Memorial show. I think when Darby (Allin) won the TNT title and the Young Bucks winning the tag team titles for the first time at Full Gear. The live crowd, those moments were a huge part of it. The pops were real and great when Sting debuted at Winter is Coming. A huge pop there. The reaction was a different reaction when Kenny Omega won the title from Mox (Jon Moxley). They're just a lot of moments where the fans and their reactions have been a very important part of it, and it wouldn't have been the same without them.
DAZN: I've seen this a lot on social media as the narrative has been that you're running a house show because your competition (WWE) is having shows about three hours away the following two days after the live event. What do you say to people that are running with that narrative?
TK: I'm running a show because my competition is running? I'm running a show in my own building at home that I don't have to change out a single set piece for. I've already got the ring set up there, and the wrestlers are already in town. I already paid for their travel into Jacksonville, so I've got a crew of wrestlers in Jacksonville, Florida, in my own building, in my own ring. (Laughs) It's like, I traveled and put the show on somebody else's lawn. I'm just doing a show in my own building. If anybody's around Jacksonville or in the area would like to come, I think they're more than welcome. But it's a show in Jacksonville. It's not a show anywhere else in Florida.
The idea that I'm doing a show with people three hours away to try and get people to come from three hours away is something. I am encouraging people to come from wherever and if people want to make that drive, I think it's awesome. But you can't schedule a show based around planning to get people driving for three hours. Most of the people are going to come to the show are going to be from Jacksonville. I know people are coming from all over, which is great. That's the case when we do pay-per-views and a lot of our big shows. We've had people come to Jacksonville from all over. I definitely encourage it. But it's not like I scheduled this show in my own building, in my own ring, without having to move a single set piece or having to do any travel when all the wrestlers are already in Jacksonville. It is probably a big-time stretch to say that I'm trying to do it to get people to drive in from three hours away.
Although I know some people are doing that, it's great, and I'm very appreciative of it. I want to make it sound like I'm not. I'm very, very appreciative of everybody taking the drive. But I'm also trying to do things to take care of the people locally in Jacksonville, and it seemed like a good weekend to run a show. We primarily draw in Jacksonville, but we can also get some people from all over.
DAZN: You made some big news on Friday. Usually, Friday's a slow news day. Then it came out that Chris Jericho is appearing on Steve Austin's podcast. Can you explain a little bit what led to Chris being able to appear on Steve Austin's podcast?
TK: Chris came to me in my office, and he mentioned there was an opportunity he wanted to talk to me about. He had been talking to Steve, and there was this idea that Chris could be on Steve's show and appear on Peacock with Steve. Steve had gone to Vince (McMahon, WWE Chairman), and Vince had given Steve his permission to have Chris on the show. But they needed my permission to get Chris on the show. Chris wasn't sure I was going to say yes, but he wanted to ask me. I told him, after thinking about it for a moment, that I thought it was a great idea.
Chris is a friend of mine. Steve's a friend of mine, and I have a solid respect for both of them. I also trust them both immensely. I felt like it would be a really positive conversation. I didn't think it would turn into anything negative at all knowing the two guys involved. It felt like it would be a real win-win situation.
DAZN: Is it something to where the fact both parties (you and McMahon) did agree to this, is it still where you get to watch it beforehand to make sure everything is kosher?
TK: I didn't demand a final cut. Going into it, that's one of those things I could have done. I could have said that's fine, and you guys can do this, and I want the final cut or something like that. I think this is one of the reasons why people like dealing with me. I’m not going to make things overly difficult if they don't need to be. I think Steve and Chris had a great interview, and I didn't want to turn it into a legal pissing match between the two companies where I’m demanding a final cut if they have Chris on their show. I trust Steve. I trust Chris. I don't know if I trust these guys (WWE), but I don't think they're going to just totally hack up Steve's show either. In this situation, I did trust everybody involved, and I didn't think it would be conducive. We're all so busy. We all have a lot going on.
I didn't think it would be conducive to the nature of the project, especially when you know we're all friends and in terms of Chris and Steve being friends with people on both sides. Chris works for us. Steve works for them. Steve's a friend of mine and Chris is a friend of theirs. It was a unique situation, and that's why I think it got done. I didn't need to demand a final cut. I haven't seen it. I've heard about it from Chris. They might make some changes to it. I don't know. But I'm pretty comfortable with Chris and Steve sitting down and talking about just about anything.
DAZN: What else can the fans expect on this loaded Dynamite on Wednesday night?
TK: The Inner Circle will be there. They're going to return. This will be the first one we heard from The Inner Circle since Jericho was assaulted and since The Pinnacle was formed. Chris says they're going to be a big revelation. I think that's going to be really exciting and interesting for the fans to see. We've got some other fun surprises planned for the show. I think it's going to be an awesome night of wrestling and surprises. There's some nights where it's a big focus on wrestling, where it's all bell to the bell focused.
In general, anytime you watch AEW Dynamite, you're going to see some great wrestling. It's not like we do a bunch of short two, three-minute matches and focus on backstage action the whole show. You might see some backstage segments, but in general, you're going to see a lot of great wrestling on all of our shows. This show will be a good mix of both of these. There will be some great storytelling and some great matches, and I think it'll be hopefully a show that will be very memorable and put us in a great position next week and going forward.