All Elite Wrestling CEO and President Tony Khan is not just some billionaire investor. Khan is also a lifelong wrestling fan as well, putting AEW World Champion Chris Jericho, along with WWE Hall of Famers Ric Flair, Bret Hart, and Steve Austin on his Mount Rushmore of wrestling. That’s according to Khan, who recently sat down with AL.com to discuss what his fandom was like as a child.
“When I first really got into wrestling, my favorite wrestlers at first were Ric Flair and the Macho Man, Randy Savage. But the first time I saw wrestling was Hulk Hogan on ‘The A-Team,’ and I didn’t really know what wrestling was, and then I saw Hulk Hogan on WWF TV when I was a kid and that was the first time I’d seen pro wrestling. Then I learned about other pro wrestling, like WCW and then later when I was like 13, I got really into ECW, I started trading tapes with people through the dial-up internet, junior-high up into high-school.”
“I was trading tapes on like AOL and message boards, with some people I still keep in touch with today. As I got into high school, Steve Austin and Bret Hart and Chris Jericho were probably my three favorite wrestlers, and I have the fortune now to work with Chris very closely. He’s AEW champion, and I know Steve Austin and Bret Hart and they’re both great people, so it’s kind of awesome.”
Khan went on to discuss how much influence he has over the creative process in AEW.
“It depends. I think we’re really involved in the presentation of whoever it comes in, whether it’s a complete overhaul … I think we have a big say, like I have a big say, in what the presentation’s going to be. I think what’s great is when we work with people who have so much experience and knowledge, like Chris is brilliant. And I’ve sat with Chris and with Cody and people and we’ve had really interesting talks about how AEW can help develop a unique presentation for them.
“Like the Chris you see at AEW is a very different Chris than we’ve ever seen before. This super rock-star champion with the entourage he has, which is called the Inner Circle, which is a new thing that we’ve kind of developed here since we’ve started our TV show, ‘Dynamite.’ The Inner Circle’s gotten over pretty big. So yeah, it’s a different presentation. And Cody, since he had gone out on his own, and started wrestling on independents had tweaked his presentation and developed some amazing stuff. But I think since he’s gotten in AEW, Cody’s presentation is off the charts as well.”
“And wrestlers like Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks, they also, like you said, had some fully formed wrestling skill sets and brilliant minds for wrestling, but when they came in their presentation at AEW’s a unique presentation too. We’ve developed a lot of new acts like the Jurassic Express, for example, is something new we created in AEW. They were individual wrestlers that we put together, and something that’s been really fun for the guys themselves, first and foremost, most also for the fans and families who come to the shows.”
Khan finally discussed how the changing culture of how we watch television is affecting the wrestling industry.
“It’s been very positive for us, because in an era when it’s really hard to draw people 18 to 49 to television, wrestling is one of the best ways to do that. TNT, to be consistently in the top three, top five, top 10 with us, I think they’re really happy with that, and we’ve done a good job for them.”
Matt’s Musings: Tony Khan clearly has a large knowledge of professional wrestling, as he is a lifelong fan. With him at the helm hopefully AEW can continue to grow and prosper for many years to come.