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Tony Khan talks about his fandom, giving wrestlers time off, stats in AEW, tribalism among wrestling fans

Tony Khan was recently on the Wrestling Perspective podcast to talk about AEW. Here are some of the highlights:

Khan was asked if he can still watch wrestling as a fan:

“I do watch our shows again after they’re on, but it’s not with a fan’s eye. I do enjoy them and it never stops being fun. It’s similar to working in football. I watch a lot of football and I love football, but it’s different. When you’re watching your own team, you’re not watching them as a fan of them. You’re watching them and you're both proud of some of the stuff and critical of some of the stuff, but trying to make it a better team for everyone including the fans. It’s similar to that. Then when you’re watching your opponents, you’re trying to learn about it and you’re not watching it as a fan.”

Khan on giving his wrestlers off for personal reasons:

“I have a very flexible policy in terms of if people need off for any issue, I generally will give it to them. During the pandemic, this came up a lot because I think mental health is a huge issue. The pandemic itself, Covid is a huge issue, so there’s a mental health component and a lot of people were really struggling, especially through the early isolation. I gave people time off. A lot of people found solace in that and then they eventually were able to come back to work. There were a lot of people who just didn’t feel ready to come back right away. Last year, there were a lot of people who were home, not because they were out sick, but because they weren’t really ready to come back to work. We have always given people time off for any issue. Of course Jon (Moxley), when he asked for time off, I was more than happy to accommodate him, and I’m really happy to get Mox back. I’m excited for that and I’m excited to hear that he’s doing better and better. I’m always hoping for the best for Jon.”

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Khan was asked if he uses any statistics to bring wrestlers into AEW:

“In wrestling, yes. You want to look at how people have performed in terms of TV ratings, ticket sales, and merchandise before they came to AEW and then look within the company on who the big performers are. So I do look at that.”

Khan on why there is a big divide now among wrestling fans:

“I understand it. There used to be more of a broad base of people watching wrestling, and now it’s really, like all of television, it’s hardcore fans. It makes what the NFL does that much more impressive that the audience for the NFL is growing while the audience for TV has shrunk and shrunk and shrunk. The TV audience goes down 9% a year. It went down 9% last year. It went down 9% the year before. It’s gone down 18% over the last two years. The wrestling ratings are very steady compared to everything else, and the NFL is up, while other shows are mostly down 18% or more over the last two years. As the audience for TV has changed, all things have become more hardcore audience-based. It’s also like sports online. It’s very tribalistic. The fans of the sports are very quick to say what they’re a fan of and what they’re not a fan of. There’s a lot of people that like both and just don’t make a lot of noise, and the people who make a lot of noise are the people who feel really strong one way or another whether they really like AEW or like our competition. It’s not that different to what’s happening with pro sports. I think overall, it’s a good thing that there’s all these fans that are really dedicated to their shows. During the Monday Night Wars, there were people that felt strongly one way or the other. Frankly, as the thing went on and on, more of them moved towards the WWF. They did really well and in 1999, that was the show that was giving the people what they wanted to see in the ‘90s, so that’s why things trended that way, I think. In terms of tribalism, I think it’s something that’s been around a long time and it’s a big part of sports.”

If you use any portion of the quotes from this article please credit "‎Wrestling Perspective Podcast with Jason Powell" with a h/t to for the transcription.