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Tony Khan on WWE/Vince McMahon: "I'm not so autocratic that I want to control every word somebody says on television"



During an interview with Forbes, AEW CEO Tony Khan discussed his childhood love for pro wrestling, securing a TV deal, how the company stayed afloat during the pandemic, what sets AEW apart from the competition, the creative process and other business topics.

Khan said the following about AEW being a legitimate competitor:

"Because we have this partnership with TNT and Warner media and went with such a powerful media partner, it makes us feel more legitimate. Which brings me to my other point, none of the other wrestling companies that have come along in the last 20 years actually felt like a legitimate competitor a real thing. They felt like fun, niche wrestling products. And if you're a big wrestling fan, they're things you might watch, but they're not going to take households by storm, they weren't things that were going to win the night on TV. They might on their night get some wrestling fans to watch their show. But there hasn't been anything in wrestling that's come along in two decades, that would be competitive. In terms of a second national wrestling company, where it could stand to be the number one show on cable and his night or even a top five show. There's nothing really like that's been like that. And people compare numbers in the past and say, you know, 15 years ago, other wrestling companies that came along as startups were doing big TV audiences. And what I would say to that is the TV audience was very different as a whole back then. And it was, you know, there was more viewership. And in the demo, and in terms of demo ratings, there's really hasn't been anything like what we're doing in terms of competing head to head with WWE week to week in the cable ratings in two decades."

"Another point I would make is, while other wrestling companies have had good viewership in that time, it's been a long time since that and nobody's had any viewership like ours in over a decade. The other point is converting that audience to pay-per-view buyers. Nobody has been able to do that at the clip we've done it since WCW was in their heyday. And really, the pay-per-view market has changed. And this is all, you know, now, a head to head two team competition in many ways. So it is the most focused I think the fans have been on a head to head competition a long time because there haven't been two companies that were able to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue since the late 90s."

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On the writing process:

"When we started AEW Dynamite in October 2019, I had never officially written a wrestling TV show. All of my experience writing TV shows and wrestling had been exclusively imaginary. And all the episodes of Dynamite and Rampage, for that matter, were shows that I had been creating at home, like for fun as a hobby. And when it came to practical TV writing experience, I didn't have it. So I did lean more on people around me and I would try to trust my instincts. But it's hard when you don't have as much experience. And I do take a lot of pride in the booking. I work with a lot of really smart people. And what I think I do a good job of is being organized dealing with a lot of different people and going for ideas. You know, I have a lot of great creative minds that are in the company that I can have full time access to like Chris Jericho and Christian cage and Jon Moxley has great ideas. And now, CM Punk and Bryan Danielson and Adam Cole have come in with great ideas. So we've got a lot of awesome things happening right now. And I'm proud of that. And I try to keep it all organized and balanced. And I've found it's helped me a lot writing the shows myself. I don't really understand the idea of having a lot of different people write the show and then a person would go in the day of and rip it to pieces and try to come up with new ideas. And to be honest, when I hear about somebody going in, and they have a TV show on Monday that they rip up, my first thought is what were you doing all weekend, because I work my ass off on the weekends. And, you know, I have to come in with a plan for Wednesday and Friday night. And I want to make sure Dynamite's great and Rampage. And so I don't do everything myself. But I do make the final decision on everything. I put the format together, I put an outline of what the show is going to be for Dynamite and Rampage. I write it by hand. And I don't understand why you're going to come in and rip up a show that you should have a pretty good idea what it is and you should have approved it were Monday we know what we're doing and things change on the day of the show. Not that I never changed my mind on the day of. I do. But not where I'm going to change everything. I might change one or two things around on instinct or because something happened. But for the most part, I like to have a good idea of what is going to be on the show next week and the week after. And I really believe that the fans like that we try our best not to insult their intelligence. I do try to make the shows compelling and also logical. And I think that's also one of the challenges because a lot of times people come to you with ideas. And it's hard because like everyone's got their own approaches and their own philosophies, but there's a tone to the show. So I really just want people to go out and make the points and keep the stories going. But I'm not so autocratic that I want to control every word somebody says on television and I think that's also why some of our interviews or our storytelling and promos are really strong."

If you use any portion of the quotes from this article please credit Forbes with a h/t to for the transcription

Here is the clip of Khan talking about McMahon ripping up Raw scripts.

Click below for the full interview.