Tony Khan is the current President of AEW, and he recently spoke about sharing the idea of forming AEW with his friend before it all happened. He was on Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take Podcast, where he spoke about it.
Tony Khan revealed that he shared his idea at a party with his friend. His friend is the former President of Turner, Kevin Reilly.
Tony Khan on Presenting the AEW Idea to His Friend at a Party
“I was at a party with some friends in Beverly Hills,” Khan said.
“And I saw my friend, who was the President of TNT and TBS. And it all just kind of clicked. It’s probably something I thought of a million times. And I went up to him and I said ‘Kev, are you looking at bidding on the WWE TV rights?’ And he said ‘yes, yes I am.
I’m not looking to bid on both packages, I’m looking at bidding on one of them.’ And I said ‘oh’, knowing that that’s of course Smackdown. He said ‘it’s going to go for probably over $150 (million).’ It ended up going for $205 million annually to Fox, but they (Turner) were in on the bidding, at least initially in the initial wave.
“I said ‘Kev, that’s interesting. But have you ever considered that maybe we can do this?’ He said ‘what do you mean?’ I said ‘well the company you operate owned and operated twenty years ago today, which was true when I said it, the number one wrestling company in the world.’ And he said ‘really?’ I asked if he had ever heard of WCW.
He had not. But WCW, if people don’t know, was formerly a competitor to the WWF. They ended up getting sold by AOL/Time Warner and they got shuttered and it’s not a thing anymore. AEW exists, in my opinion, because of the failure of WCW.
Because they vacated this great timeslot, this great relationship with TNT and TBS that we have. That was the success of WCW. It was the outlet, the penetration they had with TNT and TBS. And of course the fans. There are all these fans that wanted an alternative.
So anyway, that’s how”. Tony shared what he learned from WCW. He stated that he wishes to avoid certain things that he believes ruined the WCW and brought it to an end. He stated that WCW’s creative control clause, Vince Russo’s wrestling and WCW’s management style are some of the things that he wants to avoid.
“I’ve learned from the pros and the cons, and I think some of the things that went wrong for WCW, in my opinion, were the creative control,” Tony Khan said. “They gave creative control to a lot of the wrestlers, and some of the storylines were asinine.
Some of the ideas were great, but it was a very disorganized show. And when they brought someone else in from the WWF to be a writer named Vince Russo, he made it ten times worse. He took a problem, it’s like they had a massive hangnail and he just chopped off the arm.
So that was part of the problem. Another major, major issue for them, in my opinion, was the management. Most wrestling companies that have been really successful over time have had one supreme commander at the top, who’s like owned it, booked it, done everything.
Run the place, run the management. Whether it was Vince McMahon for years, organizing everything, Cowboy Bill Watts, Eddie Graham, Fritz Von Erich and countless others. And so I think that made sense as a business model, and I told Kevin that. It’s like the strong management WCW didn’t have, I can provide”.