Tony Khan Talks About CM Punk, AEW Dark Moving to Universal Studios, Jericho's Cruise & more

-- AEW President Tony Khan held a conference call yesterday with members of the media as the promotion prepares for their biggest PPV, All Out, which airs on Sunday. Here's a recap from Mike Johnson of

Tony thanked everyone for joining him today. It's going to be the biggest PPV in AEW history. They've had a great year and are happy to be back in front of the fans. He did a hard sell for all the places All Out can be seen domestically and internationally.

Khan was asked about putting together the PPV card, keeping talents happy with how they will be used and how they plan what they will do this Sunday vs. another big show such as the Arthur Ashe show. Khan said they will have a great card planned for NYC but this is the best card they've ever done. They planned a lot of it far ahead but there were changes obviously. When he puts a PPV card together, it can be challenging but this time around, when he figured out the order of matches, it was one pass and everyone he's shared it with loved it. He said it's a long process, a 24 job and this past week it really has been.

With everything going on with the Jaguars, it's really been a 24 hour job this week. Some of the things on the PPV, like Punk vs. Darby, was a year and a half of planning. It's crazy to think of being on the Jericho Cruise with Darby and creating the entire scenario with Darby vs. Sammy Guevara. He recapped the story and how Allin got a huge pop when he returned and since then he's been rising. At the same time, Punk was contemplating when to return and the timing was right. Then, you think about Christian Cage coming back after his long time off and facing one of the best in all time in Kenny Omega. He began running down all the matches and said on Rampage this Friday, we'll see more. Putting this card together was rewarding and fun and in some ways it was easy.

Khan was asked about all the things that he's leveraged and brought to TV of late, whether he can keep it going and whether he thinks anyone will break out for him like The Rock and Steve Austin in the 1990s. Khan said the business is different from then but now, wrestling companies in the right position, such as he and WWE, can make great money. He praised Eric Bischoff for doing so well in the 1990s making hundreds of millions without even having TV rights fees. Khan said he wants to keep doing great PPV, Dynamites and Rampages.

Khan said put eight figures of his own money into developing a video game instead of paying an outside developer and let them keep a piece of the money. It's a business project that was viable and they've done a lot of projects like that, including Dynamite. He wasn't making a lot of money on Dynamite when they started and TNT put $175 million over four years for it. They've done a great job of giving them a return for their investment.

Rampage generates more revenue for them and the PPV franchises have grown every year. They will be up this year with All Out and he believes in the same for Full Gear. He's happy for the returns. He's been where the fans have been, sitting there, loving wrestling and he wants wrestling to be a big part of their lives again where they come home and want to watch on Wednesday, Friday and PPV evenings. Khan said he was just with Jerry Jones discussing AEW. He put years into running Fulham FC and now he's doing this. He knows what it's like going to work and school and looking forward to watching wrestling. He thinks their best shot is to keep building forward and keeping the momentum.

Khan was asked about Dark moving to Universal Studios. Khan confirmed that to be the case and said that people need to look at where Dark stands in terms of their platforms. It's not Dynamite or Rampage running there. Those are his A shows. Elevation and Dark are great shows and you'll see huge stars on them on a regular basis. They found a lot of great wrestlers through their work on Dark and Elevation. These were people losing matches on Dark and they saw something in them and signed them toi deals. Dark gives opportunities to younger talents. He likens Dark to another show that taped there, WCW Worldwide. That was a show where they developed a lot of young talents. Universal is a great place for young wrestlers. They are going to do a lot of fun stuff and the fans that come will see some great action. They want to bring back the spirit of the old WCW Worldwide tapings.

Khan was asked about the rumors of an AEW Trios title. He said it would be great to add them but they have a lot of stuff in their three hours of TV. They have different shows and different formats. He covers the stories differently on each show. As they grow, there's a place for the title and other championships. Khan said he probably used to do more trios matches than he has done lately. He probably did more in Daily's Place. He's into doing the style but it doesn't feel he's been leaning on that as much as they have in the past. There's a time and a place for everything. A Trios title would kick ass and makes a lot of sense.

Khan was asked about whether Rampage or Dynamite be at the Jericho Cruise and whether Dark matches will still take place at Dynamite and Rampage events. Khan said they've been doing Elevation before Dynamite. Rampage they do Dark. They will hit a point where they can't tape all the stuff together. They'll still do Elevation before Dynamite. Dark will move most weeks to the Universal Studios format. They'll get a chance to focus on the talent. Sometimes you are running around at Dynamite and you can't be in the chair for everything during Dark. Having the separate taping will give him and the coaches a chance to focus on them and their stories at that taping vs. being part of another taping.

The Jericho Cruise is Jericho's personal event. They had a time shifting situation where Dynamite will have to be Saturday, which will be live that night. It does conflict with the Cruise. Some of the people on the Cruise won't be on Dynamite. If he has to take people off the Cruise, which he hopes he doesn't have to do as he wants everyone advertised for the Cruise to be there but if there is a need for someone, he'll be able and happy to lend someone else out. He said he's happy to have built camaraderie in the business among companies. There may be Dark and Elevation stuff on the Cruise, but not Rampage and Dynamite. He wants to be good to Florida.

Khan hoped to get a big long term deal for Dynamite to make it a sustainable business model and it happened after just four months. They are at an all-time high for ratings and things have fallen into place faster than they expected. He said that he hopes it better for the fans and it translates into an uptick for the media as well.

Khan was asked to bring shows out West or internationally for weekly TV. Khan said they are expanding into some international stuff next year. He doesn't wan to put an exact timetable but wants Craven Cottage to be the home for AEW in the UK. He would like Double or Nothing to return to Las Vegas. Plans can change and be out of our control as the last few years have shown.

Khan was asked how close AEW is to having a full roster. Khan said he doesn't think there is such a thing. You have to look to constantly change and evolve the roster. He's not restricted by a salary cap or roster. It's his prerogative. In other sports, they have other restrictions. It's special to keep the roster fresh. He didn't walk into 2021 thinking he would sign 2.0. They've been super valuable to them. He really liked Daniel Garcia and thought he had a lot of potential and he and 2.0 filled the need for the spot they had. Not every signing has to be CM Punk or Jon Moxley. You can sign talents who come in and enhance the quality of the show and stack the roster.

Khan was asked if Israel could be a destination for AEW. Khan said it would be a great place to tour with the way travel is now but it's a great home for wrestling. He was amazed learning World Class caught fire there and he knows how hot wrestling can be there so Israel is a place to consider.

Khan was asked to shed some light on the relationships with different companies. He said they all have different relationships. You can't put a label on everyone you know and say they are all the same. He said relationships with NWA, AAA, New Japan, Impact, etc. Working with the other companies have been good for the fans. It's been good for those companies he feels. Khan said he's done a lot of favors and maybe they will pay off in the future, maybe not but he hopes it's all good karma for AEW.

Khan was asked about building the relationship with Punk. He's really enjoyed building the collaboration between the two and were there last night figuring things out and working on ideas. He puts a lot of thought into everything before it goes to TV and collaborates with everyone. He said in some ways, it's amazing because it's Punk and he compares it to Sting. He took some heat for how he used Sting at first but it was about pacing. Now Sting is getting more involved and more physical. They had to get him at ease and happy. Now he is. With Punk, it's been really cool collaborating with him. He's already brought some great ideas. He's a cool person to collaborate with.

Khan said he doesn't understand some of the things he was asked to do before he left wrestling as they didn't make sense. He told Punk that if he asked him to do something that doesn't make sense, come to Tony and speak with him. He said that no one has creative control and doesn't understand how you get through an episode of TV like that, but what Khan does is the chance to speak to people so he doesn't put them in a bad place for their career or their fans. They are just getting started and he's really excited for what they can do. When Moxley came in, a lot of people tried to "do a number on him" as a person. He praised Moxley's forthcoming book. Khan said you hear rumors the guy is hard to deal with and it's not true - he's strong willed and a great guy. He built a relationship with Moxley and now he's building a relationship and he's enjoying it.

Khan was asked about women's wrestling. He said he's been trying to help other companies by sending them talent, such as the NWA. He moved the Casino Battle Royal to the main roster. He will be agenting the match. He was really thrilled to see the reaction Anna Jay got last night and was really excited. Continuing to build the roster is important. The more focus and attention they can get is important and that's why they moved it to the main PPV card. He clarified there is no shame in being on The Buy In part of the show. They have put big stars there repeatedly and this weekend will have Jungle Boy, Matt Hardy, Orange Cassidy, etc. The match is meant to be an advertisement for the PPV and you are relying on the stars featured to help sell the PPV. There's a belief the pre-show stuff is a negative but when he was a kid, he saw Stone Cold Steve Austin in a pre-show match. He began running down stars in the Casino Battle Royal and praised the improvement of Penelope Ford and put over Britt Baker as one of the best wrestlers in the world. He announced Riho has been added to the match and he may have "something planned in terms of a surprise" too. He wants to keep advancing it. They put a lot of time into Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa and they are both stars. They spent time building it. They didn't just toss it out there. It was something that belonged in the main event.

Khan was asked about the TNT title. Khan said none of the champions who have held the title have been a stretch. The key to the belt has been hot matches and issues pushed on TV and the champ has always been a protected star. It wouldn't have been right for Darby Allin to be the first champion. The tournament was part of the build for Allin. The belt is never going to be a mid-card title. There are other titles that used to be really protected and important and has been beaten down, retired, brought back, etc. He won't ever let that happen to the TNT title.