Tony Khan On His Conversations With CM Punk During The Pandemic, How AEW Ran Shows Safely During That Time

AEW President Tony Khan recently spoke with Bleacher Report to hype up this Sunday's ALL OUT pay per view in Chicago, a show that will feature the first CM Punk matchup in seven years. During the interview Khan detailed some of his conversations with Punk during the pandemic, and how they knew he would not debut until it could happen in front of fans. Highlights from the interview are below.

On Punk's return and not wanting to debut him during the pandemic:

"It involved a lot of conversations with myself and Mr. Punk. We had built a really good relationship, I think a friendship. We didn't think it made any sense to bring Punk back to wrestling during the pandemic era. I think it helped that AEW navigated the pandemic era as well as possible."

How AEW ran events from Daily's Place safely without transmitting COVID:

"We safely brought fans back to the shows doing outdoor events with socially distanced fans. We did those shows in Daily's Place for many months and had no known transmissions. People had a great time and it was a really great outlet for wrestling fans to see live events safely. That being said, it wasn't the environment that Punk or myself wanted him to come back to the ring."

Booking the United Center and calling it the First Dance after the popular Last Dance documentary on the Chicago Bulls:

"When we planned to hit the road again, I was talking to [Punk] all the time. We talked about dates and he really wanted to come back at the United Center. The only person I really worked with this on was Rafael Morffi, our director of live events. We called the United Center and got it booked. That's when I called Punk and suggested 'The First Dance. The Last Dance was very powerful and had a wide audience. People embraced it all over the world. I thought The First Dance would be a special way to capture all of this. I thought CM Punk's return to wrestling should be something very special. He wanted to come back as a surprise, but I also wanted to have all of the benefits for the fans and the show. It worked out where the fans would be 99 percent sure he was going to come back, but the one percent of doubt in the back of their minds made it that much better. It delivered such an emotional and indelible moment in wrestling history."

On Punk's first feud with Darby Allin:

"I went to Punk and suggested that Darby would be a great opponent," Khan said. "He had really risen to prominence in AEW. I remember that Punk tweeted out this list of five AEW wrestlers he wanted to have a match with and it got a lot of buzz. The most prominent person on that list was Darby, and I thought it was such a perfect dream match. Punk loved it and we started putting it together."