AEW President and CEO Tony Khan recently spoke with AL.com to talk about all things pro-wrestling.
The 37-year old discusses his favorite southern wrestlers growing up, how much involvement wrestlers have in developing their characters for AEW, and gives an update on the company concussion protocol.
Highlights are below.
Wrestlers giving input on their characters:
"It depends. I think we’re really involved in the presentation of whoever it comes in, whether it’s a complete overhaul … I think we have a big say, like I have a big say, in what the presentation’s going to be. I think what’s great is when we work with people who have so much experience and knowledge, like Chris is brilliant. And I’ve sat with Chris and with Cody and people and we’ve had really interesting talks about how AEW can help develop a unique presentation for them.
"We’ve developed a lot of new acts like the Jurassic Express, for example, is something new we created in AEW. They were individual wrestlers that we put together, and something that’s been really fun for the guys themselves, first and foremost, most also for the fans and families who come to the shows."
An update on concussion protocol and safety precautions:
"It’s changed a lot. There’s researcher out there named Chris Nowinski who’s actually a former pro wrestler and a former football player and had concussions end his career and has gone around educating pro wrestlers and football people and sports all over about the dangers of concussion. And I think through him and a bunch of other people’s work we know more about it, so we have concussion protocol in place and we have doctors at ringside for all the matches. If anybody couldn’t continue for any reason, we check for that and people have to be cleared to return, and I think things have come a long way. AEW, we’re a relatively new company. Our first show was ‘Double or Nothing,’ Memorial Day weekend in Las Vegas, last May, so I think people have been educated and by the time we started we knew we had to have doctors at ringside and a protocol for safety."
Favorite wrestlers growing up and southern wrestling influences:
"What a great, amazing question, as someone who loves Southern wrestling and is a true fan of it. Southern wrestling has represented a great alternative to what was often the most widely available national wrestling product. And Southern wrestling, and I’m speaking broadly about a bunch of different companies here, whether it be Continental in Alabama, while the UWF was running out of Houston and New Orleans and then you had the Lawler-Jarrett company in Memphis, you had a bunch of things happening at once. And then on of course Turner’s TBS that later became TNT also carried WCW, which was based in Atlanta. It was a nationally based show, but was kind of always associated with wrestling in the Southeast.
"There’s some minds, people like Dusty Rhodes and ‘Hot Stuff’ Eddie Gilbert, who were very influential creatively, and came up with ideas which to this day are the way people like to do and execute things behind the scenes. And really just the rapid-fire, fast paced style shows. There’s a famous thing that happened on Memphis television called the Tupelo concession stand brawl, and we did a concourse brawl and that was not totally dissimilar from that. And I think those are awesome concepts. Some of the coolest ideas ever came out of Southern wrestling. I love Southern wrestling."