At least in the corners of the internet wrestling community in which I hang out, the tribalism that has developed among fans over the past three or four years is not something that is widely celebrated.
But AEW owner Tony Khan has always said that bringing back the feel of the WWF versus WCW in the era of the Monday Night War was part of his vision to compete with WWE now. in recently appeared in The Dan Libatard Show Repeat and expand on it.
For background, Khan told LeBatard and crew about two high-profile business clashes he’d had with WWE over the past two years. Regarding WWE’s alleged flirtation with New Japan (which led to this Twitter show from TK), he said:
“About two years ago, there was a rumor I read on the Internet that my business partner, New Japan Pro Wrestling, got a phone call from [then WWE President, now CEO] Nick Khan shifted to working with them. And I was just getting started with New Japan, we only worked together for a little while, and that was also, frankly, a tumultuous relationship but it was getting so much better and to this day it’s an amazing partnership.
“I called the New Japan executives and said, ‘Is that right? Did WWE call you and try to get you to turn me on?’ Friday Night Dynamite where there was a new match for the Japanese title in AEW. It was the first of many such matches. And they told me, “No, we don’t trust them, we want to work with you and we want to stay with you.” Since then, our relationship has been overwhelmingly positive. unbelievable.
Again, I don’t know if that’s true or not, I just know what my business partner claimed to me and what I read online and they were the same thing. So, follow up on that, if that’s the case, I know they are there to get me, and I know they are It’s there to hurt AEW’s relationships with our business partners, if that’s the case, allegedly. And it made me want to work even harder to make AEW stronger, and this year ended up being the biggest year we’ve ever had in terms of growth.”
He also covered reports that after Triple H took control of WWE Creative last year, his team reached out to former WWE wrestlers currently under contract with AEW.
“I have had a lot of wrestlers come up to me and claim that WWE contacted them to manipulate their contracts and ask them to break their contracts. I can’t confirm that specifically. I can only tell you what the wrestlers came up to me and said but I’ve had multiple wrestlers and staff tell me that. It was very upsetting. “I had to go out and try to put on good shows despite this alleged frivolity and things like that. Honestly, I don’t think it’s stopped us because product quality and performance quality are at an all-time high right now.”
As you can tell from these quotes, Tony has a positive take on those rivalries with the competition. This is because he still thinks they are good for business.
Again, I don’t know if those things happened, I just know what people came up with and claimed. But I do know that it’s a real war between AEW and WWE and the fans are into it and that was part of AEW’s original business model, did I know that Wrestling fans, frankly, are very interested in freestyle wrestling and wrestling wars.And I think we can create a free agent market which is definitely a real thing now and it’s going to be a big part of the story.
“I think wrestling fans, at the end of the day, appreciate that sometimes a lot of what happens in wrestling shows is storyline and that’s why people love watching shows, they love storylines and exciting matches and especially the combination of the two when storylines lead to exciting matches and vice versa Now, what’s interesting is the most realistic, most intense, most hated storyline in all of pro wrestling is the one between wrestling promotions. I think we really, really hate each other and I think that makes really interesting TV and makes for an exciting wrestling war.”
As Becky Lynch likes to say, professional wrestlers are in the business of conflict. From that logic, it makes sense for TK to see it as a good business to struggle with the largest company in the industry. And to be fair, he’s not encouraging fans of AEW and WWE to hate each other, only saying that corporate entities do.
But like some of Tony Khan’s other approaches to running his company, it may be something that limits AEW’s appeal to new fans or so-called casual fans. These people’s knowledge of wrestling is likely determined by their previous exposure to WWE, and if those memories are positive, “hate” may not be the best selling proposition to get them to try your product. And that doesn’t get to the point of how annoying it can be if they’re Googling something they’ve seen in it dynamite It will engage in a “war” between AEW and WWE loyalists.
Or maybe this is just another example of “in the bubble” criticism that wrestling fans who don’t spend a lot of time on the internet don’t care about? The WWE business is booming, and even though AEW hasn’t maintained the growth rate it had in its first few years, its numbers are still pretty impressive.
Let us know what you think. And in case you thought TK didn’t know what to do with quotes like this one, when asked to “say all the things that would be put together,” Khan replied:
“You mentioned that AEW and WWE — it’s real hate and competition. I think they should probably be picked on.”
Tony has appeared on message boards. This audience knows.