AEW CEO Tony Khan Comments on Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match at Revolution PPV, Sting Wrestling, Shaquille O’Neal, More

Here are some interview highlights from AEW’s Tony Khan, whose job titles include CEO, GM and Head of Creative. In other words, he’s the boss in AEW. Tony did an interview with PWInsider Elite covering a lot of topics. Thanks to 411Wrestling for the comments.

The main event of AEW’s next pay-per-view on March 7th is Kenny Omega defending the AEW World Title against Jon Moxley in an Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match. Tony explained how he decided to book that match:

“It’s going to be live. It came up a long time ago, almost a year ago. I had it in the back of my mind as something we can do. It’s a great idea and the timing is right now, it’s a great main event for Revolution and it’s something we can do here. It’s something I think we can do and will be great for the match and look, it’s an exploding barbed-wire death match, I think people can expect this to be a savage match and that’s what they’re going to get. It’s going to be one of the craziest matches ever on pay per view. Jon and Kenny tore the house down and I paid a pretty big fine in Baltimore. I think this will be crazier and better and I can’t wait for Revolution. Revolution last year was my favorite wrestling show and set a huge standard to live up to and it’s going to be a tremendous show, I’m really excited about it.”

Tony also responded to critics that think an Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match fit AEW as a sports-based product:

“I completely, completely disagree with anyone who thinks this isn’t in line with that philosophy cause it’s about the sport of wrestling and the art of professional wrestling. This is an accepted form of art, an accepted form of wrestling. The exploding barbed-wire death match is a real wrestling match, it’s going to be awesome. I get excited about anything that takes the sport and its competitors seriously. This match should not be taken lightly, it’s not a joke. We may occasionally do some fun stuff but this is serious and it’s going to be awesome. When I say sports-based product, this is part of the sport, it is wrestling at its crux. It is competition and it’s not going to be something silly like guys hitting each other in the face with pies. So I think it’s great and it’s completely in line with my original vision for the focus being on the wrestling product. This is a wrestling match – it’s not your typical wrestling match and it’s not going to be the most scientific contest but you’re going to see all kinds of great wrestling at Revolution and this is one of the things you’ll see. It’s not something you’ll see every night.”

Tony spoke about playing a character on Impact Wrestling TV while noting that he doesn’t intend to do that on Dynamite:

“At no point did I ever say I would not be on TV or I would not do a character. I just said on Dynamite I was not going to do that, and I have not done that. I am a device on AEW, as the matchmaker, the booker, whatever you want to call it. You need somebody in that position and I am in that position. You don’t need to see that person a lot, you don’t need to see the general manager or the booker making the matches. I’ve never wanted to be on screen, I think it’s very detrimental at times to the show, so I’ve never done that on Dynamite. Now on another show, I think it does serve a purpose and in furthering the story between AEW and Impact it definitely serves a purpose, and like you said I enjoy doing them with Tony. It’s fun and I enjoy any time I get to spend with Tony, I’m really close with Tony. I really enjoy his work and it’s been such a pleasure working with him. We have fun doing the ads. The one that you’re going to see me do tonight is going to be a lot of fun, I’m looking forward to it, it’ll be different from anything I’ve done with Tony in these things.”

“I’m going to have a lot of surprises this week to be honest with you, Mike. It’s a busy time but for me, I enjoy doing these and I also like the working relationship. I think Impact is good people, it’s run by good people, they have some good talent and it’s been mutually beneficial. It’s been nice having the Good Brothers in, they’ve been helpful to us and vice versa, whether it was Kenny Omega or Matt Hardy and Private Party, I think it’s been good for Impact too having some of our stars on their shows, When I grew up there were working relationships in wrestling that were similar to this. The paid ads that I’m doing are a little different than the stuff I grew up watching but it’s no secret that almost 30 years ago that Vince was doing a character in Memphis that was not completely dissimilar from what he ended up doing years later and it served a real purpose in the story with what they were doing in Memphis, and it served a purpose later, it was some of the most compelling television of all-time, but he found that in what he was doing in Memphis, he struck gold. I’m not trying to do that [laughs], it’s just something we do kind of for fun and to further the story.”

Tony explained the process of AEW bringing in NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal to wrestle for them on March 3:

“So I was celebrating the Fulham promotion to the Premier league and I had all kinds of congratulatory messages that day in August. We won this huge match and got promoted back to the Premier league at Wembley and instead of 80,000 fans we played in front of an empty stadium. I heard from a lot of people saying congrats, I heard from Bill Belichick and then I got a Facetime from Shaq and I was like, “Hey it’s so good to see you!” I’m getting ready to accept Shaq’s congratulations on getting back to the Premier league, and he had no idea.” [Mike Laughs.]

“He had absolutely no idea, he had just reached out to talk about getting into wrestling. So I was going nuts and he was like “Are you OK?” and I was like “Yes! Yes!” and then I told him why but I don’t think he’s a huge English football fan. So I’m going crazy and he mentioned he wanted to come in and do some wrestling for me and I was like, that is amazing. What a guy Shaq is, I grew up being such a fan of his, I coached basketball as a kid, one of my idols is Shaq. I loved the Lakers as a kid, I was at the last game Shaq and Kobe ever played together, Game 5 of the 2004 Finals in Detroit. When he said he wanted to come in and wrestle at some point, I was really excited, and then he mentioned Jade would be great too.”

“So I met Jade and I was blown away by Jade. What a hard working person and Jade just works her ass off and she’s a great person, a great mother, a great hard working athlete. Shaq said he and Jade were going to train and they were going to wrestle and I got very excited about this. He actually sat with me at Full Gear, which is one of my favorite shows we’ve ever done, this year’s Full Gear, and I was at Gorilla for a lot of the show, timing the show and Shaq’s just sitting behind me over my shoulder just hanging out. It was the coolest feeling, having spent countless hours of my life watching him and him being here is so great. He’s a wonderful, wonderful man and I’m really excited to have him and just really grateful he came to help us out. It’s TNT and AEW so it’s a great thing, the network is really happy but nobody forced him to do it, he’s doing it cause he wants to do it and that’s what’s really cool about it. Shaq is awesome.”

Lastly, Tony made it clear that the legendary Sting is cleared to wrestle ahead of the Revolution PPV on March 7 where Sting will team with Darby Allin against Brian Cage and Ricky Starks in a Street Fight. It has been over five years since Sting has been in a match. Tony spoke about some of the training Sting has been doing.

“He’s been cleared, he’s been fully cleared. He’s been training with Darby and sparring partners and he’s been fully cleared to wrestle. In his training, one thing he’s done to get ready with his sparring partners is a powerbomb. In terms of getting ready for this, I was more than fine with it and in fact called it. At that point when he’s taking them in training, it’s time for the live crowd. So he was completely cleared to do it and wanted to do it and he wanted to get out there and wrestle. Sting is going to be on Dynamite tomorrow looking for payback and all bets are off now. Sting’s cleared to wrestle and he wants to wrestle and this is how he wanted to end his wrestling career in-ring was in AEW and come in and go out the way he always wanted to go out with great matches.”

“He’s been preparing for this and I expect Sting to have a great performance on March 7th. He has very high expectations for this match and his comeback here, and I do too. I thought Brian did a great job with the powerbomb and certainly got people talking about the match in a very positive way and created conversation about, “Is Sting going to be OK? Is this all right?” Well that was the idea, we’re trying to create that conversation but the most important thing is he is OK and he walked through the curtain…that’s not going to be an easy moment, it took a lot out of him but at the same time, he came out of it in one piece and it’s what he wanted.”

There’s a new episode of AEW Dynamite tonight on TNT in the US. I’ll have a review on Thursday.