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Tony Khan on being inspired by Vince McMahon, AEW vs. WWE

During an interview with Dan Le Batard on a podcast Wednesday primarily focused on CM Punk, AEW's Tony Khan talked extensively about the company's rise, surviving and adjusting through the pandemic, being inspired by Vince McMahon, and trying to get talent TV time.

Part of that discussion went in the direction of how WWE views them. Le Batard pressed for a yes/no answer on whether WWE underestimated AEW and are ignoring them. Khan said he didn't want to answer either.

He said he patterns a lot of how he handles AEW by McMahon building up the WWF in the 1980s and was inspired by how he met with wrestlers in person to get them to sign, taking tons of meetings and doing tons of deals. Khan also said he thought WWE's shows were better when McMahon "wrote them in the backyard with friends vs. having a staff of 25 writers."

On NXT and WWE releasing talent:

Khan said the head-to-head battle with NXT was "a hard fight" and one they came out on top of, according to black and white statistics. He said there was one week in a 76-week stretch where NXT won the key demo at which point he felt he had to call a timeout, get reorganized, and figure out how to not let it happen again. In general, he said he didn't like how the company ended their 2019 and wanted to get things back on track in 2020.

He said there's still a fight with WWE in a sense, but that "it doesn't have to be in a hostile way" with fans. He doesn't want fans to feel like they have to support only WWE or only AEW. He feels like some WWE fans view AEW as the opposing team, but that it doesn't have to be like that and fans can watch everything or pick and choose. 

Asked why WWE is releasing good talent, Khan opined that WWE has a big roster and are trying to hit a financial number, maximizing profits by reducing costs. He acknowledged they are making choices about how people have value to them and are likely cutting some people they would rather not.

On learning from WCW and Eric Bischoff:

He talked about his friendship with Eric Bischoff and what he learned through his time in WCW. Khan said that while he respects Ted Turner as one of the single most important people to the wrestling business, he told TNT and TBS management that if Turner had been 1% as hands on or capable to run a wrestling business as Khan is, WCW would have never gone out of business. He thought that business disconnect from Bischoff to Turner hurt the company and that by being the owner, CEO and day-to-day operations, he has a better handle on his own company.

He also said that there's no upside for him to run down WWE publicly like Bischoff did as he thought he turned a lot of fans off. 

He said there is friendly competition in the locker room to get on top, but that it's a pleasant environment and like any sports team, people want to be featured more. He thinks he has good communication with the room and good perspective on how to utilize TV time to try and maximize the growth of the company. He said that balancing act is his biggest challenge and why he wanted to create Dark and Dark: Elevation on YouTube, both to develop young talent and get talent more reps.