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Tony Khan on WWE cuts: No one signs 'real contract' there these days


Image: JJ Williams

During a Friday appearance on Busted Open Radio, AEW's Tony Khan spoke about WWE's mass releases and the differences in philosophies between the two companies.

The subject came up when Khan was asked about MJF saying on this week's Dynamite that there will be a bidding war to sign him when his contract with AEW comes up in 2024. Khan said there may be a bidding war for MJF, but -- with WWE releasing so many wrestlers -- he doesn't believe that anyone who signs with WWE these days is signing a real contract. Khan called it a "temporary agreement."

"Yes, I knew he was going to say that. He’s been saying it for a long time. I have no problem with it. I signed him to a five-year contract two years ago, he’s got three years left on it. I’m totally fine with it, because frankly -- there may be a bidding war in 2024, I’m fine with that," Khan said.

"But anybody who signs a contract there [WWE] these days is not signing a real contract, in my opinion. It’s a temporary arrangement. And people who come wrestle with me, a lot of these people are frankly lifers and they know that. And there are some people who are here, and work really hard. And there’s some people here who come in and work more than really hard. Some people come in, and I feel like this is their actual life and they will be with me for the rest of my life. And I don’t know if everybody who works for my competition can say that. I think there are people who work there and they aren’t even sure they're going to be there next week."

John Morrison, Isaiah "Swerve" Scott, Top Dolla, Ashante "Thee" Adonis, Tegan Nox, Drake Maverick, Shane Thorne, and Jaxson Ryker were released by WWE in the company's latest round of roster cuts on Thursday. It was the second set of mass layoffs within a two-week period, with 18 wrestlers also being released by WWE on November 4.

There were also rounds of WWE roster cuts in April, May, June, and August of this year.

Khan told Busted Open Radio that he may not be able to extend every contract in AEW or bring every person back, but he'll feel really bad about it when that happens. Khan said that's one of the reasons why AEW hasn't let many people go since its launch:

So I just think there’s a lot more security with a contract here [AEW]. And I can’t say I’m gonna extend every contract or bring every person back, but I also through the last couple years have not been doing mass layoffs even though I’m not the most profitable company of all time. I don’t brag about being the most profitable company of all time. I do brag about bringing in a lot of revenue for a start-up and being a real success story. But what I will brag about is that we haven’t been doing mass layoffs and we haven’t fired 15 people last week or 18 people the week before that. It’s not anything to be proud of when a company lets all those people go, and when you’re putting press releases out like that frequently, I don’t think it’s a good thing. And so, to me, I don’t want to make light of that kind of thing ever.

But when you talk about one particular wrestler in a bidding war, I think each person is their own individual case, and in that case [MJF], that’s a very special talent and there may be multiple people coming for his services. But we’ve seen most of the talent going in one direction. And I think that’s for a variety of reasons, but I’ve been very selective in the people I’ve signed. And every time there’s been a mass layoff on the other side, and there’s been 15 or 18 or 20 people -- and I don’t mean to make light of it, because each time, every one of these people matters, and the exact number does matter. I believe I heard it was 18 last time, I'm not sure how many people got let go yesterday. But every time it happens it’s terrible, and I can’t say that I'd be able to take on every one of these people. You know, I think if there’s 18 or 20 people let go, on average there’s a few of them that I think can really help AEW, and we can continue to grow.

And as we keep going, I think some of the people who have contracts here are going to expire, and we may eventually not be able to keep everybody. But I don’t take any pride in trying to cut costs or let people go. I really do take a lot of pride in how many people we kept working through the pandemic. So I just take a lot of pride in all the people that work here and I know that not everyone is gonna work here forever, but if somebody’s not gonna work here, please know that I’m gonna feel really, really bad about it. And that’s one of the reasons why we haven’t let a lot of people go yet, and I’ve eaten some of those costs, especially through the pandemic when there was really nowhere else to get work in wrestling.

I expect AEW to be around as long as I'm alive, and hopefully I’ll have kids someday and they’ll be a part of it too. So I expect to be in the wrestling business the rest of my life, and like I said, there are people here who will be here with me for the rest of my life. I can’t say everybody will be, but there’s a lot of people like that. Then there’s a lot of people that know I would be there for them the rest of their life. So anybody who leaves AEW is leaving that. And I don’t know if people on the other side have the same feeling of loyalty or family.