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Tony Khan: WWE likely to have similar free agent profile as AEW does

Khan also said WWE was recruiting off AEW Dark during the pandemic.
Tony Khan | ROH

In an hour-long interview with Ariel Helwani that dropped after Wednesday's AEW Dynamite, Tony Khan said that WWE is more likely to look at similar free agents as they do because of the regime change.

After talking about his thoughts about WWE and their improvements since Vince McMahon resigned, Khan dropped in a line about how there will be "probably a bit more similarity (between the companies) in what we are looking for in the profile of a free's probably going to start being a thing."

Pressed by Helwani for what he meant, Khan discussed the swath of WWE releases and said that with most of them, he wasn't sure if those people would have necessarily been released if the new regime was in place given their star power. Given that, both companies would have a similar profile in who they are looking to sign.

In talking about how they evaluate free agents, Khan talked about the company's group of coaches and executives that come together. He then threw in a line about how AEW Dark was "at one point, the premiere tryout system in America. Plenty of people will tell you WWE was recruiting off AEW Dark during the pandemic. If anyone tells you that's not true, ok, you're full of sh*t."

During another part of the interview, Tony Khan said he has never met WWE co-CEO Nick Khan. Later, when explaining his promo toward Nick during the reported WWE talks with NJPW in May 2021, Tony mentioned he had talked to Nick about those talks and Helwani pressed him on his answer. He declined to answer anything about their conversations or even if they were recent, clarifying they had never met in person but did talk on the phone in a bit of semantics.

He also said he had spoken to Paul Levesque and Stephanie McMahon prior to AEW being founded and thought they were friends at one point.

"They were really nice to me once upon a time as a football owner," he said.

Khan talked around or declined to answer direct questions about whether Rampage would eventually become a two-hour live show, MJF talking about his contract during promos, anything surrounding the All Out post-press conference fight involving CM Punk, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks, whether he tried to keep Cody Rhodes in AEW and his thoughts on Rhodes going to WWE.

A few other quick-hit notes:

  • He declined to say whether Saraya will indeed wrestle in AEW and/or what her role will be.
  • He declined to comment on any negotiations he may or may not have had with Bray Wyatt.
  • When asked about the mood in the locker room, Khan said AEW is "in a really great place as a roster and a company." He joked that he isn't Bill Watts and doesn't enforce things that way.
  • His original idea and business plan was to run on Tuesdays starting in October 2019. If Dynamite couldn't be on Tuesday or Wednesdays, he wasn't going to do it.
  • When asked if he watches WWE, he said, "I watch a lot of wrestling from different places. All wrestling is competition."
  • He said he sees AEW as a "challenger brand" based on a book he received from Warner Bros. management when he first started AEW. He equated AEW to Pepsi or Burger King where the goal is not necessarily to be the industry leader but also to not to be a niche. Similar to those brands, that's why he isn't afraid to mention WWE in interviews.
  • He said WBD was "floored" by the buys for Ring of Honor's Death before Dishonor, saying it tripled projections.
  • He also revealed that during the AOL chat era of the Internet, he was chat friends with Brian Pillman Sr., Dallas Page, and Lou Thesz himself.