Tony Khan had revealed that the tension and rivalry between AEW and WWE, is real.
AEW was formed in 2019 and instantly became a genuine alternative to the, at the time, stale WWE product. They quickly became WWEs first real stateside competitor since WCW went out of business in 2001.
Since AEWs birth, there have been several wrestlers who have jumped from WWE to AEW, some of them also publicly slandering life as a WWE superstar and WWE management at the time. Thus far, former AEW EVP Cody Rhodes has been the only superstar to jump from AEW to WWE.
According to a report from Fightful Select, in August of 2022 AEW held a talent meeting. In the meeting, it was said that AEWs chief legal officer sent an email to WWE CEOs at the time, Nick Khan and Stephanie McMahon about contact tampering allegations.
In a new interview on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, Tony Khan made the point that he wasn’t completely certain that the alleged contract tampering occurred, he just went off what he was told by certain talent and staff members.
Tony said: “I can’t really comment on what [WWE’s] internal struggles are because I don’t work there, and I’m not there. I can only speak to the challenges we’ve had, I’ve had a lot of wrestlers come to me and allege that WWE reached out to them to tamper with their contracts and asked them to break their contracts. I can’t confirm that specifically. I can only tell you what the wrestlers have come to me and said, but I’ve had multiple wrestlers and staff report that to me; it was very disturbing. I’ve had to go out and try to put on good shows, despite this alleged tampering and stuff like that. Frankly, I don’t think it stopped us because the quality of the product and the quality of the shows is at an all-time high right now.”
Khan was then asked to talk about the wrestling business and how “dirty” it is compared to the fight business. He also commented on the very real wrestling war between AEW and WWE:
“The wrestling business is very dirty. I can’t speak to the fight business,” said Tony. “Certainly, I think it’s more organized than the fight business. There are two well-organized promotions competing with each other. Again, I don’t know if these things have happened. I only know what people have come to me and alleged, but I do know that it’s a real war between AEW and WWE, and the fans are interested in it.”
“That was part of the original business model of AEW,” he continued. “I knew wrestling fans, frankly, are very interested in wrestling free agency and wrestling wars. I believed we could create a free agent market that is definitely a real thing now, and that would be a big part of the story. I think wrestling fans, at the end of the day, appreciate that a lot of what happens in wrestling shows is sometimes story, and that’s why people like watching the shows. They like the stories and the exciting matches, and especially the combination of the two when the stories lead to exciting matches and vice versa. Now what’s interesting is the story that is the most real, the most intense, and the most hatred and all of pro wrestling is that between the two wrestling promotions, I think we truly, truly hate each other. I think it makes for really exciting TV, and it makes for an exciting wrestling war.”
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When asked to give mention and examples of the aforementioned war and the hatred between the two parties, Tony noted AEWs relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling and how WWE got involved with their initial relationship:
I’ll give you a good example. About two years ago, there was a rumor I read on the internet that my business partner, New Japan Pro-Wrestling, had gotten a phone call from Nick Khan about switching over to work with them,” Tony recalled. “I was really just getting started with New Japan. We only had been working together a short time. That also had been, frankly, a tumultuous relationship, but it was getting pretty good. To this day, it is an amazing partnership, and I called the New Japan executives and said, ‘Is this true? Did WWE call you and try to get you to turn on me?’ They said, ‘Yeah’ and I said, ‘Okay, well, are we still doing the stuff we have planned?’ Because at the time, we had a match set up for Wednesday Night Dynamite where there was going to be a New Japan title match in AEW. It was the first of many of those such matches, and they told me, ‘No, we don’t trust them. We wanna work with you, and we wanna stay with you.’ Ever since, our relationship has been incredibly positive.
“I don’t know if that’s true or not. I only know what my business partner alleged to me and what I read on the internet, and they were both the same thing,” Tony added. “So following up on that, if that’s the case, I know, they’re out there to get me. I know they’re out there to hurt AEW’s relationships with our business partners if that’s the case, allegedly. It made me want to work that much harder to make AEW stronger. That ended up being, probably, the biggest year for growth we’ve ever had.”
It’s no secret that the two companies have taken shots at one and other over the past few years, including on live Tv in promos. However WWEs top management structure has changed recently, with Vince McMahon retiring and then stepping back into the fold as Executive Chairman, also Triple H now being head of creative.
Vince stepping back into the role, has been reported as him trying to facilitate a saw of the company, with Tony Khan expressing interest.
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Author: Alex Bakothanasis
Photo Credit: AEW