All Elite Wrestling is scheduled to present its first women’s main event, with Dr. Britt Baker reuniting with Thunder Rosa in an “Unsanctioned Lights Out” match on Wednesday night. Dynamite.
AEW Chairman and CEO Tony Khan is eager for the match to air on TNT as Baker and Rosa have pledged to use this platform as a showcase, highlighting a vicious end to their long-term feud.
Coming out of a highly criticized, but still successful Revolution pay-per-view, Khan spoke with Illustrated Sports to discuss the present and future of AEW.
Illustrated Sports: Dr. Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa are in the middle of an old-school feud. I know there are people who wanted to see Hikaru Shida in the main event, but what influenced the decision to feature Rosa and Baker in the main event this week? Dynamite?
Tony Khan: I’ve been planning Dynamites first game of “Lights Out” in the last six months. His show is one of my favorite stories we’ve ever told, and it has had a lot of structure and detail. We saw Thunder Rosa enter AEW from the NWA, which is a deal I made [NWA owner] Billy Corgan. She has been a great fighter for us and Britt Baker is one of our best heels. She wanted Rosa to be out of the company from her debut, which is a great story.
This is going to be a great game. It’s one of our biggest pay-per-view stipulations, but we’ve never used it like this in Dynamite. This is the right fight for it, with two of our best fighters, and it’s the right place to show them off on our flagship show, and it’s the next logical step in their history.
Y: Baker and Rosa have excelled at AEW, bringing a lot of depth to the programming.
TK: And when I say they are great fighters, I mean three-dimensional. They’re both great workers, but I’m not just talking about work. A wrestler’s performance is a 360 performance, and they are both star crossed. They have incredible charisma and are on a short list of people who can build a great story and then deliver an incredible main event. This is going to be a crazy and wild match, and all the credit goes to them for keeping their story hot for so long. Every time they close, there is interest.
Y: Looking back, so many things happened in the Revolution pay-per-view, including the debut of Christian Cage. As a promoter, can you explain to us your mindset of choosing to cause a surprise in advance, rather than having a completely unexpected debut?
TK: We’ve had a lot of different debuts, and they’ve executed the gambit and the specter the way they’ve come in.
We really wanted to give Christian a unique presentation, and we haven’t done it this way before. We have high expectations for him – he is one of the best workers in the world and one of the best minds in wrestling. He’s very motivated to get in and work harder than everyone else, as he said, and I thought this was a great vehicle to generate a lot of excitement around his arrival. Plus, with the excitement surrounding Paul Wight, it was a great way to build Paul’s credibility as a host and newscaster.
Christian is an important free agent for us. He is universally praised by his peers, and I feel this fits the occasion.
Y: Paul Wight is another new addition to AEW. Could Paul’s position as a Special Olympics Global Ambassador lead AEW to become more directly involved with Special Olympics?
TK: I would love to work with Special Olympics. That would be great, and it’s something we’re going to study.
Y: Sting was phenomenal in Revolution, delivering a performance that served as a reminder that there is no one like him in professional wrestling. How was the filming of Street Fight? And how fine is the balance between wanting to put Sting on TV every week and at the same time keeping each appearance as special and unique as possible?
TK: There is no one like Sting in professional wrestling. He spans multiple generations as the star of major events, and is still one of the top stars on television today. Now we have seen that he still has great things in the tank. Sting has been signed here for years and there will be many more games, which makes me very excited. It was great for people to see the serious way that we will present it.
The filming was great. Everyone did a phenomenal job in that session. Sting and Darby Allin have really clicked, and that’s what I was betting on. Darby had a vision for this match and I love collaborating with him. It was a lot of fun working with them and it was a great shoot.
Y: Revolution had more highlights, including a brilliant main event from Kenny Omega-Jon Moxley and an excellent title defense from Hikaru Shida against Ryo Mizunami. There was also low light with the end of the Explosive Barbed Wire Deathmatch. What were your biggest conclusions? Revolution?
TK: My biggest takeaway from the pay-per-view is that the fighters worked very, very hard and that we have a lot of interest in the product right now.
I know from following the wrestling business my whole life that there have been many companies that have had a rough time on a show or that not everything went perfectly on a show. It’s about how you respond. You also can’t afford to have a series of bad programs. I think our last pay-per-view Complete team, it was excellent, and there were many great moments in Revolution. We have to do great programs in the future, as we did with Dynamite last week, and we are eager to build Double or nothing.
Y: The crossover with Impact Wrestling has been beneficial to both AEW and Impact. Have you ever worried that I do more for Impact than AEW?
TK: It is good for fans of wrestling. I make sure we come out strong every time we are on his television. WWE had a similar relationship with the USWA and SMW in the 90’s. It is also beneficial to us. I just signed with Ethan Page. I’m excited about that and we have the most exciting roster in the world.
Y: What’s your take on NXT’s reported move to Tuesday nights?
TK: I heard rumors that they might move, and that would be fine with us. There’s a lot of great wrestling and it’s been fun to have the competition, but there’s still a lot of great competition. It has been good to have both shows for the fans. If they move at night, then fans who like both shows can watch them live.
Y: What do you enjoy the most about weekly infomercials with Tony Schiavone? Tony had been away from wrestling for so long, but his rebirth has been a lot of fun to watch.
TK: My favorite of all Conrad shows [Thompson] ago is Tony’s. That’s the one I always follow. I like shows with Eric [Bischoff], and I really like Eric, and Conrad puts on a good show with Bruce [Prichard], who I don’t know at all, but I always liked Tony’s.
Listening to it, it seemed that Tony had fallen in love with wrestling again. Tony has said before that his biggest regret was leaving the WWF. He called Vince McMahon and asked him to give him his job back, but he couldn’t. Then he was in WCW until the end, and he called Vince again in March 2001. He asked for a job, and again, they didn’t give him one. He did the infamous show on Impact, and then did nothing in wrestling for years. I was working with Georgia basketball and I saw him at a game. He talked to me about how he could have done more, and it seemed like he could have been of value to WWE.
I thought it would be very valuable to us. Besides the comment, I really like it as an interviewer. He would do that again in Thunder, as well. Outside of Gene Okerlund, he’s my favorite interviewer. You are now working on Elevation with Paul Wight. Tony is such an important part of our presentation, and I really enjoy doing Impact’s paid ads with him.
Y: There is already a lot of excitement and anticipation at AEW, but perhaps none greater than this. When will we see Kenny Omega challenge Kota Ibushi for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship?
TK: We will see. You never know what’s going to happen, and people have been really excited to see wrestlers from different companies appear on Dynamite. It must happen in the right circumstances, and we’ll see what they are.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.