AEW owner, president & head of creative Tony Khan was still celebrating his big free agent acquisition at the WrestleDream media scrum, but he also had to answer questions about one of the ones who got away.
“I knew Jade’s contract had been ticking down and we were talking about a new contract, and I was very interested in Jade coming back and we were having a negotiation... I made a very big offer, and I thought it was a very fair offer. I think she was considering it, and then she asked for a bigger offer and then I went up again, and I kind of thought that was going to do it. And then, it didn’t, which to be honest, I was surprised because I came up to a number that was higher than her original ask.
“So I don’t know what I would have had to do at that point. So I was a little surprised. But I did... really hope that Jade would be back. I think I tried to handle it — when we were down to the nitty gritty and we were down to the final couple of weeks, and we still hadn’t agreed to something, then it was at the point where I said, ‘Well, if you aren’t going to stay, I want to give you the best possible exit.’
“And I have only good things to say about Jade. I really enjoyed working with her. She was a great part of AEW, she’s always welcome here. I tried to give her the best possible send off I could. The classiest send off I’ve ever seen in wrestling was — at the time — was I thought... when Ric Flair left the WWF. He did a match with Mr. Perfect, who was a natural person for him to wrestle. And that was it, he was gone. They didn’t do anything to embarrass him or mess him up, they let him leave, and he was still Ric Flair. He wrestled the match against the person he should have wrestled, finished up and left with not only — to say the least — not only his dignity, and probably a better position than he came in.
“That’s what I tried to do. I wanted to give her the best possible send off. I think the natural thing was — there was no rematch against Kris Statlander, so I had her do a run in knowing it would set up the match where she would likely finish up unless we came to an agreement at the last minute — which I was really still hoping would happen down to the last minute, to be honest with you. I don’t think I’m talking out of school, but I only have positive things to say, and that’s where it was at.
“So I thought I had a good plan where, at that point, ‘If this is it, that’s where we’ll finish up.’ When she did the segment where she returned on Collision to set-up her final match on Rampage the next week against Kris Statlander in the main event — she did the run in, and Tony Schiavone came up to my desk, tapped on the monitor and said, ‘You’re a classy guy, boss.’ I think he meant it, that was a classy way to send her off. And I try to make this a great home for wrestlers, and I want people to see whether you’re coming in or coming out, we’re gonna treat you well. And I really respect and value Jade, so I wanted to give her a good send off. And like I said, I wish her the best, and she’ always be welcome back if she wanted to comeback.”
As with all these press conferences, there’s some stuff in this answer than will likely be used to clown on TK. But there’s no reason to assume he’s not shooting straight with us (saying she left despite being offered more money than she asked for plays right into one of WWE’s narratives around Cargill’s decision). And, like WWE did for Jon Moxley and Edge when they left there, Tony did give Jade a very nice send-off.
Now we’ll see how she and AEW do without one another.