Tony Khan answered several questions during a press conference today, ahead of AEW’s All Out pay-per-view coming up this Saturday, Sept. 5.
We’re still parsing through all of his answers, but there’s one part that stands out above all else. Khan didn’t hold back when expressing how proud he is of what AEW accomplished with their first pay-per-view during the pandemic, Double or Nothing, back in May:
“There have been such highs and lows in this pandemic, trying to do great things. To come back and do Double or Nothing, and do that, I thought Double or Nothing was the bastion of ingenuity. To be able to sit back and it’s like, okay, with what we have how can we do a great pay-per-view? I thought, and I’m sorry, I’ll just be honest, we were both operating during the pandemic, I tested everybody coming in. This might be the pull-out quote of the press conference, but I’m gonna say it. I thought Double or Nothing kicked the crap out of WrestleMania.
It was a much better pay-per-view. We were both operating under difficult circumstances. I think ours, we were fortunate, it was a little bit later in the pandemic, and we had implemented testing, and were doing testing at that time. But when we did Double or Nothing, we were still the only ones doing testing...we had a good testing plan at that point. What we came out with and did at that point, to set up a bubble and do that pay-per-view, I was so proud of it.”
Double or Nothing 2020 was a good show, but “the bastion of ingenuity?” It sounds to me like the only bubble Tony is stuck in is the wrestling bubble. There are a lot more important things going on right now in the world, and putting on wrestling shows during a global pandemic is anything but ingenious. The Stadium Stampede match was creative, but Tony’s hyperbole is a bit much here.
As for the part about kicking the crap out of WrestleMania, I’m not sure how comparable the two events really are. Double or Nothing aired much closer to WWE’s Money in the Bank 2020 pay-per-view. If he said Double or Nothing kicked the crap out of that show, I wouldn’t argue with him. But WrestleMania 36 took place six weeks before Double or Nothing, and in that particular part of the pandemic timeline, a ton of things changed. It’s true that WWE completely dropped the ball with their irresponsible lack of testing for COVID-19, and they should rightfully be called out for such an unacceptable and downright dangerous blunder.
But if Tony is going to refer to Double or Nothing’s Stadium Stampede as an ingenious concept, I find it hard to believe the folks involved in that match didn’t receive any inspiration from WWE’s two critically acclaimed cinematic matches at WrestleMania 36. That includes Undertaker vs. AJ Styles in a Boneyard match, and Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena in a Firefly Funhouse match. Double or Nothing had the advantage of seeing those matches weeks ahead of time, and then putting their own spin on it. Maybe Tony should admit that part before he goes on about AEW’s ingenuity.
I thought Double or Nothing was a better show than WrestleMania 36. But this is a case where Tony should have taken the high road and not put down his opponent’s event in order to prop up his own. If Double or Nothing was such an ingenious accomplishment, it should be able to stand on its own merits. AEW had far more time than WWE to make the necessary adjustments in putting on their first pay-per-view during the pandemic, making Tony’s comparison ring hollow.
Moving on, Tony Khan explains how thrilling it is to see the return of live fans at Daily’s Place for Dynamite.
“It’s one of the great highs for me. To see the live crowd, Chris Jericho described it as one of the great highs of his 30 year storybook career, last week having that crowd back...We’re gonna go a little bit closer to 15% for All Out. And again, I compare it to the drive-in movie theater. I think this is over 99% safer than the experience of packing people into an arena. I think this is the only way to do live event wrestling shows right now, is outdoor, socially distant, seating pods, fans in protective masks. And having people around, not to be a jerk about it, but just to remind people, hey please don’t get out of your pod and go hang out with the people in the other pods, and please keep your mask on when you’re not sipping your drink or eating your pretzel. We’ve had that. This weekend will be, I believe, one of the all-time highs in the company.”
What do you think of Tony Khan saying his company kicked the crap out of WrestleMania, and his belief that AEW is safely bringing live fans back to wrestling?