During an interview on Tuesday Wrestling Tuesday with Jonathan Hood, AEW President Tony Khan spoke about his willingness to step through the Forbidden Door and work with other wrestling promotions. He said this sort of thing was quite common in pro wrestling before Vince McMahon killed off the territories. Here is the transcript, courtesy of Wrestling Inc:
“Vince [McMahon] Sr. was actually really cooperative. Vince Sr. booked [Andre the Giant] out all over the country, and Andre would work for the AWA, and Andre would go to Mid South and he would work in Houston for Bill Watts and and Paul Boesch. I actually think wrestling was much more collaborative before the mid-80s, and it was actually one person that made the business less collaborative. I am trying to bring some of that spirit back...”
He believes AEW television is a great platform where championships from other promotions can gain exposure:
“I think Impact, AAA and certainly New Japan Pro Wrestling, I’ve done a lot of great stuff with but it has to make sense for AEW, and we’ve seen wrestlers from AEW go and capture championships in different promotions around the world. And a lot of AEW wrestlers still have championships in various promotions around the world, and it’s good for those promotions to have such strong, recognizable champions who have a great TV platform to wear their titles.”
As a result, this means AEW is the top company in wrestling:
“And it’s good for us because it shows that we’re the top company in wrestling, frankly, and in a lot of companies out there, our wrestlers come in and do really, really well. I’m very open to it. I think it shows good bonds between the companies, but also, it really allows us access to some good wrestlers, and we have one of the best rosters, but it’s always good to have fresh, different talents. And that’s why I like working with other companies.”
I don’t find Khan’s argument about AEW being the top company to be all that convincing. There’s no doubt that his willingness to collaborate with other companies is great for wrestling fans and the business in general. But there’s only one way I can wrap my head around the claim that AEW is the top wrestling company today, and that’s if you disqualify WWE from consideration. This might even be a reasonable choice to make given Vince McMahon’s affinity for the “sports entertainment” label and his general aversion to the word “wrestling.”
If WWE isn’t classified as a wrestling company, then sure, that might make AEW the top wrestling company out there. But WWE’s brand recognition is such that they are bringing in billion dollar television contracts and are more profitable than ever. Most people still think of WWE when they think of pro wrestling. Maybe one day down the road that will change, and AEW is definitely making waves with big name signings like CM Punk. But for now, WWE still easily reigns supreme as the top company in wrestling, for better or worse.