Tony Khan did an interview with TV Insider to look back on the year that AEW has had in 2021. Here are the highlights:
What have you learned about yourself as the head of AEW in 2021?
“I learned personal relationships I’ve tried to build the last several years in the wrestling business are very valuable. CM Punk had never worked for AEW until August, but I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years trying to build a good relationship with him. I really value the friendship we built. We stayed in touch pretty regularly through the pandemic. I think we built a friendship where it was pretty clear to both of us we wanted CM Punk in AEW. I don’t think it would have been possible without the personal relationship we built.
Adam Cole is the boyfriend of Dr. Britt Baker. Dr. Britt Baker is a world champion here and one of our top stars and someone I have a great relationship with. I think Adam knew he could trust me and that I was being truthful and forthcoming when it came to me wanting to have him here in AEW. It’s going to be huge for us to debut Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, and Kyle O’Reilly as a trio on Dynamite. We spent a good amount of time on TNT going head-to-head with that trio [when they were on WWE NXT]. It’s very cool they are in AEW now.”
You’ve had so many big-name acquisitions this year. With only so many spots to fill, have you become a little pickier when it comes to deciding who will be a good fit for the company?
“I do think I have to be more discerning than ever in talent acquisition because we have such a strong roster. I was aggressively expanding with the launch of Rampage. We made some big signings in the past including CM Punk. Bryan Danielson, Adam Cole, Ruby Soho, Thunder Rosa, Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish, Andrade El Idolo, Malakai Black. Christian Cage and many others. We’ve also continued our partnerships with great international companies like New Japan Pro Wrestling and Lucha Libre AAA. We have a lot of great talent working, but it’s time for me to be more discerning than ever in terms of acquisitions.”
Can we see some more talent coming into next year?
“Yes. We will continue expanding the roster. Absolutely, there will be more people coming into AEW.”
Fans are so passionate about the women’s division and want more from it. How do you feel the TBS championship will play into taking more steps forward?
“We had a great tournament for the title. Thunder Rosa, Ruby Soho emerged as big free agents signed. Jade Cargill is widely considered the rookie of the year. All of them represent huge strides made from how we started. We also saw some of the original talents grow so much since we began. Britt Baker was voted most improved in the world. She is on top of the world as the world champion. We’ve had wrestlers come into AEW and get a lot better since they’ve been here.
I think Tay Conti has dramatically improved. Her title match with Britt Baker from Full Gear was the best of Tay Conti’s career. She is only going to keep getting better. Penelope Ford is someone who has improved so much since AEW launched. She is one of our original women’s wrestlers. She is emblematic of how much better our women’s wrestling is than when we started. Tay’s partner Anna Jay has also improved so much. She was a rookie when she began. We’ve had a renaissance in our women’s division in recent months and the past year and I think it will continue to improve. With the TBS championship, we’re assured we’re having a great first champion.”