We’ve listened to a few different interviewers try to get information out of AEW boss Tony Khan about how the company is handling the situation that saw four of his biggest stars suspended for their roles in a fight backstage after the all out media scrum on Labor Day weekend.
Busted Open Radio‘s Dave LaGreca had a different approach with his frequent guest. He asked TK, “What’s the one less that you’ve learned over these last few weeks, dealing with everything that you’ve had to deal with?”
It’s far from a gotcha question. Many would probably call it a softball. But LaGreca surely knew what was off limits, and if you’re going to play that game to retain access to a major figure like Khan, this is actually a pretty clever way to get him to say something about it other than “No comment, watch dynamite.”
So what did Tony say?
“Don’t forget that you have great people around you. No matter who you are, there’s people you can talk to. Everybody’s got different situations — you have family, friends, people at work, people at school. But don’t forget there’s people that care about you, and want to see you succeed. We had a lot of stuff happening, but there are a lot of great people at AEW that want to make the company go, and no matter what the problem is, those are people that are gonna be here and want to make the company work.
“Before the Tournament of Champions, a lot of people in the Tournament of Champions stepped up and said, ‘I don’t care what’s happening, I love this place, I love you, and I want to make it great. I’m here for whatever you need.’ To hear those kinds of words of reassurance from people like Jon Moxley, and Chris Jericho, and Bryan Danielson, it really means a lot.
“Having a lot of the people return — no matter what you think of them, having people that were away, their returns mean a lot. Whether it’s Samoa Joe, who’s one of the biggest stars of all time and is a great presence in the locker room, it’s great to have him back. Or even, frankly, MJF, who has made a big difference on TV. I don’t agree with everything he says, but I do think the wrestling fans love to see MJF on the shows every Wednesday, and it makes a big difference for AEW and for dynamite on TBS when he’s there.
“So it’s really been about the fans rallying around AEW, and the wrestlers and staff in AEW rallying. We’ve seen people do it time after time, whether it was through the pandemic lockdown, some of the challenges we faced — the absolute low point of this company when Mr. Brodie Lee was sick, and on the verge of passing, and when he passed, and then rallied around him and his family. That is the most serious example we’ll ever face. And then really, compared to that, it’s all kind of — I don’t know what the right word is, but it’s hard to compare anything to being as serious as that. That’s like as big as it gets, and then it really puts in perspective everything else that we do. If we all can all come together and try to be a family then, then I think we can probably get through just about anything.
“So for me, I’ve learned a lot, but the most important thing I think is: whatever position you’re in, or how you may feel, if your back’s up against the wall, just remember there’s people there that you can turn to.”
One of the things that jumps out to me about TK’s answer is the reminder of how well the organization handled the entire Brodie Lee tragedy. Not only did AEW rise to the occasion — for the company and more importantly Amanda Huber & her children — in the face of a truly daunting challenge, it also proves how many of the same people were able to band together, and stay silent, when the situation called for it.
If Khan can instill that same mindset in his team again, all his hyperbole about how great the future looks might not be hyperbole.