With AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door and the second installment of Blood and Guts now behind us, AEW President Tony Khan recently sat down with Joseph Staszewski of the New York Post to discuss a number of topics.
One of the major talking points going into the Forbidden Door show was the identity of Bryan Danielson’s mystery replacement. That man was ultimately revealed to be Claudio Castagnoli, and the newest member of the Blackpool Combat Club has made an incredible start to his AEW career, defeating Zack Sabre Jr at the crossover event before scoring the win for his team in Blood and Guts.
Khan was asked to comment on Claudio’s first week with the promotion, and noted that the original plan for his debut would’ve likely involved ROH’s next big show “Death Before Dishonor”. Khan also touches upon CM Punk’s injury status, revealing that his X-ray results seemed far from positive.
“Claudio said after the Blood and Guts match, he came back to me and said ‘I could not have had a better first week. I could not have imagined any place I’ve ever been enjoying it more than I do here. The first week I’ve had is something I’ll remember the rest of my life.’ He was very grateful. He was very happy. He’s one of the greatest stars ever in Ring of Honor and Claudio Castagnoli is associated with that history in ROH. I thought as we’re moving toward “Death Before Dishonor” on July 23, I originally thought that would be an incredible place for him to debut if Bryan Danielson is good to go. Admittedly when Claudio and I were talking, we had a conversion on June 2, so it was the day after the [LA] Forum show so I was just kind of getting my bearings and realizing I had put TV together all through “Forbidden Door” and that was probably going to change. I knew [CM] Punk was gonna need some time. His X-ray came back Friday and it wasn’t good. That’s when I had to jump into a plan with Mox [Jon Moxley] and the interim title and make a lot of changes to Forbidden Door.”-Tony Khan
Khan continued, revealing how some of the angles in the build up to Forbidden Door could’ve been completely different to what we eventually recieved had certain injuries not affected things.
“It would have been totally different stuff because [Hiroshi] Tanahashi wouldn’t have been in the Blood and Guts Moxley-[Chris] Jericho stuff because Tanahashi would have been wrestling Punk. There would have been a completely different set of stories going into the pay-per-view. When Will Ospreay invades, Punk would have been with FTR so they would have taken Punk and FTR down. So that trios match would have been Punk and FTR versus Ospreay and the United Empire.”-Tony Khan
Additionally, Khan clarified that whilst Danielson’s injury situation is far from positive, the opportunity to introduce Castagnoli as his replacement made all the sense in the world.
“I don’t think it was a good thing Bryan [Danielson] got hurt. I think that’s one of the worst things, but he’s doing much better. I talk to him a few times a week. I had talked to him on Wednesday when were were in St. Louis for “Road Rager” and I talked to Bryan. And Bryan was like, ‘I feel f—king great! I’m ready to come back and I’m gonna fight Zack Sabre and we’re gonna go to Blood and Guts. Let’s f-king go man.’ Then I talked to him the Saturday, eight days before the pay-per-view and he’s not doing as well. So I immediately was like, ‘You’re not wrestling. If you’re not feeling great eight days out, I don’t care if you have seven straight days. I’m shutting you down until further notice.’ He has scans coming up. I’m like, ‘I don’t care what they say. They could be perfectly clear. He asked me what about Claudio and I said, ‘I already have Claudio under contract. I had called him on June 2 because after Phil [Brooks], I knew his foot was hurt and especially knowing Bryan was going down, I knew I was gonna make a ton of changes. We had a situation where a great wrestling star Claudio Castagnoli had an open spot where he could not only step into AEW but also step into the Blackpool Combat Club, where it makes perfect sense.”-Tony Khan
Khan was then questioned on the status of another injured AEW star, that being former AEW World Champion Kenny Omega. Omega recently revealed that should he recieve another setback on his road to recovery he’s not sure if he’ll continue. Whilst Khan is aware of the seriousness of Kenny’s situation, he remains optimistic that The Cleaner will return.
“I’m always concerned whenever a wrestler has an injury, but in Kenny Omega’s case he carried the load through more injuries than probably anyone I’ve seen in terms of working through a sustained period where he was limited and still having great matches in the ring, and also doing great box office for the company as a great champion. It is a little bit different because you’re dealing with multiple injuries as opposed to one injury. I’m optimistic. I don’t want to put a timetable on it. I’m still optimistic Kenny’s coming back. I think it’s gonna go well. I think he’s gonna be OK. I don’t know when and I’m optimistic. Nobody can put themselves in his shoes, but I feel good about it. I’m gonna talk more to him too. I know he’s been through a lot but I know he’s still trying to get back.”-Tony Khan
Moving on to yet another injured AEW star, Khan revealed that Adam Cole felt 100% in the build-up to Forbidden Door, highlighting the unpredictable nature of professional wrestling.
“He had no contact between “Double or Nothing” and “Forbidden Door.” He was on commentary. He had been cleared to wrestle. So now I’m also gonna take some time [off] for him. We had already taken some time and I’ll take some more time make sure he’s right and wouldn’t want him to wrestle until he’s feeling 100 percent. He was feeling 100 percent going into “Forbidden Door.” That’s how unpredictable these are.”-Tony Khan
Following a brief note on AEW’s recent TV ratings, Khan was then asked to comment on potential future TV deals for AEW, noting that he expects their next deal to be “historic”.
“I’m incredibly grateful every day that AEW has this great relationship with Warner Bros. Discovery and we’ve done well for TBS and TNT with “Dynamite” and “Rampage” where we’re a strong performer for Warner Bros. Discovery on a weekly basis. I think there is still a lot of time left for the next rights deal, but we have a great thing happening right now and I do believe our future media rights will be important and frankly a very large revenue stream for AEW going forward, and I think that’s because of the great support we’ve had from the fans and the hard work of everybody backstage and the wrestlers every Wednesday and Friday, pulling it together and delivering great shows. Whenever our next media right deal, the next one does kick in, it will be historic. It will be recorded in history because everything in wrestling is recorded in history into posterity. It will make history however it goes. Right now, everyone would expect very, very well. We expect it’s going to go very well for us based on how strong we’ve been performing.”-Tony Khan
On the topic of AEW’s relationship with Warner Bros. Discovery, Khan commented on the possibility of additional PPVs being added to their calender, with ROH playing an important role across the board.
“The first Ring of Honor pay-per-view on Bleacher Report is going to be “Death Before Dishonor” on July 23. That weekend, I think it’s gonna be a huge event, so that’s a new revenue stream with the Ring of Honor acquisition that I made that I’m able to put in. With AEW specifically, we just launched “Forbidden Door.” The fans were calling for that. We have our four big pay-per-views, they’re roughly quarterly.”-Tony Khan
Khan continued on the ROH front, noting that he believes their upcoming “Death Before Dishonor” show will be one of the greatest PPVs in ROH history. Additionally, Khan hopes that the success of shows such as “Death Before Dishonor” will strengthen Warner Bros. Discovery’s relationship with both promotions.
““Death Before Dishonor,” I think is going to do well, based on the success of “SuperCard of Honor” I would say probably. I think the fans are gonna support “Death Before Dishonor.” It will get good sales. I believe “Death Before Dishonor” is going to be … the year is gonna get better and better as we go as more wrestlers get healthy, and the forbidden door continues year-round. I think “Death Before Dishonor” will be one of the best wrestling shows of the year and I think it will be one of the best Ring of Honor shows ever. “Death Before Dishonor” is going to be great and I’m very excited for it. I think it will do well as a live event and believe it will do well for Bleacher Report and hopefully continue the interest of Warner Bro. Discovery in not only AEW and expanding that relationship and continuing to create new revenue streams and really preserve and deliver on the ones we do have, but also get Ring of Honor involved. I also think there is a lot of potential in the future in the world of streaming with these big PPV events but also the historical libraries of AEW and Ring of Honor, which are both growing.”-Tony Khan
Since Tony Khan’s acquisition of Ring of Honor earlier in the year, many have questioned how and when the promotion will make a return to weekly TV. Khan commented on the eventual return to television for ROH, noting that accessibility for viewers is the priority when assessing his options.
“I would like weekly Ring of Honor episodes to be the best episodes and to be the best customer experience. What does that mean? The means probably being on a platform that’s easy and friendly to the customer and a good reputable platform, it could be TV streaming.”-Tony Khan
Khan was then poised the question of whether AEW would be interested in holding future “Forbidden Door” events in Japan. Khan revealed that whilst he certainly has an interest in holding events in Japan, “Forbidden Door” itself is set to remain on American soil moving forward.
“The idea of doing an event over there with AEW stars and New Japan stars is very potentially interesting, but if it happens it won’t be “Forbidden Door.” “Forbidden Door” is gonna stay in North America. It wouldn’t make sense with the time zones, the revenue.”-Tony Khan
On last Friday’s edition of Rampage, AEW presented the Royal Rampage match to determine Jon Moxley’s next challenger for the interim AEW World Championship, with Brodie King emerging victorious.
Khan was asked to comment on the potential for future Royal Rampage matches to become something bigger than appearing on Rampage. Khan highlighted how the inaugural Royal Rampage match performed well, although he maintains that it is an idea that should remain on Friday nights, with the concept potentially allowing for the show to rival Dynamite as the A-show.
“It was very well received, the Royal Rampage. It was innovative and it was well regarded. “Rampage” is important. I don’t want to create the perception. I really want to do great stuff on that show because it has a lot of potential for us. A lot of the biggest moments in AEW have happened on “Rampage.” Especially as the roster gets healthier and we get the full depth, “Rampage” can be as strong a lineup of matches as any show when the company has all of our stars in place. This week the Royal Rampage had some of the biggest stars in AEW. I want to make “Rampage” an A-show to stand next to “Dynamite” as an A-show. I think the Royal Rampage can be something really special as a Rampage event. Now we have found a format that’s really cool so it could be an event on another big event. A Royal Rampage is a really great event for “Rampage,” which is important.”-Tony Khan
AEW will present yet another edition of Rampage tonight, as Eddie Kingston is set to take on Konosuke Takeshita in what is sure to be a match you won’t want to miss.