As previously mentioned, AEW Founder and President Tony Khan recently appeared on an episode of The Steve Austin Show, hosted by WWE Hall of Famer, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Khan spent a portion of the interview going into detail about why having Dustin Rhodes as a part of Double Or Nothing was such a personally special moment for him.
"It means everything to me [to be able to work with Dustin]. I have been a fan of Dustin Rhodes my whole wrestling-fan life," Khan revealed. "As soon as I got into wrestling, as far back as I can remember, it was a 10-minute challenge with Ted DiBiase and Dustin Rhodes on Saturday Night's Main Event, where the angle was Ted DiBiase tried to take Dustin Rhodes seat, and then the match they had at Royal Rumble. And then when they jumped to WCW was the first time I started watching WCW - when Dusty and Dustin Rhodes jumped to WCW and started working with you [Steve Austin]. I had just turned 9 years old. Instead of watching the World Series, I was watching Steve Austin versus Dustin Rhodes in a 15-minute Broadway for the WCW TV title at Halloween Havoc 1991."
Khan is proud of the platform he was able to provide for the incomparable match that Dustin and Cody Rhodes put on at AEW's Double Or Nothing PPV. He even went as far as to say that it "meant the world him" that Dustin appeared on Chris Jericho's podcast to look back on the match with such fondness.
"You're talking about a guy that has had a 30+ year career and one of the all-time greats in my eyes, and for him to say that it was a highlight of his career and maybe the most special night of his career! Coming into Double or Nothing, yeah, I had super-high expectations. I've been a fan of Dustin's my whole life, but also, not a lot of people hold up the way Dustin has held up and endured over the years. 10 years ago, in 2009, he was having blow-away matches. Even then, it's like, 'Wow, it's impressive what Dustin was doing at 40 but at 50 he's still a top performer.'"
Khan also went in-depth regarding his intentions behind starting his own pro wrestling company. He believes that there's never been an opportunity like this in the history of professional wrestling, and Khan thinks that he has the proper formula to unite divided wrestling fans and bring mainstream media attention back to the industry.
"Things have tipped over where there are so many people who were fans of wrestling then, and there are fans of pro wrestling right now," Khan explained. "Wrestling products that are out there now are great, and there's never been a better time to be a wrestling fan in terms of if you want to see a lot of really good, incredible workers, and some really incredible, high spots, and some entertaining matches with great wrestling within the last few years. But in terms to have a lot of great shows to watch, and production values with hot crowds, and a lot of interest in the wrestling business from a mainstream perspective - I mean, yes, there has been a lot of TV money coming into wrestling and that has been a super positive thing, too.
"A combination of factors [play in to these things], like the rights fees around live sports and the media landscape making it possible to get a budget together to have production values for a wrestling show that nobody has really had, outside of WWE, in many ways ever," Khan continued. "Technology has changed a lot over the years since there was another wrestling company outside the WWF that had the best technology. We can have all the state-of-the-art technology, and run the hot crowds, and have some of the best performers."
Tony also is under the impression that wrestling fans are tired of the overly-scripted productions that they're subjected to seeing each week on television. He supports performers using their own methods to get the storyline issues across to the AEW audiences.
"The reason that there is a lapsed fan is because the wrestling that people want to see isn't out there, and it isn't just one thing they are missing it is a lot of things that they are missing," Khan said. "The promos being overly scripted, and too much of the show being overly scripted promos from a lot of the current television. I think that is an issue, so when you see our stuff, it's not like any writer gave that script to Cody and it's not like Cody went out there with a script either. If you see Cody's process he has a process to work stuff out, everyone does. Everyone has to memorize things when they go out there: whether it's bullet points or a lot of details there's important things people need to hit on, but I don't necessarily think you need a word for word script."
Khan thinks that keeping an eye on the free agent market is another route to success for AEW, noting that the movements in each company's roster is another thing that keeps fan interest alive.
"I think a positive thing that can happen going forward in our industry is that the free agent market exists, because when wrestling is at its hottest - look, we are at a point where the vast majority of our audience knows that it is a work, and what is happening between the companies is real, and that there is a free agent market, and there is activity. I think this is a good thing for all of wrestling, and I think that in the Fall, there is going to be more decent wrestling than there has been in decades."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Steve Austin Show with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.