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By Mike Johnson on 2022-02-09 12:22:00

Last night, AEW President Tony Khan sat down with to discuss tonight's AEW Dynamite broadcast from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ, the surprise debut and more.  Highlights from the conversation:

Tonight's Texas Death Match between Adam Page and Lance Archer for the AEW Title:

"Well, I think we'll have another exciting full title match at Revolution. The winner of this match, Lance Archer or Hangman Page, will be in line to wrestle at Revolution for the championship. But certainly I thought this would be an awesome Dynamite main event.  For Lance Archer, he is a master of the Texas Death Match. He won the IWGP US title in a Texas Death Match versus Jon Moxley on Dynamite this past summer, and now that Lance is back, I felt like this would be a really exciting match for the fans and also it's a match where, frankly, Lance has a big advantage and it really puts everything in question as to what's going to happen on Dynamite and going towards Revolution and I think Lance and Hangman could tear the house down in any kind of wrestling match, but I think both of them and their styles and their aggressive nature are very conducive to the Texas Death format."

Tonight's Surprise vs. previous debuts such as CM Punk and Bryan Danielson:

"It's really exciting that we're in this position right now. I think it's a little bit of apples and oranges because CM Punk as the first dance is a very specific example where we made it very clear it was going to be him and I wouldn't have brought out anybody else. There are other huge stars in wrestling that would've been great debuts on any other night, but that was not the night for those people. That's a little bit different. Here, I don't think I've exactly been so specific about who's coming, but I said it's going to be a major signing for us and I think it's going to be a very exciting night.   Like I said, I have opened the forbidden door and I don't want to say exactly what's going to happen or when it's going to happen, but it's going to be an eventful night. And I hope that people get their expectations met. And frankly, I've seen a lot of other speculations and there's a lot of great names out there. And anything we do on this particular Wednesday night Dynamite, it doesn't limit us in the future from finding some of these other people. There's a lot of exciting names and opening the forbidden door there will allow to these big names. So there are a lot of possibilities and I don't want to get too specific on the speculation, but there's going to be somebody who's going to sign with AEW going forward and be a part of the company and as I also said, I would open the forbidden door, and without getting too specific to what that mean is, it's definitely opened up some speculation, but I think in a good way and I would be nervous or I wouldn't be feeling good right now if I didn't believe that we have the people in hand and they're going to be in Atlantic city. But we do have those people.  So it's going to be a really fun night for the fans, I think, and also be some great wrestling on the card and a lot to look forward to. There's been some stuff, like I said, that's been announced. But there's also going to be some other really exciting things on the show that have not been announced yet, more than one exciting thing on the show that have not been announced. So I'm really looking forward to this."

All the conversation and speculation on the surprise, given his own history of growing up a fan in the position of fans waiting to see what is unveiled:

"First of all, I do want this to be something that the fans are happy about and I think whenever there's lots of different names being tossed around, it's a good thing and there's a lot of good ideas from the fans and I like to listen to those ideas. Even if you can't do them all in one night, there might be some stuff you can do in the future. So I have been monitoring that speculation. I like to stay in touch with the fans and follow the feedback. So it's been really good for us.  The last thing I would ever want to do is to disappoint the fans. So I really do believe we've got some exciting stuff for them and it should be a great show. And then if there's more stuff they want to see, hopefully we could do that in the future too. But I know that this Wednesday we're going to make a lot of people very happy and I love doing that as a fan. The last thing you want to do is have something built up and then people be disappointed.  I remember when I was a kid and the higher power turned out to be Vince, that was very disappointing because at school we had spent so much time speculating who it might be and I think our big fear is that it was just going to be Vince. So I don't want that to happen here. I definitely want people to back different names around and then hopefully a lot of people are going to be very happy with what they get on this show and if there's more people the fans are calling for them, that the fans want to see, hopefully we can get them in AEW too."

On whether there may be more than one new talent arriving in AEW tonight:

"I don't want to get too specific to say exactly what's going to happen, but it's going to be a great night for the fans and I promise there's definitely one surprise, and I think there'll be some other really fun stuff along the way too."

MJF's big win over CM Punk and what it means for him going forward:

"That was a huge moment for MJF. I can't compare it to any other moment for any other wrestler because I think what's happened in the past several months in AEW, and specifically there in Chicago where he won the match, it been an outpouring of love and we made some fans dreams come true by bringing CM Punk back to pro wrestling. CM Punk had this great unbeaten run of matches and had really gone through and wrestled some of the best young wrestlers in AEW and had gone undefeated. Taken on some really, really exciting people for our future like Darby Allin, like Daniel Garcia, and also taken on some great veterans like Matt Sydal and Bobby Fish. It had been a really, really enjoyable run and one of the best matches of all, speaking to the veterans, was against Eddie Kingston.   We've seen Punk have great matches and go undefeated against all these top stars, and for the first person to get that win in AEW versus CM Punk to be MJF after all the verbal jousting, all the promos they've done, it was unbelievable. I think it was a huge moment in an MJF's career. And for the fans in Chicago, I think they were not expecting to see that, but what they did get was a great, great wrestling match, 40 minutes of great, great action. And that's all thanks to CM Punk and MJF and it was undoubtedly the biggest win of MJF's career.  I agree with you, I think it was his best match or at least one of the best matches of his career. He's had some great ones in AEW, I would put this at the top."

His response to those critical of Adam Cole's role in the company thus far:

"The Adam Cole that's here has main evented numerous Dynamites and rampages, has been one of our biggest drawing wrestlers. The Adam Cole versus Orange Cassidy program is one of the biggest drawing programs we've ever had in the history of AEW. They have done big numbers on every show they've been on, and it's been a big part of our rating success in recent months, has been the matches they did with each other. Before Orange Cassidy and the best friend, Adam Cole wrestled a number of matches also against Jungle Boy. He beat Jungle Boy. Of course, Orange Cassidy and Jungle Boy, both number one contenders. He beat both of them and he's beaten everybody else he's wrestled in a sanction match, including a lot of main events.  So wherever he's been before this, he's never been presented to as wide of an audience as consistently as a main event wrestler.   Now bringing back Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby fish creates some questions about their relationship and also how that affects Adam Cole's friendship and partnership with the young boxer. I think that's a very interesting stuff to keep an eye on going forward, but there's no question to me, Adam Cole's one of the most important wrestlers in this company. And his program with Orange Cassidy was huge for us and his program with Jungle Boy before that was also really big for us and he's been in a number of big matches since he arrived and in every single match, he's been in he has won it. The lights out match being an exception to that, but that was not a sanctioned match, did not go on his record. You mentioned Britt Baker. Britt Baker had a similar arc where Britt Baker had really come into her own as a wrestler. She had won a match against Thunder Rosa under kind of dubious circumstances, but that's a win on her record. So she had beaten Thunder Rosa, ironically at Beach Break in 2021, and then later at the St. Patrick Day Slam, Thunder Rosa won the lights out match. But it wasn't long after that where Britt Baker ended up with the best record and went on to double or nothing and won the world championship.  Of course this is coming off just weeks after losing this lights out match. And it hasn't slowed down Britt at all and frankly, Adam Cole, all the great matches and all the great wins he's had, I don't think that's going to slow him down at all. We saw on Rampage, he looked better than ever.  I thought his promo was very strong and I expect more of that from him, convincing performances, strong promos. So he is a very highly regarded person who has been incredibly valuable since he arrived in AEW."

The Jon Moxley-Bryan Danielson alliance tease:
"It's fascinating what Bryan said, and I'm really looking forward to what's ahead. I think in really, just this week, I'm looking forward to what's ahead with them and also looking forward in the weeks and months ahead. And I don't think we've seen the last of it. Bryan Danielson has been out there front and center for Jon Moxley's last three matches. And finally, after Moxley versus Yuta last Wednesday, Danielson came out and said what he had to say to Moxley and I think there's going to be more of it. And it's great that the fans get on that. I was really thrilled with that. It made me very happy that there was such a positive response to that, and that bodes very well for us going forward."

How he breaks down and analyzes ratings for AEW TV:

"Well, I think it's all context and I look at the overall rating, but also look at the ratings for the individual segments and the quarter hours and then put it in context year over year. As you said, we've had a really strong year so far for Dynamite and Rampage. Rampage recently has done some of the best numbers we've had since October and for Dynamite this year, we're up over 30% so far in 2022 versus 2021. Some of that has been the move to TBS and the great lead-ins, which has worked out really well for us and a lot of it has been that the roster is stronger and there are more great names on the roster than there were at this time last year.  So the ratings are much higher than they were when we started 2021. And that's something I'd like to keep up and a trend we'd like to keep continuing. So I think this is a week where you have to make it a must watch show and this is a week where hopefully with surprises and the positive word of mouth about last week's show, the really great match that Punk and MJF had, the great segment was Danielson and Moxley or even coming off Rampages. It was great wrestling on Rampage. Sammy vs Isiah was tremendous, and Stark versus Jay Lethal was a great main event.  Mercedes Martinez vs Thunder Rosa was an excellent match with a DQ and that never happens in AEW, almost. And it's only just a second DQ ever on AEW TV in over 150 episodes, about 150 episodes between Dynamite and Rampage. And it was the first one ever on Rampage. So we've never done a DQ on rampage, but this one furthered a story and I didn't show it to the live audience at the time because I wanted to say something very special and the live audience, a lot of them are going to be part of the TV audience on Friday night. So the TV audience saw something that I wanted to show people for months and had been holding back and I was really glad that it was so positively received.  There was, on Rampage, a very positive reception to the backstage promo following up on Mercedes Martinez vs Thunder Rosa. And the end of that match where Britt Baker came in and where we learned that Britt Baker was the one who paid Mercedes in the first place to come into AEW. It makes a ton of sense. And it's always been the plan, but we had never revealed it. And now it puts a new focus on the rivalry between Thunder Rosa and Mercedes. And it's a new twist on a long standing story with Thunder Rosa and Britt Baker and it's another twist on the road to Revolution. So that was another moment that I think fans really enjoyed.  So there's a lot of really positive word of mouth about a lot of things happening in AEW and I think with now a big surprise coming and as the show is built towards Revolution, which has always been a great pay-per-view event for us and I think we're going to have a pay-per-view Revolution this year. Just a great time for us.  So looking at the ratings, absolutely, in my position, in our position, you really do care what the number is each week, but it's also important to look at what drew, within the show, what segments did well and then when you're planning the next week show, you look at that at.  I definitely learned a lot and I try to do that every week and hopefully make a more informed decision on scheduling the show and putting the formats together.  As I said, for the show to be up over 30% where we were last year, it's pretty awesome and it bodes really well for us. And I think we can keep that momentum going. So from talking to TNT and TBS executives several times a week about these numbers for the different shows, for Dynamite and Rampage, the different demographics, they spend a ton of time studying it and have given us a lot of really positive feedback about our growth, particularly in the young audience where we've got huge growth year over year."

More Khan highlights on Page 2!

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