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By Mike Johnson on 2022-06-24 12:56:00

AEW CEO Tony Khan is taking part in a media call to promote this Sunday's Forbidden Door PPV in Chicago.  

Khan thanked everyone for joining the call.  He's excited about Forbidden Door this weekend and praised how "hot" Rampage tonight will be from start to finish with Andrade el Idolo vs. Rey Fenix and a crazy ending.  

Khan said there has been a lot of injuries that led to changes, but they are lucky they have a lot of great stars in New Japan and AEW to accommodate the changes.  Khan said he might discuss some of the injuries for the talents but each injury and recovery time is a personal thing and he will be very respectful of them.

He was introduced to pro wrestling in Japan when New Japan stars came to WCW on TBS and TNT and he hopes a new generation of fans will be introduced to stars the same way.

Khan was asked how it's been to do the creative and book the card given the rash of injuries in each company.  Khan said that they were coming off a strong PPV with Double or Nothing with strong final three matches.  He was given the NJPW talents who were available.  Hiroshi Tanahashi and Will Ospreay were available.  The original plan was Punk vs. Tanahashi.  Ospreay vs. Orange Cassidy was set for "awhile."  He knew when he would have access to Okada, Jay White so he was excited with their plans.  He had a group of people at his home in LA and everyone was loving the plans - mentioning CM Punk, Pat Buck and Sonjay Dutt.  They had a lot of cool things with Punk and Tanahashi, but with Moxley and Tanahashi, they had a story with years of build and a match that each talent really wanted.  Moxley wanted it to such his promo on Satoshi Kojima was more about Tanahahashi than Kojima.    

They will announce a stipulation on Rampage for Forbidden Door that will lead into Blood and Guts.  

On Bryan Danielson, Khan said he's so valuable on camera and backstage.  They had been hoping they could build Zack Sabre Jr.  Khan said Bryan is feeling better but Khan didn't want to take "any chances if he's not feeling 100% 100% of the time" so Khan shut him down.  It allowed the stars to align for a mystery opponent for this weekend.  He said the last time they were in the United Center, for CM Punk's debut, it was a great moment and they will have that this Sunday.  He wishes it was happening under other circumstances but he can't say he's disappointed Jon Moxley is stepping up and they have the debut this Sunday.

Khan said CM Punk and Bryan Danielson were two of the greatest wrestlers of all time.

Khan said Kyle O'Reilly being hurt changed "a lot of the card."

Khan was asked if he was looking towards what a Forbidden Door II with all of his top stars being available.  Khan said they were already looking at the possibilities as they have a million dollar gate in Chicago and a sequel is to be expected.  You can always have people get injured, so to him, what they have is very special.  There are so many stars between the two companies.  WWE thought they had enough people to do two nights and Wrestle Kingdom has done that.  The media all tells him that he tries to pack so much in and he's never tried to do two nights in a row.  The hardest part of AEW is getting so many stars in and this is why they have so many stars in the company.  We saw in the pandemic why it pays off to have a deep roster and now is more than twice as deep.  He thinks fans all over the world are excited about the show.  He made changes after talking to Danielson over the weekend and he feels good about the lineup as it stands now.

Khan was asked why there was only one match for the Buy In.  Khan said there are plans to announce more on Rampage for the Buy-In.  There won't be "a million matches" but there will be more than announced.  There will be nine matches on the PPV itself.    The new matches will feature talent from New Japan as he finalizes that with NJPW.

Khan was asked about Alberta might play into AEW's plans to go to Canada.  Khan praised those markets and said he was proud to work with the Owen Hart Foundation and looks forward to doing more.  He said you can't mention Canada without Bret Hart and Hart was the first man to hold the AEW title belt in his hands.  He respects Bret and said Hart has been really good to the wrestling fans and his fellow wrestlers.  Hart is still in the conversation in AEW today and that's part of his legacy.

Khan was asked about Okada's debut this past Wednesday and what the process was like getting Okada involved in advance of the Four Way at the Forbidden Door.  Khan would like liked to have had him sooner but he knew he wouldn't be there until the week before so he dealt with it.  He said the good news was Okada arriving when he did was a point where they could have really used him.  He talked up the Four Way and then plugged Bryan Danielson's mystery competitor as well.  He said Okada is on the Mount Rushmore of professional wrestling and they are lucky to have him.

Khan said he praises Gedo and Rocky Romero as the intermediary and he believes they have a good thing going in terms of working relationship between the two sides.  

Khan was asked if there was any part of Forbidden Door being so close to Double or Nothing as a test to see if AEW will extend PPVs over the course of the year.  He said he doesn't see it that way.  New Japan had availability on that date.  It will be interesting to see how the show fares, but it was about the partnership and finding dates where they could have the stars of New Japan available to come to the United States.  He said with AEW they have built up great events that have grown year over year every single time and that's probably the single greatest streak in the company.  He believes they can keep doing that, because the biggest card or payday or card ever was All Out 2021 and to keep the streak going, they have to top that.  This is the first new event because it was something the crowd called for.  He doesn't want to oversaturate things.  Fans were calling for this and now it's happening.

Khan said interim champions are effective for boxing and MMA and he believes it is effective in AEW too.  It allows for the setup of a dream match down the line and a big match fans can look forward to.  The situation gave them two dream matches to look forward to, Moxley vs. Tanahashi and the winner vs. Punk.

Khan was asked if the company has looked into putting a Wellness Policy in place.  Khan said they have one but in the case of drinking, most of the roster drinks responsibly.  One person (Moxley) realized they had an issue and the Hardy situation is very different and he handled each of the differently.  They are here to support someone who comes to him and says they have a problem.  Jon could not have been more responsible and they couldn't have been more supportive.  With Jeff, it's totally different and that's why it was handled differently, even the statements were different.  There's no comparison between the two,

Jeff is doing much better, in treatment and he's here for him but what he did was different from Mox.  He's giving Jeff credit for doing the right thing now and he has to if he wants to stay with AEW.  They are totally different situations.  Jon didn't put anyone at risk.  There was no evidence of drinking and driving.  That's why he didn't like the situations being compared.  Khan spoke with Matt Hardy about Jeff the other day and they will support him and the fact he's getting treatment.  Khan said if any talent needs help, he's here to stand by them and help them.  If someone needs time off, they can get it no matter how much money they draw or are needed by the company.  They do have policies in place to make sure people come to work in a condition to work.  There is a testing policy.  He wants to stress that they are here to offer help for anyone who needs it.  Hopefully they will come to them for help as opposed to getting in trouble and then coming to them.

I asked Khan about what sort of advance numbers and retention they have seen for this show given the NJPW talents vs. the usual AEW cornerstone events.  Khan said that they'd start to have that data 48 hours before the show and they haven't hit that time yet.  They have the hardcores and they'll know how they do with the casual fans as they get closer to Sunday.  He talked about being introduced to so many talents through WCW Japan Supershows at the Tokyo Dome and Starrcade '95 and that this show is meant to be similar in tone to those classic 1990s events.  There hasn't been this type of collaboration at this level in many years.    The live event tickets are usually a good predictor and they are through the roof.

Khan was asked about more PPVs, even though he had been asked this earlier.  He said they have the talent to support it but that's not what he's looking to do at this time.





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