As noted, the AEW vs. WWE competition will continue this Friday night as a special live Supersized SmackDown airs for 2 hours and 30 minutes on FS1 with the final blue brand Crown Jewel hype, Brock Lesnar, SmackDown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks in a non-title match, Sonya Deville’s ring return vs. Naomi, Carmella vs. Zelina Vega in a Queen’s Crown semi-finals match, Finn Balor vs. Sami Zayn in a King of the Ring semi-finals match, and more, while AEW Rampage airs live on TNT at 10pm with CM Punk vs. Matt Sydal, Ruby Soho vs. The Bunny, plus The Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, Jake Hager, TNT Champion Sammy Guevara) vs. Scorpio Sky, Ethan Page and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos. Rampage will also feature a one-hour “The Buy In” pre-show at 9pm ET on YouTube, featuring Minoru Suzuki vs. Bryan Danielson and Bobby Fish vs. Lee Moriarty.
AEW President, CEO, General Manager & Head Of Creative Tony Khan spoke with Joseph Staszewski of The New York Post to promote Rampage in Miami, and Saturday’s Dynamite from Miami. He was asked why he felt the need to tweet a response to WWE adding the commercial-free extra 30 minutes to SmackDown, and challenge WWE and AEW to have a big ratings night on Friday.
“From the beginning of the launch of AEW, before we even had TV, a lot of the strategy was rallying the fans on the internet, rallying the fans online around the company and our wrestlers,” Khan said. “And people really liked AEW, the people who watch the shows, they like the wrestlers. We have a very positive sentiment and in the position that we’re in, like I said, actions speak louder than words and I’ve always wanted everyone to watch all the wrestling they want. So if somebody’s going to put a show head to head with us I want people to know, very much in the spirit of wrestling competition. (With) the “Monday Night Wars” there was a lot of pride in the companies and people wore that on their sleeve. In this case, there are a lot of AEW fans and a lot of them are online. That’s how we were built, through a digital fan base.
“We can build a big audience for this weekend. We’ve never had anything like this before with three hours of live wrestling on TNT on a weekend other than a pay-per-view. There are a ton of things happening at this time of year, there’s a lot of sports. There’s a lot of competition outside of wrestling. So if we’re going to start trying to directly head-to-head compete with each other at this time of year where there are all these other things happening in sports, let’s go. I’m not the one who threw the gloves off, but if somebody has to do the talking and sell the fight I will be the one to do it. In this case, I am doing all the talking and all the selling of the fight. I do think we need to go back to an era where there is all this excitement about the shows. It’s clearly built buzz because a lot of people are talking about it.”
Khan continued, “We got a great opportunity to draw people on the weekend in a new position for us. Rampage has launched very recently and we’ve had this great run of Wednesdays where we’ve had six straight weeks as the No. 1 show on all of cable television on Wednesday. And now Dynamite is being moved to a relatively unfamiliar Saturday night time slot. Three hours of weekend wrestling is very different. I put together the Buy In as a response, but that took some time. I wasn’t able to do that right away. So I wanted to let people know the gloves are off.”
Khan was also asked about his follow-up tweet where he said it was part of his business plan to recreate the competition and back & forth spirit that was there in the 1990s.
“In wrestling, we’re worth more against each other and we’re better off against each other. I believe there is greater value in the wrestling market when we’re fighting and people want to see competition in wrestling,” Khan responded. “I think it’s one of the reasons people lost interest in wrestling was because there was not true competition for 20 years. Now with AEW in the mix and competition back in wrestling, I think there are more people excited about wrestling than there have been in a long time with the free-agent movement and good shows. At the end of the day, it has to be good shows. Through the 90s there were a lot of great wrestling shows. Every week, every month there would be great stories and great matches and you couldn’t miss it. I think it’s starting to get that way again.”
The interviewer pointed to how a lot of the AEW talk during the Wednesday Night War with WWE NXT was how they concentrated on themselves and didn’t care what NXT was doing. Khan was asked if this goes against that and why this recent response was the right time to do something in that direction. This is where Khan said he was surprised by WWE removing the commercials from the extra half hour of SmackDown, noting that he can also take the commercials away because he has more money than WWE does.
“It’s a little bit different than the Wednesday Night Wars because that was from the very beginning of Dynamite and we put our head down and it was an every-week thing,” Khan responded. “This seemed like pretty predatory, which is fine if that’s how you want to play it. It’s not outwardly how they’ve (WWE) shown they wanted to play it.
“I’ve coined a phrase which is WYW, watch your wrestling. Whatever people what to watch, I want them to watch it. Unfortunately, if we are on at the same time it’s harder for people to watch their wrestling, at least live. We can take the commercials out of it. If you want to take the commercials out of it, I can do that too. It doesn’t seem very civil but I have more money than they do so I can afford to do that longer than they can. But that’s how we make money at the end of the day, so I was surprised when they took those out.”
Stay tuned for more.