AEW President Tony Khan spoke with PW Insider to discuss a number of pro-wrestling related topics, including how NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal got involved with the promotion and how Hall of Famer Sting has been fully cleared to wrestle. Highlights from the interview can be found below.
“So I was celebrating the Fulham promotion to the Premier league and I had all kinds of congratulatory messages that day in August. We won this huge match and got promoted back to the Premier league at Wembley and instead of 80,000 fans we played in front of an empty stadium. I heard from a lot of people saying congrats, I heard from Bill Belichick and then I got a Facetime from Shaq and I was like, “Hey it’s so good to see you!” I’m getting ready to accept Shaq’s congratulations on getting back to the Premier league, and he had no idea. He had absolutely no idea, he had just reached out to talk about getting into wrestling. So I was going nuts and he was like “Are you OK?” and I was like “Yes! Yes!” and then I told him why but I don’t think he’s a huge English football fan. So I’m going crazy and he mentioned he wanted to come in and do some wrestling for me and I was like, that is amazing. What a guy Shaq is, I grew up being such a fan of his, I coached basketball as a kid, one of my idols is Shaq. I loved the Lakers as a kid, I was at the last game Shaq and Kobe ever played together, Game 5 of the 2004 Finals in Detroit. When he said he wanted to come in and wrestle at some point, I was really excited, and then he mentioned Jade would be great too.”
Calls Jade Cargill a hard-worker:
“So I met Jade and I was blown away by Jade. What a hard working person and Jade just works her ass off and she’s a great person, a great mother, a great hard working athlete. Shaq said he and Jade were going to train and they were going to wrestle and I got very excited about this. He actually sat with me at Full Gear, which is one of my favorite shows we’ve ever done, this year’s Full Gear, and I was at Gorilla for a lot of the show, timing the show and Shaq’s just sitting behind me over my shoulder just hanging out. It was the coolest feeling, having spent countless hours of my life watching him and him being here is so great. He’s a wonderful, wonderful man and I’m really excited to have him and just really grateful he came to help us out. It’s TNT and AEW so it’s a great thing, the network is really happy but nobody forced him to do it, he’s doing it cause he wants to do it and that’s what’s really cool about it. Shaq is awesome.”
Reveals that Sting has been fully cleared to wrestle:
“He’s been cleared, he’s been fully cleared. He’s been training with Darby and sparring partners and he’s been fully cleared to wrestle. In his training, one thing he’s done to get ready with his sparring partners is a powerbomb. In terms of getting ready for this, I was more than fine with it and in fact called it. At that point when he’s taking them in training, it’s time for the live crowd. So he was completely cleared to do it and wanted to do it and he wanted to get out there and wrestle. Sting is going to be on Dynamite tomorrow looking for payback and all bets are off now. Sting’s cleared to wrestle and he wants to wrestle and this is how he wanted to end his wrestling career in-ring was in AEW and come in and go out the way he always wanted to go out with great matches. He’s been preparing for this and I expect Sting to have a great performance on March 7th. He has very high expectations for this match and his comeback here, and I do too. I thought Brian did a great job with the powerbomb and certainly got people talking about the match in a very positive way and created conversation about, “Is Sting going to be OK? Is this all right?” Well that was the idea, we’re trying to create that conversation but the most important thing is he is OK and he walked through the curtain…that’s not going to be an easy moment, it took a lot out of him but at the same time, he came out of it in one piece and it’s what he wanted.”