Tony Khan on AEW's New All-Atlantic Championship, Future Forbidden Door Plans, CM Punk's Status

AEW President Tony Khan spoke with ComicBook on Tuesday ahead of this week's AEW Dynamite: Road Rager event and the upcoming Forbidden Door crossover pay-per-view with New Japan Pro-Wrestling on June 26 in Chicago. One of the biggest aspects of both shows will be the crowning of the inaugural AEW All-Atlantic Champion, as the title was first introduced last week, the latest qualifying match between Miro and Ethan Page will be on Dynamite and the title will be awarded to the winner of a four-way match at Forbidden Door. 

The title will be AEW's sixth active championship defended on its roster, and Khan confirmed that it will feature an emphasis on AEW's international stars — "it's a heavy emphasis on international competition, but the US can get involved in the competition. And I think it's a great way to spotlight a lot of the international wrestlers in AEW, and the international presence that AEW's developed over the years now with our shows on in 130 countries around the world and great ratings in so many huge international markets, including every week finishing as the number one wrestling company in the UK and our ratings there continue to rise.

"...So for the international fans and for the international wrestlers on the roster, I felt like it would create more opportunities. But I also don't think this title or these opportunities are exclusive to the international wrestlers. But it's a big benefit of the term," he later added.

On top of those six active AEW Championships — AEW World, Women's World, TNT, TBS, World Tag Team and All-Atlantic — AEW programming features the unrecognized FTW Championship, the Owen Hart Cup Tournament championships (Khan confirmed won't be defended like other titles, though Adam Cole and Dr. Britt Baker have carried them since winning the respective tournaments) and the soon-to-be-unveiled Trios championships. Titles from Ring of Honor (which Khan owns), Impact Wrestling, the NWA, Lucha Libre AAA and New Japan have been defended on AEW TV as well. And while some fans have been worried about too many championships diluting the product, Khan pointed out that more title matches give boosts to smaller shows like AEW Dark and AEW Dark: Elevation. He also noted that the Ring of Honor championships will have the chance to be featured on their own programming once a weekly television deal is ironed out. 

"The Ring of Honor Championships right now have primarily been defended in recent months in AEW, all across our shows. And I think it has benefited, for example, on AEW Dark and Elevation. First of all, on AEW Dynamite and Rampage, we've seen Samoa Joe defend the Ring of Honor World Television title. With Battle of the Belts, we've seen Jonathan Gresham defend the Ring of Honor World Championship. And then recently on Dark and Elevation, we've had Wheeler Yuta defending the Pure title and Mercedes Martinez defending the Women's World title. Fans have asked in the past, 'Hey, would there be champions on Dark and Elevation?' Now we have had some good championship matches and I think there will still be some to come in the future across AEW shows. 

"But also I look forward to hopefully getting the Ring of Honor weekly TV back," he added. "And restarted under our management and hopefully, the best TV we could possibly do, and on a great outlet. And that's something we're still working on. And I think when there's a weekly home for Ring of Honor, then there will be that much more programming where these championships can live."

Check out more highlights from ComicBook's interview with Khan below! AEW Dynamite: Road Rager begins at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday night at the Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis. 

When planning an AEW pay-per-view, you obviously have the final say on booking. But with a co-promoted show like Forbidden Door, are there different hurdles when it comes to booking?

Yeah, I've likened it to Crimson Tide where Denzel [Washington] gets a missile key.

So, Gedo and I, generally anything that involves AEW & New Japan, I think we're both going to have to agree on what the matchup is, and what the ideas are for the show. And in general, that's what we've been doing for over a year now. And it's worked really well. It started with AEW wrestlers going there and I had some thoughts and ideas about what they should or shouldn't be doing. And then New Japan started sending wrestlers here later in 2021, and for over a year, the Forbidden Door has gone both ways with wrestlers coming in from both companies and out and working for each other. So it is different when we're working together like this and it's been a great collaboration for a long time now with AEW and New Japan, and I like working with Gedo.

Is the plan for Forbidden Door to become an annual event?

Yeah. I think we are hoping that's what it'll become.

It was mentioned last week that CM Punk underwent successful surgery. Can you comment on his status and return timetable?

I can't comment on his return timetable. I'm very hopeful and optimistic though, and his surgery was successful, and he'll be back. I don't want to put an exact date on it and put any expectations on him. But I do think we're very optimistic about it and I think Punk is optimistic about it too, which is great.

AEW's tape library continues to grow, but fans right now don't have access to most of it. Does that increase the value of a future potential streaming deal?

As we've developed more content, growing the library, I think, and the demand has grown for a variety of reasons. I think all the stars are aligning, AEW as a streaming service has more potential value in the future. And then the purchase of Ring of Honor, now to have access to one of the best wrestling libraries in North America with some of today's top stars and some of the top stars in the past few decades, and those thousands of hours of Ring of Honor footage in conjunction with the hundreds of hours of AEW footage we've assembled and continued to assemble on a weekly basis, week in, week out, and the growing demand from our fans. I think all these factors contribute to why this would be a great time for AEW to launch a streaming service. And it's a conversation that I've had and continue to actively have with Warner Brothers Discovery, who are one of the worldwide leaders in streaming and sports content.