Tony Khan Reflects on Three Years of AEW Dynamite, Saraya's Arrival and the AEW Ranking System

AEW Dynamite will celebrate its third anniversary tonight at the Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington, D.C. AEW President Tony Khan sat down with ComicBook ahead of the show and discussed the past three years as well as some of the biggest stories going on in the promotion both in front of the cameras and behind the scenes. The lineup of AEW content for this week includes tonight's live I (granted a 15-minute overrun by TBS), a live episode of AEW Rampage on Friday and the Battle of the Belts IV special immediately after. Khan said when it comes to AEW's presence on television, the company is lightyears ahead of where he expected. 

"We're way ahead of where I thought we were going to be," Khan said. "It's tremendous. And to have had the success, I mean, we didn't have a second show at that point (when Dynamite launched in October 2019). Now we've launched two shows, AEW Dynamite and AEW Rampage. We built this huge brand. Worldwide, AEW is on in over 130 countries now and it's pretty incredible that we've been able to do it all in three years and become a real challenger brand, where we've carved out an important space for ourselves in the wrestling ecosystem."

Check out the highlights from our discussion with Khan below! And stay tuned for full coverage of tonight's Dynamite. 

What do you think it is about the product that resonates so well with fans?

Well, I think we've had great, consistent shows. We've had some of the best stories in pro wrestling that have led to some of the best matches in pro wrestling and we have a lot of the best wrestlers and all those things have come together and consistently. We've had great shows and have been doing this for years, so I'm really excited about what we're going to see tonight on TBS, to put together a great three-year anniversary show.

One of the consistent aspects of AEW, up until very recently, has been the rankings system. But we haven't seen new rankings since late August. Is the concept dead?

I haven't updated it lately because I think so much has been fluid, coming out of the Grand Slam Tournament of Champions in particular. It's a fluid situation coming out of Grand Slam and I think now I'm reevaluating it and quite possibly (I) could bring them back soon, but certainly made a lot of changes for the better that led to our best ratings of the year in many ways because we really zoned in and have had, I think, a lot of our best shows in recent months.

Saraya made her surprise debut for you guys at AEW Grand Slam and cut her first promo for fans last week. But one thing she didn't address was whether or not she's cleared to wrestle again. Should fans expect some sort of update on that soon?

I will, at some point, for sure address that and I think we'll find out more about what Saraya is going to do in AEW, but that's not really something I could answer here. But I think keep watching Dynamite tonight, Rampage on Fridays and you're going to find out more about what Saraya is going to do in AEW.

What's it been like having her in the company so far?

It's been tremendous. She's awesome. She's a huge star and she's got a great mind for wrestling and she's already had some really cool ideas and she also has such a great presence and her star power is going to be a real positive for us this year and going forward in future years.

You've probably seen it already, but FTR mentioned you not booking them after they defended their IWGP tag titles at Royal Quest this past weekend. And I looked it up, the two haven't been in a straight-up tag team match on Dynamite since May. Is there a reason behind that?

FTR have wrestled at singles. They have had some trios and, of course, have had a number of pay-per-view matches in that time, both in Ring of Honor and in AEW. But I think we could look to see them in tag action and maybe defending some of those tag team titles that they hold. They hold three different tag team championships in companies that we all have affiliations with, across Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and Lucha Libre AAA. And certainly, I've been instrumental in organizing their bookings overseas and with Ring of Honor, where I also do the bookings.

On this week's Rampage you've got Andrade El Idolo putting his AEW career on the line against 10's mask. Fans have been noticing his activity on social media lately where he seems to be upset with his position in AEW, going so far as to favorite tweets from people saying he should leave. As the owner and booker of the company, when you see wrestlers do that what's your reaction?

Well, I would say that I would keep it between me and him and I'll show him a professional courtesy that I think is both professional and courteous and that's a good way to do it. But I do think it'll be a fascinating situation because if Andrade loses this match, he's going to leave AEW and if Number 10 loses the match, then he would lose that mask that was given to him by the late great Mr. Brodie Lee. And this match, of course, will come on the two year anniversary of Mr. Brodie Lee's last match, a dog collar match for the TNT championship against Cody Rhodes. It was a classic match and it will always remember as one of the best matches ever on dynamite. And he's wrestling his greatest champion in so many ways, Mr. Brodie Lee, and that's why we honor him all the time and he was such an important part of our family and his family are an important part of the AEW family, too.

You've also got Battle of the Belts IV on Friday. Are you planning on doing another four of those shows in 2023?

Yes, it is. And also, it's a great opportunity for us because not only do we have tonight, 2 hours and 15 minutes live on TBS tonight starting at 8:00 PM Eastern, 7:00 PM Central for the first time ever with that over on, but then we also now are going to have Friday night two hours live with Rampage and Battle of the Belts. We do plan to keep doing Battle of the Belts and I think it's really interesting to try it here after Rampage, but also, I know the network feels like this bodes well after doing two hours of Grand Slam and the second hour held up so well at AEW Rampage. The only times we've done four hours on Wednesday, Friday before have been the Grand Slam events. So to come around now at the three-year anniversary just a couple of weeks later and do it again and get an extra 15 minutes tonight, 4 hours and 15 minutes live, it's going to be a big challenge. We've never done anything like it and I think it's going to be awesome.

Way back when AEW Dynamite was taking off, you guys partnered up with various DC Comics artists for a bunch of collaborations. Do you think we'll ever get an AEW comic?

Well I can't say for sure. And we have a great team that works on licensing and also we work with the greatest content creator in the world and that's Warner Bros. Discovery. And I think they've got all these great brands and AEW's one of the great brands that they've put into that ecosystem of companies working together. And we've gotten to work with HBO, we've done work with DC in the past. I think it's great opportunities. Obviously, nothing bigger now than Shark Week and having the opportunity to sink our teeth into that and that was a great opportunity. We've followed it with House of the Dragon and anything else we can do, we're always up for it. We got some good opportunities to help promote Gold Rush for the network and we're happy with that. I love doing that stuff and the more of that we do, I think it's great because it helps the network and that's our job to do stuff for them and it also looks good for the wrestling fans.

It builds confidence because I think the more cross-promotional stuff we get to do in the Warner Brothers Discovery ecosystem, it looks good on the fans because they see us doing these big segments. AEW's doing very well and is getting opportunities and is highly thought of and then we're not going to get fired, so it's good and people like to see that, especially now with the big success AEW's had this year with the ratings. We've had such a big lift in the last six weeks. It's been the biggest six weeks we've had in a full calendar year and it's really only twice we've ever hit this hot period we're in right now, so it's the perfect way to hit the anniversary tonight on TBS.

Tonight's AEW Dynamite airs at 8 p.m. ET on TBS. Friday night's live AEW Rampage airs at 10 p.m. ET, followed immediately by Battle of the Belts IV at 11 p.m. ET.