Tony Khan Addresses Criticism That AEW Has Dropped Its Sports-Based Presentation

When All Elite Wrestling first launched in early 2019 both president Tony Khan and executive vice president Cody Rhodes promised the promotion would have a more "sports-centric" presentation compared to what other promotions around the country were offering. That started with AEW putting a heavy emphasis on wins and losses, posting a wrestler's annual record at the start of every match and releasing weekly power rankings in each division.

"The term people are using is 'alternative,'" Rhodes told Variety back in May 2019, days before AEW's first official event. "For many years throughout my youth and plenty of other fans' youths, pro wrestling has been essentially just one company and that's not really the case. I want to be the sports-centric alternative in the pro wrestling world and I think we're on a good path to get there."

However, some fans have argued in recent months that the idea has been abandoned, particularly when Chris Jericho and MJF took part in the polarizing "Le Dinner Debonair" musical segment on a recent Dynamite. Khan was asked about that criticism this week in an interview with PWInsider and defended the segment, pointing out how it took place on the same show that featured solid matches like Wardlow vs. Jungle Boy and Rey Fenix vs. Penta El Zero Miedo.

"I think that segment [Le Dinner Debonair] is sports-oriented," he said. "Like when I watch the ESPYs or when I watch...you watch music videos, it's not unusual to see a big athlete in a musical number, and the key thing to me was that it wasn't done in an unrealistic context because the idea that we ended up settling on to me was a very realistic idea. Chris Jericho and MJF are like two of the biggest showboats in wrestling, they're really cocky guys and of course they would love to sing their own praises and go out and do this hammy performance together because they're both egomaniacs and of course like the ambiance and the whole thing is very on-brand for the two of them.

"It was also key to me that it was not something behind an invisible camera where these two guys were just having a dinner and they weren't aware they were being filmed and they just broke into a song," he continued. "They were looking into the camera, they were singing to the camera, it was for the fans. Clearly they were doing it for themselves as these characters but it was very much for the benefit of the fans. So it's like to me, in their minds it was for the benefit of the fans. So to me, it's very much...it's still a realistic segment. I don't think it's...people talk about a sports-based feel but I've seen athletes do tons of musical numbers and you know, the Super Bowl Shuffle? Was the Super Bowl Shuffle not real sports? Because that's about as real sports as I can remember. That's an era when sports felt very real and that's the throwback era that all the people complaining about are probably fondly looking back at. So, if you're going to take an honest look at it, look at all the times athletes that have sang and danced in music videos."

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This week's Dynamite alone featured a few outstanding promos, including the video packages for Kenny Omega vs. Hangman Page and the face-to-face confrontation between Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston. Do you agree with Khan or the critics? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments!

Check out the full card for Full Gear below:

  • AEW World Championship: Jon Moxley vs. Eddie Kingston (I Quit Match)
  • TNT Championship: Cody Rhodes vs. Darby Allin
  • AEW World Tag Team Championship: FTR vs. The Young Bucks
  • AEW Women's World Championship: Hikaru Shida vs. Nyla Rose
  • Chris Jericho vs. MJF
  • Matt Hardy vs. Sammy Guevara (The Elite Deletion Match)
  • AEW World Championship Eliminator Tournament Finals: Kenny Omega vs. Hangman Page
  • Orange Cassidy vs. John Silver
  • The Buy-In: NWA World Women's Championship: Serena Deeb vs. Allysin Kay