AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton
AEW President Tony Khan insisted in a recent interview that his promotion and WWE are in the midst of a real wrestling war.
During an appearance on The Dan Le Batard Show (h/t Wrestling Inc’s Kieran Fisher), Khan discussed the dynamic between AEW and WWE, and his belief that they are constantly fighting for talent, especially those available as free agents:
“I only know what people have come to me and alleged. But I know it’s a real war between AEW and WWE, and the fans care about it. And that was part of the original business model of WWE. ‘AEW, I knew wrestling fans, frankly, are very interested in free agency wrestling and wrestling wars, and I think we could create a free agent market that’s definitely a reality now that would be a big part of the story.”
Khan’s mention of allegations was apparently referring to a report from August after Triple H took over the reins from Vince McMahon as Chief Creative Officer for WWE.
At the time, Dave Meltzer of Wrestling observation radio (h/t Wrestling Inc’s Matthew Wilkinson) reported that WWE reached out to several contracted AEW wrestlers in an apparent attempt to gauge interest.
This reportedly led AEW to send an email to WWE Co-CEOs Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan warning them against contract tampering.
Given the reported covert dealings and attempts to outdo each other, Khan said he thinks AEW and WWE “really, really hate each other.”
WWE’s Raw and SmackDown have significantly overtaken Dynamite and AEW’s Rampage in the rankings, especially since Triple H took over WWE’s creative over the summer. However, the wrestling landscape is competitive and lucrative for artists, thanks in large part to the presence of AEW.
With a legitimate alternative in place, wrestlers can now test the waters and land major contracts outside of WWE boundaries.
A large portion of AEW’s roster is made up of former WWE Superstars, many of whom have been released by WWE since AEW’s formation in 2019.
Conversely, WWE didn’t bring in many former AEW stars, with the obvious exception of Cody Rhodes, who was one of the founders of AEW.
Rhodes shockingly returned to WWE almost a year ago at WrestleMania, and he firmly established himself as one of the biggest stars in the wrestling industry, winning the men’s Royal Rumble match of 2023 to set the stage for an undisputed WWE Universal Championship match against Roman Reigns. at WrestleMania 39 in April.
WWE and AEW are both enjoying major success in their own ways, and as long as that continues, they’ll both potentially be in the market for many of the same wrestlers that become available.
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