As seen in the video above, AEW Lead Investor Shad Khan recently spoke with Forbes on a number of topics, including his role with the Black News Channel and All Elite Wrestling.
Khan laughed when asked if AEW is the brainchild of his, or his son Tony Khan, who works as the AEW President & CEO. Shad talked about how they were able to take a chance with AEW, and even he's been surprised at how things have gone.
"No," Khan responded, laughing. "This is one of those cases where as a father, you don't mind being wrong. So, it's absolutely... I mean, this was obviously my son Tony, who had a passion for it. This was his idea and God's blessed us. We have the financial means, so we'll try it. And you get to a stage in life where you can fail and it's not life-threatening, and this was one of those. So, you know, I am as surprised as anybody."
The interviewer noted how AEW Dynamite defeated WWE NXT in viewership on their opening night back in October. Khan was asked with him being one of the smartest numbers guys, what numbers convinced him that AEW could really be something. He talked about the WCW vs. WWE wars and the popularity of pro wrestling, and claimed some of AEW's first pay-per-views were the biggest in the last two decades of the business. He said AEW's pay-per-view numbers were a great metric to go by, and proof that there was an under-served market of fans. Khan also made a claim on how many diehard fans he thinks there are today.
"The golden age of wrestling would be in the 90s when you had two competitive leagues, WCW and in those days, WWF," Khan said. "And we know, you know with wrestling, you know it's scripted. But what was definitely unscripted, real was the competition. Let's say in those days you had 10 million hardcore wrestling fans, today there are probably 2 million or less as there was an audience that was under-served. You also had talent, there were a bunch of pay-per-views earlier this year and that was a great metric. That the audience for those shows, they were some of the biggest pay-per-views in the last 20 years. So, that was an indicator that there was an under-served market."
It was noted how wrestling fans consume their content online, which is good for investments these days. Khan talked about why AEW has been a learning experience for him, and apparently referenced being at the recent AEW All Out pay-per-view near Chicago, at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, which is just right up the road from Schaumburg, IL. Khan wasn't clear on where Schaumburg was or what event he was attending.
"It's been quite a learning experience for me," Khan admitted. "Because of how it's resonating overseas. You know, it's on ITV in England, you know, which is really BBC - ITV, it's free TV. And the audience they have. Some of the pay-per-views I went to, like in Schaumburg earlier this year, it was amazing how many people had flown in from overseas to go to a pay-per-view."
Finally, Khan was asked if pro wrestling is one of the most global of all sports.
"Yeah, I would say so, absolutely," Khan said. "You know again, when you see that happening, for example, it's related yet unrelated - NFL London, 40% of the tickets are outside of the UK. So, you got people coming in for these games outside of UK, and London is drawing those people in. And in the UK, it was viewed originally as something as it's ex-pats or something like that, but it's far from that. Wrestling is very much the same."