Tony Khan talks AEW women’s division, Britt Baker vs. Thunder Rosa, more
AEW President & General Manager Tony Khan recently spoke with Joe Rivera of Sporting News to promote tonight’s AEW Dynamite St. Patrick’s Day Slam main event, which will feature an “Unsanctioned Lights Out Anything Goes” match between Thunder Rosa and Dr. Britt Baker.
Khan noted that the Baker vs. Rosa feud is one of his favorite stories that AEW has ever told. He was asked why.
“Thunder Rosa, top independent wrestler, one of the most respected independent wrestlers in the world, coming into AEW, and the locker room saying, ‘Hey just because AEW says they’re open to everybody, we don’t want it to be open to everybody, we’re very protective of our territory.’ The leader and bully of this locker room, the top heel, is Dr. Britt Baker, and she says, ‘You know we don’t want you here, top independent wrestler, stay out, go back to wrestling on the internet and stay off TNT. This is our sandbox.’ They’ve clashed and it’s been a great story,” he said.
He continued, “They’ve helped ‘AEW Dynamite’ in general by being one of the great stories on the show overall for the last several months. This is a culmination of a great story — the first ever Lights Out match we’ve done on ‘Dynamite.’ We’ve had Lights Out matches main event pay-per-views and the ‘Fyter Fest’ streaming special but never on ‘Dynamite.’
“It’s really cool, it’s one of our big matches, and Dr. Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa are two of our top wrestlers. They represent totally different aspects of AEW: Dr. Britt Baker being a lifer, contract, long-term, locked-in wrestler, who’s the face of the company, and Thunder Rosa represents an outside company, who came in and shows that, we’re for outside talent to come in and be treated well, and we do business with other wrestling companies. Treat them respectfully but still make sure we get taken care of.”
Khan continued when asked how impressive it is to him to see the Baker vs. Rosa feud as they have clicked since the beginning. Khan revealed that he has been planning this pay-off for six months. He also gave praise to Rebel for her work as Baker’s manager.
“They’ve been so impressive, and I planned this for six months to pay off in this Lights Out match,” Khan revealed. “It’s been a six-month story, but it doesn’t work if you don’t have people that can pull it off. Everything they’ve done has stayed hot. If you don’t have people who can pull it off, they wouldn’t have made it to six months, we would have had to do it sooner or not do it at all, or call an audible. Sometimes things don’t work and you don’t just stick to your plan if it’s not working. In this case, it’s worked.
“Everything they’ve done has clicked, and it’s a credit to to Britt and to Thunder Rosa, and all the people who’ve been a part of the presentation. Rebel has been a great manager and instigator. It’s just really strong stuff and it’s one of our best programs.”
It was noted that one of the biggest criticisms of AEW over the past year has been a perceived lack of focus on the women’s division. Khan was asked how he feels the women’s division has grown in the past year or so. He gave individual praise to Baker, Re Velvet, NWA World Women’s Champion Serena Deeb, Leyla Hirsch, and Tay Conti.
“I think we’ve seen great development of the women’s roster since AEW launched,” Khan said. “Wrestling fans voted Dr. Britt Baker the most improved wrestler in the world last year for 2020, in the Wrestling Observer awards, and she’s been a great leader in the women’s division. She’s been a great leader in the women’s division and we’ve added great talent internally. I think Red Velvet’s come in and done a really good job for us, and Serena Deeb has come in and not only been great for us, but then as a full-time AEW contract wrestler, went out and won the NWA women’s title.
“Serena, Red Velvet and Leyla Hirsch are great examples of people who weren’t here at the beginning, who I think have upgraded our talent, and stepped in and become really great additions. Tay Conti is somebody who I’ve always thought had tremendous potential — she has vastly improved and I think she could be a front-runner this year, potentially, to break out and be one of the most improved wrestlers in the world. I think she had all the tools and all the personal charisma that it takes to be a great wrestler. She always had everything it took, and now with more experience, more reps and great coaching, we’re seeing that.”
Regarding Deeb, who is currently out of action with a knee injury, Khan was asked to describe just how much she has meant to the division and to the AEW locker room. Khan said Deeb coming in to work as a coach has been one of the best things to happen to AEW, revealing that she has also coached men’s matches. Khan also said the working relationship with the NWA is great for AEW.
“One of the really best things that’s happened to us this year has been Serena coming in as a coach,” Khan said. “She’s a coach for us and hasn’t just coached women’s matches, she’s coached men’s matches on ‘Dynamite’ and provided that insight and those ideas, so she works with people of all genders. She’s done big stars’ matches on TV, including Cody and Dustin and people like that and works the headset sitting in the chair next to me, while I time and oversee the show, so she’s a really valuable person on screen and off. She’s a great wrestler.
“She’s dealing with a knee injury right now, unfortunately … but she’s very important to us on screen and off, and she’s our wrestler — she went to NWA and won the title. She’s really important, as Thunder Rosa from the NWA has been great, and been excellent. We use Allysin Kay who had been in the NWA, she was a free agent. She’s great. And they have some good really good people there and they’re starting back up. It’s a great relationship for us and Thunder Rosa is one of our great wrestlers, who is their wrestler.”
Khan said AEW fans can expect great matches from the AEW women’s division moving forward. He also said tonight’s Baker vs. Rosa “Lights Out” main event will be one of the top matches in AEW history. Khan was asked what fans can expect tonight and from the women’s division in the future.
“You can expect great matches,” Khan answered. “We’ve had some really great matches, and this will be, I believe at the top of the list of great matches on the show, in general. This will be one of the top matches we’ve had. It’s a great main event. Lights Out matches have headlined our pay-per-views and the original Fyter Fest. We’ve had some great ones, and this is a great Lights Out match. This program — the Britt Baker vs. Thunder Rosa — they’re two red-hot wrestlers and two of the best wrestlers in the world.
“As we continue to develop great wrestlers who can carry a story like this, I expect more great programs and great matches like this one. We’ve had great improvement in the depth of the roster in the last year and I expect that to continue. This is a huge week for sure, and I think this will be one of our great matches that any of our wrestlers have ever had.”
You can read Khan’s full interview with Sporting News by clicking here.