How Did Tony Khan Start AEW?

Tony Khan AEW Roster

Most people who follow wrestling probably hadn’t heard the name Tony Khan before the summer of 2018, so how did he come to own the second biggest wrestling promotion in the world?

That story really begins with the AEW President’s father, Shahid Khan. At the age of 16, Shahid Khan left his native Pakistan to study at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. He graduated with a degree in Industrial Engineering in 1971, setting him on the path to success and untold fortune.

Khan made his fortune through the automotive manufacturing company Flex-N-Gate that he first worked for after his graduation. In 1978 Shahid Khan began his own company – Bumper Works – manufacturing and selling bumpers and just two years later he returned to Flex-N-Gate to buy the company outright and make it his own.

In 2020 Forbes ranked Flex-N-Gate as the 46th largest privately held company in the United States. Forbes also listed Khan as the 94th person on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, attributing a net worth of $9 billion to Khan in 2021.

Those sorts of riches allowed Shahid Khan to branch out into other fields. In 2012, he finalised a deal to purchase the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars for $770 million. Eighteen months later, Khan went across the pond where he purchased English Premier League soccer team Fulham for a sum estimated to be between £150-200 million.

Tony Khan was born in 1982 and by all accounts since was a rabid wrestling fan growing up. Many stars of AEW have remarked on Khan’s near-encyclopedic knowledge of the business from his time following it. The younger Khan however was making a name for himself in the world of sports analytics, serving as Senior Vice President of Football Technology & Analytics for the Jaguars and Director of Football Operations for Fulham Football Club.

Rumblings of a new wrestling pursuit involving the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars first reared their head towards the end of 2018. Chris Jericho and Jim Ross were the two headline names said to be attached to the project but both men vehemently denied it.

Tony Khan Teams Up With The Elite

Meanwhile, the wrestling world was abuzz after Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks took the momentum they had built-in Ring Of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling to hold the historic All In show at the Sears Center in Illinois, less than three hours away from where Tony Khan grew up.

It wasn’t long until wrestling Nostradamus’ put their hands together and, coupled with Cody Rhodes’ cryptic tweets suggesting the Jacksonville Jaguars were going to do well, figured out that The Elite might have some involvement with a prospective new company.

All the rumour and innuendo was put to bed on New Year’s Day 2019 when The Young Bucks’ YouTube show Being The Elite announced both a Double Or Nothing show to follow up All In and the founding of All Elite Wrestling.

Tony and Shahid Khan were named as the company’s lead investors with Tony taking on the role of President of the upstart company. Nick Jackson, Matt Jackson, Cody Rhodes, and Kenny Omega were all named Executive Vice Presidents of AEW, combining those roles with their on-screen responsibilities.

In addition to The Elite, some of the first names signed to the company included PAC, Britt Baker, and incredibly despite their protestations, Chris Jericho and Jim Ross.

AEW’s first official show was the Double Or Nothing event held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in May 2019. The show was headlined by Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega reprising their feud from NJPW with Jericho picking up the win which gave him the opportunity to wrestle to become the first-ever AEW World Champion at the company’s September pay-per-view, All Out.

One of the keys to AEW’s success was Tony Khan being able to sign a television deal with TNT, the network that had previously carried World Championship Wrestling until its demise in 2001. AEW Dynamite aired on the station for the first time on October 2nd, 2019. This led to the short-lived but hotly debated ‘Wednesday Night Wars’ after WWE moved NXT off their own network and onto the USA Network before Dynamite debuted.

With the show’s success, Warner Media signed a new deal with AEW in January 2020, extending the partnership between the companies through to 2023. AEW added a third hour of programming in August 2021 with AEW Rampage with Dynamite moving networks to TBS early in 2022.

The AEW of today looks very different from the company that sprouted as if from nowhere in 2019. Tony Khan has been aggressive in recruitment, signing a swathe of big-name former WWE stars including Bryan Danielson and Adam Cole. Khan’s biggest acquisition to date is no doubt CM Punk, who ended his seven-year exile from wrestling to become All Elite.