Tony Khan Talks About MJF’s Return, The Young Bucks Shoes, and More

Fresh off another stellar pay-per-view at Double or Nothing, AEW is approaching arguably its biggest event of the year when the promotion returns to Wembley Stadium for All In. But when you ask AEW CEO Tony Khan about the mindset of building up to one or two tentpole events, he focuses on the high standard AEW has established for its slew of pay-per-views.

Just this year Revolution served as a backdrop to Sting’s retirement match, Dynasty gave us Swerve Strickland becoming the first Black world champion in AEW history, and Double or Nothing offered an incredible match for Mercedes Mone’s AEW in-ring debut.

There’s not one singular pay-per-view that AEW is building toward where you can expect the biggest matches and moments, rather the promotion has established a precedence that each event is a can’t miss. And it’s why Double or Nothing wasn’t solely built around Mone’s electric debut, but it had a collection of strong matches with the added surprise return of former world champion Maxwell Jacob Friedman.

“It’s a great time celebrating the five year anniversary of AEW. And five years after MJF arrived here, he returned for a great celebration at our Double or Nothing pay-per-view,” Khan tells Uproxx Sports. “He is healthy and in better shape than ever, motivated, and we’re excited to have MJF back in AEW. It’s perfect timing for MJF to return as it’s going to be a huge summer for AEW. This Wednesday night on TBS will be the first time we’re seeing MJF in AEW on television all year.”

When MJF returns to weekly television this week, he’ll face an uphill climb to overtake the likes of Strickland and Will Ospreay, who have seamlessly filled in as two of the company’s bonafide stars in his absence.

Khan says he’s a “huge believer” in Strickland as a “great champion for AEW” and calls Ospreay “one of the greatest athletes ever in wrestling.” Ospreay will face off against the winner of Wednesday’s championship match between Strickland and Roderick Strong.

“(Ospreay) has a tremendous mind for the wrestling business. Will Ospreay has great ideas. They often permeate in his matches and in his tremendous promos. I think he’s wrestling at such an elite level. And I think he’s the perfect challenger for the world title in AEW right now,” Khan says.

As stars evolve inside the ring, AEW is continuing to find new avenues outside of it as well. The promotion partnered with the TBS/TNT marketing team to release shoe championship belts while The Young Bucks launched a shoe collaboration with Reebok and Champs, selling out 3,000 pairs of the Reebok AEW Pump Omni Young Bucks Zone II.

“Matthew and Nicholas (Jackson) are very entrepreneurial particularly when it comes to footwear and the shoe business,” Khan says. “Their ideas and thoughts for the shoe release have been embraced and TBS and TNT have really enjoyed working with AEW on the release of the shoes. I think definitely it’s been very promising results for this release. And based on that, I would imagine there’d be more opportunities to do more partnerships around shoe releases for AEW.”

On the women’s side, “Timeless” Toni Storm is on one of the best runs of her career and the in-ring debut of Mone offered no signs of ring rust despite more than a year away from the squared circle. Khan says Mone has been a “home run in AEW” and called her TBS championship win over Willow Nightingale at Double or Nothing an “instant classic.”

“I know it means a lot to Mercedes to be the face of TBS and the champion of the network with the longest tradition of carrying pro wrestling of any channel in America with over 50 years since the debut of pro wrestling on TBS. And now Mercedes is a huge part of that indelible tradition,” Khan continues. “I think our fans have now seen Mercedes is one of the elite wrestlers on the planet and that’s the standard they can expect from the TBS champion Mercedes Mone here at AEW.”

The possibilities are endless with Mone on the roster, with dream matches across the board. Injuries have kept fellow stars Britt Baker and Jamie Hayter sidelined, with the former’s last match in September 2023 and the latter now missing more than a year, but Khan is looking forward to working them back into the fold.

“Dr. Britt Baker is one of our original stars and she’s been out injured for an extended period of time. I’m very eager to get Britt back here. She’s somebody that’s been part of AEW all along. And we’d love to have her back in the mix very soon,” Khan says.

“Her longtime friend, and also a former AEW Women’s world champion Jamie Hayter has also been out for an extended period of time with injury. Jamie Hayter’s timetable is still pending. But I think having Jamie Hayter back in AEW would be fantastic. And I would love to have Jamie Hayter back working in AEW anytime and whenever she’s healthy and capable of doing it would be great for us.”