JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Shad Khan and his son, Tony Khan, are venturing beyond the football and soccer businesses and into the pro-wrestling business.
Wrestling fans gathered outside TIAA Bank Field early Tuesday evening at a rally for the new All Elite Wrestling (AEW).
"I've been a fan of wrestling my whole life and never had I ever considered taking and investing into the wrestling business. But recently the wrestling economy, the market, the talent out there -- it just made sense for a lot of reasons," Tony Khan said. "My goal is to make this a great, viable, exciting, fun to watch, and profitable wrestling company, which it will be."
The Khans are the financial backers of the venture and join notable wrestling figures such as Cody Rhodes, who is a well-known wrestler and the son of the late Dusty Rhodes.
"Pro wrestlers are always the least paid. At AEW, we’re going to change that," said Rhodes, AEW vice president. "We’re going to change the wrestling economy because opportunity doesn’t pay the bills, money does."
The Khans are reported to have put tens of millions of dollars into the venture and are looking to get some sort of TV deal.
"It's not like it's the only thing we're focusing on, but we do have some cool things cooking there," Tony Khan told News4Jax.
A big question is whether they will compete head-to-head with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), which has been on top of the pro-wrestling industry for many years. WWE hosted the popular "Smackdown" show Tuesday night at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena -- right across the street from TIAA Bank Field.
But the buzz around AEW has already drawn in wrestling fans, such as Johny Carroll, who are excited about the future.
"I've been a wrestling fan for over 20 years and I follow all the news of everything," said Carroll, who drove up from Clearwater. "I had to turn out for this."
Tony Khan, who will serve as company president, and Shad Khan released statements about the venture.
Shad Khan wrote:
I am the lead investor, a supporter and a backer of All Elite Wrestling, and I anticipate great things today and into the future for AEW and everyone who has worked passionately on this week’s launch. I know AEW will be welcomed by wrestling fans here in the U.S. and throughout the world who are ready for something new and authentic. AEW will work hard to deliver on that promise.
As important, I am the father -- the proud father -- of Tony Khan, who will serve in a leadership role at AEW during the 2019 launch and in the years ahead. Tony will assemble a great team to take AEW over the top, for the benefit of everyone who loves the wrestling industry, while continuing to serve in his current capacities with the Jaguars and Fulham.
AEW will operate as an organization completely independently from my other interests. It will not deter attention or divert resources from any of my businesses, teams, projects or investments. At the same time, AEW will enjoy the same full commitment I given to everything and everyone in my life -- my family and friends, my business and, in recent years, to sports, hospitality and now entertainment."
Khan's note that the new venture will not interfere with his other businesses should put Jacksonville Jaguars' fans at ease.
Tony Khan wrote:
Wrestling fans are a community unlike most others. I’ve been a part of this community since I was 7 years old, and I can tell you that wresting fans see the world every day through a special lens. We see wrestling in Hollywood films and tv shows, we see elements of wrestling in the presentation of sports and in the marketing of grandiose star athletes, and we certainly see wrestling in politics.
The wrestling community is a constant; its members are diverse, we are physically located on all corners of the planet, yet we are constantly connected. Recently, a new family has formed, bonded by love and respect for wresting but armed with a vision and resources that have never before been available to the wrestling community. Our objective is to connect our community closer than ever before through All Elite Wrestling, or AEW.
AEW does not mean any less of a continued commitment to existing obligations and duties that I have, or my family has, to our business and sports interests. That will never be the case. What’s important is that every individual decision we make as family, whether it’s ownership or investment in a team or property, is 100 percent beneficial to those specific interests. I will always welcome that accountability and responsibility, as nothing is more important than serving our supporters and friends.
AEW will launch with a roster of the top wrestlers in the world. While they’ll clash in what will be some of the most intense and fast-paced contests ever sanctioned in the squared circle, they’ll also share a common goal: to make this the true golden age, to make this the greatest time ever to be a wrestling fan. Likewise, as a business, by treating our wrestlers with respect and warmth, we also seek to make this the golden age for the performers themselves.
I urge everyone who believes in what we’re doing, or wants to believe in dreams coming true, to support AEW by spreading the word and passing the wrestling bug onto someone else. My message: Get in on the ground floor with AEW today and help lead our movement to grow the wrestling community and ensure that the voices of the wrestling fans, their creative minds and their remarkable ideas, will always be heard."
There aren't a lot of details available yet on events for AEW, but the company has released a "Double or Nothing" logo.