They are the seven sweetest words in professional wrestling: “Tony Khan will make a huge announcement.”
Every time AEW posts a match graphic about Tony Khan and his huge announcements, Twitter goes buckwild, as if the very soul of professional wrestling is at stake. Tony Khan will be making a huge announcement tonight, and theories are spinning out of control. Will there be an AEW/NJPW super show? Is it a new signing? Has he reached a deal with HBO Max?
Whatever Tony Khan’s huge announcement is, wrestling Twitter will fall into two camps:
- People who recognize that Tony Khan’s huge announcement, good or bad, is just another event in the history of pro wrestling, an art form that is fun, even life-enriching, but ultimately something that has no effect on their day-to-day life (unless Tony Khan’s huge announcement is that he bought the company you work for, maybe?) because it’s just a television show.
- People who believe that Tony Khan’s huge announcement is a massive embarrassment for AEW and professional wrestling as a whole, which is in a perpetual state of near-collapse but for their efforts on Twitter and their subscriptions to podcasts by guys like Vince Russo and Disco Inferno.
There’s actually a third camp, who will no doubt register Tony Khan’s Huge Announcement as sixty seconds that could have gone to the women’s division, and a fourth comprised mostly of senior citizens who are confused as to why Tony Khan is making a huge announcement and not Triple H, but don’t mind too much because most of their friends from the black and gold brand are here and everything is still black and gold. The point is, you cannot satisfy everybody who watches professional wrestling, even if you’re Tony Khan, especially when you’re making a huge announcement.
Tony Khan’s Huge Announcement, Minus Tony Khan
But me? I love this shit. Last time Tony Khan Made a Huge Announcement, it was the purchase of Ring of Honor, which is a legitimately big deal, not just for all of the roster-building and brand-relaunching Khan and others are doubtlessly working on, but because it got Sinclair Broadcast Group, a cancerous firm whose stock-and-trade is acquiring local broadcast stations and making them somehow more conservative than your average local broadcast station, out of the professional wrestling business, a rare instance when the profession was made less scummy through an exchange of money.
But the phrase “Tony Khan Makes a Huge Announcement” is usually a huge announcement that isn’t made by Tony Khan, but the company’s other Tony, Tony Schiavone. Tony Khan making a huge announcement through Tony Schiavone is a little more up and down. The TBS Title was cool, Swerve Strickland is a great pick-up, and some people like Jay Lethal. But beyond the press conference that launched AEW and the ROH acquisition, which nobody else was qualified, kayfabe or not, to discuss, he’s mostly been content to not be the focal point.
AEW’s biggest surprise signings — CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Adam Cole, Samoa Joe, Sting — talent they borrow from elsewhere like Minoru Suzuki and Jay White, and even major announcements like AEW’s partnership of the Owen Hart Foundation to launch a tournament in his honor, sell merchandise, and include him in AEW’s upcoming video game, have been done either organically on camera, or via press release.
What Kind of Person Cries When Tony Khan Makes a Huge Announcement?
Without wanting to gaze into the pool of madness for too long a stretch, I’ve found myself struggling with the notion that Tony Khan makes his huge announcements because he loves the attention and television time. The later is patently false — Khan’s appearances on camera are rare though his presence in the ring after or between tapings is pretty common and sometimes uploaded to YouTube. Maybe he does love the attention, but the only people who’d know that are Tony Khan and people close to him.
What I think is happening is weirder than rote AEW/WWE tribalism. I think there’s just a significant number of disingenuous wrestling fans who, for whatever reason, believe that the kayfabe power structure of a wrestling promotion in 2022 has to resemble the one that WWE pioneered during the Hulkamania era, where bookings and debuts and contract signings were shot through the prism of a character at one or two steps removed from real power.
When Tony Schiavone says “Tony Khan has made it official” of a match booked for next week, it looks like egotism because instead of a grizzled old vet wearing a suit and pretending to wield real power added an extra chunk of time to the back end of a Triple H promo to inform him of a pending title defense, we are informed in the 10 seconds between one segment and the next that the actual person who books the promotion made a match for the television show he calls the shots on. The only kayfabe to any of that is the notion that matches are “signed for,” as in having the kind of consensual agreement that exists between boxers or mixed martial artists exists between contracted wrestlers.
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This is granting an extraordinary amount of leeway to the kind of person who sees the phrase “Tony Khan Will Make a Huge Announcement” and sees red like the bull in Looney Tunes, but I know there are people tweeting their little tweets about Tony Khan’s huge announcement who aren’t just gormless shitheads putting on a pity parade because the thing they like hasn’t gone out of business yet.
There has to be a bunch of fans who are just genuinely tired of Tony Khan and his huge announcements, but wrestling hasn’t left us with the diction to do more than grumble about tradition, no matter how few episodes of Wrestling from Marigold they’ve seen, or complain about professionalism, when Vince McMahon, Eric Bischoff, Paul Heyman, and Dixie Carter are our prime examples of people who head wrestling companies, all of whom have done much more desperate things — like hauling a giant egg around from arena to arena promoting that something would hatch from it at the Survivor Series, a kind of precursor to Tony Khan making a huge announcement) — than advertise that they’re making a huge announcement, and all of whom spent much more time on television than Khan has.
If you’re the kind of person who thinks Tony Khan shouldn’t be on TV making huge announcements at all, here’s the thing: Tony Khan agrees with you. Say what you want for the TV readiness of McMahon, Bischoff, Heyman, and Carter, but what Tony Khan brings to the table as a presence is entirely different than any of them, and he probably knows it. He’s a smart guy, an analyst, but if you’ve ever been to an AEW show and heard him cut a promo, you know that there’s a lot to swallow down before a guy like him can step through the curtain between running the show in reality and Running the Show on camera. I don’t particularly want that — I like the Tony Khan who geeks the fuck out for things like Cody Rhodes going through a flaming table or Wheeler YUTA bleeding so much he could write on his own chest with the stuff, and I am tired of dudes in suits getting on the microphone to make an announcement, unless that someone is Vince McMahon in 1998.
Nobody is Vince McMahon in 1998, especially not Vince McMahon, and I don’t want any of these chuds pretending to be businessmen on television, a format rife with chuds pretending to be businessmen, when I could be watching people pretend to fight each other. Tony Khan knows this. He doesn’t need to hide in plain sight like McMahon did for so long, he doesn’t need to show off his karate skills like Eric Bischoff, he doesn’t need to shoot like Paul Heyman, and he won’t get dragged off the set of Dynamite at the ankle of Kenny Omega.
All Tony Khan needs to do is make a huge announcement. So let Tony Khan make his huge announcement. It’s no “Eddie Kingston Addresses His Enemies,” but what in this world is?