Tony Khan explains how the original pitch for All Elite Wrestling was to be a “challenger brand” in the world of pro wrestling.
WTF with Marc Maron welcomed Tony Khan to this week’s “Wrestling With Marc” bonus show, and Tony explained Ring Of Honor’s history in the pro wrestling space and how he bought the company. Khan then shared how he started AEW and what the original pitch was for the brand, comparing it to a Burger King or Pepsi going up against WWE’s McDonald’s or Coca-Cola.
“[ROH] was a company that was at the time probably the number two company in the US. In terms of attendance and pay-per-view buys and stuff, I think they were at the time a number two. They never rose to the heights of AEW and that’s one of the reasons I thought there was an opportunity for AEW to come in and be a strong challenger brand,” Khan said. “That’s an expression that Kevin [Reilly] and the people at the time at TBS really taught me, and we’ve used in our marketing. For example, a challenger brand, a good example is Pepsi, is the new generation. Pepsi is a challenger brand and AEW when I launched this, I was like ‘I would like to be the Pepsi of pro wrestling, would you be interested?’ And everyone said yes.
“They showed me a marketing deck about what it means to be a challenger brand and the best examples they gave me were like Burger King, what’s their marketing? A lot of it is, ‘Hey, McDonald’s sucks guys.’ [laughs] So that’s why when a lot of people ask when I go out and I talk about the competition in wrestling, that’s why,” Khan added. “Because it was handed down to me on high from the network.”
Khan noted that a challenger brand is not the industry leader, but it’s not a niche brand either.
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