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AEW continues to thrive after celebrating third anniversary

LOS ANGELES (AP) – All Elite Wrestling (AEW) continues to thrive with compelling matches while attracting new fans three years after making its debut.

The upstart professional wrestling circuit kicked off a busy summer schedule by returning to Las Vegas for its “Double or Nothing” pay-per-view for the first time since its opening card in 2019. That was followed by an appearance in Los Angeles for the first time as its Wednesday Dynamite show on June 1 attracted a sellout crowd to The Forum.

This week’s show will be in Kansas City.

AEW CEO Tony Khan said the May 29 Las Vegas show at T-Mobile Arena had USD1.1 million in ticket sales, the biggest gate revenue they have generated, as well as an estimated 155,000 buys on pay-per-view.

“It was great to go back to the city where it began for us. Three years later we came back and we have kept growing our audience,” Khan said. “Every event has had year-over-year growth. We have a great group of wrestlers that have had so many amazing matches.

There’s so much more to come.”

Wrestler CM Punk shakes hands with All Elite Wrestling CEO Tony Khan during a press conference in Chicago. PHOTO: AP

AEW remained in Southern California a couple more days and had their Friday Rampage card from Ontario. It is one of the few times since Rampage debuted last August that it has aired live. It is normally taped on the same night as Dynamite.

Last week’s episode of Dynamite was the second-highest rated programme on cable television with a 0.4 rating and average audience of 969,000. The two-hour programme on TBS has drawn over 900,000 nine of the last 11 weeks.

Chris Jericho, who has been with the company since the beginning and was AEW’s first champion, said the trip to Vegas was a good time to assess how much they have grown.

“We’ve now made AEW, a viable contender. And it’s a safe place for people to come now,” he said, “When we first started it was a little bit of the wild, wild West, no one knew what to expect. And it was like taking a little bit of a chance. I think it’s gone even further than I expected. I think now that we’re here, we’re just scratching the surface of how far we’re gonna go.”

Fans have gravitated to AEW because of its emphasis on wrestling without a lot of backstage drama or storylines.

AEW’s growth has happened despite not being on the road for 15 months due to the coronavirus pandemic. They did a couple live shows in Salt Lake City and Denver in early 2020 before the pandemic took everyone off the road from March 2020 through
June 2021.

Jericho, Jon Moxley and Kenny Omega were the biggest names when the company debuted. Since then they have added CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Matt and Jeff Hardy, Adam Cole, Ruby Soho and Athena Palmer (formerly Ember Moon) to a star-studded roster.

Cody Rhodes was also one of the biggest names at the start, but departed at the beginning of the year before eventually going back to WWE.

AEW champion CM Punk, who started with the company last August, appreciates how much progress has been made, especially after the pandemic.

“When there were no fans during the pandemic I got to see them be innovative and creative while struggling through what was a hard time for everybody business wise and personal,” he said. “I think what you’re seeing now is we’re getting settled back in, selling out more arenas and providing a little bit of everything to all types of fans.”

Even though there are plenty of veterans, AEW has shown it can develop its own talent as well. Britt Baker was the women’s champion for 290 days and TBS champion Jade Cargill is unbeaten in 32 matches since making her debut in March of 2021.

“It’s very empowering that I was able to have all this growth on live television. Dynamite was my performance centre,” Baker said.

“I knew I was brand new and learning, There was something that was going to be trial and error and some things I was going to fail at, but that’s what made me who I am today, It was very much I was thrown into a sink or swim situation. And I wouldn’t change anything for me.”

Khan continues to have a full plate. He is also AEW’s GM and head of creative as well as having roles with his father’s ownership of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and English football team Fulham FC, which is back in the Premier League when the season begins in August.

Khan also bought Ring of Honor earlier this year and is rebuilding that.

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