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Tony Khan Previews CM Punk vs. Matt Sydal, Explains What Punk Has Already Meant to AEW

October 14, 2021 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
CM Punk AEW Rampage 10-8-21

AEW President Tony Khan is looking forward to CM Punk’s match with Matt Sydal on AEW Rampage, and discussed the match as well as what Punk has already brought to AEW. Khan spoke with PWInsider, and you can check out some highlights below:

On Punk’s match with Matt Sydal on Rampage: “I think CM Punk versus Matt Sydal is a very important match. I’d like to talk about both guys, but also talk about why the match is important. You brought up CM Punk, [he] has been so important to our business. I mean, since he came in, since the First Dance, we’ve seen a lift in almost every major business metric imaginable, at least six different business metrics have had this big bump. And every show he’s on, he’s a bump, a lift, we maintain this great audience. Pay-per-view audience saw a boost, live event, merchandising, and our SVOD subscriptions have gone through the roof, and you see AVOD as well, so he’s just a huge, huge draw for the company, but he’s also a great wrestler. And at the end of the day, the TV show is about wrestling and that’s why this weekend we’re going to give the fans a lot of great wrestling.”

On what Sydal brings as an opponent for Punk: “I think there’s this whole fandom on the internet, this whole section of fandom. There were a lot of people in the early two thousands that were fans of Ring of Honor and the wrestling they had and they brought people in from around the world. Of course, NOAH, who I think was a great company in that era, especially, and it was a really different time for wrestling. Back then, Ring of Honor had this really stacked roster, and a lot of great people came through. And I think you’re going to see something very special and even a throwback to the New Japan LA Dojo era. And that’s a consistent saying about this card. It’s pretty special. And I haven’t really talked about it anywhere else until now, but I think this is the right place and the right audience, and you feel free to jump in on it, but I think the best place to lead off is CM Punk versus Matt Sydal, who are both great wrestlers and have taken very different paths to get here. Just looking at, in AEW, CM Punk since he came back to AEW, he’s had three matches, he’s undefeated, 3-0. Matt Sydal’s had 10 times as many matches just in AEW, 30 matches, and he’s got a great record, 21-9, a 70% winning percentage. And he has gone around the world in the past decade, and really specifically in the past seven years. Won titles around the world. And that’s while Punk has been retired from wrestling. So Matt Sydal is one of the most experienced and talented bell-to-bell wrestlers on the planet. And certainly from an experience standpoint, Punk has a ton of experience, but in the last seven years, Matt Sydal’s gotten a lot more big matches in. And I think that’s going to be something really interesting about this.

“Matt Sydal’s the most experienced guy Punk’s been in the ring with [in AEW], and maybe the best technical wrestler Punk’s been in the ring with, and he’s been in with some great technical wrestlers already since he came back in these three matches. But I think it’ll be really interesting to see, and also the way they both got here. I mean, just very different paths. And I think Matt Sydal’s is a very different redemption story than a lot of those in wrestling, the path he took to get here. And he’s had some huge matches in AEW, including some huge win, like at The House Always Wins, getting a win over The Elite, Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks. And also, his rivalry and his 2-0 record with Dante Martin. Some of the best matches we’ve had in the last year in AEW.o he’s one of our top stars and this represents a really important match in Punk’s come back. And again, two wrestlers who kind of a throwback to this great era. Two experienced stars that I think we all look upon very fondly. And I think that as we go through the matches this weekend, that’ll be kind of a recurring theme, not all at the same place at the same time, but people that I think the same section of fandom really embraces, if that makes sense.”

On what CM Punk has meant to the company already: “I mean for The First Dance for Rampage to be in its second week the number one show and draw the huge audience we did. I mean, it took a year and a half for Dynamite to rank as a number one show and now we’ve had this great run just recently where Dynamite’s been the number one show on Wednesday on all cable and satellite, six straight weeks. It took us a long time to hit that, over a year and a half of Dynamite. Week two of Rampage, we were able to do that because of him. Launching a second franchise, he’s been such a huge part of it and he’s been a boost to Rampage, every show he’s been on. And he’s been a huge boost to our pay-per-view business, where we did record numbers in CM Punk versus Darby Allen and the build from The First Dance to All Out was a huge part of that live event.

“We’ve set records for The First Dance, which obviously is directly attributed to his debut. And literally The First Dance referring to his debut in the United Center, where he received one of the biggest ovations and we’ve begun to set new merchandising records, which I can’t even tell you how great he’s been for the merchandising. And then really it’s hard to even quantify. We’ve sold over a hundred thousand CM Punk shirts and counting. and then when you look at SVOD, our screaming video, I mean, since he’s come in, between arrival of Punk and the debut of Rampage, we’ve seen our FITE.TV international subscriptions more than double. Which is amazing, as that service had been around for almost two years and just in the last couple of months, it’s more than doubled. And it’s hard to quantify all this. He’s been such a huge, huge star for us. But at the end of the day, the wrestling is what really matters and people want to see CM Punk wrestle and that’s what this comeback’s about.”

On Punk working regularly on Dynamite and Rampage: “I promised people when he came back, and he promised people when he came back, this is for real. And what I wanted people to know is that this isn’t one of those BS comebacks, where a guy comes back and he’s going to wrestle two, three matches and maybe do one pay-per-view and walk away. He had this great pay-per-view match and now he’s a major part of our TV franchise wrestling for us and against great opponents. And now this is going to be a great match, Punk versus Sydal. Like I said, very different paths to get here, but very much on brand. If it’s a headline match for the weekend, I think I have to say, this is a great weekend for the fans of wrestling. And when we go run down the card, you’ll see that’s headliner and there’s more great stuff along those lines, both on Rampage and Dynamite and on the very special buy-in, lead in show to Rampage, because Rampage is Friday.

“To me, with Punk versus Sydal and these other huge matches on the card I want to touch on, justified, I think, a pay-per-view style buy-in because we’ve never done three hours of TV wrestling on TNT on the weekend before. And if we could lead into it, like we lead into our pay-per-views, we’ve had such great success time after time with the buy-in building into pay-per-views. It felt like the weekend it’s going to be the first time we put three hours of live wrestling on a weekend on TNT, with an hour of Rampage at 10:00 PM on Friday night and two hours of Dynamite at 8:00 to 10:00 on Saturday. So let’s do what we would do on a pay-per-view weekend with a buy-in and load it up.”