By John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press
It’s not a matter of if All Elite Wrestling is coming to Canada, it’s a question of when.
President and co-owner Tony Khan said on Tuesday that he’s eager to start promoting live events outside of the United States and that Canada is a natural place to start. The professional wrestling company intended to have shows in Canada back in 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed those plans.
“We’re all back on the road this past year and we’ve been all over America, but I do look forward to bringing an AEW live events to Canada soon,” said Khan. “I think we have a chance to really build a strong presence, not only what we’ve established on television with TSN, but also with live events for the fans.”
Khan said that Toronto was a logical place for the first AEW show in Canada, given the city’s size and deep roots with professional wrestling. AEW has several wrestlers from the Greater Toronto Area under contract, including Christian Cage, RJ City, The Bunny, Ethan Page, and “The Chairman” Shawn Spears.
There are at least three other Canadian cities Khan is considering for live events: Winnipeg, the home of former AEW world champions Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega; the promoter also organizes the Owen Hart Foundation Tournament, making Calgary a natural choice; and Vancouver, where tag-team specialist Kyle O’Reilly is billed from.
“We have a lot of great Canadian wrestlers and I’m excited about the possibility of our live events here because we’ve had great success on TV here,” said Khan, who was an invited speaker at Collision, a tech conference in downtown Toronto that runs until Thursday.
Khan acknowledged that Canada, with its plethora of hockey arenas, is well suited to hosting pro wrestling events. Choosing those specific venues would come down to a handful of key factors.
“Most important thing is quality of the arena for the fans and the wrestlers and the staff, and then followed by the size for the opportunity to create revenue,” said Khan, adding that the logistics of shooting live television would also affect his decision.
All Elite Wrestling was founded in 2019 by Khan and his father Shahid Khan, who are also co-owners of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham FC of the English Premier League. AEW produces two weekly television programs for Turner networks in the United States, with Dynamite — its flagship show — available in Canada on TSN.
Digital media is at the heart of AEW’s business model, with two shows exclusively on YouTube. Khan said that those properties are helpful for expanding beyond the United States, since YouTube, podcasts, and wrestler vlogs can be accessed worldwide.
“It’s been a huge part of our growth. I don’t think it was possible to launch AEW without the TV deal being originally in place at the time and that wouldn’t have been possible if we hadn’t had the online experience,” said Khan, who noted he had been involved in online wrestling communities since the mid-1990s.
“The more ways you can make your shows and wrestlers available to fans and create awareness of the product, that’s a good thing. For the hardcore fans, there’s tons of demand for more content than even what we already provide, which is a lot.”