Tony Khan Believes CM Punk Had 'Paid For Himself' With His First Appearance In AEW

Tony Khan says the move to bring in CM Punk to AEW was the best deal he'd ever made in his life.

CM Punk finally returned to professional wrestling on Friday, August 20, 2021, announcing that he was joining AEW and it wouldn't be a part-time deal. Amid the jubilation, stage-diving, and ice cream bars, Pro Wrestling Tees, the home of ShopAEW, saw their servers crash as CM Punk quickly became the top merchandise seller and his brand new t-shirt became the number one selling t-shirt of all time in hours.

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Speaking on Le Batard and Friends - South Beach Sessions podcast, Tony Khan, who wouldn't reveal exactly how much he’d spent on CM Punk to get him to come out of retirement, did reveal that he expected the high demand for merchandise and says that he bought the whole country supply of ringer t-shirts because of how in-demand he knew this merchandise would be.

“I wasn't surprised by how many shirts we sold. I had said it needs to be all hands on deck printing shirts and they printed, I think, as many as they could as quickly as they could, and we will continue putting lots of merchandise out to make sure everybody can get their CM Punk merchandise. We have, in fact, for the ringer tee, the blanks, we bought out the entire country's supply of that style of t-shirt because that's how big the demand is for CM Punk merchandise right now. When I say that everything is clicking so well, it's an understatement because to set your merchandise record, your attendance record, and then have Guinness World Records today chiming in saying they think it might be the loudest applause, the biggest pop any wrestler has ever gotten, that's pretty cool, too. So in terms of fan satisfaction, to all of our great fans and the merchandise sales, I think for our TV audience, this is going to be really, really great for us. As we continue to grow, I just think for the fans, if you wanted to find a reason -- if you're looking for something to motivate you to get back into wrestling, this was it. This is it.”

Tony continued, “I believe this was one of the best deals I've ever done in my life. I don't think it was really all about money. You know, if you listen to what he and I had said, on the press conference we did, we did a scrum that was like 50 minutes and he gave so much of his time, he was so generous with really everybody that night, in terms of, obviously, wanting to spend time with the fans, but then creating this great moment by buying thousands and thousands of ice cream bars, so that everybody at this United Center was able to go out and get their free ice cream bar. That was pretty amazing. That's something that people always remember and it was just a really cool thing for him to do for the fans.

"He was also really cool about going backstage and offering really, really kind advice, being really good with his time with the wrestlers, and [is a] super friendly person. I just think some of the stuff he did in terms of helping our young wrestlers become stars at the next level, it's really, really, really significant and it's going to help us grow the business, but sustain AEW for many, many years to come. So I think it was one of the best deals I've ever done. In so many ways, it wasn't about money, like he and I said in the press conference, it was really a lot about getting to know each other. That was one of the side effects of the pandemic was people had a lot of time indoors, and I spent a lot of time talking to him on the phone getting to know each other better, and building trust with each other. So this was a long time coming. We'd been talking a lot for about a year and a half.”

When asked point-blank if CM Punk paid for himself on the first day, Tony Khan says that he believes that he did.

“Yeah, I mean, I do think so I think in terms of what this has done for our business, I really believe that as soon as we saw the results from this before we even got started, I knew this was the best deal we could have possibly done.”

In terms of what CM Punk said in the ring, Tony Khan said he did not guide CM Punk in any way about what to say, he simply gave him a home and a forum for his thoughts and feelings.

"I am giving him a home and a forum to say what he feels, and that's how he feels. Really everybody in wrestling, the fans, the other wrestlers, the staff, are the people who paid the price because he can make money for everybody and he can make people's lives better, and he didn't want to do it for a long time. Now that he's come back, I think it's going to have a positive effect on everyone. It's going to help our business, it's going to help grow AEW and it's, like I said, validated the support of our fans who have been with us from day one. It's also brought a lot of people back to wrestling that had gone away. It's created the kind of mainstream interest. Nothing we've done has ever created -- and we brought in some of the biggest stars in the world. You know, Shaquille O'Neal, Mike Tyson, Snoop Dogg have all gotten in the ring and done stuff for us, and many other great moments. So many critically acclaimed matches. We've set rating milestones, but nothing has done what we've done with this.”

CM Punk will make his AEW Dynamite debut in Milwaukee, Wisconsin tonight as he builds to Sunday, September 5 and his match against Darby Allin at AEW All Out.

Fightful will have live coverage of Dynamite beginning at 8 p.m. eastern time.

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