Tony Khan Never Considered AEW 'Essential Business,' Put An Emphasis On Not Releasing Anyone

Fans haven't been allowed in the arena for wrestling since March 11 when AEW and NXT ran their last live shows with an audience. Beginning with the March 13 episode of WWE SmackDown, both AEW and WWE have held shows inside an empty arena.

The change in directions forced both companies to quickly pivot as the coronavirus pandemic started to shut down the United States.

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Speaking on AEW Unrestricted, AEW President Tony Khan looked back on the sudden change following Dynamite in Salt Lake City.

"I knew there was a good chance the Rochester and Newark shows were not going to come off. We had to pivot and re-think these things. What was hard for me was, I didn't want to force anybody to come to work under these circumstances. When we were in Salt Lake City, I told everybody 'this is totally voluntary from here on out.' I didn't know where we were gonna be the next week; Rochester or Jacksonville, but I had to figure it out by the next morning because the trucks needed to know where to take the ring and set. That night, I knew we were gonna have to make changes. I talked to [TNT] and they were excited for us to keep putting on shows. In Salt Lake City, I said it was a voluntary enterprise and I'm glad because some people have taken me up on it. The last thing I want is someone to feel uncomfortable in the work environment," he said.

AEW ran live shows during the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic as states remained open, but Florida and Georgia issued stay-at-home orders in April that didn't allow for any gatherings related to sporting events.

"I first had an inkling that things were going to be shutdown going into the third show, which is when we taped all these shows. States were starting to shut down and I never considered us or tried to force us to be 'an essential business.' I never tried to stay open against restrictions. When we heard Florida and Georgia were going to shut down, we would shut down too and we needed to tape as much content as we could before the shutdown," said Khan.

On April 9, Florida deemed WWE "essential business" under the guise "employees at a professional sports and media production with a national audience -- including any athletes, entertainers, production team, executive team, media team and any others necessary to facilitate including services supporting such production -- only if the location is closed to the general public."

Technically, AEW could have resumed live shows as well following the order, but the company had already taped weeks of television in Georgia and decided not to take advantage of the memo in Florida.

Khan said things changed rapidly in Georgia as they thought they would have a couple of days to tape everything, but the stay-at-home order came down just before the April 1 show, forcing the company to tape as much content as possible before the order went into effect at midnight on April 3.

Khan went on to express his gratitude to the AEW talent and staff for hanging in there and being willing to work during these times. He concluded by saying, "Something I put an emphasis on during the shutdown is that we haven't let anybody go and we've tried to take care of everybody through this. It's not the right time for re-organizing or re-structuring for us. I want to take care of everybody and make sure they're comfortable."

Florida has now lifted its stay-at-home order and AEW will resume running live shows on Wednesday with Dynamite.

Fightful will have live coverage of AEW Dynamite beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

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