Tony Khan says World Championship matches are hard to come by in AEW and that is a nod to the territory era of wrestling, specifically Mid-South wrestling.
In AEW, rankings are taken seriously and title matches are earned. This was a mindset set out before the first match ever took place in the company that was started in 2019. Reflecting on this mindset during an appearance on The Way of the Blade podcast, Tony Khan revealed the influence that Mid-South Wrestling has on AEW.
The subject of the episode he appears on is the show-long story arc from Mid-South Wrestling that would see Ted DiBiase get an NWA World Heavyweight Championship match against Ric Flair. Ted DiBiase would be a substitute for Butch Reed but be taken out of action by Dick Murdoch before the bell could ring for his match with Flair. DiBiase would compete regardless of his injuries leading to what is considered by some to be one of the bloodiest matches in the history of territory wrestling television.
Tony Khan appreciated the emphasis that this put on the importance of championship matches and stated that he tries to carry that same importance in his own booking of AEW.
"I've tried to make it feel that way. The title shots don't come that easy. If you think about it, like in AEW it's -- and I really do love Mid-South and like some of the ideas, some of the show, and in some of the things I've done, I've definitely been inspired, influenced, and I know not everyone loves everything about it. I try to make it a good show, you know, for different audiences, different fans and not, -- I'm not saying this self-servingly, but I try to create the perception of our title, which is not a coincidence.
Tony continued, “It looks a lot like in terms of being a giant big, giant belt, that is a beautiful belt. My favorite title of the 1980s and my childhood is definitely the North American Title, that 26, sometimes they say 27 pounds of silver and gold, and so I appreciate that the idea of title shots being hard to come by. So I've tried to create that, you know, it's not like everybody gets a shot at the title. If you think about it, people have gone a long time without getting on and you know, so anyway..."
Cody Rhodes has referenced in the past the design of the AEW World Championship being a direct reflection of Mid-South’s North American Title. All Elite Wrestling has taken other ideas from territories such as the black glove worn by Shawn Spears for a short period of time. A similar glove was worn by Ted DiBiase in Mid-South and by Barry Windham, as a tribute to his father, during his run as a Horseman.
Many of the talents in AEW have direct ties to Bill Watts and Mid-South. Jim Ross, the lead commentator in AEW, considers Bill Watts a mentor and got his start with Mid-South.
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