Home Still wondering here: What did Ariel Helwani expect AEW’s Tony Khan to actually say?
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Still wondering here: What did Ariel Helwani expect AEW’s Tony Khan to actually say?

Chris Graham
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I’m a little late to the game here, but I had actually enjoyed Ariel Helwani’s Oct. 5 interview with AEW head dude Tony Khan, and was surprised to read that Helwani very much hadn’t.

“Whatever I’m gonna say here is gonna piss off the AEW supermarks, but I’ll just say this, one of the most frustrating, and to a degree, not-so-fun interviews of my career. Because, as you may have seen, he didn’t want to answer anything,” Helwani said on his Oct. 12 show.

His issue: that Khan dove headfirst away from being prompted to talk about the CM Punk-Elite situation from “All Out,” giving away the store on the ongoing MJF work, and offering his thoughts on Cody Rhodes’ move to WWE.

I’m not sure what he was expecting Khan to do there, honestly.

Let’s start with the Rhodes-to-WWE bit, which might be the easiest to get some perspective from Khan on, but even that one has to involve some hurt feelings on Khan’s part that could make it hard for him to talk about in a public forum.

Because it now seems from the outside looking in that Rhodes was determined to return to WWE, that maybe that had been his intent all along from the day he left back in 2016 – why he did what he did on the indies, in Ring of Honor, in New Japan, then AEW, building up his name, his in-ring work, his mic skills, the rest, to make it so that Vince McMahon would want him back.

If I’m Khan, yeah, that hurts, because in the meantime, as Rhodes was building a path back for himself to WWE, he benefited from the investment that Khan made in him to be able to get there.

I don’t know what good it does for Khan to air his thinking on all of that in public, and if you understand that, and I’d expect Ariel Helwani to understand that, why is Ariel Helwani getting butthurt?

The ongoing MJF work is another point where I don’t get Helwani getting bent out of shape for not getting a straight answer.

So, what, he expects Tony Khan to just tell him, Yeah, Ariel, it’s a work, we signed Max to a long-term extension, but we’re going to go ahead and keep pretending that we didn’t, and that he wants to sign with WWE, because it makes for good drama to make it seem real?

Like Khan said several times during the interview, we all get that Helwani has to ask the questions, but he can’t expect Khan to just give away the answers.

The Punk-Elite thing adds a layer of complication in that, from outward appearances, this is a possible real-life legal issue in addition to backstage politics that, even if it was just backstage politics, no promoter worth anything would want to discuss at any length in a public forum.

So, again, “he didn’t want to answer anything”?

Khan literally couldn’t answer these questions, not without causing himself either potential legal issues, giving away a well-crafted storyline for his biggest star, or revealing hurt feelings over a guy that he considered a close friend who seemed to use him to get back to where he’d wanted to be all along.

“You got to give us something,” Helwani said on his Oct. 12 show. “To not even tell me how you were feeling – give me something. Don’t just say, Not gonna talk about it. Not gonna talk about it. Doesn’t serve me. Doesn’t serve me.

“That’s not the way you do it. Look at some of the great promoters over the last 30 years. There’s a way of giving us the answer, even though it’s not the answer I want, but you’re giving us some sort of answer, something to chew on, as opposed to just shutting it all down. Not very enjoyable.”

Thing is, saying I’m not going to answer the question is an answer to the question. When I was listening to the Oct. 5 interview, Khan’s non-answer answers told me that he’s still at a loss as to what to say about Cody Rhodes leaving, that the MJF thing is the work that I’ve assumed it has been since March, that it’s still too early to get a sense as to where things are going on the Punk-Elite story.

“This is me just shooting right here. I feel like Tony Khan doesn’t trust me. I feel like he doesn’t really like me,” Helwani said, and it came across as whining, to the point, and unwarranted – Helwani actually started the interview off on an odd note, complaining to Khan that he thought Khan doesn’t like him, and had been blowing him off.

Based on what Helwani had to say about the interview afterward, I wouldn’t blame Khan for not liking Helwani and not trusting him.

Khan gave Helwani 77 minutes of his time for an interview, and what it got him was Helwani shooting on him about how he didn’t enjoy the experience, which you can guess will shut down any future interviews with Khan, and likely anyone else from AEW.

And that’s without taking into consideration the snipe from Helwani at the end of his comments on the interview on his Oct. 12 show.

“If you are saying right now with a straight face that the AEW product is better than the WWE product, you’re just a liar. You’re just an absolute liar,” Helwani said. “There’s no if, ands, or buts. The WWE product is infinitely better, infinitely more interesting, and there’s a freakin’ brawl happening backstage each and every week it seems. Meanwhile it’s all kumbaya on the other side of things. Like, if you’re gonna be a superfan be a superfan, but also tell it like it is. Six months ago, wasn’t the case, but right this second, if you’re gonna sit here and say that it’s a better product, you’re an absolute liar.”

Or maybe if you think the AEW product is better, you have a set of eyes, and the ability to differentiate between what is good and bad.

Helwani might think me thinking that makes me an “AEW supermark,” so I’ll just make it clear – Khan has a lot to get better on in terms of how he runs his company, starting with, he’d do himself a favor by giving up the book, and by taking away whatever power he decided to give to Matt and Nick Jackson and Kenny Omega back in 2019, in favor of having people with experience outside of the indies and front-row seats in charge of creative.

That said, WWE is and has been for years a trainwreck and almost impossible to watch if your mental age is greater than 10.

There’s nothing worth tuning in to the weekly programming or the monthly premium live events, and hasn’t been for some time.

I’m not going to dive into the pool with those who think Helwani said these things because he has some inherent bias toward WWE, because bias, really, is in the eye of the beholder.

I’m chalking his comments on the interview as just being entirely unprofessional on his part, possibly disqualifying, in terms of how one should consider his work as being anything journalistic, but in the end, he’d just had his feelings hurt.

It happens.

For what it’s worth, I still enjoyed the interview, though I won’t be tuning in for anything else from Ariel Helwani, who stepped on his own dick on this one.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].