Skip to main content

How WWE's Vince McMahon Compares To AEW Boss Tony Khan, According To Matt Hardy

Vince McMahon welcoming fans back on Smackdown.
(Image credit: WWE)

There’s been no person more important or with more influence in the wrestling business the last forty years than Vince McMahon. The businessman turned announcer turned on-camera heel turned businessman has dominated the entire industry as he took his father’s regional company and expanded it into a global WWE behemoth we know today. As such, there’s always a steady stream of people dropping quotes about the longtime WWE head, and lately, many of those quotes have been comparisons to AEW boss Tony Khan.

Over the last few years, upstart AEW has emerged as a legitimate contender to WWE, the first real counterpoint since WCW went bust in 2001. More recently, many WWE stars have left for the increasingly popular promotion, and many have commented on the differences between working at the two companies. Longtime WWE star turned AEW favorite Matt Hardy became the latest this month when he talked to Essentially Sports about the differences he sees in the culture and the head executives. Here’s a portion of his quote…

I think AEW is very special because the mentality AEW uses, starting from Tony Khan all the way down, is really just ‘come in, do your job, work hard, be part of the team and let’s make this product as good as possible.’ They don’t really try and force people into a hierarchy, they don’t try and reign by fear. And everyone is allowed to feel comfortable. If you have an issue, you can talk to anyone. Tony Khan is so accessible. If you need to address Tony Khan, then you can speak to him, where at WWE it’s quite the opposite with Vince.

Much has been made about the backstage dynamics in the WWE. It historically has been, by all accounts, a very competitive environment with certain rules, and there is often a perception that certain performers had a much bigger say in their characters and where they were going than others. That perception may be partly from having some enormous stars like Hulk Hogan who weren’t always the most generous with putting guys over, especially early in their careers. It may be partly from one of the company’s bigger stars, HHH, marrying Vince McMahon’s daughter Stephanie McMahon, and it may also be from how inaccessible Vince has reportedly been over the years to many mid-card wrestlers. 

That distance is something Matt Hardy spoke about as well in a longer comparison of Khan and McMahon. Here’s another portion of his quote where he talks about that distance…

Vince is very hard to be able to speak with. And Tony, I just feel like Tony has the current mindset of the wrestling fan in 2021. So he can kind of make that come alive through his wrestlers and the way he puts together and books shows. It’s just such a comfortable family environment where everyone feels like if you need to speak out, if you need to address something, you can. Everyone is comfortable in AEW, and it really does feel like a really big family… They’re both ridiculously hard workers. There’s no doubt about that. Vince works his ass off. No one can ever take that away from him. Tony does as well.

It’s a great time to be a wrestling fan right now. The business always benefits from competition. It forces creativity, innovation and change, and it creates a really fun environment for the fan to watch as competing companies try and top each other. It’s a big reason why many remember the late '90s and early '00s as the best time in the history of the business. Vince McMahon in particular proved his all-time legendary status during the feud with WCW. 

At seventy-six years old, it’s not likely McMahon will re-emerge as a major on-camera presence, beyond the occasional TV or PPV spot, but he’s reportedly still playing a key role in many creative decisions, especially since HHH has been out following health issues. At thirty-nine years old, Tony Khan is directly involved in everything AEW is doing. Right now his positive energy and reverence for wrestling history seem to be sitting very well with a lot of veteran wrestlers who have been open about how refreshing it has been.

That being said, WWE is still the more popular product. It has been beating AEW in the ratings by a fairly sizeable margin, and while much has been made about all the recent departures from WWE, the brand still employs an overwhelming percentage of the most popular wrestlers including Roman Reigns who is, for my money, the absolute best performer in the entire industry. We'll see how things look a few years from now.

Mack Rawden

Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, the NBA and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.