Just prior to the September 2nd 2023 edition of AEW Collision at Chicago’s United Center, AEW President Tony Khan appeared before fans and was met with boos. Khan addressed his decision to fire CM Punk and here is the transcription of his speech…
“You’re being more kind than I had potentially expected. So thank you. You’re doing great. Welcome home. [Crowd boos] Okay, I understand how you feel.
I have never done this before. I wanted to come out and talk to you before the show starts. Usually when I come out here in Chicago in front of friends and family, I always talk about how I’m from this great state. I’m from the great state of Illinois myself. I grew up here.
I grew up downstate in Champagne. And to come here to this building was pretty much the biggest deal in the world to me. Until I was 28 years old, I had never spent more than two and a half weeks in a row out of Illinois my entire life. And I love it here very much. I love bringing pro wrestling here.
This weekend means a lot to me. Five years ago, it was out of Hoffman Estate near the streets of Woodfield, I went to the original All In. That was the biggest independent wrestling show of all time. Last weekend we had AEW All In, that was the biggest pro wrestling show of all time, period. We sold more tickets to that show than any wrestling show in the history of the wrestling business. And now it’s very important to me to keep the tradition of All Out alive. All Out started, to be honest with you, because when I started AEW, Ring of Honor had paid for the original All In, and I couldn’t call it All In without possibly getting sued by Ring of Honor. I came here to talk to you from the bottom of my heart because today I had to do one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
And sitting here right now, I’m sure everybody knows what, at this point, what I’m going to say, but I think it’s important that I come out here and talk to you about it before Collision and All Out this weekend because I really respect all of you. I’m a wrestling fan like you, and if I were in your shoes, I could totally understand how a lot of you feel one way or the other. But I just want to tell you, I’m out here because I had to do something I did not want to do today. I’m very sorry to fans or anybody who’s upset by it.
This week we conducted an investigation independent of me. I have a discipline committee at AEW that is independent, and it comprised the majority of lawyers. And I also brought in outside legal council. I hired independent lawyers to investigate this and make a recommendation. This was different than anything I’ve ever been involved in in sports or wrestling. It was very tough when I met them.
The unanimous recommendation was the action that I took, the action that I took came as a result of this investigation, but I have to say it stems from an incident backstage last weekend at AEW All In London. I’ve been going to wrestling shows like you for over 30 years, and the first one I ever went to was with my dad, who’s here tonight, in Campaign, Illinois. I would thank you, dad, because without him, none of this would be possible, because he took a huge leap on a dream that became AEW. And that’s why we’re here. And everything I know about business, I learned from him. He’s a family businessman. This is a family business. And I care about the people who work here, that the production staff has everybody that works here, the wrestlers, but also people you don’t think about every day that make this show happen.
I’ve been going to wrestling shows for over 30 years as a fan, and I’ve been producing them on TNT here for almost four years now. And this is the first time, this incident, that I have ever feared for my safety at a wrestling show, that I have ever feared for my life. More than I’ve ever feared for the safety of the people who work backstage. The staff, I’m sorry, but they don’t come here… they don’t work here to be put in danger. There shouldn’t be 50 year old people with artificial joints worried, ‘am I going to get hurt for coming to work to work on AEW every single week.’
I’m sorry. I can’t have that, and I won’t have that. That’s why it’s a very tough choice. There’s no place in the world, this is literally the last place in the world, literally the United Center that I would want to tell you. The recommendation was from the committee, but the decision was mine. I’m sorry that anybody’s upset, but I want you to know that I know you’re all here tonight because you love professional wrestling. This company is a love letter to professional wrestling. And I know there’s wrestlers here that every single one of you care about. They’re all going to work very hard to put on a great episode of Collision for you here tonight. They’re going to work very hard.
I promise to put a great All Out for you, because we’ve been doing all out here for years, and I want to keep it in Chicago forever. It means a lot. I love this town. I love this state. I love so many people here, including my family, and so many of you. I love pro wrestling. I love doing this every week. Thank you for being here tonight. I’m sorry if I disappointed you, that’s not my intent. But I did what I had to do for the people that worked here. I love you very much. Thank you for being here.”