‘Grand Slam’ at New York’s Arthur Ashe Stadium Highlights AEW’s Return to the Road

The Week in Wrestling: Tony Khan on AEW’s first trip to the Big Apple, Edge’s kind words for Kevin Owens and more.
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SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath-the-surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.

Tony Khan bringing AEW to New York

All Elite Wrestling is coming to New York.

AEW’s signature show Dynamite will be broadcast live from the prestigious Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday, Sept. 22. Hosting the show at the main stadium for the U.S. Open tennis tournament makes the company’s maiden voyage to New York particularly exciting.

AEW owner and founder Tony Khan spent time at the venue in Queens to make the announcement earlier on Wednesday. He revealed to Sports Illustrated that AEW Dynamite: Grand Slam, which will double as the first pro wrestling show at Arthur Ashe Stadium, will be held in front of a full-capacity crowd.

“We’ve wanted to come into the New York area for a long time,” Khan says. “This venue is one we identified over two years ago as a place we wanted AEW to go. It’s such an iconic venue, and it sets up perfectly for wrestling.”

The wrestling ring will be placed at center court, which should lead to an incredible visual. The sight lines should make the show particularly appealing for ticket holders, and Khan is honored to pay tribute to the legacy of tennis legend/civil rights activist Arthur Ashe.

“We’re very proud to say that our first event in New York will be at Arthur Ashe Stadium,” Khan says. “To be the first-ever wrestling event in Arthur Ashe Stadium is a really groundbreaking achievement. It’s an essential part of the New York sports experience, and now to have AEW associated with it, that’s really special for us.”

Khan credits Rafael Morffi, AEW’s director of live events, for putting in a tremendous amount of work to help turn this idea into a reality.

“We’ve been working on this idea for two years, and Raf has put so much of this together,” Khan says. “He used to work for WWE in live events for years, and he worked for the Kraft family in New England. He’s negotiated and managed this every step of the way.

“People here are already very excited about it. I was telling Christian Cage about this show, and he thought it was a brilliant idea. Christian is a huge tennis fan and he goes to matches, and he said this is something he’d thought about for years. And it made him really excited that he is going to be part of it.”

This show is part of AEW’s return to live touring, which kicks off in July. There will be a specially themed show for each stop on the tour, beginning with Road Rager in Miami on July 7, two weeks of Fyter Fest on July 14 and 21 in Texas, and Fight for the Fallen in Charlotte on July 28.

“We’re so excited to start our ‘Welcome Back’ tour and reconnect with fans,” Khan says. “Come September, Grand Slam is going to be a great event for us. We’re reaching out across brands and franchises to open up partnerships. This is yet another example of opening the ‘Forbidden Door’ across sports.”

The (online) week in wrestling

  • Samoa Joe returned to NXT this week, adding some excitement, even if he will not be an active wrestler.
  • Roman Reigns was spectacular again on SmackDown last week, both in his interactions with The Usos and Mysterios. 
  • The Forbes feature on Tony Khan is a worthwhile read, and shares some interesting snippets about why AEW is still in the red, as well as his father’s initial reaction to starting a wrestling company. 
  • Chris Van Vliet had a phenomenal interview with John Cena, even touching on Cena turning heel (which I still don’t believe we’ll see). 
  • Seth Rollins did a tremendous job of enhancing Cesaro’s return with the way he sold that beatdown.
  • Two things were clear last week on Dynamite: Miro looks unstoppable as TNT champ, and the show desperately needs to get back to Wednesday nights. At least the Friday time slot—which is when it will air again this week—is good preparation for the new Rampage show that will air on Fridays after it debuts later this summer. 
  • Something is askew with a clean-shaven Otis. With WWE returning to live events on the road, I wonder if/when he will be paired back with Mandy Rose. Both have yet to find their momentum without one another. 
  • Andrade’s sit-down interview with Jim Ross airs Friday on Dynamite and has the potential to present him in an entirely new light from how he was in WWE. Also, Andrade is no longer working Friday’s inaugural Federación Wrestling show, which has been canceled.
  • Moose fell short in his Impact title match on Saturday against Kenny Omega, and the title picture is now centered around Sami Callihan as the top contender. 
  • Becca, who shared a piece of her story with SI last week, looked outstanding in her Limitless match at Fortune Favors the Bold. 
  • Matt Cardona and Nick Gage have organically built a red-hot feud. At some point, action figures will have to be used as weapons against one another. 
  • Pulling for Don West to get well as soon as possible. 

Edge: Kevin Owens is firing on all cylinders

Since the beginning of the year, Kevin Owens has brought an exceptional amount of energy and intensity to WWE programming.

His program with Roman Reigns was phenomenal. He has evolved into such a dynamic blue-collar babyface that it is easy to forget Owens built himself into a massive star in WWE by playing the role of a heel. And not only did he look great in that universal title program, he also helped elevate Reigns, pushing the champ to an even sharper performance. Building off their prior work, Owens could be the perfect choice to eventually be the one to dethrone Reigns.

Owens also worked a tremendous program with Sami Zayn at WrestleMania 37. Zayn is a longtime nemesis, yet their interactions continue to feel fresh and noteworthy. And now the story unfolding is Owens’s working with Big E, gaining his trust years after making life miserable for E and The New Day. They teamed together last week on SmackDown, defeating Zayn and Apollo Crews, and will partner up again this Friday to take on the team of Crews and Commander Azeez.

Owens’s commitment to the craft has resonated over the years with many of his peers. WWE Hall of Famer Edge believes that Owens is among the industry’s elite. Speaking with Sports Illustrated in the lead-up to WrestleMania, Edge articulates the qualities that make Owens so special on-screen.

“Kevin is so real and authentic,” says Edge, whose name is Adam Copeland. “I like to think there are a lot of similarities between Edge and Kevin Owens in what we bring to the table in terms of our promos and the way we work. Honestly, there’s not much of a division between the people behind the characters now.

“I know, for me, I used to say, ‘Edge is a character.’ When I walk through that curtain, I am fully Edge. Adam is in the back waiting. But I was playing this villainous, lecherous, trying-to-climb-and-scratch-to-the-top character. This incarnation of Edge is basically Adam. Looking at it that way, everything feels natural and real. There has been truth in everything I say and do. I always make sure there is that element of truth, and Kevin does that same thing.”

Owens is a throwback character. He adds value to titles when he holds them, yet he is not defined by them. He is the type of performer that grabs a viewer’s attention through a combination of charisma, heart and sensational athleticism in the ring.

“I think that’s why it is working so well for him,” Copeland says. “And again, he has that type of real, honest feeling in all of his work. Look at what he’s done, especially with Roman. Kevin is firing on all cylinders.”

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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.