CHAMPAIGN — Tony Khan can’t and won’t forget his roots.
Case in point: The University of Illinois and Urbana Uni High graduate took some time from signing autographs and taking photos Thursday — part of a public meet-and-greet with burgeoning All Elite Wrestling — to help an individual once in Khan’s shoes.
“There was a guy ... he had a calculus quiz,” the 36-year-old said, “and I was trying to explain to him integration and anti-derivatives, because he only knew derivatives.”
Khan returned to his former longtime stomping grounds for a publicity blitz with AEW, of which he is the president.
It was announced this week that the professional wrestling promotion will run a live television taping from State Farm Center on Dec. 4. The TNT-based show, “All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite,” will be the first nationally broadcast non-basketball event at the home of Illinois hoops since its opening in 1963.
“The idea of Dynamite was actually conceived in Champaign because Dynamite is a name I’ve been using to write wrestling scripts since I was a little kid,” Khan said. “I can’t tell you how many episodes of Dynamite I wrote in the Assembly Hall, but now I’m actually doing one here, so it’s going to be awesome.”
Dynamite made its TV debut Wednesday in Washington, D.C., necessitating a quick turnaround for Khan and AEW cohorts Cody, Brandi Rhodes and Maxwell Jacob Friedman to arrive in Champaign-Urbana for Thursday’s festivities.
“It was awesome to be out on the Quad and signing autographs,” Khan said, “and getting to show Cody and Brandi and MJF around Green Street and my old apartment buildings and my old high school.”
Khan’s interest in creating a wrestling company hit a creation point in April 2018, via a Beverly Hills party discussion with TNT Chief Content Officer Kevin Reilly.
Almost simultaneously, Cody and other members of “The Elite” wrestling stable were organizing an independent show, “All In,” that eventually drew more than 10,000 fans to an arena in Hoffman Estates.
“I wouldn’t have done it if there wasn’t a great business case for it,” said Khan, also co-owner of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars under father and owner Shahid. “I knew we’d be able to do some great things — writing together and producing together and running a company together.”
The fact that Dynamite was able to secure a date in C-U so soon after its inception is merely icing on the cake for Tony Khan.
“I’d never been out of Champaign for more than a few weeks at a time until I was 28, when my dad bought the Jaguars,” Khan said. “So great to be back, and after we did the debut show, really special to be here, definitely. There’s nowhere I’d rather be today than home.”