WWE is in Montreal, and the crowd will be backing hometown wrestler Sami Zayn as he wrestles Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship at Elimination Chamber.
Since they were in Montreal for last night’s SmackDown, Montreal native Ariel Helwani made an appearance on the show. Helwani made a couple appearances during the show hanging with the fans, and noting the raucous Montreal crowd. Helwani reacted to both clips posted by BT Sport, who is one of Helwani’s employers and WWE’s UK and Ireland rightsholder.
One person who didn’t appreciate Helwani’s appearance was All Elite Wrestling CEO Tony Khan, who went after the MMA/pro wrestling journalist on Twitter. Khan called Helwani a “fraud,” and that he was “as legitimate of a reporter as Tony Schiavone.”
Helwani shot back by thanking Khan for watching and defended the AEW announcer/interviewer. Khan then told Helwani, “Good luck with the unbiased journalism.”
Thanks for watching, old friend! Can’t wait for our next chat.
(Also, don’t listen to the snowman, Schiavone. You’re a legend in my books.)
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) February 18, 2023
Good luck with the unbiased journalism.
— Tony Khan (@TonyKhan) February 18, 2023
Khan and Helwani have a past. Last October, Helwani interviewed Khan and called it one of the most frustrating interviews of his career. Mainly because Khan refused to answer anything even remotely associated to the “Brawl Out” fight between CM Punk, Ace Steel, Kenny Omega, and The Young Bucks due to it being an ongoing investigation. Even Helwani noted at the beginning of the interview he felt there was some past heat between the two, something Khan assured wasn’t the case.
In fairness to Khan, it does appear that on the surface, Helwani was in a working relationship with WWE. Even if Helwani and/or WWE didn’t intend to do that, that isn’t a great look if Helwani is supposed to be an impartial reporter who covers both WWE and AEW. Full disclosure, I have a media/PR relationship with WWE and not with AEW, though I would be very much open to having a similar relationship with AEW. But while I can reach out to WWE PR for clarification or an interview, appearing on WWE TV as being a part of the show might be going a bit too far.
That being said, Helwani does work for WWE’s UK and Ireland rightsholder. While there is still an expectation to be impartial, I can’t exactly blame Helwani for collaborating with WWE on something like this, given he works for BT Sport. Maybe it would’ve been better if Helwani had a BT Sport mic flag than a WWE one, but having a Montreal guy talk about the Montreal crowd all getting behind the Montreal wrestler going for the titles in Montreal makes sense.
This also might be a situation where, while I appreciate Tony Khan’s passion for pro wrestling, his relentless promotion of AEW, and his incredible work ethic, this was probably a battle not worth fighting publicly. Even if Khan was in the right, all it did was increase publicity for WWE in the lead-up to one of the most anticipated title matches in years. If Helwani’s appearance on SmackDown resulted in AEW thinking twice about their wrestlers and executives going on Helwani’s show, that’s well within AEW’s right to do that. But there wasn’t very much benefit by making this public.