Nick Khan ushers in WWE’s ‘Renaissance Era’ with support from Cody Rhodes

April 4, 2024
3,614 Views


For about three nights a week and sometimes on the weekends, WWE has eyeballs glued to the screen to see what’s going to happen next on RAW, SmackDown and NXT.

If Cody Rhodes’ loss to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 39 and the returns of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and CM Punk over the last 12 months were any indication, anything could happen in the world’s No. 1 pro wrestling promotion.

A lot of it has to do with a leader most pro wrestling fans won’t get to see on screen unless they flip to a business channel on TV. The man has helped steer the ship to viewership growth with key demographics on the company’s flagship shows “Friday Night SmackDown” and “Monday Night Raw” and its developmental brand “NXT.”

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Nick Khan in 2023

WWE President Nick Khan arrives at the red carpet before the 2023 ESPYS at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles July 12, 2023. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

The credit goes to Nick Khan.

Khan is an outsider when it comes to pro wrestling. He was a high-ranking executive at Creative Artists Agency before joining WWE leadership. And he was named president of WWE after the company closed its $21 billion merger with UFC.

Rhodes was among those who praised Khan.

“I grew up in the industry, so I’m privy to any time an executive from the outside world — I don’t mean this in a negative connotation — a civilian, a non-wrestler steps into the world of wrestling and sports entertainment,” Rhodes told Fox News Digital in a recent interview. “If you look at Jim Hurd in the ’90s, that guy said he managed Pizza Huts, but I’m positive he couldn’t even do that. He was detrimental and terrible and wanted Ric Flair to cut his hair.

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“Whereas, on the other side of the spectrum, Nick is a great example because he’s a wrestling fan. This guy was an usher at WrestleMania in Las Vegas. He saw Bret Hart and Hulk Hogan and Yokozuna. He worked himself up from the bottom. He didn’t start with money. His connection to the industry is current, and he’s contemporary. He’s not lost in the past. He’s not looking so far into the future. I think that’s one of the things that helps him greatly.”

Cody Rhodes in WrestleMania 39

Cody Rhodes hits the ring at WrestleMania Goes Hollywood at SoFi Stadium April 2, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Rhodes said what stuck out to him immediately was when he returned to WWE in 2022 at WrestleMania 38 in Dallas. He told Fox News Digital there was “some confusion” initially on what his nickname — “The American Nightmare” — was at first. It was the antithesis of “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, Cody’s late father.

“The one person to really wave the banner for me and beat the drum was Nick Khan,” Rhodes said. “I would say him and then (Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque) have been my most important teammates I’ve had since returning. But Nick was the one really to tell the top brass at WWE at the time what ‘The American Nightmare’ is who Cody Rhodes has become and what he can do for WWE.”

Rhodes was far from the only major return WWE has seen over the last two years.

The Rock not only returned but inserted himself into the main event of WrestleMania 40 on night one, even though he was hoping for a night two showdown with Reigns.

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The Rock and Nick Khan

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, right, with WWE President Nick Khan during a ceremony announcing Johnson has joined the board of directors for TKO at the New York Stock Exchange Jan. 23, 2024, in New York City. (Michelle Farsi/Zuffa LLC)

Johnson spoke glowingly of Khan in a 2021 Instagram post with the executive and his sister as Khan entered the WWE realm.

“In the mid 1980’s, Nick Khan, his sister Nahnatchka Khan and myself used to run around as kids in Honolulu, Hawaii every month when my grandmother would promote her pro wrestling shows at our local arena,” he wrote on Instagram

“As kids we LOVED the pro wrestling business and as adults, our love and respect for the wrestling business has become boundless.

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“Now years later…. Nick is WWE PRESIDENT. Life is unpredictable. Amazing. Here we all are.”

The two were spotted together around New Year’s earlier this year before The Rock surprised the WWE Universe on the “Day 1” episode of “Monday Night Raw.”

The Rock was probably more likely to come back to WWE than the Second City Saint known as CM Punk. But Punk stunned the entire industry when he showed up at the end of “Survivor Series: War Games.”

CM Punk and Jey Uso

WWE stars Jey Uso and CM Punk smile during a game between the Calgary Flames and the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center March 26, 2024, in Chicago.  (Getty Images)

The pop from the crowd was so loud it was likely heard across Lake Michigan.

Punk said in an interview on “The MMA Hour” with Ariel Helwani it was Khan who reached out to him around Thanksgiving.

“I got a call from Nick Khan, and he was just like, ‘Hey, we want to talk to you.’ And I was like, ‘Cool. (I’m) on my way to the gym, and I have this coming up. CFFC, I’ll be back.’ ‘Cool, you want to talk Monday?’ ‘Great.’

“So, it was the week of Thanksgiving. I spoke to him Monday. … The call, I’m always so nervous about pulling the curtain back on stuff, but I think the call was more about, ‘Hey, we want to talk about you coming back. We’d love you for Royal Rumble. They assumed that I probably had some sort of non-compete or something like that and were kind of floored when I was like, ‘No man, I’m ready to go. Let’s do it.”

Levesque may have said it best when he addressed fans at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for WrestleMania 40 kickoff. It’s a “new era” in WWE. And it’s one with Khan and Levesque leading the charge.

“I’ve heard it coined as the Renaissance Era, and I really like that outlook on it,” Rhodes told Fox News Digital. “For me, as a wrestler, I’m most excited that we no longer have to stand in the shadow of the Attitude Era because of the last two years we’ve done better business than they ever did — and they did exceptional, unbelievable, amazing business. I’m only making comparisons on a black and white level, dollars and cents, in terms of what WWE’s been able to do over the last two years.

Cody Rhodes wrestles Roman Reigns

Cody Rhodes wrestles Roman Reigns during WrestleMania Goes Hollywood at SoFi Stadium April 2, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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“I mentioned Renaissance because of all the things we’re trying, the changing of the programming and also the characters. They now appeal differently. Every year has its signature thing. There was Hulkamania — eat your vitamins and say your prayers. There was the Attitude Era — the (Jerry) Springer-type crash TV.

“Now, we have a more, reach-across-the-aisle and connect-to-the-audience-type relatable superstars. We still have larger than life, no doubt, but that’s all going into this very, like I said, Renaissance Era.”

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