The new president of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is not only a big fan of Las Vegas, he grew up here. Nick Khan graduated from Bonanza High School and UNLV before climbing the ranks in the entertainment industry, and while his regular monthly trips to Las Vegas to visit family were interrupted by the pandemic, he can’t wait to get back to his hometown.
The WWE is also returning to Las Vegas this summer. Its massive annual SummerSlam event will be held at Allegiant Stadium on August 21, marking its first time in Las Vegas and the first time it has taken place in an NFL stadium.
SummerSlam will also be one of the first events held at full capacity at the new stadium where the Las Vegas Raiders played their first season in 2020 without fan attendance. A dance music concert by Illenium will become the first major concert held there on Saturday, July 3, followed by Garth Brooks’ stadium tour visit on July 10. The Raiders will play their first preseason game with fans against the Seahawks on August 14 before kicking off the regular season with a Monday Night Football game against the Ravens at Allegiant on September 13.
“We were paying close attention to March Madness because there was a thought that people might not be going back to Las Vegas [to bet and watch games] because there was nothing to go back to,” Khan said. “But once March Madness hit, the occupancy rate skyrocketed. That was our moment of [understanding] if we have an event, it will get people back, and it’s an opportunity to also help jumpstart the Vegas economy.”
SummerSlam, which will stream live exclusively on Peacock in the United States and on the WWE Network everywhere else, is one of the company’s “big four” pay-per-view events along with Wrestlemania, the Royal Rumble and the Survivor Series and is considered the second biggest event of the year after Wrestlemania. SummerSlam began in 1988 and took place last year at the Amway Center in Orlando.
The Connecticut-based WWE has brought events to Las Vegas in the past at T-Mobile Arena and the Thomas & Mack Center, and in 1993, WrestleMania IX was held outdoors at Caesars Palace in front of nearly 17,000 spectators. The arrival of Allegiant Stadium could mean more pro wrestling supercards in Las Vegas in the future.
“That’s the hope,” Khan said. “The Silver Bowl (Sam Boyd Stadium) was a tough venue to get to and stay at. You have the Thomas & Mack Center, and then all of a sudden you had MGM Grand Garden Arena, Mandalay Bay, and then boom, the Golden Knights and the Raiders and T-Mobile Arena and Allegiant Stadium, and now also the [MSG] Sphere being built.
“There’s a surge of sports in Las Vegas and the mistake I think the sports world was making previously is looking at the local market without seeing the hundreds of millions of tourism dollars every year. With the NFL’s 16, now 17-week season, you’re figuring if the home games can attract enough out-of-town fans, and that’s easy. It makes all the sense in the world.”
Khan practiced law before joining International Creative Management (ICM) in 2006 and launching the talent agency’s sports media department. Six years later he moved to Creative Artists Agency (CAA) as the co-head of the television department, representing WWE, the SEC conference of the NCAA, Top Rank Boxing and others. He joined WWE as president and chief revenue officer in August 2020.
The WWE held WrestleMania 37 over two days in April at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, with limited capacity live audiences, so the Las Vegas SummerSlam will be a significant event for the company as well as the venue. And everyone involved is betting it will be a big winner coming out of the pandemic and another boost to the city’s burgeoning reputation as a pro sports town.
“To me, Vegas has always been a city that attracts everybody. Certain cities attract regional or local folks but not national or international, and Vegas has always been that,” Khan said. “It’s a city based on winning, and the fact that the [Golden Knights] won a lot early on has built a lot of traction. It’s also about how great T-Mobile and Allegiant are and their proximity to the Strip shows the brilliance of both developers of those venues.”