Eric Bischoff recently spoke at length about Tony Khan and AEW's head-to-head battle against WWE during a recent installment of his 83 Weeks podcast.
Featured below are some of the highlights from the show.
Says he does like Tony Khan and wishes him well: “Let me preface this all. First of all, I like Tony a lot. I don’t know Tony really well. We’ve crossed paths on several occasions. We’ve done an interview together. I’ve been on his show a couple times, and all of them were really enjoyable experiences that I was grateful for. It was fun to go back and see people that I worked with for 15, 20, 25 years or more. A lot of the production team that is a part of AEW worked for me at WCW so it was a pleasant experience, more than pleasant.”
Addresses the head-to-head aspect between AEW and WWE: “But I first want to address the head-to-head narrative. I’ve been very supportive of AEW. Several weeks ago when AEW made their appearance at Arthur Ashe in New York, I was nothing but complementary and excited, and that’s a very bold, aggressive, risky move, establishing yourself in a market the way they did, and doing it so successfully. In fact, and I’ll paraphrase myself here because I don’t have the tweet in front of me, but I said something like, I have a huge dose of healthy envy, not jealousy, but heavy, for Tony and everybody associated with AEW because I know that feeling of making a big move like that and having it pay off, and the energy they received from the crowd that they earned. I know what that feels like. I envied everybody involved in a healthy way. I’m like, wow, they’re actually doing it. I’m fully supportive of AEW, and I only reiterate that and feel the need to because, my social media, you should see mine. That clip that was played, that was a part of our podcast last week, I’ve never had anything on my social media explode the way that did. I have well over a million impressions. We’ve got over 214,000 people that watched that video. By the way, you should see our demos. (said it sarcastically, comically). If you look at our demos on a percentage basis, this podcast has a much higher demo success than AEW or WWE. Should I go around bragging that our podcast is a more popular podcast than AEW or WWE is, a television show? Absolutely not. That would be stupid.”
How he doesn’t dislike Khan supporting his company, but dislikes his touting of key demo success: “The core of this debate, and it is a debate, because again, I’m fully supportive of Tony and AEW and everybody there. The core of this though is not that Tony spoke out, not that Tony’s proud of his company, not that Tony even speaks out rather aggressively about his product. He should do that. I would be disappointed if he didn’t do that, but it’s the manipulation of data to create the impression that there is this head-to-head competition. This all started way before, and I never commented on this stuff before because I don’t have a dog in the hunt, and it’s fun to watch. To suggest as has been going on for quite some time that based on a percentage of a demo compared to a show that’s on a completely different night against completely different competition that somehow that correlates to AEW being more popular or a better product, I have an issue with that. Not an issue with believing, as Tony obviously does, and the talent obviously does, as well they should, that they’re a better product. Subjectively, I would agree in many cases and have many times on social media. I’ve been equally as, I’m going to use the word critical but I don’t mean to be critical, it’s more of a constructive criticism.”
How data has been manipulated to make it seem that AEW is more popular than it is: “But the idea of, that number 1, AEW, and more often than not, it’s the Dave Meltzer’s and the Bryan Alvarez’s and those of that ilk, that are trying to twist and turn data, and interpret data in a way to try to create this impression that they’re actually in a competition. That’s where I throw a flag personally. But, for the first time, I’m going to explain exactly why unlike previous comments that were very similar that I’ve heard on social media, and from Tony, and from people in AEW on social media, this is the first time that I reacted the way that I did. What pulled my trigger was Tony came out before the head to head, it’s not even head to head competition, before the Friday night in question. He reacted, and I don’t blame him for reacting the way he did. But part of his reaction included a comment that really pissed me off. When Tony came out and said, ‘If Ted Turner knew 1% about what I do about professional wrestling, WCW would still be in business’ That lit my fu**ing fuse for a couple of reasons. For all the people I’m guessing that are tuning into this podcast to hear what my followup is, let me remind you, let me point out a couple things. I’m 99.9999% Tony Khan doesn’t have fu**ing idea what he’s talking about in terms of if Ted Turner was a wrestling fan. I know I don’t. I can find out. I can call his son Teddy, and I probably will soon because I’m curious as to how far back Ted Turner’s relationship with professional wrestling started. Was Ted a wrestling fan growing up? I don’t know, and neither does Tony. So right off the bat, Tony made a statement that was misleading and ignorant. Ignorant in the literal sense of the word. I’ll say the same thing that Tony said about Ted. Tony said, ‘Ted Turner may be a lot smarter than I am, but if he knew 1% about wrestling.’ I’m sure Tony is a much more intelligent person than I am. Tony’s a really brilliant guy. I’m pretty smart. Tony’s really, really smart. So when I use the term ignorant, I’m meaning lack of information and knowledge, which is I think the definition of the word ignorant and its application here. Number 1, it was an ignorant statement. For Tony to compare himself to Ted Turner, if there’s anything that’s laughable, that’s it.”
Reminds fans that AEW is not going head to head with WWE: “AEW is not in head-to-head competition. They are just not. They are in the same industry. Now, you can say, ‘Well they came at us, they extended that half hour into our time slot and that was an aggressive move’, and that would be a fact. But to somehow spin that and try to suggest that you are a more popular product, you are a more successful product, you are winning some kind of a ratings war that only exists in the minds of dirt sheet writers and people that want to try to spin reality, that’s not right. Another disclaimer here, I am not encouraging Tony to go head to head with WWE. I think that would be a bad move. It’s just not time yet. They’re only a two year old company. They have a long, long runway ahead of them to grow their audience and grow their product. But right now, arguably, they haven’t done such a great job of growing that audience. Let me clarify that. Clearly, based on comments I get, people don’t really listen or think too much about what I’m saying. They react emotionally. They have a long way to go before they’re head-to-head competition. All I’m suggesting is, rather than claiming you’re competing against, and somehow you’re competing favorably because you’re comparing a percentage of your demos on your Wednesday night show to a percentage of the demos on Monday Night RAW, notice they don’t talk about SmackDown too much. But on Monday Night RAW, when they go against Monday Night Football, which probably has the highest concentration of male 18-49 year old than just about anything else on TV in any given week, is a false equivalency. It just isn’t real. It’s data gymnastics. I hope Tony and I can maintain our relationship. If we do, I’m grateful for that, if we don’t, that’s life. I have no real skin in the game. I’m just trying to clarify my position. I did take personal umbrage to the fact that Tony would compare himself the way he did to Ted Turner. I just think it was just a dumb move.”
Says AEW is not on the same level WCW was in 1996: “The other thing that lit my fuse and inspired me was a catalyst for my response when Tony said, ‘We’re at WCW 1996 level. We’re at that stage.’ No you’re not. You’re not even close dude. You’re not even a distant number 2 to where we were at in 1996 because in 1996, in every measurable way that a human being can realistically measure something, not spin something, but measure something, WCW Nitro was defeating WWE in a real head to head competition, not a fragmented half hour when they were on Fox Sports 1 that hardly anybody watches and they were are on TNT.AEW came into existence at a point in time when the audience was craving an alternative. They had a clean slate. They didn’t bring any negative baggage to the dance like WCW did when we launched Nitro…Nobody thought it would ever happen. On top of that, WCW had a very negative association with the audience. It was a mismanaged disaster of a company that was number 2 at the time, but they might as well have been number 152 to WWE. AEW didn’t have that issue. AEW came in with a massive amount of public support and goodwill. WCW didn’t have that. We had to fight up from out of the sewage to finally reach dry ground, and then try to find the mountain, and then climb the mountain. AEW didn’t have to do that. All they had to do was say, ‘We’re coming out and we’re doing this’ hire a couple of key pieces of talent, and they’re off and running. They had all this goodwill. What happens when you start putting yourself over, in my opinion prematurely, in the way they’re doing it, by constantly denigrating and comparing to WWE, is you start losing that goodwill because people see through it.”
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