Eric Bischoff: WWE Giving AEW 'A Golden Opportunity'
AEW are currently in a good groove heading into Rampage’s debut
AEW is currently one of if not the hottest promotion in wrestling, and ahead of the debut of Rampage on Friday August 13, AEW are in a great position to grow.
Eric Bischoff was once in a similar position as head of WCW in the 1990s, and on the 83 Weeks podcast was asked if he had any advice for Tony Khan and co.:
“No, because right now, I think Tony Khan and company are hitting on all cylinders,” Bischoff said. “You [Conrad Thompson] and I talked about this a little bit recently that it is such an unusual time, in my opinion, for WWE to be releasing, not just talent in general, but top talent with big equity at a time when CM Punk is being dangled like the golden carrot, and I don’t mean that to be derisive at all. I think they’re doing a great job with it. AEW has done such a phenomenal job of building up anticipation not only for CM Punk, but on the heels of CM Punk, possibly, want to make sure I’m clear about that, you’ve got Daniel Bryan following up in New York.
“Now, how does that relate to this third hour on Friday night you ask? Well, you didn’t, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. I think AEW is in a phenomenal position, due in large part, or in least in some part because of the release of Bray Wyatt. The timing is just mind boggling to me, and let me be clear, I think that there are a lot of things, I believe, wholeheartedly, going on behind the scenes at WWE, AEW and everywhere else that as viewers, as fans or even in our respective cases, we have relationships with people within those organisations at the highest levels.
“And I’m not hearing from any of them and neither were you, but there are so many things going on behind the scenes that we don’t see or understand. We see what we see on television, obviously. We see and hear what we read or listen to in social media, and there’s a lot of stuff going on. It’s gone beyond interesting. It’s now become fascinating to me, and I’m really, really excited about the business-to-business side of wrestling. And not in any small part due to the fact that WWE is releasing talent of the highest caliber at a time when AEW is starting to create some serious momentum, not a great show here and two nights of great shows there or a great rating here and then two or three not so great ratings there. We’re talking serious momentum here. It’s the beginning. It’s early. I wouldn’t even call it momentum at this point, but the indications are clear that AEW is building serious momentum, and now, you’ve got a third hour on Friday night following WWE programming with the potential, at least, of some of these high equity, former WWE talents making that transition.”
Bischoff himself launched an additional WCW programme in 1998 with the two-hour Thunder, a show that was firmly seen as WCW’s ‘b show’ compared to Monday Nitro. However, Bischoff thinks the timing is right for AEW to be launching Rampage:
“I was supportive of the Friday night opportunity for AEW,” Bischoff noted. “Yes, it does pose a risk. Everything poses a risk people! Everything, and there are risks with creating an additional hour, particularly on a major cable network. What are those risks? You can dilute your talent pool. You can create a situation where your must-see programming, in AEW’s case on Wednesday night, becomes not quite as must-see because well, you can pick it up on Friday night or a version thereof. That’s a risk. The upside is they’re making more money.
“You got to balance that, but now, with at least the potential of some of these key players coming over from WWE to AEW, you talk about a way to draft that WWE audience. They are in such a great position. Of course, in AEW’s case, they’re gonna have to deliver. You can only ride the anticipation horse so long before, ‘Okay, we’re done being excited about what could happen. Let’s show us what is going to happen,’ but right now, I don’t want to say what AEW is doing is flawless, certainly not flawless. I don’t know that anything can be, but this is about as close to it as you can get, and they’re getting a huge assist from WWE, for whatever reasons known or unknown to all of us who are not in the office, so to speak.
“WWE is handing Rampage a golden opportunity because you have to assume SmackDown averages about two million viewers a week, give or take. AEW right now is probably around 900,000 because they got a couple back-to-back weeks of a million plus, and if that trend continues, I suspect it will, now you’re getting into the point of being legitimate competition, regardless of what Vince McMahon has to say. You have to assume, though, looking at those numbers, that there is a large percentage of the WWE audience who has not yet sampled, or if they have sampled, haven’t become a regular AEW viewer. The numbers just tell you that. You got two million over here. You got one million over here. Well, there’s a million people floating around out there that haven’t committed yet. They’re ambivalent, at this point, to AEW, for whatever reason. Well, now there’s a reason not to be ambivalent. Now, there’s a reason to go, ‘Hey, this show is on right after SmackDown. Let’s at least see what’s going on.’ We’ve talked ad nauseam about getting people to sample your product. I always use the restaurant analogy, give people a reason to try your menu. It’s incumbent upon you then once they do to deliver, but once you do, now, you’ve got a loyal customer.”
H/T: Wrestling Inc.