AEW President Tony Khan recently spoke to The Financial Times and noted that AEW is taking examples of “what not to do” from WCW. Former WCW President Eric Bischoff responded to Khan’s comments shortly after, and again this week he took time on his own podcast, 83 Weeks, to talk about the positive impact WCW and Monday Nitro have had on the wrestling industry.
“At this point in 2020, I think Nitro had one of the most significant, positive impacts in the wrestling industry across the board than anything else in the past 30 years, and I know I sound like I’m patting myself on the back because in a sense I am, but nonetheless it’s true,” Bischoff said. “You look at the positive things that have happened as a result of Nitro: WWE upping its game, WWE going live, WWE figuring out and adapting to the Nitro era or NWO era which from their perspective became the Attitude Era.
“You’re still seeing the impact of early Nitro across the board including in AEW as much as they try to suggest, as Tony Khan did recently, that we’re gonna do everything different that Eric Bischoff did. Well, guess what m-fer? You’re doing about as much as I did than anyone else in the industry. I’m not defensive about that. I think it’s just a fact when you look at things objectively. The things we did on Nitro [are what] you’re still seeing today. They’re things that change the nature, the landscape [and] the entire industry, and I think it’s even fairer to say, now that I’m into my third Starbucks, WWE wouldn’t be the company that it is today had it not been for the pressure, the influence and quite frankly the template we created that they were able to follow and take to the next level, so there I’m off my soapbox. Sorry.”
Bischoff admitted that while he is critical of Khan’s comments, he is still rooting for AEW and has nothing against Khan personally.
“Look, I got nothing against Tony,” Bischoff admitted. “I love AEW. I’m rooting for their success, but I’m referring to an interview that he did a while back. I never read it. I didn’t pay attention to anything in that particular week online because I was traveling. But I was doing 83 Weeks with Christy Olson on YouTube last Wednesday, and she brought it to my attention. And she kind of caught me by surprise by it.
“To hear Tony Khan kind of dismissing WCW and suggesting he’s doing everything the opposite of what WCW did. Well good luck with that. So far he’s probably made about $100 million to compete with the WWE developmental territory and all of a sudden he thinks he’s Vince McMahon. Good luck to that brother. Can’t wait to see how it all turns out, but I’m rooting for ya. I really am. I know it sounds like I’m not, but I really am.”
Bischoff has told a story about how he almost met Khan at Tony Schiavone’s birthday roast, but Khan left before then. Bischoff discussed AEW taking inspiration from WCW and doing similar things that WCW did like high guaranteed contracts, which WCW were criticized for at the time.
“Look, I probably sound like I have more chapped ass than I really do over this, but I get it he’s been the business for only for a few months really. He’s new at this. Putting him in the spotlight, he’s getting a lot of questions that probably, at some point in time, he feels he’s gotta make a strong response to something. He’s really got his hands on the business. I get that. I was in that position. I understand it. I don’t hold it against him,” Bischoff said. “It seemed like a silly thing to say when you’re naming all of your pay per views after WCW pay per views. Your production is all former WCW production. When your staging is all early low-budget Nitro. You’re paying huge amounts of money, huge amounts of money to your top stars more than they’ve ever made in their lives in some cases including some of the announce talent, guaranteeing those dollars, a lot of the same things WCW had to do when they were trying to establish themselves. You’re following in so many of the footsteps of WCW in so many different ways, that WCW was criticized for by the way in terms of guaranteed contracts and paying huge sums of money.
“Great to criticize. Easy to criticize especially when you’ve only been in the wrestling business for a cup of coffee or two, but whatever. Like I said, my ass isn’t really all that chapped, but I did take exception to it in a small way.”
83 Weeks co-host Conrad Thompson noted how Bischoff may have said in the past that they were not going to do things the way Bill Watts did, which would prompt Watts to have a similar reaction as Bischoff. Thompson noted that it is important for any business owner to see what has worked and hasn’t worked in the past and try to improve on it. Thompson interpreted Khan’s comments in that context where AEW will try to improve on what WCW did wrong but take some things that worked. Bischoff agreed and talked about how WWE could use that same approach to try to change the way they do things.
“I agree with you, and again, I’m probably being a little overly sensitive to the way the story read. It didn’t read as well as you just stated, but I agree with you,” Bischoff said. “I think Vince McMahon, right now, should look at his own product and say look that worked for a long time and we’ve been doing this for a long time, but we need to evolve with the audience. We need to change the way we present our characters. We need to change the way we present our storylines. I think that’s absolutely necessary, or you’re going to continually do the same things you’ve always done [and] hope to different results, and we all know what that means.
“Look, had the article of Tony’s statement been as complete as your summation of it, I would’ve taken no exception to it, but the way it read was ‘WCW was a joke. It f–ked up the wrestling business. They advertised events that never happened.’ Hey brother, when you’re producing 200 shows a year and your overseas and you got two prime-time television shows that are topping the charts year after year, then I’ll be impressed, but until then, be a little careful about what you criticize. But approaching the business differently, I’m a big supporter of that.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit 83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.