AEW Rampage is set to launch this Friday. The show will air live on TNT and serve as a third hour of weekly TV programming for AEW. AEW President Tony Khan has assured fans that Rampage will not be a “B-show” and will be on-par with Dynamite.
On the latest episode of 82 Weeks with Eric Bischoff, co-host Conrad Thompson asked Bischoff if he had any advice for AEW ahead of Rampage’s debut. Bischoff also discussed the recent run of WWE releases.
“No, because right now, I think Tony Khan and company are hitting on all cylinders,” Bischoff said. “You 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 organizations 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.”
In the late ’90s, Thunder was launched as another weekly program alongside Nitro. However, many fans saw the program as a lesser show than that of the flagship Nitro show. Bischoff explained how WWE is actually helping Rampage and helping AEW grow its audience.
“I was supportive of the Friday night opportunity for AEW,” Bischoff noted. “Yes, it does pose 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 shows on right after SmackDown. Let’s at least see what’s going on.’ We’ve talked ad nauseum 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.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit 82 Weeks with Eric Bischoff with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.