After the wrestling world witnessed the return of CM Punk to the business after 7 years, AEW has gained momentum in a big way. Punk will be wrestling his first match in 7 years at AEW All Out against Darby Allin.
Former WCW President Eric Bischoff joined the discussion about CM Punk to AEW and the impact that signing will have for the company on the latest 83 Weeks Podcast. Bischoff mentioned how AEW has all the momentum right now, but will need to translate that internationally in order to ultimately compete with WWE.
“I think it already has been [a watershed moment for AEW],” Bischoff mentioned. “No doubt about it. AEW has the momentum in their corner and if they keep doing what they’re doing, I think AEW is well on its way to being legitimate competition for WWE. I didn’t think I’d ever really hear myself say that, and they’ve got a long way to go. Let’s keep things in context. If you look at WWEs business footprint, their revenue, where they are, who they are and what they are, it’s hard to realistically, objectively say that AEW is competition right now, in the sense of revenue, distribution and all of that. But domestically here in the US, which is really the most important thing for both companies, the reason that WWE is so successful internationally is because culturally they are recognized as great American entertainment and that still has value around the world.
“American programming is still a very viable thing around the world and because WWE for such a long time has represented the United States and the sport really or the product, they got a big jump on AEW when it comes to international distribution and touring and all the things that go with their television footprint. AEW has a long way to go before they can close that international distribution gap but that’s just a matter of time. The interesting thing about where AEW is at now, because domestically here the buzz is so high that AEW is going to be able to close that gap in terms of its international distribution. This is just my opinion, I don’t know f*** all, I’m just giving you my gut instinct from a fan sitting on the outside watching from the outside looking in. Based on what I know and my experience though, if AEW continues the success they are having, they will build upon the momentum they have currently, they’re going to be able to close that international distribution gap relatively quickly. Once that happens, they become legitimate competition. Not just competition here in the United States for the hearts and minds of the wrestling audience, but I’m talking about from a revenue perspective.”
On a previous podcast, Bischoff said that Punk heading to AEW should give WWE a “kick in the ass” and cause them to start making changes. Being the former boss of WWE’s main competition in the 90s, Bischoff spoke about the comparisons to the Monday Night Wars. The WWE Hall of Famer believes the gap between WWE and AEW will continue to close throughout the year.
“I’m seeing a lot of comparisons, wrestling fans love to and I’m not making fun of this or denigrating it in any way because part of the excitement of being a fan is to engage and share your opinions and support your local team,” Bischoff mentioned. “AEW right now is about half of the total viewing audience of WWE here in the United States. But as I experienced and we all experienced back in the 90s, it’s possible to close that gap. I didn’t think I’d hear myself say that, at least not this soon, but they are on the verge. AEW is on the verge of doing some really really big things a lot faster than I thought they would. Kudos to Tony Khan, to the entire team.”
Bischoff also mentioned how excited he is for those involved with AEW who used to work for him in WCW. He stated that he’s not jealous of those involved but is envious over the fact that they get to experience crowds similar to those of the Monday Night Wars.
“I’m so excited for Tony Schiavone and everybody, but Tony because I know him so well and worked with him for so long and he’s such a great human being,” Bischoff said. “Jim Ross, same thing. I’m so excited for the people that I know well at AEW because they’re living that 1995 and 1996. They get to experience that incredible high that comes with the momentum that they’re experiencing right now. I’m not jealous of them at all because I’m really really happy with my life, I wouldn’t change what I’m doing now and how I’m doing it. I wouldn’t change it for anything realistically, but it doesn’t mean I don’t envy them. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t a part of me that’s going man, it would feel so good to feel that rush and to have been in the venue when Punk came out and to have experienced that live pop live and in person.
“The energy that you feel in that building is completely different from the energy that we feel as viewers. When you’re there and you’re in that moment I have to imagine that Tony was at some point, consciously or subconsciously flashing back to Bash at the Beach 1996 or any other big moments when the roof came off the building and that energy was so palpable that you could almost taste it. I do envy everybody that gets to experience that and for the younger talent that has never experienced that type of thing before. It’s just the best feeling in the world, while I’m not jealous in any way shape or form, I am envious without a doubt.”
Bischoff continued to talk about how he has no allegiances to either company, and that he has great friends working for both. Bischoff said he truly believes AEW will capitalize on this momentum and will be hard to stop before the end of this year.
“I love Bruce [Prichard], he’s really one of my closest friends and I don’t talk to Bruce,” Bischoff mentioned. “I leave him alone because I know what it’s like being there and I know what kind of pressure he’s under. I don’t call and chat but Bruce is one of the special people in my life and we have a great relationship. There are many others that work [in WWE] that I have a deep affection for, so when I talk about AEW and WWE, it’s not like I’m pulling for one or the other.
“But AEW right now, the momentum is there and as it continues to build over the next few weeks or several months, there is going to come a point before the end of this year I predict where that momentum will become so powerful, such a force it will be hard to screw it up. It really will, it’s just like a train. It takes a train a long time to get going and get up to speed but once it does, it’s hard to stop. That’s where AEW is right now, they’re going to be hard to stop if they’re able to sustain and build upon the momentum that they currently have and I’m pretty confident that they will.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit 83 Weeks with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.