Having been a major part of “the original” wrestling war as the President of WCW, Eric Bischoff made some news last week when he stated that AEW is well on their way to becoming legitimate competition for WWE.
Fast forward to this week and the former boss of WCW spoke on the 83 Weeks Podcast about those comments, and he reiterated his sentiment. Bischoff spoke about how AEW has garnered interest from celebrities, including 2021 NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, and believes that bodes well for the company.
“They already are in some ways,” Bischoff mentioned. “I don’t know how you measure any of this, some of it is anecdotal but we’re talking about the buzz. There is a tremendous amount of chatter about AEW on social media, and I’ve seen more and more mainstream media attention, more and more celebrities hanging out [in AEW], not being in the ring. When you’ve got notable people and celebrities across different platforms in sports, media, celebrities getting involved in your product and enjoying it, that bodes well.
Bischoff continued to talk about AEW and their potential to start another “wrestling war” comparable to what WCW did in the 90s, saying that can only happen if AEW goes head-to-head with WWE on Monday Nights. When asked if he believes there could be another wrestling war, the 2021 WWE Hall of Famer said we’ve got a long way to go before that happens.
“Let’s be realistic,” Bischoff stated. “I know the emotions are running very high when it comes to AEW in a good way and I’m happy to see that, but realistically, if you compare viewership here in the United States, we’re not going to talk about international because AEW is not even in the same universe as WWE when it comes to their international footprint. When you look at domestic viewership, AEW delivers about 50% of Monday Night RAW on average, maybe 55%-60%. AEW’s highest rated show compared to WWE’s highest rated show delivers about 50% of the audience, so it’s not like they’re taking market share. As much as everybody wants it to be ‘The Monday Night Wars’, it’s not, and it won’t be unless and until AEW goes head to head. Now, that’s a real war, now we’re talking about market share.
“But when you look at AEW’s viewership, Friday nights, they’re getting a million, million plus, and Wednesday nights they’re getting a million, million plus the last couple of weeks. That’s still half of what WWE is getting. For all of the people, especially those who are ardent AEW supporters and hoping for a Monday Night War and hoping that we’ll have that same kind of vibe that we had during the Monday Night Wars, we’ve got a long way to go, folks.
“You can kid yourself and dilute yourself into thinking were there, we’re not. If you look at 2 years after we launched Nitro, a year or so after we launched the nWo, WCW was trouncing head-to-head, trouncing, humiliating WWE. AEW is not even close to that. I’m not saying that because of my ego necessarily, I’m just looking at real numbers. Today, much more so than back in the Monday Night Wars, people that write about wrestling, peripheral news networks, everybody’s focusing on demos. That’s cool, I get it, but it’s a fraction of the equation. It’s not the whole of the equation.”
Although he was critical about how long it will take before we have our second version of a wrestling war, Bischoff also gave AEW props for closing the gap between themselves and WWE. The former WCW President mentioned how AEW is growing their audience and has established a trend that, if it continues, will lead them to getting closer and closer to WWE.
“The flip side of that conversation is AEW is definitely closing the gap, they’re growing, their audience is growing,” Bischoff mentioned. “If that trend continues, I think my quote was they’re going to be legitimate competition. I’m not sure I said anything about closing the gap, although, I didn’t write the headline. I think what I was referring to is AEW is on their way to becoming legitimate competition. When I say legitimate competition, I’m talking about for market share, not for online hype and peripheral news headlines because 90% of that is bullsh** anyway.
“They’re trying to create a war where one doesn’t exist because wars create interest and interest creates clicks and clicks create money. But what I’m seeing in AEW is a legitimate competitor, and if they continue on that trend that they’ve established, that competition is only going to get closer and closer, and then it’s about market share. Nobody is taking anything away from anybody. Raw or SmackDown are not taking anything away from AEW and AEW is not taking any market share from WWE. It’s just a duplication of the audience. That’s not bad, it’s just reality.”
When CM Punk officially made his debut for AEW, Bischoff stated that it was a “kick in the a**” WWE needed and would propel them to try harder. The Punk debut was met with even more hype when Daniel Bryan and Adam Cole made their debuts for the company at AEW All Out.
In response to the debut of Punk, the following night was WWE SummerSlam where Becky Lynch and Brock Lesnar made their surprise returns to the company. Bischoff spoke about Lesnar’s return on a previous podcast stating how his return could be a negative for the company. Bischoff continued that sentiment on the podcast by saying Lesnar needs a major change up of his character before he’ll be invested in his return.
“I believe that firmly, we’ve seen a lot of it,” Bischoff said. “How long has Brock been on our radar in a major way? 15 years? 20 years? We’ve seen a lot of Brock and we’ve basically seen a one dimensional Brock which is all Brocks needed by the way, not being critical at all. Brock has been hugely successful with one character and one type of storyline, he’s a very dominant force and that’s worked for a long long time. I think if there’s another big run for Brock and he’s not filling a Goldberg spot. so to speak, if WWE or Brock Lesnar fans hope to see Brock make a significant needle moving impact on WWE. we’re going to have to see something different than what we’ve been seeing for 15 or 20 years. Otherwise. it’s been there and done that.
“Is he unstoppable? Yes. Can he beat anybody? Yes. He’s this amazing physical phenomenon who wreaks havoc everywhere he goes, okay we’ve seen that. What are we going to see this time? Are we going to see a baby face? Great, I hope we do. I’d like to see that part of Brock’s character, but rather than slapping baby’s on the back and high-fiving people down to the ring, what are we going to see in that character that’s different? I think if Brock is going to take that next big leap as a baby face character, we’re going to have to see some of that. Otherwise, he’s just a baby face that can’t be beat and I get bored with that. Maybe I’m different than everybody else, but man, I think if we want to see something big out of Brock and see a second big run for Brock, whatever it is, if we want to see something significant out of Brock, we’re going to have to see a significant change in his character and the way he’s being presented. Otherwise, I’ve been there and done that, man.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit 83 Weeks with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.