AEW has put the wrestling world on notice due to the signing of some of the best wrestlers in the world, but was it too much too soon for Tony Khan’s company?
On the latest episode of the 83 Weeks Podcast, Eric Bischoff spoke about the recent influx of signings by AEW and shared why he would put a halt to all of these surprise debuts. The former President of WCW said if he were Tony Khan right now, he would try his best to slow down with all the surprises.
“If I were in Tony Khan’s shoes, I would give the surprises a breather,” Bischoff mentioned. “They’ve done a great job, they’ve gotten tremendous return on their investment. It’s served its purpose beyond expectation in my opinion. But I would give that a rest because when I watch wrestling, when I think about wrestling, when I talk about wrestling, I’m thinking almost exclusively about the business to business side of it. I’m more interested in the business to business side of today’s wrestling industry more than I am in what’s going on in the ring.”
Former WWE Universal Champion Braun Strowman has been rumored to be signing with IMPACT Wrestling following his release from WWE. Along with Strowman, Bray Wyatt has also been in the news as of late, teasing a move to AEW. Bischoff spoke about Strowman’s rumored jump to IMPACT Wrestling, and talked about the ideal time for AEW to bring in Wyatt if he were to join the company.
“That’s a good place to go because you can keep your powder there because nobody sees you and it doesn’t matter how bad it is,” Bischoff said, talking about Strowman. “Let’s just assume Bray Wyatt is going to end up [in AEW]. I wouldn’t do that till after the first of [January]. I’d save that for the first quarter of next year because they’ve had so many signings, and they’re great ones too. I’m not being critical or dismissing them in any form. You got Sting, Christian Cage, CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Ruby Soho, etc.
“These are super talented assets, they’ve brought in so many great assets over such a short period of time they tend to dilute each other and it’s not as meaningful as it could be, in my opinion, if they were spaced out a little more. That’s why if I was bringing in Bray Wyatt, if I was Tony Khan, I’d lay off the surprises and the chatter about who’s coming in and not coming in and more for the audience. It’s like a roller coaster and we’ve been on this incredible, exciting roller coaster ride, and the only way you’re going to enjoy the next big exhilaration point on that roller coaster is to get a little bit of a rest. Take it down, slow it down so that when you speed it up again and take the audience to that peak of that moment and deliver your next surprise, just give them a rest so they’ve got more energy to get ready for that ride. It’s not fatigue, don’t get me wrong, but we’re getting close to surprise fatigue.”
It was revealed last week by WarnerMedia that AEW Dynamite will be moving from TNT to TBS on January 5, 2021. Although Rampage was originally reported to be moving also, it will be staying on TNT instead. Being the former boss of a company that aired on TNT, Bischoff added his take on AEW switching to TBS, and why he doesn’t think it’s necessarily a good move for Dynamite.
“That’s another interesting thing, when people say TBS is available in more households, I think that’s true, but do as many people watch it?” Bischoff said. “Just because it’s available in more households doesn’t mean people watch more of it or as many people watch it. I’m not saying TBS is a bad choice, but TNT is a better destination. TNT has sports. I know TBS used to have baseball. This wasn’t voluntary I’m sure, Tony Khan didn’t get to vote, I’m sure. He may have well negotiated some things into it but he didn’t get to vote and nobody called to ask for permission, and that’s bad. That’s a challenge with being on a network like TNT that does carry sports. We’ll see; my experience was the world has changed, but my experience back when I was doing this for a living was that wrestling has a unique advantage in that its audience is far more loyal than just about any other type of programming, other than football, and basketball, and baseball.
“I think wrestling fans are as loyal as those sports franchise fans, they will follow you. They’ll find you. On a typical scripted show, it’s a kiss of death if you’ve done what AEW has done and launched your show, been there for 24 months, had some great success, continuing to grow your audience. But with wrestling, not so much because of the loyalty of the audience. I don’t have experience or data to back this up, but maybe 5% or 10% of the audience won’t follow that. I would expect a minor drop in ratings, especially for the first couple of weeks. It seems like Tony likes surprises and keeps the audience on balance, and maybe they’re going to do something.”
Bischoff continued to push the idea that the company should debut Bray Wyatt in January to start off their move to TBS. The former WCW President said the company needs to promote the move and save a special surprise for January when it happens.
“When are they moving there, in January? Bray Wyatt, oh my god, I just put the pieces of the puzzle together for everybody for free,” Bischoff said. “Maybe there’s a moment like that that Tony can keep in his back pocket so that when he does move over to TBS, they’ve got several weeks on TNT to tell everybody when and where they’re going to be and at the same time. Build anticipation much like they have with Punk and Danielson. Then 99.999% of the people that watch your show on TNT will probably follow you over, and you’ll see no loss in viewership. I think it’s a neutral move. I think it’s going to take a little bit of creativity to maximize or mitigate and shift because people are creatures of habit.
“Not everybody is like that, and they might not make a special note that AEW is moving over to TBS and might not check it out for a while. The way to mitigate that is to have several weeks where you promote that something big is going to happen with this big move. Go back and look at a lot of stuff WWE was doing when they were going to move to FOX. A smaller version of that will work and it’ll be just fine. I don’t think there will be more viewers because they’re on TBS. I don’t believe that, but I don’t think they’re going to take a big hit either.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit 83 Weeks with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.