Former WCW executive producer Eric Bischoff is no stranger to controversy — it’s in the title of his book. While he’s no longer an on-screen performer, Bischoff has continued to dish out controversy via his podcast platform, “83 Weeks“, which he uses to disseminate his views on the past, present, and future of the wrestling industry. Originally noted for Bischoff’s takes on everything from WWE’s lack of compelling storytelling to WCW’s missed opportunity with the Cruiserweight division, “83 Weeks,” alongside Bischoff’s other podcast, “Strictly Business,” has recently become home to critiques of All Elite Wrestling. Among other things, the WWE Hall of Famer has called out the Blackpool Combat Club for trying to “replicate the success of the nWo” and stated that AEW and its owner, Tony Khan, have put storytelling on the back burner.
Bischoff had been largely positive about AEW during its first few years, stating numerous times he was rooting for the company’s success and even appearing on the show on several occasions. Since late 2021, however, Bischoff has been more critical of the company, has yet to appear on another show, and has exchanged words with AEW President Tony Khan. And while there could be other factors at play, Bischoff’s change of heart toward AEW seems to center primarily around one man: reigning AEW World Champion (and former WWE Champion) CM Punk.
Punk fires the first shots
Eric Bischoff and CM Punk have never worked together in wrestling, but the former had nothing but good things to say about the latter when he showed up in AEW in August 2021. A month later, former WWE superstars Bryan Danielson and Adam Cole made their AEW debuts, making the crowd go wild when they appeared at the end of AEW All Out. The two stars jumping from WWE to its closest competitor immediately drew comparisons to Scott Hall and Kevin Nash defecting from the WWF to Bischoff’s WCW in 1996 — the two men were ultimately joined by Hulk Hogan to form the legendary New World Order. After the show, Punk acknowledged the comparison, but said that “To me, this is bigger.” The comment, along with others made by Khan around the same time, didn’t sit well with Bischoff, who said in October that Punk had “sh*t the bed” and underdelivered in the ratings department since his arrival.
Then, in November, Punk responded to criticisms that AEW wasn’t doing enough to bring in casual wrestling fans by saying “I don’t think there’s casual wrestling fans anymore.” Bischoff again took umbrage at the statement on “Strictly Business,” saying “It makes no sense to me, I don’t believe it’s true” and specifically calling out Punk, who “never spent five minutes in the television business.”
Bischoff mocks Punk’s failures in the UFC
CM Punk is best known for his historic time with the WWE, most notably his 434-day reign as WWE Champion. After he left the company under hostile circumstances in 2014, wrestling fans were unsure if that was the last they’d seen from him inside the squared circle. And indeed, Punk’s next adventure wasn’t inside a square but rather an octagon, as he joined Ultimate Fighting Championship for two fights during his time away from professional wrestling. Unlike fellow WWE alumnus Brock Lesnar, who had tremendous success in MMA and became a world champion, Punk was unsuccessful in both fights and looked noticeably out of his league. His losses both came in humiliating fashion, with the second one involving Mike Jackson actually tickling Punk during the fight.
While that second fight took place in 2018, Bischoff dredged them up again in May 2022, taking to Twitter to call out Punk for his failures in the UFC. “He convinced himself since he could win scripted fights, he could win a real one,” Bischoff wrote. By this point, Bischoff had gone further in his criticism of AEW, and Punk would respond viciously: “Wrestling Twitter needs to stop amplifying all the old head bad faith bad take carny dipsh*ts. They had their moment in the sun. Let them die in the dark with their ego podcasts.”
Bischoff labels Punk ‘the biggest financial flop in the history of wrestling’
After the “carny dipsh*ts” comment, Bischoff went full scorched earth. On “83 Weeks,” he called Punk “the biggest financial flop in the history of wrestling,” saying Punk hadn’t provided a return on the investment he cost AEW and citing the lack of growth in the company’s television ratings since his debut. Bischoff also said that “In terms of the context of Punk comparing himself to Randy Savage, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash and the impact that they had on WCW vs. Punk coming out and saying he’s a bigger deal than that, in terms of ratings he’s fallen flat on his face,” a statement that seems to support the idea that Bischoff’s ire goes back to Punk’s comments stating he, Danielson, and Cole coming to AEW was more important than the nWo stars coming to WCW.
“When Punk comes out and says he’s a bigger deal than Scott Hall and Kevin Nash coming to WCW, that created a paradigm shift with people watching wrestling,” Bischoff said. “Where Punk has created absolutely nothing.”
Tony Khan defends Punk in epic fashion
May 2022 was a big month for the Punk/Bischoff feud, but it couldn’t end without Tony Khan getting involved once again. After Punk won the AEW World Championship in the main event of Double or Nothing 2022, Khan called out Bischoff directly during the event’s post-show media scrum. Khan called Bischoff’s criticism of Punk “f*cking bullsh*t” and maniacally listed off Punk’s AEW accomplishments. “No one person has ever made a more positive impact,” Khan said. “We just did a record PPV buy, every PPV, he’s done a four PPV cycle now, every one of them was the record … he did the First Dance, he’s done the record Double Or Nothing, he did the record All Out on his debut, he was a big part of a record Full Gear a great match with Eddie Kingston … Then he showed up and did the biggest program in terms of everything, TV, box office, ever with MJF … He’s the biggest part of financial success in the history of this company.”
When a situation escalates to this magnitude, how does it end? The answer, of course, is on the “83 Weeks” podcast. During a recent episode, Bischoff stated he wouldn’t respond to Khan’s comments from the scrum, teasing that “there will be a time, there will be a place.”
“You got something to say, Tony? You want to defend yourself and Punk?” Bischoff challenged. “Here I am, brother … I’m not a hard man to find.”
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