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Eric Bischoff says Tony Khan is 'no Ted Turner' and Khan manipulates data to make AEW seem competitive with WWE

All Elite Wrestling

All Elite Wrestling

On the latest "83 Weeks" podcast, Eric Bischoff responded back to Tony Khan’s recent comments about him:

“Let me preface this all. First of all, I like Tony a lot. I don’t know Tony really well. We’ve crossed paths on several occasions. We’ve done an interview together. I’ve been on his show a couple times, and all of them were really enjoyable experiences that I was grateful for. It was fun to go back and see people that I worked with for 15, 20, 25 years or more. A lot of the production team that is a part of AEW worked for me at WCW so it was a pleasant experience, more than pleasant.

But I first want to address the head-to-head narrative. I’ve been very supportive of AEW. Several weeks ago when AEW made their appearance at Arthur Ashe in New York, I was nothing but complementary and excited, and that’s a very bold, aggressive, risky move, establishing yourself in a market the way they did, and doing it so successfully. In fact, and I’ll paraphrase myself here because I don’t have the tweet in front of me, but I said something like, I have a huge dose of healthy envy, not jealousy, but heavy, for Tony and everybody associated with AEW because I know that feeling of making a big move like that and having it pay off, and the energy they received from the crowd that they earned. I know what that feels like. I envied everybody involved in a healthy way. I’m like, wow, they’re actually doing it. I’m fully supportive of AEW, and I only reiterate that and feel the need to because, my social media, you should see mine. That clip that was played, that was a part of our podcast last week, I’ve never had anything on my social media explode the way that did. I have well over a million impressions. We’ve got over 214,000 people that watched that video. By the way, you should see our demos. (said it sarcastically, comically). If you look at our demos on a percentage basis, this podcast has a much higher demo success than AEW or WWE. Should I go around bragging that our podcast is a more popular podcast than AEW or WWE is, a television show? Absolutely not. That would be stupid.

The core of this debate, and it is a debate, because again, I’m fully supportive of Tony and AEW and everybody there. The core of this though is not that Tony spoke out, not that Tony’s proud of his company, not that Tony even speaks out rather aggressively about his product. He should do that. I would be disappointed if he didn’t do that, but it’s the manipulation of data to create the impression that there is this head-to-head competition. This all started way before, and I never commented on this stuff before because I don’t have a dog in the hunt, and it’s fun to watch. To suggest as has been going on for quite some time that based on a percentage of a demo compared to a show that’s on a completely different night against completely different competition that somehow that correlates to AEW being more popular or a better product, I have an issue with that. Not an issue with believing, as Tony obviously does, and the talent obviously does, as well they should, that they’re a better product. Subjectively, I would agree in many cases and have many times on social media. I’ve been equally as, I’m going to use the word critical but I don’t mean to be critical, it’s more of a constructive criticism.

I’ve spoken out consistently about the WWE product and what I feel is wrong with it from lack of storylines, lack of structured storylines that have an arc, build, and create anticipation. To me, that’s a huge problem with WWE, and I’ve been more than free with my comments in that regard, both before I went to work for AEW this last time from that cup of coffee I had in Stamford and afterwards. Again, I’m reacting to some of the social media stuff that I’ve seen. Again, I’m reacting to some of the social media stuff that I’ve seen. To suggest that I’m kissing WWE’s a*s is stupid. That’s childish and it’s stupid because it’s not true, and anybody that pays attention to anything I’ve said knows that. I have been, I’ll call it supportively constructive, of some of the things I see and don’t see in AEW. But not, in my opinion, in a negative way, but in an observational context.

But the idea of, that number 1, AEW, and more often than not, it’s the Dave Meltzer’s and the Bryan Alvarez's and those of that ilk, that are trying to twist and turn data, and interpret data in a way to try to create this impression that they’re actually in a competition. That’s where I throw a flag personally. But, for the first time, I’m going to explain exactly why unlike previous comments that were very similar that I’ve heard on social media, and from Tony, and from people in AEW on social media, this is the first time that I reacted the way that I did. What pulled my trigger was Tony came out before the head to head, it’s not even head to head competition, before the Friday night in question. He reacted, and I don’t blame him for reacting the way he did. But part of his reaction included a comment that really pissed me off. When Tony came out and said, ‘If Ted Turner knew 1% about what I do about professional wrestling, WCW would still be in business’ That lit my fu**ing fuse for a couple of reasons. For all the people I’m guessing that are tuning into this podcast to hear what my followup is, let me remind you, let me point out a couple things. I’m 99.9999% Tony Khan doesn’t have fu**ing idea what he’s talking about in terms of if Ted Turner was a wrestling fan. I know I don’t. I can find out. I can call his son Teddy, and I probably will soon because I’m curious as to how far back Ted Turner’s relationship with professional wrestling started. Was Ted a wrestling fan growing up? I don’t know, and neither does Tony. So right off the bat, Tony made a statement that was misleading and ignorant. Ignorant in the literal sense of the word.

I’ll say the same thing that Tony said about Ted. Tony said, ‘Ted Turner may be a lot smarter than I am, but if he knew 1% about wrestling.’ I’m sure Tony is a much more intelligent person than I am. Tony’s a really brilliant guy. I’m pretty smart. Tony’s really, really smart. So when I use the term ignorant, I’m meaning lack of information and knowledge, which is I think the definition of the word ignorant and its application here.

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Number 1, it was an ignorant statement. For Tony to compare himself to Ted Turner, if there's anything that's laughable, that’s it. The last time I checked, the T in TNT and the T in TBS stands for Turner, which is a media empire that Ted started from scratch. For Tony to be in the position he is, and AEW is, on a Ted Turner network, to come out and suggest Ted knew nothing about professional wrestling, which he doesn’t know if that’s true or not. What made it worse, and this is like the height of the literal definition of ignorance, and this one is self-inflicted, for Tony to suggest that if Ted knew as much about professional wrestling as Tony Khan does, then WCW would still be around? I’m going to ask Guy Evans to send Tony The Nitro book that he wrote. Guy interviewed over a hundred people from Turner, who at that time, some of them worked for me. They were people that reported to me. Some of them didn’t even report to me. They reported to others who reported to me. They were down the corporate food chain so to speak. The flowchart if you will.

But Guy also interviewed people that were way, way above my paygrade that were hands on instrumental in Turner at the time of the AOL-Time Warner merger and all of the things that represented, and most of them were very negative. Those executives know why WCW isn’t around. All of that is in the book, and all Tony has to do is read that book, and Tony would realize that it wasn’t because Ted Turner didn’t know 1% of what Tony Khan knows about professional wrestling. That was a really stupid comment to make. I was very disappointed to hear it. I’ve said stupid things. I’m capable of that. I’ll probably say some stupid things on this podcast. I get it when you’re emotionally charged, and you’re involved and in the fight. Sometimes dumb sh*t comes out of your mouth. Guilty as charged. But that one lit me up. I reacted viscerally. It was an honest reaction on our podcast. I still feel as strongly about it today as I did last week. That was a really dumb comment. Tony Khan, I know Ted Turner, and you are no Ted Turner. That’s what made me go, ‘You know what? Whatever it is, just for my own entertainment, I’m going to put this s**t in context.’

AEW is not in head-to-head competition. They are just not. They are in the same industry. Now, you can say, ‘Well they came at us, they extended that half hour into our time slot and that was an aggressive move’, and that would be a fact. But to somehow spin that and try to suggest that you are a more popular product, you are a more successful product, you are winning some kind of a ratings war that only exists in the minds of dirt sheet writers and people that want to try to spin reality, that’s not right. Another disclaimer here, I am not encouraging Tony to go head to head with WWE. I think that would be a bad move. It’s just not time yet. They’re only a two year old company. They have a long, long runway ahead of them to grow their audience and grow their product. But right now, arguably, they haven't done such a great job of growing that audience. Let me clarify that. Clearly, based on comments I get, people don’t really listen or think too much about what I’m saying. They react emotionally. They have a long way to go before they're head-to-head competition.

All I’m suggesting is, rather than claiming you’re competing against, and somehow you’re competing favorably because you’re comparing a percentage of your demos on your Wednesday night show to a percentage of the demos on Monday Night RAW, notice they don’t talk about SmackDown too much. But on Monday Night RAW, when they go against Monday Night Football, which probably has the highest concentration of male 18-49 year old than just about anything else on TV in any given week, is a false equivalency. It just isn't real. It’s data gymnastics. I hope Tony and I can maintain our relationship. If we do, I’m grateful for that, if we don’t, that’s life. I have no real skin in the game. I’m just trying to clarify my position. I did take personal umbrage to the fact that Tony would compare himself the way he did to Ted Turner. I just think it was just a dumb move.”

More comments from Eric Bischoff about Tony’ Khan’s statements:

“The other thing that lit my fuse and inspired me was a catalyst for my response when Tony said, ‘We’re at WCW 1996 level. We’re at that stage.’ No you’re not. You’re not even close dude. You’re not even a distant number 2 to where we were at in 1996 because in 1996, in every measurable way that a human being can realistically measure something, not spin something, but measure something, WCW Nitro was defeating WWE in a real head to head competition, not a fragmented half hour when they were on Fox Sports 1 that hardly anybody watches and they were are on TNT.”

“AEW came into existence at a point in time when the audience was craving an alternative. They had a clean slate. They didn’t bring any negative baggage to the dance like WCW did when we launched Nitro...Nobody thought it would ever happen. On top of that, WCW had a very negative association with the audience. It was a mismanaged disaster of a company that was number 2 at the time, but they might as well have been number 152 to WWE. AEW didn’t have that issue. AEW came in with a massive amount of public support and goodwill. WCW didn’t have that. We had to fight up from out of the sewage to finally reach dry ground, and then try to find the mountain, and then climb the mountain. AEW didn’t have to do that. All they had to do was say, ‘We’re coming out and we’re doing this’ hire a couple of key pieces of talent, and they’re off and running. They had all this goodwill. What happens when you start putting yourself over, in my opinion prematurely, in the way they’re doing it, by constantly denigrating and comparing to WWE, is you start losing that goodwill because people see through it.”

If you use any portion of the quotes from this article please credit 83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff with a h/t to for the transcription