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Are you buying the hype of All Elite Wrestling? Can they really match WWE?
I have said for years it would take a billionaire to compete with Vince McMahon and here we are – Tony Khan with an estimated net worth of $6.8 billion ready to throw his money behind a professional wrestling product. With Khan bankrolling the operation along with an already promising group of talent and a mainstream TV deal, All Elite Wrestling has everything it needs to compete with WWE. The deciding factor will be how it is embraced by the mainstream audience. Notice I didn’t write how it is embraced by the Internet Wrestling Community. We’re an odd group as we’re going to support pretty much anything related to business we love, even if we don’t always enjoy it. The mainstream audience is much different. They’re only going to watch if they’re entertained.
AEW must be able to draw in and entertain the mainstream audience to ever compete with WWE. In terms of popularity, WWE has been in a downturn over the last several years. But they’re profitability — especially TV revenue — is very high. This presents a unique opportunity as fans have either tuned out or are seeking an alternative, while Vince is still raking in the profits. This could mean an opening for AEW to come in and grab a chunk of that audience. It’s too early to tell whether or not it will work but mark my words, All Elite Wrestling must get over with the mainstream audience to pose a threat to WWE.
How much impact do you expect Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff to have on WWE going forward?
I was as surprised as anyone to learn that Vince McMahon is bringing in Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff to work as Executive Directors for Raw and SmackDown respectively. I would guess the hires were met with a great deal of skepticism from people within the company as well. I can tell you that one former WWE writer — who answered directly to Vince – basically passed the hires off as a joke.
Creatively speaking, both Heyman and Bischoff have had success in this business but they have also failed in fairly epic proportions. Based on social media, some fans already feel Heyman’s influence could be felt on last night’s Raw. I’m still in the process of watching Raw but I can agree with that point just based on the open with Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley. Heyman was at the show and eager to make a difference. While Vince McMahon still has the final say, it’s not unrealistic to believe Heyman had an impact on Raw and Bischoff will want to do the same on SmackDown. More will be learned in time but the volatile relationship Vince has had with both Heyman and Bischoff cannot be overlooked.
What are your thoughts on Colt Cabana and CM Punk, once the closest of friends, now doing battle in court?
Colt Cabana and CM Punk, on the outs for the last couple of years, are now fighting over money. All of this stems from the infamous 2014 podcast, hosted by Cabana, where Punk told all about why he decided to leave WWE. Nothing separates people like money and that’s what we are dealing with here. I’m not going to sit here and judge either party but rather tell you that I think it’s sad. It’s sad that two people who always had each other’s back could be separated by money but this is exactly what Vince McMahon wanted. When Punk left WWE hanging out to dry and proceeded to blast them in public, Vince was determined to swing back. He did just that by financing a defamation suit on behalf of Dr. Chris Amann and he’s the ultimate winner. Vince has plenty of power and influence and it certainly played a part in the destruction of a friendship.
What do you make of unhappiness in WWE and talent wanting to jump ship to All Elite Wrestling?
It’s completely expected and it’s good for professional wrestling. When Jon Moxley went on Chris Jericho’s podcast to explain why he wanted to leave WWE, it was met with a lot of “amens” from talent who aren’t in the position to speak up. There is frustration in WWE from talent who believe they’ve been held down and they’re certainly hoping it’s possible they too can leave WWE for a chance to succeed in All Elite Wrestling. But let’s be clear – this doesn’t include everyone and it certainly doesn’t include the people currently working at the top in WWE.
This business is full of people who believe they can be a star if given the right opportunity. If someone is discontent with the way they’ve been booked and see an opportunity to get in front of a mainstream audience, of course they’re going to want to jump ship. This exact same model fueled the Monday Night Wars in the 90s and I hope we’re on the cusp of a repeat.
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