His comments aren’t exactly late-breaking news, but I was thinking about what Eric Bischoff was saying about AEW recently.
You know the comments I’m referring to. I’ll paraphrase a bit…
“Tony Khan isn’t on Ted Turner’s level.”
“AEW isn’t as popular or as successful as WWE.”
“Khan and AEW are spinning the ratings news to fit their narrative.”
“The ‘ratings war’ only exists in the minds of AEW and the dirt sheets.”
“AEW has wasted CM Punk’s return.”
There were other comments, but that’s pretty much the gist of it. The reaction to his comments were exactly as you would expect. AEW fans ripped Bischoff to shreds, while WWE fans rushed to his defense. I’m not here to tell you that Bischoff was right about this, wrong about that, and so on. What I am here to talk about, though, is one particular thing he said on his podcast while he was ranting about AEW.
A couple weeks ago, we got a very brief head-to-head battle between Friday Night Smackdown and Rampage. WWE decided to hold a “supersized” edition of Smackdown, running an extra 30 minutes, putting them in direct competition with Rampage for that period. Smackdown, airing on Fox Sports 1 instead of its usual Fox spot due to the MLB playoffs, pulled in more total viewers during the head-to-head battle, but Rampage had more viewers in the key 18-49 demographic during that period.
Again, the reaction to that was exactly what you would expect. With Smackdown pulling in more viewers, they “won” in the eyes of WWE supporters. In the eyes of AEW supporters, and apparently in the eyes of AEW itself, they “won” because they had more viewers in the key demographic that is so coveted. Bischoff’s comments were directed at the AEW side of things. He would say that it’s misleading, at best, and dishonest, at worst, for AEW to claim any sort of victory. His line of thinking there was that Smackdown aired on a channel that is in far less homes than their normal spot, but they still had more viewers and, while they lost the 18-49 demographic in the head-to-head, it was close. On top of that, Smackdown had the higher numbers in the demographic for the overall show.
Just like Eric Bischoff is sick of it, I am also sick of it.
I’m sick of the “we won” and “no, we won” bullshit.
It happens every week.
It needs to stop. There is no “war” anymore. When AEW was airing Dynamite at the same time as NXT was on, THAT was a “war” because they were battling head-to-head. Raw, NXT, Dynamite, Smackdown, and Rampage all air at different times. That’s not true competition.
This needs to stop.
If AEW wants this to be a “war” so badly, it’s time to put the fuck up or shut the fuck up.
I understand that Dynamite is establishing themselves on Wednesday nights, but maybe it’s time to REALLY make some waves in the wrestling business. Move Dynamite to Monday nights and go head-to-head with Raw. There has never been a better time to strike. Raw is seeing their viewership reach record low after record low, and their reviews have been on a similar trajectory, even with some hardcore WWE fans. On top of that, WWE continues to burn through goodwill by continuing to tout their record-breaking profits and income, only to turn around and release dozens of workers in a single day and claiming the cuts were “budget” related.
This is it.
I’m not saying that AEW moving to Monday nights means WWE will be out of business in a year. This isn’t even me saying that Dynamite would absolutely, positively defeat Raw in the ratings. I’m merely saying what Eric Bischoff has been saying… AEW needs to capitalize on their own momentum, as well as the struggles of their “opponent” here, and go for a knockout blow.
Immediately, let’s look at the giant red flag here, and what will probably be the biggest hurdle to clear before AEW moves any show to Monday nights. From the beginning of September until the end of December every year, the undisputed television ratings king on Monday nights is Monday Night Football. MNF is averaging nearly 14 million viewers so far this season. It’s such a ratings juggernaut for the NFL that the weekly alternate telecast on ESPN starring Peyton and Eli Manning is pulled in nearly two million viewers last week. As you’ve probably heard once or twice by now, the Khan family is very involved in the NFL. Tony’s father, Shahid Khan, is the current owner of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars franchise, with Tony himself having some co-ownership stake in the team to go with his roles as Executive Vice President of Football Administration & Technology and Chief Football Strategy Officer.
The more people that watch Monday Night Football every week, the more money that the NFL is going to get in their television rights deals. With the financial breakdowns in the NFL, each of the 32 teams in the league gets an even split of the league’s national revenue every year. National revenue consists of the money made from TV deals, as well as merchandising and licensing contracts. In 2020, the league made $9.5 billion in national revenue, which means that each team’s cut from that was over $296 million.
This just means it would behoove everyone involved in NFL team ownership in any way, shape, or form to make sure that the league’s television ratings continue to stay as high as possible. WWE has been one of the NFL’s biggest competitors on Monday nights for nearly 29 years now. If AEW puts a brand new show on Mondays, or moves one of their established shows to Mondays, that only stands as a potential threat to take some viewers away from the NFL. Again, don’t misunderstand or misconstrue what I’m trying to say. I’m not saying that AEW on Mondays is going to steal millions of viewers away from Monday Night Football. I just don’t see wrestling doing that. The highest-rated episode of Raw was in 1999 and pulled in an 8.1 rating. In 1999, Monday Night Football averaged a 13.7 rating. Making that number even wilder is that Raw’s 8.1 rating happened in May, when there wasn’t any competition from the NFL. Hell, there wasn’t even any competition from WCW that night, as Nitro was pre-empted for the NBA Playoffs.
Anyway, my point before I started rambling a bit is that it doesn’t make a bunch of sense, business-wise, for AEW to have a television show on Mondays. Tony Khan himself understands that. In 2020, Cody Rhodes did a television interview where he said he wanted to see, within five years from that point, Dynamite switching to Monday nights to directly compete with WWE. In reports coming out of that interview, it was said that Tony Khan doesn’t ever want to switch to Monday nights because of the NFL connection.
To that, I ask this…
Is the late-2019/early-2020 version of Tony Khan the same person as the late-2021 version of Tony Khan?
While we’re at it, is the late-2019/early-2020 version of AEW the same company as the late-2021 version of Tony Khan?
The answer to both of those questions is “no.”
AEW has continued to grow, and as they’ve done so, Tony Khan has become more and more grandiloquent on social media and in interviews. There was a time when you’d never hear from Khan. Now, it seems like there’s a piece of news every single day that features him taking shots at WWE and anyone who has anything negative to say about AEW. Can you sit there with a straight face and honestly say that Tony Khan wouldn’t love to permanently shake things up in the world of professional wrestling?
For years and years, what is one of the main things we’ve heard about Vince McMahon? That he thrives on competition. When his back is against the wall, that is when he does his absolute best work. Unfortunately, this is a man who has kept his back away from the wall for over two decades now. Before you even think about bringing up the fact that TNA put Impact head-to-head against Raw for ten episodes in 2010, I want you to really, really think about it, and then I want you to slap the shit out of yourself. TNA decided to put up or shut up, and they had to tuck their tails between their legs two months later. Outside of their one-time Monday special on January 4th of that year, Impact was seeing their rating regularly tripled, quadrupled, and even worse by Monday Night Raw. For the most part, Impact’s viewership numbers in that period of time were similar to what AEW gets with Dynamite these days. The biggest difference is that, even in a “down” week, Raw was pulling in well over five million viewers per episode in the beginning of 2010. Now? Raw averages around 1.6 million viewers in recent weeks, and has gone even lower than that on occasion, including this week’s episode.
Again, there has never been a better time for someone to try and attack WWE. Never. Ever. Not when WCW did it in 1995, and not when TNA did it in 2010.
Think about things from AEW’s point of view. Look at what’s on the line here. The AEW roster continues to grow and become better and better, and there are probably a lot more big names coming over the next few months. That AEW fan base, no matter what you want to say about them, is as loyal and as vocal as any wrestling fan base in recent memory. Those fans will continue to tune in and support the product, so the key is bringing in new viewers. Either WWE fans who have grown tired of that product, or lapsed fans who are getting back into the product. Dynamite isn’t going to defeat Raw in the beginning of a head-to-head battle. I’m sorry, but it just isn’t going to happen at the start. Man, if AEW is able to hold strong for those opening few weeks, though… that’s when things could really get fun. AEW could very well be adding the likes of Kyle O’Reilly, Kevin Owens/Steen, Sami Zayn/El Generico, Windham Rotunda, Keith Lee, and so many more names soon.
Now, think about things from WWE’s point of view. If Vince McMahon loves competition even half as much as people say he does, he’ll be licking his chops with the announcement of an AEW move to Mondays. The USA Network may not be as excited about the competition, but you can believe that they’ll have some words for Vince and his cronies about doing what they need to do to make sure they don’t continue losing viewers month after month. That should mean… might mean… could mean… that the overall product on Raw improves, even if it’s just a temporary improvement. Whatever it is you don’t like about the current Raw product might very well improve.
Now, think about things from the point of view of wrestling fans. We would be getting a focused, authentic head-to-head “war” between two companies who are prepared to trade haymakers against each other. With more on the line, both companies should be putting out the best product possible every single week. These dorks on social media that act like they’re contracted employees of WWE or AEW would actually have reason to say a lot of the shit they say on a daily basis.
There’s so much to like about it.
Do I think it’s going to happen? No. Especially not anytime soon. Bah gawd, it should happen, though. It’s time for the phony posturing and “what if” nonsense to come to an end.
Let’s fucking make this happen.
Weekly Power Rankings
- CM Punk & Eddie Kingston’s Promo Battle: Fucking incredible. I really and truly don’t care how much of their promos was a shoot and how much was a work. No matter what the percentages were, it came across as real, believable, intense and almost uncomfortable. It was EXACTLY what Punk needed after several weeks of just being there and facing random people with nothing for anybody to sink their teeth into other than seeing him wrestle again for the first time in years. Kingston, though… he laughed, he paced like a caged animal, he screamed, he choked down emotion… it was a tour de force of everything he truly shines at. He did such a fantastic job that he actually had the previously untouchable Punk getting heel heat for some of the things he said. That, of course, opens the door for a Punk heel turn, either at Full Gear or further down the road. Either way, this was phenomenal and really sold their upcoming match.
- Eddie Kingston’s Player’s Tribune Blog: What a week this was for The Mad King. He posted an article over on The Player’s Tribune website that covered his journey from a kid who fell in love with the professional wrestling business to struggling independent wrestler to the current day, all while dealing with the mental health issues that he has never been afraid to talk about. He was open, honest, and as raw as you’re going to see a wrestler get when talking about his personal demons.
- Kevin Owens vs Seth Rollins: This may very well be the last couple months of Kevin Owens’ time with WWE, but if it is, he is going out swinging. A very good match against Seth Rollins here was followed up by a post-match attack on Big E that adds some heat to that feud.
- Carmelo Hayes vs Pete Dunne: Carmelo Hayes signed a WWE contract a mere nine months ago, and he made his televised debut only five months ago. In that brief period of time, he has proven to be one of NXT’s most consistently great in-ring performers, having solid match after solid match against a wide variety of opponents. He has “future NXT Champion” written all over him. There was a point when it looked like you could say that about Pete Dunne, too, but NXT has seemed afraid to pull the trigger on that. He deserves it, but we’ll just have to wait and see if it ever happens.
- Cody Rhodes vs Andrade El Idolo: The “will he or won’t he” saga of Cody Rhodes and his potential heel turn continues. Along the way, he’s having some very entertaining matches, so I have no complaints there.
- John Silver vs Adam Cole: I don’t know about you, but Johnny Hungiee entertains the hell out of me. He’s more than solid in the ring, and he always shows off a great personality and sense of humor in things like Being The Elite. I thought we would see more of a push for him (and other members of The Dark Order) when Brodie Lee passed away, but it never really happened. That’s a shame.
- R-K-Bro & The Street Profits vs AJ Styles, Omos & The Dirty Dawgs: A lot longer match than I was expecting it to be, but solid performances by everyone involved made it enjoyable. Even after all these years, no matter what he’s doing, the WWE Universe loves the hell out of Randy Orton, don’t they?
- Bobby Lashley Replacing Dominik Mysterio On Team Raw At The Survivor Series: I’m not a Dominik hater like a lot of people seem to be, but replacing him on Team Raw with Bobby Lashley immediately makes the squad a lot better. They have a very formidable team with Lashley, Seth Rollins, Rey Mysterio, Kevin Owens and maybe Finn Balor, unless Balor’s current injury, whatever it may be, forces him to miss Survivor Series.
- Bianca Belair vs Carmella vs Rhea Ripley vs Liv Morgan vs Queen Zelina: I’m not sure that anyone other than her biggest fans think she’s going to beat Becky Lynch for the Raw Women’s Title, but you know what? Good for Liv Morgan. She deserves this push.
- King Woods vs Jimmy Uso: A good match involving any combination of The New Day taking on The Usos? No surprise there. As an added bonus, we got some good post-match stuff to help build the upcoming Big E vs Roman Reigns match at Survivor Series.
This Week’s Playlist: “Smokin Out The Window” by Silk Sonic… “One Right Now” by Post Malone & The Weeknd… “Holy Toledo!” by Green Day… “Slow Down Summer” by Thomas Rhett… “Survivor” by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats… “What If I” by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats… “I’m On Your Side” by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats… “The Chapeltown Rag” by Slipknot… “Knives” by Bullet For My Valentine… “My Reverie” by Bullet For My Valentine… “Can’t Escape The Waves” by Bullet For My Valentine… “Rainbow Veins” by Bullet For My Valentine… “Shatter” by Bullet For My Valentine… “Death By A Thousand Cuts” by Bullet For My Valentine… “HELLS FURY” by Royce Da 5’9, Papoose, Cory Guns, Rah Digga & RJ Payne… “Murder Music” by Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Jadakiss & Benny The Butcher… “The Antidote” by Simple Plan… “I’m So Sick” by Flyleaf… “Who You With” by Katchafire… “Colour Me Life” by Katchafire… “Seriously” by Katchafire… “Love Letter” by Katchafire… “100 Bars Of Crack” by Ya Boy… “Hate Me” by Blue October… “Hold On, We’re Going Home” by Drake & Majid Jordan