Does the age of a wrestler matter if the audience still cares about their character? Eric Bischoff doesn't seem to think so.
Speaking with Conrad Thompson on his 83 Weeks podcast via AdFreeShows, the former Executive Producer of TNA (now IMPACT! Wrestling) was asked if he had any hesitation putting the World Heavyweight Championship on Sting in 2011 when he was 51 years old. Bischoff replied no and then went on to ponder why age ever became and topic of discussion in the wrestling industry. He said the following:
"Nope. I think the whole idea of age is, I mean it'd be worth a discussion and maybe even a show specifically about this topic. I think it all started with the Monday Night Wars. I think it all started when Vince McMahon, thinking that Hulk Hogan no longer had any value, that Randy Savage no longer had any value, that Roddy Piper no longer had any value, that Ric Flair no longer had any value, that so many of the established big names were, just kind of like it was time to put them out to pasture. You could go all the way back to Warrior and Hulk Hogan in WWF when Vince wanted to put the belt on Warrior because he felt that Hogan was done. When was that, 1991? 92? When Hogan was 37, 38, whatever he was. Once part of that roster came to WCW and started kicking Vince McMahon's ass on a regular basis, what did Vince do? He started framing and contextualizing aforementioned talent as being too old and washed up and has-beens. Billionaire Ted skits, where Vince made fun of the age of a lot of the performers that we were using to beat his ass. That kind of perpetuated throughout the peripheral wrestling media and age became a subject."
Bischoff continued on, using Sons of Anarchy as an example of a show that drew strong numbers in the 18-49 year old demographic despite having a number of cast members that were older than their target audience. Here is what he said:
"Look at some of the biggest hits, and I'm going to pull a couple that are older now because I've kind of analyzed them over the years but they still hold up. Sons of Anarchy on FX. The average age of the cast on Sons of Anarchy was probably 55 years old. It had the strongest 18-49-year-old male demos of any show in its time period at that time, or close to it. So I think when people who don't know fuck all about television, really, because they've never really done it start talking about granular aspects of television like the relative age of the characters compared to the target audience, they run themselves into a ditch because they don't know what they're talking about. The audience doesn't feel the same way about the age of talent as the people who write about it do."
As for younger talent, Bischoff notes that it can take upwards of a decade before they connect with the audience in a way that makes them a consistently high performing character. He also praised All Elite Wrestling for pairing Darby Allin with Sting, saying that it's the proper way to utilize older Superstars with pre-existing audience investment.
"If you look at the other end of it, it takes young talent, and I'm talking about guys that are under 30 and under 35 years old, it takes them a good 5, 8, 10 years to really connect with the audience in a way where they're really viable, consistently high performing characters. It takes a while. The young talent that everybody talks about grooming, yes absolutely, you need to bring that talent up. You need to brush them up against a Sting. You need to be Darby Allin getting that rub from Sting in AEW. That's how you utilize guys like Sting because the audience is still invested in Sting. AEW just signed Big Show. I said what'? What the hell? But they did. Why? It was a good calculation. Big Show is a name with a ton of freaking equity. Now, will they use him in the ring? Probably not, and if they do it'll be the occasional thing, which is fine."
Lastly, Bischoff believes that people are overly concerned with age nowadays. The focus needs to be on the audience and whether or not they're connecting with the character. That's all that matter. Here is what he said:
"I think anybody that spends so much time focusing on how old, especially at 52 years old, look, you're a television star. Look at Tom Cruise. Who's the British guy that plays James Bond? 007. He's my age for crying out loud. Doesn't matter! The audience digs the character, that's all that matters. If the character happens to be 52 years old or in Sting's case today 62 years old, doesn't matter. The audience still digs it because there's still equity there. So no, I wasn't concerned then and I think people are overly concerned now. It's something that people in the peripheral wrestling media who don't know fuck all, its something that they can talk about because it an opinion. It's a subjective opinion, but they can try to take that subjective opinion and make it sound like it's based in science or it's based in fact, and it's not based in fact, it's the opposite of that."
Eric Bischoff appeared on the March 3 episode of AEW Dynamite, asking a question during The Inner Circle's pre-Revolution press conference. Previously, he served as the special-guest moderator of Chris Jericho and Orange Cassidy's debate in the build up to All Out 2020.
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