When the ratings for the October 16 episodes of AEW Rampage and WWE SmackDown came out, SmackDown won the overall viewership, but the two programs tied in the demo and AEW won the head-to-head demo.
Tony Khan was very fired up over the ratings win, taking to social media to thank and rally the fans, wrestlers, and staff of AEW.
Former WCW President Eric Bischoff told Tony to "shut up and wrestle," wanting Tony to focus on his own product. He noted the hypocrisy coming from him, but made sure to point out that he was competing directly with WWE on Monday nights.
Appearing on Busted Open Radio, Tony Khan was simply asked, "did you think about staying quiet?"
Khan replied, "That's a great question. I really like Eric and I was kind of surprised by Eric's comments coming from Eric Bischoff. Eric Bischoff is probably the last person anyone would expect to say that they think the President of a wrestling company should be quiet. When it comes to head-to-head competition, we were in a head-to-head competition this past week, it was only 30 minutes and I didn't ask for it. We were in our time slot and somebody came into our time slot aggressively, and it wasn't the first time they made a pretty aggressive move like that. We've generally responded pretty well and have been very successful. This is the first time on a Friday we've gone head-to-head like that and I thought it was pretty aggressive what they came in with, they loaded it up with the biggest stars they have and I had to make that choice; do I change up the card we have, which has some big stars like CM Punk, who is one of the biggest names in wrestling, against Matt Sydal, who is a great high-flyer and technical wrestler and very respected, but not the biggest box office name in all of wrestling. That's a great match for the fans. I had to think if I should change that to a crazy box office match and go head-to-head, but I didn't, I stuck with the matches we had because I believe in our wrestlers, even if it wasn't necessarily the three most stacked matches. The irony is, this week's Rampage also came in very stacked, whether there was going to be competitive or not. I generally try to make it a strong card and that card was announced before I had any idea we were going head-to-head."
"I was amused by Eric's comments. I like Eric when we're together, but this is the ultimate example of glasshouses, knowing how Eric conducted himself when he was the President of WCW and he did ask for the head-to-head competition, he said publicly I should be going to that, but I don't decide when these shows are on. This time slot, we looked at a couple of different slots and this was one they thought would do well and I was supportive of because it allowed for a good block of wrestling on Friday night and I knew there would be a good amount of people watching on Friday and it was effectively an opportunity for people to watch everything in one night. When we got the head-to-head competition, I thought we need to respond and need to win. We did. I was surprised the competition was going to be commercial-free, I wasn't able to go completely, after talking to TNT, without them, but I was able to schedule doing Punk vs. Sydal commercial-free. I thought it was more impressive given that I was forced to take a couple of breaks. It was great of TNT to work with us on short notice to push our break back so that we could have that match uninterrupted. It's not up to us when our show is on. In this case, somebody moved aggressively in our time slot and it's really important for us to do a good number and win the night and we did.
"I really wanted to rally the fans and put some attention on it and I also really believed we were going to win and we did. We've done really well in the demo, which is the thing advertisers and TV networks use to rate the shows. I know TNT was over the moon and just very excited about how we did. We put our chips in. A really smart person in wrestling, said this to me a couple of days ago, it's someone who works in AEW and what's cool about AEW is I don't think these are just my chips, we're a team. If you're on the AEW team, these are your chips too. Somebody said to me, 'Tony, you put all of our chips in and you made this bet, and we won, and it's awesome and we're all so happy about it. It's a great time for us,' and he's right. We won because of our wrestlers and the great people that work here and especially the fans. I know Friday night is not always the easiest time to always watch a wrestling show, especially 10 o'clock, but the fans have been turning out and in different ways. There are different ways to watch Rampage, whether you watch at home on a TV, a tablet, or at a bar on their TV or on your smartphone, which anybody, for the most part, with a phone these days can get the TNT app if you have cable or a streaming platform that subscribes to TNT, you can watch it on your phone, on the TNT app. A lot of people tuned in Friday to watch the show. I'm very gratified by their support.
"I haven't said much about it since we won other than thanking people for their support and some very brief celebration as the numbers came in, which is really, in this world, at the buzzer, the post-buzzer celebration. Since the numbers came in on Monday, I haven't said much. Those numbers speak for themselves. I'm just really proud we won that head-to-head, we didn't make the choice to go head-to-head for 30 minutes against the competition, especially when they decided to do 30 minutes commercial-free and they lost. I think it was great for us.
"For Eric Bischoff, of all people, the guy who got lowered down on a motorcycle from the ceiling, the guy who challenged Vince McMahon to fight him, to say that somebody should stay quiet is laughable. Eric is doing an act. I respect it, but let's be serious, Eric used to be a wrestling company executive and now he is commentator and as a commentator, he's trying to stir up controversy, but I think it would be pretty naive of anybody to look at this and not examine that the person talking is Eric Bischoff, who is the most out-spoken wrestling executive of all-time and somebody who got a lot of heat, but somebody also who, look, if we're going to be honest, the things I'm trying to do in terms of balancing these great stars we have like CM Punk, Chris Jericho, and Bryan Danielson and people who come in with years of experience and they've got lots of time on television as big TV wrestling stars and then we have the people who have emerged hear and become TV wrestling stars in AEW like Kenny Omega and Hangman Page and the Young Bucks and we also have a whole crew of people who are the young stars and a lot of them are becoming young and established stars on TV too, whether it's MJF, Britt Baker, Sammy Guevara, Jungle Boy, and so many others, Darby Allin, in particular, just stars I'm committed to to keeping in AEW and not losing and building around. When Eric says 'focus on the wrestling,' I am focused on the wrestling and pushing these people and not running them out of the company like Chris Jericho couldn't get out of WCW fast enough and Eddie Guerrero was put in his place and the wrestlers were told by their boss that there is only three guys in the company, when Eric said that [Hulk] Hogan, [Randy] Savage, and [Roddy] Piper were the only three guys that had ever drawn money. Of course, a slap in the face to a few other people in the room, but what does that say to the morale of the young wrestlers who are busting their asses every week. It just doesn't make sense. I am happy and grateful to not go off like that every week and really only when there's a call for it and when there's competition brought to our doorstep and we have to respond. I'm just really grateful for the fans for their support and there's nothing to talk about now because we did what we had to do last weekend and now we can enjoy it and also look forward to great cards this weekend."
Well, that settles that.
Fightful will have live coverage of AEW Dynamite beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday.