Vince McMahon Says AEW Isn't 'Anywhere Near Close to' the Competition WCW Was to WWE

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJuly 30, 2021

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 08:  WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon speaks at a news conference announcing the WWE Network at the 2014 International CES at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas on January 8, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The network will launch on February 24, 2014 as the first-ever 24/7 streaming network, offering both scheduled programs and video on demand. The USD 9.99 per month subscription will include access to all 12 live WWE pay-per-view events each year. CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology trade show, runs through January 10 and is expected to feature 3,200 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to about 150,000 attendees.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

While AEW has firmly established itself as the No. 2 professional wrestling company in North America during its two years of existence, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon isn't sweating the upstart promotion.

During WWE's second-quarter earnings call Thursday, McMahon was asked about AEW, how much it is investing in its roster and the progress it has made in terms of competing with WWE.

According to WrestlingInc.com's Marc Middleton, McMahon said the following in response:

"Well, it certainly is not a situation where 'rising tides' because that was when [WCW owner] Ted Turner was coming after us with all of Time Warner's assets as well. That was a different situation. AEW is where they are. I don't really know what their plans are, all I know is what our plans are.

"I don't consider them competition in the way that I would consider WCW back in the day, not anywhere near close to that."

WWE has been the unquestioned dominant force in professional wrestling for the past 20 years, but WCW gave the company a run for its money in the late 1990s when its weekly Nitro show went head-to-head with Raw on Monday nights.

Nitro beat Raw in the television ratings for 83 consecutive weeks, but WWE managed to recover and win the "Monday Night War" thanks largely to the star power of wrestlers such as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock.

WWE ultimately purchased WCW in 2001, putting its biggest competition out of business for good.

AEW Dynamite hasn't yet reached the weekly viewership numbers of Raw or SmackDown, but it has exceeded 1 million for the past few weeks, and it consistently scored higher ratings than WWE NXT when both shows were on Wednesday nights.

While AEW has been successful in the pro wrestling space, WWE views itself as an entertainment company that competes against all forms of entertainment rather than just wrestling.

WWE President & Chief Revenue Officer Nick Khan expanded on that school of thought Thursday:

"I think the way we always look at these situations, you know, it's sort of like a horse race where the horse has blinders on. We're looking straight ahead at our lane and making sure that we stay in the front of the pack. At the same time, everything is our competition. Someone had a line a couple of weeks ago, that we all chuckled at and agreed with–sleep is our competition. Right?

"If it was up to us, people could be up 24 hours a day, watching content from different content providers, hopefully including ours. So, we don't look at any organization particularly as competition, yet we see everything as competitive with what we're trying to do, in terms of eyeballs."

One of the reasons for AEW's success has been its stacked roster, which features many performers WWE either released or didn't re-sign, such as Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, Cody Rhodes, Malakai Black, Andrade El Idolo, Miro, FTR and others.

Recently, rumors have been running rampant that AEW is set to sign a pair of former multitime WWE world champions in CM Punk and Daniel Bryan.

The Punk signing would be an especially big needle-mover since he hasn't wrestled in more than seven years after leaving WWE.

Punk and Bryan signing with AEW would perhaps improve viewership even more, but given that WWE has billion-dollar television deals with Fox and NBC Universal, it is understandable why McMahon and Co. don't seem particularly worried about AEW.

WWE is far more entrenched now than it was in the late '90s when it was going up against WCW, largely due to the fact that it is a publicly traded company with massive television deals and record profits.

AEW may continue to make inroads on WWE from a television viewership perspective, but WWE is nowhere near imminent danger because of the rival company's presence.

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