Stone Cold Steve Austin and Chris Jericho busted open the forbidden door no one thought would ever open between AEW and WWE when they announced Jericho would appear on Broken Skull Sessions set to air next Sunday after WrestleMania.
As he prepares for the interview to air, Austin spoke to Wrestling Inc.'s Nick Hausman about how he enjoys AEW giving WWE some competition in the wrestling business.
"Man, I love it," Austin said. "I think it's competition by proxy just because they're wrestling, WWE's wrestling, but I don't think they're directly trying to compete. But in essence, they are and I love it because it gives more people within any of this jobs. It gives more people a chance to work. And it makes WWE, you know, forces them to push the envelope rather than just sit back and push out content. Competition makes everybody better."
Austin said the relationship isn't quite the same as the Monday Night Wars, when it was clear WCW and WWE were trying to put one another out of business for good. He sees AEW as a type of quality gatekeeper for WWE, forcing the company to not get complacent.
"The product is better because you're forced," Austin said. "'What are these cats doing over here? This friggin' stuff. We gotta up it a little bit!' There's checks and balances. I remember when we put WCW out of business. I remember going up to Vince and saying, 'Was it our mission to put them out of business?' They kicked our ass for two years, you know, but I didn't know that was the mission! We just wanted to win the ratings war. Of course, he ends up buying them for pennies on the dollar; that's the genius of Vince McMahon. But to answer your question, yes, AEW is a good thing. It's a good thing for everybody, including WWE."
It's fair to say WWE's product has gotten better since AEW's arrival. Both companies deserve some level of praise for their handling of the pandemic, continuing to produce shows with bare-bones crews and in many cases without (or with greatly limited) fan attendance.
Austin said McMahon told him in the past that other promoters lack his foresight, which allowed the WWE chairman to buy nearly every major promotion in the United States and create a near-monopoly on mainstream wrestling until AEW's arrival. While Austin needed McMahon's permission to have Jericho on Broken Skull Sessions, he joked their relationship is a bit different now than it was in the Attitude Era.
"He don't even take my phone calls, but let me tell you, back when I was working on top, when I called Vince, that phone didn't ring a half time before he picked it up," Austin said. "Now I'll send him a text message and I'll get an answer back in a couple of days."