Rick Bassman is primarily known to pro wrestling fans as the man who brought Sting and The Ultimate Warrior, among others, into the pro wrestling business. He has been a mover and shaker in the business for decades now, and his many roles make it difficult to put a label on what exactly he does. For example, most recently, he met with WWE officials backstage at Backlash to discuss the new AI technology he is working on.
Beyond the world of pro wrestling, Bassman has also served as a nightclub promoter, talent agent, and Disney executive, for which he won an Emmy for his work producing the CBS special, Flash Black. With so much experience in the world of business, it should come as no surprise that he keeps a sharp eye on the day-to-day backstage goings on in pro wrestling’s two top companies, WWE and AEW.
Tomorrow, AEW looks to announce its new flagship show, Collision, even as tensions between some of the company’s top stars, The Elite, and CM Punk, go seemingly unresolved. In an exclusive Haus of Wrestling interview, available on the Haus of Wrestling podcast feed, Bassman gives his thoughts on the current backstage political landscape of WWE’s biggest competition.
“It’s still, in a lot of ways, a startup and endemic in all startups are, I don’t know if volatility is the right word, but less so than fluidity,” he began. “And, you know, you’re constantly building and constantly reacting, and then constantly, kind of massaging your direction. And maybe that’s why it seems tumultuous. We’re used to a company that’s been on top of this business for, how long now? 60 or 70 years?
“So, when there’s an upstart that looks like it could be competitive by any measure, like WCW was, AEW now the latest example, twenty-some years after, we’re used to measuring that, I think, by this big monolith, who, for the most part, how’s their act together. So, the world is so magnified by social media now, and then the wrestling world, you know, we’re so transfixed on what Dave Meltzer writes, on what you to write in a report, and when a couple of other guys do that, I think it’s easy to get caught up in, ‘Wow! There’s a lot of crazy shit happening there. How does this portend for the future?’
“And I am not saying anybody is talking negatively or badly, it’s just how things are reported but it can create an impression that things might be out of control. Now, as I understand it, and have a lot of friends at AEW, it’s like any other startup, again, it’s dynamic and ever-changing. And my impression is that, well, I don’t believe they or anybody else will ever be a WWE, certainly not before the WME buyout, but especially not after that.
“But I believe that AEW is here to stay, a lot more than WCW was because it’s being run by very, very smart people. And it’s not to say Eric Bischoff is not a smart guy, because he’s an incredibly smart guy. But there’s a true organization and infrastructure here, a great talent roster, and great TV deals. There’s going to be missteps along the way. It’s just it’s the nature of that business, and any other business but I think for the most part, I’d say they’re in pretty solid shape and will continue to be.”
Despite the lingering backstage tensions, it does appear Tony Khan and AEW are in for a substantial payday once their latest TV rights are negotiated with Warner Brothers Discovery. If rumors are true, that payday could be a billion dollars or more.
“I don’t know if the number is going to be as huge as would be hoped for, or as has been speculated, maybe it will be,” he said. “If I were a betting person, which I’m not, I say it probably won’t be that massive number but I would say it’ll certainly be a big enough number to keep them in business and growing their company.”
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