Eric Bischoff Talks Hulk Hogan Scandal, WCW Regrets, His Attitude Era Dream Team, nWo Music, More
The guys at Under the Mat Radio recently sat down with former WCW President and RAW General Manager Eric Bischoff. Video is above courtesy of Title Match Wrestling. Courtesy of my good friend Mark Adam Haggerty and DailyWrestlingNews.com, below are highlights:
The show begins with talk of the recent Hulk Hogan controversy. Eric is of course close to Hogan in real life, but says the WWE reacted the only way they possibly could. He says that a publicly traded wrestling promotion doesn’t just need to be sensitive to its fan base, but to investors, advertisers, board members, and the main stream media. He says that if he was in the same position, he would’ve made the exact same decision: “It was a tough all I’m sure, but at the same time I’m sure it was very easy. They didn’t have any other option. Look at Donald Sterling. Same sort of situation—the NBA had no other option.”
Eric is asked to respond to his detractors, the people who say things like, “Eric Bischoff ruined WCW,” or “Eric Bischoff didn’t know what he was doing.” Bischoff says that it’s very easy to have perfect 20/20 hindsight. He says that he could be a Super Bowl-winning NFL coach if hindsight is what mattered in the present moment. He says most of the people who’ve been critical of his time with WCW didn’t know the full story—they’re fans who’ve heard the story passed down, or they were former WCW wrestlers. He says that while he was never a wrestler, he had a number of other qualities that made him suitable for his position: “I had experience in television syndication, I had experience in live events, I had experience in production. I secured the largest sponsor for the AWA that Verne Gagne ever had.” He goes on to say that those wrestlers who claim to know what was going on behind the scenes in “Turner’s North Tower” couldn’t even find the elevator in the CNN center, much less hear anything that goes on behind closed doors. He points out that WCW was losing extraordinary amounts of money when he took over; WCW had been hemorrhaging funds since Turner acquired the property from Jim Crockett Promotions. Regardless of whether Eric “knew what he was doing,” he takes his share of the blame for the downfall of WCW.
One of the hosts asks why Eric decided to “push older guys instead of younger guys.” Bischoff laughs and says, “You mean like Undertaker coming back? Or Sting? Or Brock? Or Chris Jericho? Sometimes people want to see something more than what they’re used to seeing on television every week.” Eric says that it’s important to keep a balance between those top stars and the talent you’re trying to build, and admits that he didn’t always keep it as balanced as it needed to be. Another host asks for Eric to describe the process in developing Goldberg. Eric responds with a joke: “It happened at conception. And I don’t mean my conception of the character. I mean his mom and dad’s conception. That’s Bill. That’s who he was, and that’s who he still is.” Eric says that Goldberg was extremely limited, but came about at the right time and therefore needed the “express treatment.” Eric says that it took time before they could teach Bill the “finer points on how to construct a three-act match,” and adds: “If we sent him out there for a 20-minute match he would’ve burned alive.” Eric is asked about the “Gillberg” character. He says he didn’t have much of an opinion, but “Bill had a very strong opinion on it.” They ask him if he would’ve ended Goldberg’s streak differently. “That’s a loaded question,” Eric says, “And I’m going to try to answer it carefully. I accept full responsibility for the angle. But I honestly don’t remember much of the planning that went into it. I’m not dodging the question. It’s just been 20-years.”
The hosts ask about dealing with talent in the WCW days and whether or not people actually had creative control. Eric says, “The only one I knew for sure had complete creative control was Hulk. There might have been others who had ‘language’ written into their contracts where they had influence. But Hogan was the only one I was aware of.” He says that he always wanted everyone to have input on their character. He says he liked it when a talent would come to him with something they felt strongly about, because it meant they were invested in themselves. He was always willing to talk to people and compromise, which is why he thinks had the success that he did: “I wish I could take all the credit but it really was a big collaborative effort.” Eric says that it’s easier for Vince and the WWE today because they are—for lack of a better word—a monopoly. They’re the only place where American talents can make really good money, which makes it harder for wrestlers to have their voices heard. Eric says that there was a time when Vince McMahon was forced to fly from his home to a house show in the middle of the night because the Kliq was having a dispute with the booking agents. “The talent had all the control back then, because they could leave at the drop of a hat. And a lot of them did.” He goes on to say, “I’ll tell you one thing I really regret, is I wish I had listened to Chris Jericho. He had some great ideas that I just wasn’t ready to listen to.”
Eric is asked about the infamous Halloween Havoc 1998 incident, wherein the event went long and the main event was cut short. Eric says he doesn’t remember. Then the hosts go into detail about how people were angry and WCW decided to broadcast the match in its entirety on TNT on Tuesday night. “Oh yeah—now I remember,” Bischoff says. “Yeah—that wasn’t the plan. And neither was the Hogan-Warrior flash bang.” He says the overrun was unfortunate but it is what it is and he doesn’t dwell on things like that. As far as the Ultimate Warrior’s presence on the show, Eric says the Warrior was passionate, intense, but a little undisciplined, both in the ring and on the mic.
The hosts want to know about the nWo music, specifically the origin of the tune and the identity of the ominous “nWo voice.” Eric says that the theme was actually stock music found in a Turner library. As far as the voice, a random WCW senior editor was tasked with providing commentary over the track. They ask Eric about the nWo’s heat with the Four Horsemen, and the segment featuring Kevin Nash dressed as Arn Anderson. Eric says that he didn’t understand how much that hurt certain people at the time. “As far as I was concerned, Arn was set. He was always going to have a job with me regardless, so I didn’t really see what the big deal was. Here was a man, whose identity was based upon what he did in the ring. And because of an injury he couldn’t do that anymore. I was thinking like me, when I should’ve put myself in Arn’s shoes.” Eric says that he doesn’t have too many regrets, but that skit is at the top of his list of things he’d change.
They ask Eric if he ever had any intention of buying the AWA from Verne Gagne when he went out of business in 1990. Eric laughs and says he had to borrow money from Verne to get to Atlanta. “I couldn’t buy lunch for the receptionist in the AWA office, much less buy the company.” They ask how he feels about Johnny Stewart using the AWA name to promote events. Eric says that Johnny Stewart is “a perfect example of what’s wrong with this business.” He goes on to say: “He’s a flaky con-man, uh—I didn’t have any respect for him back when I knew him, and I haven’t grown to have any respect for him now. And [using the AWA name] is just a low-rent move.” They talk about the film “Ready to Rumble,” the WCW-themed comedy starring former WCW world champion David Arquette. Eric says that he was a key person in developing the idea and the Oliver Platt character is actually based on him. He even says he was supposed to play himself, but then he was fired from WCW and the movie went into production. He says he would’ve loved to be a part of it because “it looked like a lot of fun.”
One of the hosts asks Eric about the absence of any black world heavyweight champions in WWE. He notes WCW had Booker T and Ron Simmons, but WWE has never given its ain championship to an African American. Excluding half of the Rock, of course. Eric says that it really comes down to math: “The odds of ANYONE making it to the top in the entertainment industry are so astronomical—that’s why I didn’t want my son to become a wrestler. For minorities, it’s even harder just based on sheer numbers. It’s math.” Bischoff says that he feels change is coming, because “society wants it.” He says he honestly feels that there will be a black WWE World Heavyweight Champion within the next 1-2 years, “based on the way our country is headed. It’s just a shame it took this long.”
They wind down the interview and Eric is asked to create an “Attitude Era Dream Team.” If he could start a promotion during the Monday Night Wars, knowing what he does now, and could have ANYONE in the industry at the time—what five names would he pick? His first pick is Chris Jericho, and he once again expresses regret in never listening to Jericho while he had him in WCW. He then chooses Rey Mysterio, but not without saying: “If I could get him away from Konnan.” He says that if he could have Shawn Michaels from the 1990s, he would definitely go with him. He says he’d still go with Hogan because of the commercial value at the time. And finally, he says he’d have to travel to Texas and apologize and beg for Steve Austin to come to his new promotion. Eric says that if he could do anything over again—with the exception of the aforementioned Horsemen skit, and the infamous Mick Foley title spoiler—he would’ve resigned in 1998. He says he was really close to resigning in mid-1998 but convinced himself not to. If he had anything to do over again, he would’ve left WCW then, but doesn’t say what he’d do afterward.
Lastly, the producer asks Eric how a company might recreate the magic of the Monday Night Wars in today’s industry. Eric says you can’t: “It won’t happen in our lifetimes, or our children’s lifetimes. It’s just—it’s like asking ‘How can we get music stores in every mall again?’ You can’t. Times have changed and people are consuming their media in different ways.” They close the conversation talking about Breaking Bad, which Eric calls the greatest television series of all time. He compares himself to the Jesse Pinkman character, saying that they’re both misunderstood, but deep down they’re good people. He also likens Breaking Bad to wrestling by saying it-too—was a once in a lifetime event.
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