Eric Bischoff discusses time in WCW and WWE during Q&A tour in Manchester

Eric Bischoff
 

Former WCW President and Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff traveled to the United Kingdom to do a Q&A Tour in association with WhatCulture.com. Our good friend Liam Johnson attended yesterday’s show at the Ruby Lounge in Manchester and wrote the following report.

The show started with some discussion about SummerSlam. Eric said he was fascinated over the Orton vs Lesnar finish. Eric said he wasn’t sure whether he liked it or not but did say he thought that trying to be different is often better than trying to be good. He didn’t like the predictability of sending people home unhappy and says you shouldn’t do that. The way Eric sees it, it’s OK to have finishes like that on TV but when you’re taking money from fans like with WWE Network subscriptions, it can creative negative reactions. Eric thought that if Orton vs Lesnar was on second to last with Cena v Styles on last, the fans would’ve felt differently.

A fan asked whether Raw of today would compare with WCW Nitro in the 90s. Eric answered by comparing being a wrestling fan with a domestic abuse situation (where the fans keep coming back for more). Eric said that the three hour Raw is a marathon for everyone involved. Eric mentioned that all TV producers would wish they could pull in the kind of ratings that Raw draws where even if the show is bad, fans still come back for more. Eric said that Nitro going to three hours in the end was a mistake as it put too much pressure on everyone in WCW.

One fan asked that of the wrestling stars of today, who would Eric have signed in WCW. Eric replied with Dolph Ziggler. Eric described Ziggler as being gifted, funny and that he also has charisma and personality. Eric compared Ziggler to Chris Jericho but said Ziggler is more polished now than when Jericho was in WCW.

The host asked why the WCW Nitro and Thunder brand split didn’t happen as was originally planned. Eric said that there were too many shows to oversee in different towns across America. Eric said that Harvey Schiller once called Eric when he was on vacation with his family where he told Eric he wanted to add a new show on Thursday nights on TBS. Eric thought it was a rib.

Eric said that Ted Turner believed in wrestling. Schiller asked Eric to pull the car over and told him he was serious. That’s how Thunder was born. Eric was already working 60 hour weeks at the time and didn’t think another show could be done without overexposing the talent and harming Nitro. Thunder was one of the main reasons for signing Bret Hart. Nitro was originally going to be an nWo show with Thunder being WCW’s show. Of course it didn’t quite work out that way in the end.

The Bret Hart involvement in the Hogan vs Sting Starrcade ’97 finish and the three count on Sting was mentioned. Hogan pinned Sting after his legdrop finisher. The referee was scripted to have made a fast count but just made a normal count which made the finish appear botched. Bret Hart then ended up acting as referee where Hogan submitted to Sting’s Scorpion Deathlock and won the WCW World Heavyweight title. Eric implied that even he didn’t really know how the fast count didn’t actually happen.

Eric said that Sting had been an animated and colorful character before then going to the Crow style character which Scott Hall suggested he portrayed. Eric said everyone knew straight away that the Crow character was going to be cool and that they had to milk it and had to make it last. Eric wanted a long term storyline with a long term payoff. All Sting had to do was hang around in the rafters. Sting was going through a lot of personal things in his life so he didn’t talk much to anyone at the time. Sting looked like he quit working out as he didn’t need to as he wore a trench coat to cover his physique. Eric said that Sting didn’t look physically good shortly before his match with Hogan. Hulk Hogan and Eric felt that Sting seemed disengaged and disconnected from wrestling. The plan was always for Sting to go over Hogan though.

One person asked if Eric regretted not buying WCW. Eric said no and that he and his business partners raised 67 million dollars to buy it. Without a television deal at the time though, there was no point. Eric mentioned that internet streaming wasn’t anywhere near as big at the time (television, ticket revenue and traditional pay-per-view was how the money was made at the time).

The host asked if back handed compliments about WCW people in WWE DVDs bothered him. Eric said he was annoyed with WWE for a while about their burial of him and WCW. Eric said that while getting older sucks in general, it has made him wiser and that he realizes that WWE have their job to do and their own business to get on with. Eric said that what reconnected him with WWE was his interview with John “Bradshaw” Layfield.

The host asked if the burial of guys like Scott Steiner and other WCW talents bothered him when joining WWE. Eric said not really as it was a great opportunity. Eric also said he was a heel, basically the number one heel in WWE at the time, and that it’s hard to hurt a heel anyway. Eric also mentioned that he stayed three years and six months longer than expected.

Eric said that if AJ Styles was pushed like John Cena, he could be the main man in WWE as he lives a clean lifestyle and everyone was happy when he beat Cena.

Eric said that it took a lot of balls of WWE to do away with pay-per-view and go with the Network. Eric also mentioned it was a smart decision but said he would probably go back to having far fewer PPVs with less fast moving storylines.

The host asked what WWE need to do to make the brand split successful full time. Eric used the analogy of thinking of Raw as a big baby face (good guy) and Smackdown as the opposite. Eric said both shows need to be diverse and completely different to each other otherwise it’s like having two white guy twins. Eric said that he made mistakes and so did WWE during the first brand split. Eric also said that everyone makes mistakes but that smart people learn from them. Eric tells his kids not to be afraid of failing. The brand split should be as such that when someone switches, it means something (and that WWE should wait at least a year or so before anyone moves).

A fan asked how authority figures should work. Eric answered that it’s a case of WWE making the fans focus on characters and interpreting them in the right way. Eric thinks the biggest problem is Foley is too likable and that the fans couldn’t see him as a heel. Eric sees Daniel Bryan as even more difficult to be treated as a heel.

The host brought up the Ultimate Warrior in WCW and Eric said, “let’s talk about the Dungeon of Doom” (which got quite a few laughs). Eric said Hogan had a lot to do with Warrior coming in and that Hogan had good ideas and bad ones. Eric mentioned other people had bad ideas who he’d worked with and said “Katie Vick” straight after that statement (which again made the crowd laugh).

Eric flew to Phoenix to meet Warrior and Warrior won him over and as WCW was on a roll, Eric thought they might as well give the signing of Warrior a try. As it turned out, Warrior tore a muscle early on in his WCW run and couldn’t work. Eric also mentioned the unexpected 49 minute promo that Warrior cut on Hogan during his WCW debut on Nitro in 1998. Eric said although Warrior was a lunatic, he was a passionate one. The crowd as a whole applauded Warrior out of respect.

A fan brought up Raven. Eric alluded to Kevin Sullivan hiring him. Eric said he doesn’t talk to Raven anymore and that Raven started becoming the character and started getting to levels where the depth of the character was no longer entertaining at times.

The host asked how important it was for all WWE PPVs to have their own personalities. Eric said that the final chapters of the stories (PPVs) need to feel special. The host asked about WWE bringing back Clash Of The Champions on PPV. Eric said that WWE should build on the history of it. To not build on the history, you might as well give Clash Of The Champions a different name.

Someone asked what it was like being backstage at first in WWE being amongst guys he’d fired. Eric said he didn’t fire Jim Ross and he didn’t have the authority to do so at the time. JR was pissed off in WCW as Eric got the job he wanted. JR was closely associated with Bill Watts so he guessed that when Watts was no longer in charge of WCW, it wasn’t the same for JR. It was Bill Shaw who said that as Ross was miserable, he was put onto syndicated TV. JR ended up leaving WCW off his own accord. Fast forward to when Eric debuted in WWE. Eric said that he flew to New York on his own credit card in a separate hotel, and hiding from fans to keep his debut a secret. Eric said there was a lot of bullshit online about how certain people left WCW.

The host asked about Steve Austin working with him in WWE. Eric suggested that people should listen to Austin’s podcast with Eric as guest for the truth about how Austin left WCW. Eric said he saw Austin for the first time in seven years when he joined WWE and that they both got along like two best friends who hadn’t seen each other for six months. Eric said that he goes to Los Angeles quite often with having an office there and speaks to Steve on a regular basis. Eric was even wearing a Broken Skull IPA T-shirt during the show.

A fan asked about WCW and WWF guys being close to switching brands under his reign. The fan said that Tatanka claimed he was close to joining WCW. Eric said he wasn’t prepared to offer Tatanka a contract. Eric did say that someone else might have been interested but as WCW were offering big money at the time and Tatanka never took it, it likely wasn’t true.

Another fan asked what Eric thought about Paul Heyman. Eric said that both himself and Heyman were talking about working on a film project and he has nothing but respect for Paul.

A fan asked about the Diamond Dallas Page and Randy Savage feud. Eric said that he had nothing to do with it. The angle and the match was all between Savage and DDP. Eric said he’s not close with Page and they haven’t talked for a year and a half. Eric dismissed the delay of Savage’s Hall Of Fame Induction as horse shit.

A fan asked if there was too much wrestling on TV and the internet. Eric said there kind of is but it’s a good opportunity for everyone to get some exposure.

The host asked what Eric was most proud of. Eric answered that he broke the mold and things like cruiserweights and three hour flagship shows are part of his legacy.

The host asked why when WCW finally made it big in the mid to late nineties, why didn’t they come to the UK. Eric said there were no suitable promoters in the UK at the time as the existing ones already had relationships with WWE.

A fan asked about the Final Deletion angle with Matt and Jeff Hardy in TNA. Eric said he hadn’t seen it but as it has resonated with fans, it must have been good.

Someone asked about Conor McGregor’s comments about WWE. Eric said he was in a restaurant with Ric Flair and his wife. Flair got a text from Conor asking if he was going to be at his next fight. Eric said that Conor’s recent comments have confused him and that Eric smelled BS and that what Conor said was done to build interest in his own fight (most likely with WWE fans).

Eric also said he was on a flight to Korea with Muhammad Ali back in the mid-nineties. Eric talked about how Ali said he went from Cassius Clay to the Muhammad Ali character by being influenced by the wrestling that he watched in Louisville growing up.

Overall, a fascinating insight into the business of professional wrestling and was well worth the watch.