Former Executive Vice President of WCW, and Executive Director of Smackdown in WWE Eric Bischoff recently did an interview with Fightful and Sean Ross Sapp where he discussed the many things, including TBS mandating Thunder to WCW, AOL merger complicating things, original plans for brand split, growing the nWo for the split, and much more.
Check out the highlights or watch the full interview below.
Eric Bischoff on how TBS and Ted Turner mandated Thunder to WCW:
“I get asked about that a lot and I haven’t really had to think about it. Really, the last four / five months when people have really asked me to try to explain why. Because I did. When we were mandated—it wasn’t a request. We fought it. I didn’t fight it hard enough as I probably should have in retrospect, but I don’t have that luxury any more—we were mandated. Ted Turner said, ‘Go do this.’ TBS said, ‘I’ll put it on the air, but I don’t want to pay for it.’ Nobody wanted to pay for it. We had to pay for it out of our own budget. We had to pay to put a show on a network. That’s called a ‘buy-on.’ Those bitches never work out. They don’t. Buy-ons never work. But, we did it because we had to. The initial thought, because by the time the Thunder mandate came to us and we resisted it for as long as we could and Ted finally said, ‘Just go do it,’ by the time we pulled the trigger and started developing it—that was the reasons I brought in Bret Hart. ‘Cause we saw the possibility coming down the road. It’s one of the reasons we expanded the NWO beyond the point of making any logical sense at all because we knew we had to have a roster ready when and if that Smackdown opportunity matured we had to be able to split Nitro & NWO and Thunder & WCW.”
Eric Bischoff on the AOL merger complicating the process:
“About a third of the way through that process, after we signed Bret Hart—and my time line isn’t that clear to me right now I don’t have all the stuff written down—but, probably a couple months or so, somewhere in there after we brought Bret Hart in is when, now with an AOL merger coming into the fold along with the Time Warner merger that I think had just been completed or was still processing on some levels—all of a sudden now we were forced to completely redo our budgets and our books in the middle of all that. That was the beginning of what became a very frustrating, and ultimately the led to the end of WCW in many respects.”
“Your listeners or your viewers at this point, anybody that reads this, doesn’t necessarily have to believe me because obviously I’m trying to defend myself to a degree or explain a situation. There’s a guy by the name of Guy Evans who wrote a book called [NITRO: The Incredible Rise and Inevitable Collapse of Ted Turner’s WCW]; Guy, who’s a legitimate journalist, and I separate that. I don’t mean to be derisive towards people who maybe didn’t go to journalism school. It doesn’t mean you can’t write, think and have opinions about things, but here’s a legitimate journalist who did the research and interviewed over a hundred people who were associated with the decision making processes, including outside of WCW. Meaning Turner executives from finance committee and the accounting and the legal departments. All of whom didn’t report to me. They may have handed a dotted line to me, but they reported to other people in the company. They are the ones who will substantiate a lot of what I’m saying in their own way.”
Eric Bischoff on why splitting the brands would’t have worked:
“Well, it wouldn’t have worked. It would have been better for some of the top talent that we relied upon. For example, when Thunder kicked into gear—and I think that’s one of the things that killed it immediately. It’s why I have some pretty strong opinions about brand splits and why they’ve been unsuccessfully attempted ever since, a couple of periods of time where they looked like they might work, but for the most part it’s not been a successful concept anywhere, including WWE, in my opinion. Once you have talent appearing on one show and on another, your top talent—let’s just for discussion, not argument, say that the top 25% of your roster draws 75% of your revenue. Whatever that formula is. Your stars draw the money at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter what the business is. If it’s music, tv, movies, it doesn’t freakin’ matter. For the most part your stars draw 75-80% of your revenue. But, when you see those same top stars twice a week, “Ehh, maybe I’ll watch ‘em tonight. If I don’t watch, I’ll watch ‘em Thursday. Oh, shit, I got busy Thursday.” Before you know it, you’re diluting your own talent pool. You’re over exposing them and you’re over exposing their stories. You’re over producing because you have to keep that story alive across two prime time shows instead of one. I didn’t realize it while it was happening or I possibly would have attempted to change it if I could have. But, you’re killing yourself, and it would have been easier for some of the top talent. They would have felt better. It’s not that they minded working. But as a talent I would much rather keep my stock high, my credibility high, I would rather keep my audience wanting me to come back so they could get more as opposed to over indulging them. This would have still about as much. If they weren’t at TV, they would have been at a house show. If they weren’t at Thunder, they would have been somewhere else wrestling. It’s not that they would have been home drinking pina coladas and chasing their wives and girlfriends around a pool. They still would have been working. They just would have not been overexposed.”
Eric Bischoff on expanding the nWo to build the roster for the brand split:
“Then the opportunity that would have created—and I get a lot of heat, deservedly so, not trying to evade it, deny it, make excuses for it—yeah, a lot of that talent we brought into the NWO was less than star caliber. Yes, they were. But, those people would have been part of a roster, and had a more important role, had there been a NWO exclusive show and a WCW exclusive show, two separate brands. It’s a hypothetical rabbit hole. Once you go in, you can’t come out. Like Hotel California for rabbits. Who knows, you know? Had the merger not occurred, had WCW, like so many other companies—another book if people really, really want to understand and be able to talk about WCW, it’s impact, it’s history, the good, the bad, the good decisions, the bad decisions—read Guy Evans’ book and then read a book by an author by the name of Nina Munk. She wrote a book a long time ago called “When Fools Rush In.” She’s not a wrestling person. She’s a journalist. She wrote a story about the merger. So, it wasn’t just WCW that got hacked, slashed and mistreated as a result of everybody’s dream of increasing what is referred to as [IBEDA] within their respective divisions. So that their stock options would be worth even more money than if they had been hadn’t quite meet those [IBEDAs]. It was all driven, I don’t want to say by greed, but it’s the market. It’s what people do in publicly held companies. But, there was such a mad rush to get that [IBEDA] up to, I think it was something like 18-20%, which in previous years where we were considered successful it was 10% or 11%, we had to do it by robbing Peter to pay Paul and unfortunately WCW and a lot of other companies were Peter and got robbed by Paul. Had that not occurred, there’s a lot of dominos that wouldn’t have fallen the wrong way, in my opinion. But, we’ll never know if I’m accurate or not accurate, full of shit or not. We’ll never know.”
Huge fan of pro-wrestling for over 25 years. Lived through the Monday night wars (WWE/WCW) and the ECW revolution. Currently a big fan of Lucha Underground, NXT, MLW, PWG, and even Impact Wrestling…