In Defense Of… Eric Bischoff
A version of this article originally appeared on 411mania.com and was updated for the book IN DEFENSE OF… EXONERATING PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING’S MOST HATED. Learn more at https://www.jpprag.com
Certain people, events, organizations, and storylines in wrestling history have gotten a bum rap. Some writers have presented overtly critical comments and outright lies as fact, and others have followed suit. Well no more! “In Defense of…” has one reason: to bring the truth to the wrestling fan!
Some dame walked into my office and said…
Normally, this section would be filled with the original e-mail or the like that I received asking for a particular case. Being the premier issue, Eric Bischoff was my first choice. Although a near life-long wrestling fan, I grew up watching NWA and WCW, not the WWE. After the WWE bought all relevant assets of WCW in 2001, most of the fans like me disappeared from the real world and the nascent internet as they chose to move on rather than watch WWE programming (televisions ratings prove this later on). As the years moved on, I became more disillusioned with professional wrestling because I did not like how the WWE presented their product and upstart organizations like TNA failed to maintain a consistent unique value proposition.
Because of my feelings, I took to writing to rediscover my love of professional wrestling, and that quickly morphed into the case you are about to read here. I actually wrote the original draft poolside while on vacation in Arizona visiting my brother. Without 411mania hiring me to present this case to the world, I most likely would have given up on wrestling completely within a few months. This case is so important to me because it reinvigorated me as a fan and fueled my next 6 years as both an audience member and a reporter.
My all-time favorite promoter, on-air character, philosopher, and dealmaker in wrestling is Eric Bischoff. That’s it. I think he’s absolutely fantastic at what he does, at least way better than you or I would be, and many others have tried to be. Don’t believe me? Think that Uncle Eric is nothing compared to Vinny Mac or [throw in miscellaneous independent promoter that no one cares about here]? Well here’s setting the facts straight…
Eric Bischoff only created one thousand stars
The utmost biggest lie I read every week about Eric Bischoff is that he only created one star: Goldberg. Are you insane? Did you even watch wrestling in the mid-90’s? Well let me tell you, I was a total mark, and here is a short list names I never knew before WCW that I saw rise under Bischoff’s tutelage: Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio, Giant, DDP, Torrie Wilson, Stacy Keibler, Ernest “Cat” Miller, Eddie Guerrero, Chavo Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Kanyon/Mortis, Raven, Konan, Lance Storm, and Shane Helms.
Do you see that? I could go on forever! Bischoff created stars on all levels of the card, but he wasn’t just good at creating, he was excellent at re-inventing.
I’m an entrepreneur, and for the layman that might mean starting your own business. Entrepreneurship, though, should not be so pigeon-holed; it can be about re-creating and re-energizing, about taking something old and making it new and great again. Personally, I deeply believe in corporate entrepreneurship, that a company that is old and tired and full of bureaucracy can become lean, mean, and young again. Don’t believe a company can become young again? Here’s a list of companies that completely changed from their old ways to grow to new heights: HP, Apple, PepsiCo, Virgin, Sunkist, Viacom, Miramax Studios, and, oh wait, the then WWF! Do you remember the Attitude Era? Vince Russo, Ed Farrarah, and Vince McMahon completely changed how the company was run, perceived, and did business. You should be thankful.
So what does this have to do with Eric Bischoff? Well, I contend that re-creating a star’s valor is just as big, if not a bigger accomplishment, than creating a new star. Here’s a list of stars whose careers were dead or dying that Bischoff gave new life to (sometimes multiple times): Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Syxx, Ted DiBiasse, Rick Rude, Curt Henning, Sting, Booker T, Stevie Ray, Rick and Scott Steiner, Lex Luger, Kevin Sullivan, Meng, Barbarian, Larry Zybsyco, and Dusty Rhodes (even if the last two were only as announcers. I’m goin’ to the pay window!).
And as for “stealing” Vince’s talent and characters, that is complete bull. Bischoff never violated a copyright law or made a WWF character show up on WCW television. He just signed INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS to an exclusive contract with his company. Since people like Scott Hall and Kevin Nash are independent contractors — and those are their true names — their public persona cannot be copyrighted. So sure, Kevin Nash could not run around pretending to be a truck driver in WCW, but Kevin Nash the persona cannot be copyrighted, and therefore he can act however he wants anywhere.
Thus you can see by all of this that Eric Bischoff is an incredibly creative man, whether it is with his own creations or remaking an older model. It takes talent and skill to build the roster and program he made, not luck, stealing, and money (wait a little bit and we’ll get back to this last point).
By now you may be saying, “Boy, that’s great, but did he really add to the legacy of wrestling?”
Glad you asked…
Cruiserweights equal workrate
What is the one thing from WCW that still exists in the WWE today? That’s right: it’s the Cruiserweight Championship of the World! Being the only title that never combined with any WWE title (unless you count when Ultimo Dragon had nine belts in WCW), and the only one that maintained its original sheen months after the end of the InVasion, the Cruiserweight Championship is the last true piece of WCW iconography available.
And would we even have had a Cruiserweight division if not for Eric Bischoff? Would people like Rey Mysterio, Juventud Guerrera, Psycosis, Villano IV y V, La Parka, Ultimo Dragon, Silver King, Lizmark Jr, Eddie Guerrero, Chavo Guerrero, or Chris Jericho ever have gotten the chance to wow and amaze us? Would we have gotten the opportunity — no privilege! — to see these amazing stars in action? Did we even know what workrate really was before we saw these guys bust their behinds for us day in and day out?
Eric Bischoff reminded us what it meant to be a wrestler, and not just a gimmicky clown or a group of skin heads or [insert race here] supremacy group with very little to offer for entertainment and excitement.
Eric Bischoff brought ‘rasslin back to wrestling.
Billionaire Ted’s Money
You might say to yourself, “Sure, Bischoff could have done those things, but he’d be nothing without Ted Turner’s money. Billionaire Ted just bought whatever Bischoff wanted and damned the consequences. All he cared about was having a ‘rasslin show on his SuperStation.”
And I might tell you that you need to get your facts checked.
Bischoff only went to Ted Turner ONCE for money, and that was to acquire Hulk Hogan. After that, Bischoff was really on his own. He had a set budget determined by TBS, and he had to stick with it. And on top of all that, Ted Turner was not even in charge of Time-Warner from 1994 on! Everyone always acts like Ted Turner was the CEO of Time-Warner and took care of everything. Well, guess again, corporate conspiracy sleuth. Yes, Ted Turner was on the Board of Directors, but he gave up running the company or any of its sub-divisions in any meaningful way by 1994. Yes, he had a lot of influence and owned a lot of stock, but he had no real control anymore. He was just a figurehead to point a finger at. As time went on, it became more and more apparent that Turner had little to do with the company, especially when the AOL merger was announced and his later resignation from the board. Ted Turner can be found nowadays growing his mid-sized family eatery chain “Ted’s Montana Grill” in a Midwest state near you.
But I digress. Since Turner had so little control over the everyday life of his company, Bischoff was on his own; but he had great ideas!
The last thing Bischoff asked Turner for was Nitro. Turner came to him near the end of his reign and asked what Bischoff needed to compete against the WWF. Bischoff didn’t ask for money or celebrities or stealing contracts; he asked for a Monday night primetime slot to take the competition right to Vince, and it was granted. The rest is history. This would be one of the last truly great things that WCW’s parent company did for WCW and Bischoff. After that, things went haywire.
You would think in a huge media giant like the then (and once again) Time-Warner, they would want to have synergy across the brands. Eric Bischoff thought so. According to his shoot interview, Bischoff wanted to create a more “adult” version of his programming on HBO, but that was shut down. He wanted to use music from Warner Records, but they would not allow him to do so. Now Warner Records has been sold off due to slumping sales (and yes, I am suggesting there is a connection between their lack of inter-brand promoting and the sale of the division). When Bischoff could not use Warner Records, he asked permission to negotiate outside the company for mainstream music, and he was refused. At every turn, Bischoff was thwarted from those above him from taking WCW to new heights, and Ted Turner could do nothing to help him.
Give a man an inch…
Despite all standing in his way, Eric Bischoff did everything possible to be creative and expand the brand and the audience. Outside of his famous storylines (nWo, Sting, Television Title fun), what Eric Bischoff was exceptionally good at was making deals and creating cross promotion with partners. For instance, WCW and Disney had an excellent working relationship, and Nitro ran at Disney for weeks at a time, despite the fact that they were part of competing parent companies. Remember when Rey Mysterio was launched like a dart? That was at Disney! What a fun ride!
Not enough? How about the highly successful NASCAR tie-in which saw the WCW racer get into the top rankings, and even the nWo car making a splash. We in the IWC like to pretend we are so sophisticated, but there is a significant portion of the audience that loves NASCAR and wrestling and is loyal to both brands.
Want more? Look no further then Dennis Rodman and Jay Leno. Say what you will about their ability and the time they stole away from real workers, WCW got a ton of attention, ratings points, and buyrates from these guys. And Jay Leno donated all the money he made from his appearances to charity, so there!
But that was not all: Eric Bischoff also had excellent working relationships with companies in Japan and Mexico, allowing us to see great stars from all over the world. He had independent organizations working as an early version of a farm system, and went to Sturgis every year to have the second coolest audience in wrestling history: MOTORCYCLES (top kudos goes to Smackdown! in Iraq 2003, that was simply an amazing sight).
OK, so Sturgis may not have been your or the workers’ thing, but it still was new, interesting, and did create cross promotion and make certain sponsors very happy.
And speaking of sponsors, Bischoff was an early pioneer of product placement, which we now have in every television show and movie. From Surge bottles on the announce table (savesurge.org) to Little Creaser on the turnbuckle, WCW was all about making money for everyone involved.
Oh, and by the way, WCW/JCP’s only profitable time was under Eric Bischoff. And he used the profit to run the company and grow it bigger, not Ted Turner and his so-called wallet. Eric Bischoff is one of the best businessmen of all time.
But he should be more than that to you…
Eric Bischoff created the IWC!
You read the title, and I mean it! You should be on your hands and knees now thanking the Bisch for giving you a place to gripe about the pointlessness that is our obsession with wrestling. Still don’t believe me after everything we’ve been through? Let’s take a trip back in time.
Waaaaaay back when, there was this Internet Service called Prodigy. Prodigy was the pioneer of at home internet access for the everyday man. They were just a few years too early, and the technology was not ready for what they wanted to do (think Apple Newton:Palm, as Prodigy:AOL). Still, they launched one of the very first global bulletin boards (and you do not want to know what the BBS was like before Prodigy, henceforth called P*), and a couple of years later had interactive chat rooms!!!!!!! OK, so that isn’t a big deal to you 14-year-olds out there, but it was an amazing advancement in my day and age.
And who was one of the first people to have interactive chats on P*? That’s right: Eric Bischoff. His chats were so popular that they had to create a MODERATOR system! And then people wanted transcripts of the chats, and they wanted to talk about what they had just read about. Suddenly, newsgroups (ask your older brother) were storming with wrestling news and ideas and thoughts and opinions and clubs! It was a golden age of the internet, before smarks and statutory rapists. It was a good time.
But that was not enough for Bischoff. WCWWrestling.com became one of the first websites about wrestling, and from there launched WCW Live!, the first interactive, online show. Oh, and they started broadcasting events over the internet, and had special cyber-events that only us hardcore fans on the website knew about (by this point I was less a mark and more a smark). They also created kayfabe sub-sites (nWowrestling.com) and continued to maintain an open-door policy of talking to the internet “reporters”. WCW never put a ban on talking to the internet, nor did they stop their wrestlers from going anywhere and saying whatever they wanted (with appropriate consequences, of course).
The IWC really grew out of what Bischoff did on the old P* chat rooms, and how he continued to act as time went on. He never saw us as the enemy, only dollar signs waiting to be plowed. And frankly, I see nothing wrong with that.
The cold, calculating, evil businessman
In case you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a businessman have a lot of respect and admiration for other businesspersons. Too often I think we label every corporation as “evil” and every businessperson as “dirty” simply because we do not understand their actions (As much as I love George Carlin, sometimes he is just full of it). Take this from me: I was one of those punk kids who thought a socialist system would be cool. But as I learned from SLC Punk (go watch it, but don’t get Suburbia), we are all posers, and you can only do what’s right for you.
Bischoff gets chastised a lot for the way he conducts business sometimes. The oft repeated offence is when he fired Steve Austin by FedEx. Well, we have recently learned more about Steve Austin and how he is an alleged liar, manipulator, wife-beater, and general psychopath, so how much of his story can we believe? Well, here’s a compilation of what really happened from Bischoff’s perspective, taken from the Monday Night Wars DVD, interviews, books, and my own deductive reasoning:
Imagine it is Christmas time at Macy’s and your first shift cashier doesn’t show up a bunch of times. You call his house and his wife answers saying he is not there. Pretend that you do not even hear him in the background screaming about what a terrible manager you are. Just knowing he is out somewhere else when he is supposed to be at work is enough. What do you do? He won’t come into the store, so you can’t fire him there; and he won’t answer the phone so you can’t fire him there. All you can do is send him a letter with his final check and wash your hands of it. You are a busy guy, too, and you now need to find a new first shift cashier during one of your busiest times of the year.
This is what Steve Austin did. As a solid mid-carder at the time, he was responsible for helping to progress the show and keep it interesting. He could be out first to get the crowd excited or be out in the middle to keep the flow and tempo right. But one day — for his own selfish reasoning — he decided not to show up. Bischoff was patient and understanding, and tried to talk to Steve, but Austin would have none of it. Bischoff tried every way to get in contact with him, but Austin still refused, up until the point when Bischoff heard Austin in the background while talking to his wife. That was the final straw for him, and he had to be let go.
So you see, there are two sides to every story, and when you think a businessperson is being mean and callous, maybe you need to take a step out of your own shoes for a minute and realize why they act the way they do.
And speaking of business
What saddens me is when WWE writers re-write history and make it look like Eric Bischoff killed WCW. What is worse is when Eric isn’t allowed to respond back with the truth. Well fear not, Uncle Eric, I am coming to your aid!
First off, AOL-Time-Warner killed WCW. They were the ones who decided to cancel the highest rated series on their networks, and also one consistently in the Top 15 of all of cable. Eric Bischoff believed so much in WCW that he was willing to put his and a bunch of his friends’ money into buying the company away from A-T-W and bringing it back to its former glory.
Mind you, Bischoff was not in charge of WCW at the end. By that point, he was a consultant who wasn’t being paid attention to, so he went home. And while at home, he came up with many millions of dollars and a long-term plan for WCW. But no, he was thwarted again by politics and bad business moves. Listen, if someone is willing to pay you nearly ten times what the next highest bidder is offering, and all they want in return is 4 hours of time a week, then the decision should be easy. Somehow, it was very, very stupid.
This was not the only time Time-Warner messed with Eric Bischoff’s long term and daily planning. For starters, Bischoff never wanted to launch Thunder or make Nitro three hours. He knew that it would create over-exposure (especially because they still had Saturday Night, Main Event, and Worldwide at the time) and lower ratings in the end. But the execs at the top of Turner would hear none of it. They saw huge ratings and big advertising dollars and wanted more. They made the decisions, then poorly supported them (such as refusing to run spots during other shows promoting WCW and its programming), leaving Bischoff to pick up the mess. And frankly, he did as a good of a job as one human being could do. You try to book 9 hours of original programming a week while also running the business end of a company and tell me how you do.
How long until you burn out and need a vacation? How many vacations have you already taken?
If you are Eric Bischoff, the answer is zero… over six years. Six years!! This man worked seven days a week, running both the creative and financial end of a company, while also playing an on air character for six years without taking a significant vacation and barely a day off. That takes dedication, pride, commitment, and a love of one’s job beyond what most mortal men are capable of. How much sacrifice of his friends and family do you think Bischoff made for our entertainment? I cannot even imagine the true toll of what this man has paid to make us forget our troubles for a couple of hours a week.
Of course, just entertaining us was not Bischoff’s only motivation; he wanted to make money. And he did a damn fine job of it, having an incredibly high paid roster and support staff. Plus, rolling his profits into Turner Sports and TBS (without ever crediting him or WCW) made those divisions look like a fantastic growth opportunity. This allowed Turner Sports and TBS/TNT to secure more funding and begin original programming, gaining respect among all networks. But they would never thank Eric Bischoff, only scowl at the mention of wrestling.
There was one fairly significant acknowledgement of Bischoff, though. For years, Bischoff was the Vice President of WCW reporting to the President of TBS or Turner Sports, depending on when in history we are talking. But in 1997, Turner (the company) was so impressed by Bischoff that they CREATED the position of President of WCW just so they could give him a promotion and a raise and a nicer office (OK, I’m only guessing at the latter). They wanted to promote this man so badly and give him incentive to stay, but they had nowhere else for him to go without taking him away from WCW. Thus, they had to create an entire position and level in the company just for him. How many people do you know have whole jobs created just for them, nonetheless the highest in a company?
For every hater, there’s a lover…
I have gone over some amazing facts about the history of Eric Bischoff and WCW, and what a remarkable place and man he must have been to work for. Yet, we hear all the time from some former employees about how they hated it there, and their life felt meaningless, yadda yadda. But here is a common fact of life, kids: People are more vocal when they want to complain than when they have something nice to say. When you go to the supermarket and everything goes smoothly, do you write a letter to the manager telling him how much you enjoyed the experience? Of course not! But that one time when they shortchanged you by $1.13, you get all up in arms and demand refunds and coupons and everything else! I bet you still talk about it today.
There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s in our nature to accept that things should be good, and that we don’t need to acknowledge when things are going right. The same can be said about the news. You won’t hear about the 6 billion people that went about their day and nothing significant happened; you’ll hear about the one that got murdered, raped, robbed, or won the lottery. No one cares to hear about when things are just fine.
So when Ric Flair and Bobby Henan are out screaming about how much they hated WCW and how it ruined their lives and how they were completely wasted there, why do we take that as gospel? They are just a couple of the hundreds of employees WCW had through the 90’s, and two of the most vocal people anywhere in the world.
There are many who have gone on record with how much they enjoyed WCW, including Larry Zybsyco, Dusty Rhodes, DDP, Ernest Miller, Mike Tenay (with the exception of Tony Schiavone), every luchador under the sun, any guy who came up from the Power Plant (Goldberg didn’t say anything bad about WCW until Vince Russo took over), and countless others who have just chosen to remain quiet because it does not matter if they liked working there or not.
There are many great companies to work at in the world, but you will always find a few people who did not like it there. It is just a culture thing. Every company has a culture that has developed over time, and not everyone can fit into it, no matter how smart, talented, nice, or accommodating they may be. So WCW was not the right place for a few people, big deal. Spanky, Vince Russo, Nathan Jones, Brian Adams, Dave Sahadi, Bill Goldberg, Brock Lesner, Molly Holly, and many others have said the WWE is not the right place for them and have moved on. That does not mean the WWE is a bad place to work, that just means it is a bad place to work for some people.
But can you believe that the WWE is the right place to work for Eric Bischoff?! You cannot tell me you have not enjoyed his performances and his ability to try to make sense of a nonsense storyline. And he works house shows sometimes and even got to make out with the CEO of the company (that’s Linda, Vince is the Chairman [oh La Parka, I need you for this storyline]).
What is more amazing is despite everything Bischoff did to Vince and the then WWF, Vince still forgave him and gave him a job (not that Bischoff needed the job, he was doing quite fine on his own). That may be because he thinks it is better to keep Bischoff under his wing so he can’t go off and start/help another wrestling promotion, but he has proven his worth and staying power, even more than the daughter of the Chairman. While Smackdown! has seen Stephanie McMahon, Paul Heyman, Kurt Angel, and Theodore R. Long be GM, Bischoff has continued unabated on Raw. And despite trying to team him with Stone Cold and Mick Foley as co-GM (or Sheriff or whatever), Bischoff still has a job in the WWE while the latter two are off in their own la-la lands (OK, so Steve is sort-of back, but only to make movies).
Can you imagine that? The man who tried to put the WWF/E out of business has more staying power in the company than two of the top draws of all time, and two of the most loyal people to Vince. Simply amazing.
Numbers don’t lie
Like I said, though, Vince has every reason to fear what Bischoff could do for another wrestling company. I received some (semi-negative) feedback from 411’s own Mike Campbell. But one line really stuck out for me that sounded like it could be a legitimate fact, but I wasn’t so quick to believe it:
As for their buyrates. The only WCW PPVs that were really a monumental success were Bash at the Beach 1994 and Starrcade 1997.
Makes sense, the entrance of Hogan into WCW and the culmination of a year and half storyline of Sting VS. the nWo. But that doesn’t feel right. Something seems… off.
Well, OK, let’s do the math!
Bash at the Beach 1994 drew a 1.02 buyrate and Starrcade 1997 drew a 1.90 buyrate. Now, let’s say that a “successful” PPV is one that is 15% below Bash at the Beach (0.87) to anywhere above. Well, in the period from February 1993 (when Bischoff became head booker) to September 1999 (when President Bischoff was fired), WCW had 14 “successful” PPVs. At their peak, over a 12-month period they had 7 of those “successful” PPVs.
Here’s what’s more. Over that period of 80 months, the WCW and WWF had 52 “head-to-head” PPVs (had a PPV in the same month). Of those, WCW had higher buyrates in 20 of them (or 38%). So we take a look deeper. Overall for the entire length of time, WCW’s one-month winning average (how many months they had a higher buyrate then WWF compared to the total head-to-head months up until that point in time) was above 50% 11 times, or 21%. But wait! If we look over 12-month periods, WCW’s one-month winning average was above 50% 23 times, or 44% of the time! So using the relativity of time to take away long-term advantages, WCW’s buyrates were beating WWF’s on a month-to-month basis anywhere from 21–44% of the time, all the while having an overall success rate of 25% (far above the 3% Mr. Campbell suggested) and a peak 58% success rate over a 12 month period.
Wait again! There’s more! For 19 months, from March 1997 to September 1998, WCW overtook the WWF in 12-month buyrate average and 12-month “success” rate average!
True, overall the WWF never lost the Buyrate average or “Success” rate average for these 80 months. But Bischoff had to start at the bottom (with SuperBrawl ’93 drawing a 0.50 buyrate and WrestleMania IX a month later drawing a 2.00 buyrate), and crawl and scrape and make his product great so that Starrcade ’97 could draw a 1.90. And Vince had to fall, so that in the same month IYH: Degeneration X would only draw a 0.44 rating. Bischoff’s averages were dragged down from earlier performances he had to pull up from, while Vince had the advantage of a well-drawing product at the beginning of Bischoff’s reign, and he had to lose almost all of it.
But that’s not the point of this piece. We’re here to prove how great Bischoff is, not whether he beat the WWF on all fronts. But what this proves is that he could and did beat the WWF, and had “success” by many, many different measures, much more than your average smark will give him credit for.
More reasons why Eric Bischoff is a better human being than you
As if everything Bischoff has done and continues to do is not astounding enough, here are a few more tidbits:
- Bischoff is a legitimate blackbelt, which takes immense training and athletic and metal ability
- He nearly qualified for the 1976 US Olympic team as a steeple chaser
- The Birmingham Vulcans (World Football League) drafted him
- He has a pilot’s license
- <Kayfabe> He has defeated Ric Flair, Kane, JR, Shane McMahon, and Vince McMahon (Yes, I’m counting THAT one) </Kayfabe>
- Jean-Claude Van Damme came to him and asked Bischoff to produce a martial arts fitness infomercial
What’s more, Bischoff is really great to the fans. Through everything we have seen about him, we know Bischoff has been on top of the world and has every reason to be pompous, but amazingly he still remembers what this is all about: entertaining us. I now call John Dee of the Dee Spot sub-column in Evolution Schematic (and Matthew Sforcina deserves major props for taking on a challenging and hate-mail-generating topic like Jeff Jarret) to the stand.
John, please tell us your (disclaimer: edited for grammar, spelling, and space) account of meeting Eric Bischoff.
It was just before the event they did here in Newcastle (about 3 hours before). Me and several others were standing outside the back gates at the venue it was at… I told Bischoff that I thought he was a genius and I loved what he did with WCW, to which he responded “Yeah, it was fun.” Then a kid asked him if Stone Cold was here, [and] Bischoff replied with “No he’s at home drinking beer.” Someone pointed out to him that we have beer here and Bischoff had to admit this was true. I asked him if he liked our Aussie beer and he said yeah, it was OK. Just in general he was being really nice to the fans.
And there you have it. Eric Bischoff being nice to us — the fans and 411mania columnists — the world over.
You see, there is a whole world of Eric Bischoff that we have refused to acknowledge just because some terrible IWC writer decided that his opinion was fact and others followed suit. This man deserves better than the outright lies we have been reading about him for years. He deserves the truth… he deserves a defense.
Next time you read some throwaway line out there presented as fact, challenge it. The truth matters, and you have a right to know.
The defense rests.
After the Trial
Being the first case, I did not have the voting system set up yet, so did not have an “official” count of Guilty versus Not Guilty verdicts. However, I always said that I won this case by default! For those looking to go deep behind the scenes, the voting system actually came from this man:
Hey, JP. I love the column, great concept. I just wanted to run an idea past you. How about after the defense of a certain wrestler or on-air character, you could have the jury deliberate and put up a poll or something. You know, see if your case has actually had an effect on the public perception (at least perception of your readers) of that person. I mean, these people are being judged in the court of public opinion, right? I don’t know. Just a thought.
The e-mail responses started immediately, as did the debates. I always felt it was best to have a case fully laid out in all of its parts before getting full feedback, but the intermediate responses were sometimes helpful. More often than not they were points that I was going to get to anyway in later parts, but they could provide interesting insights and perspectives, such as this one:
Great column, but just a little problem with the facts, saying Eric Bischoff created the IWC is a little bit of a stretch. Vince McMahon himself had something to do with this as well, as around the same time Bisch was ranting on Prodigy, Vince and Co. signed an exclusive deal with AOL. If you remember, there was a special Keyword: WWF launched in early 1996, newsboards, downloads and the famed chat rooms where interviews with the stars and in my opinion, where it kind of all started with their play-by-play during PPVs where we could talk to each other. The cool part was I remember Vince Russo actually hosted most of these chats.
Again, this may sound like a pro-WWE mark, but I do give Bisch credit where credit is due, and I wanted to share my experience where MY Internet Wrestling Community experience started.
To which I replied:
I do agree with you. Other people became instrumental in forming the IWC as time went on, and WWF’s presence on AOL was one of them (which I always thought it was amusing that AOL bought Time Warner while still being home to the WWF’s online product). And yes, newsgroups and wrestling clubs existed long before the P* chats. But I feel it was those chats that really brought shape to the IWC in its formative years (1995/6), and also had a grand effect on the internet in general.
Anthony was not the only person to point out some internet history and it is amazing to think after living through it that it is actual history and these comments are some of the only captures of what happened online in the 1990’s in certain smaller communities.
While some people were easy to have discussions with like that, others were not so much. Starting in Part 1 I had a reader who was… verbose… in his… interesting view of history and his use of language. I will spare you all of the original back-and-forth and most of the final messages, wanted to show a tiny bit (multiple what is here by 100) of the extreme opposition:
I promised to read your part 3 of attempting to defend Eric Bischoff and to give you feedback on it, so here it is… Your assumption that Vince McMahon and a group of unnamed Internet writers (2 factions that never agree on anything) have come together to rewrite history to make all us sheep believe that Bischoff is less than a god is ridiculous because fans and people in the wrestling industry know what they have witnessed and have no reason to make up things about a washed up television show producer (which is all Bischoff is).
… I love how you give me a hard time about speaking in absolutes then write a crock like “every luchador under the sun” loves Bischoff, which is completely untrue because Rey Mysterio, Konnan, the Guerreros, and Juventud Guerra to name a few have been outspoken about their abuse under Bischoff…
Until you have read the “Death Of WCW,” which details all the WCW buy rates including the lack of numbers following the Hogan debut and after the debacle of the blown finish at Starrcade 1997 you should hold off on talking about buy rates. … You ignore the horrible buy rates of pay per views Bischoff personally came up with like Souled Out (Bischoff making out with fat broads), Uncensored (so bad they should have been censored), and Hog (until Harley Davidson threatened to sue) / Road Wild (no live gate or buy rate, but at least Bischoff got a paid vacation to Sturgis)….
The rest of the crap about Bischoff being a better person because of what he did 30 years ago or in his spare time is all utter nonsense….
Bischoff deserves credit for being able to buy a… trophy wife…
Matthew Alan Roberts
OK, time to cut it off there. There were some other words between “buy a” and “trophy wife”, but I am very uncomfortable printing them. This was an early lesson that I should not always engage with certain people, but I was a naïve novice so thought that logic could work its way through:
Sigh. Well, I tried. And you did live up to your end of the bargain, so I thank you for giving me a fair chance.
We could probably go on with this argument for years, so if you don’t mind I’ll skip over most of your refutations and only touch on points I’m truly confused about.
First, I don’t recall ever saying nor insinuating that there is a conspiracy between Vince McMahon and some IWC writers to bury Bischoff. That sounds absurd even reading it. I do have two mutually exclusive arguments; one being that the WWE re-writes history to the detriment of Eric Bischoff, WCW, and its fans. The other argument is that certain negative writers in the IWC say overtly negative opinions and outright lies of Bischoff to suit themselves and others have taken those opinions and lies as fact and have spread them. Those are two separate arguments, and I would never intentionally try to suggest they are in any way connected.
Every Luchadore under the sun was a joke, but you are right, I should not have said everyone in the Power Plant, especially Hard Body Harris. The Power Plant line was just to keep tempo in the article.
Also, I don’t need to read a book about someone’s opinions on the death of WCW to know how to analyze numbers…. I have years of training on how to analyze what numbers mean. And to counteract what you said, the first Uncensored drew a 0.95 rating, well within the “success” range we defined in the column. You are right, the first Souled Out did not draw well, with 0.47 rating, but Uncensored that year drew a 0.89, again in our “success” range. Then again, in the following year Souled out drew a 1.02 (Bischoff learned from his mistake and got better) and Uncensored drew a 1.10. And just for kicks, Road Wild drew a 0.91 that year, too. Numbers don’t lie, Bischoff’s personal PPVs did just fine. But like I said in my article, it wasn’t about always winning, just that he could and did and had a 19-month streak of being on the top….
What is it you have against Bischoff’s wife? … This is just me, but I could never say such harsh things about someone I’ve never met.
Ten months after wrapping up my case on Eric Bischoff, I received an e-mail from Anthony Maurizio of WCWLive.com (which was an excellent site that was just starting up and being filled with lots of old school WCW stuff and current news on former WCW talent. Anthony mentioned that he had recently read my article on Eric Bischoff and would be passing it along to friends who worked for WCW.
Because of that, I re-read my article, too, and really got to thinking about something I said in the latter part. I talked about how despite the fact that there are plenty of people who hate Bischoff and talk smack about him (Ric Flair and Bobby Hennan come to mind), that there were lots of people who liked, appreciated, and looked up to Bischoff and have gone on record to say so or have just remained silent.
And much to my delight, I found this on the newsboard. From Mike Johnson’s recap of Sting’s press conference on January 11, 2006:
When asked about Eric Bischoff, he said he has nothing but good things to say. He said that everyone likes to remember him as the one who sunk the WCW ship but it was a “group of us” overall who undermined each other and had a lot of secret agendas. He said that Bischoff was the first one who would talk to wrestling fans and get feedback and he surrounded himself with people he could trust. He said that they had a good working relationship. He said the night they launched Nitro, the rest was history.
Plus earlier in the recap:
He said that he remembered when Hulk Hogan came to WCW in 1994, he was often asked if he was upset he was pushed aside. He said he wasn’t because it took the pressure off of him personally and that it would help the overall company. He’s hoping that he can do the same for TNA.
This just puts to rest so many rumors that have lasted a decade. As Sting said, everyone thought he hated Bischoff for bringing in Hogan, pushing him aside, and (as some think, not me) messing up his year and half long storyline to Starrcade ’97 in the main event match. Well, Sting has put it all to rest! He not only had no problem with any of it, he preferred it!
Sting then highlighted several of my own points. One being that Bischoff was not the one who sunk WCW. Another being the Eric Bischoff was excellent with the fans and really took time out to interact with them. Also, as noted, he was a lot more open to suggestion and new ideas then others would have you believe.
On top of that, Sting was very complimentary to Eric Bischoff. What did he have to gain from being nice to Bischoff? Absolutely nothing! Eric Bischoff has no stroke anymore and is (currently) employed by the WWE. He had no reason to say anything nice unless he meant it.
In the end, I just wanted to add Sting’s testimony as evidence that Eric Bischoff was a much better person, promoter, and performer than many in the IWC have given him credit for, and to thank Eric Bischoff for all of the years of WCW I enjoyed under his tutelage.