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Eric Bischoff Reveals How He Managed To Rise In WCW

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Eric Bischoff’s rise to power in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was nothing short of remarkable. Beginning as an announcer and host, Bischoff’s ambition and business acumen soon became evident. He worked tirelessly to forge relationships with key executives, positioning himself to take on a more influential role within the organization.

During a recent episode of his weekly ’83 Weeks’ podcast, Eric revealed how he managed to advance from a C-show play-by-play commentator into the most powerful man in Ted Turner’s famous wrestling promotion.

Here’s what the 2021 WWE Hall of Famer had to say about his remarkable rise in WCW:

“Before we go any further, I want to clear something up. Because first of all, I had a number of title changes over a relatively short period of time. What we’re talking about on this show is when I became executive producer, I think. Because I didn’t become executive vice president until probably a year or more after I became executive producer. So it went actually something like, executive producer, senior VP, executive VP, president or some version of thereof. So there were a lot of title changes and promotions in a very short, relatively short period of time.

But I think what we’re talking about in terms of the time frame in that meeting with Bill Shaw, if I’m reading this correctly, was when I was made executive producer. And when I went to that meeting, I had already decided because I had never met Bill Shaw that when that meeting took place. I might have met him, at a holiday party or something, an employee party for WCW when he came over and shook hands. But I never sat, at that point, I had never sat down and talked with Bill.

But when I attended that meeting, I had already made up my mind that I was leaving. I was looking for opportunities outside of WCW. Partly because of the things that transpired before Bill came in and had that meeting. Keep in mind that we’re coming off the Bill Watts era, debacle. And during that period when Bill Watts was, whatever he was, whatever his title was, I’m not even sure, I had made up my mind then that I was on my way out the door. I just didn’t enjoy it anymore. Didn’t see the future in it. I wasn’t having any fun, that’s a prerequisite of mine.

I’ll do anything as long as I can have fun doing it and make a couple bucks. But the minute it stops being fun, I don’t care how much money I’m making. There’s not enough money if I’m not enjoying it. So I had made up my mind that I was out the door. Bill had that meeting, and my reaction to it was, and I think this is the answer to your question, ‘Whoa, this changes everything.’ And my ears perked up. I made a note to perhaps put some of my plans on hold for a while to see how this thing shakes out.

I think a lot of it was cultural. Obviously, some of it was business, but it’s a matter of priorities. Some of those priorities were cultural. When you think about the people who had come before me, Jim Heard was the only one who had a little bit of television experience. Maybe more than a little bit, I don’t recall his resume at that time. But Dusty was a, and people should know this. I loved and still do Dusty Rhodes. And in many ways, Dusty had a tremendous influence on me, enabling me to grow within WCW.

I learned a lot from Dusty, but Dusty came from an era where the wrestling business model functioned in a very particular way. Television was a means to an end, it wasn’t the end. That’s the best way to say it. Dusty Rhodes and Bill Watts for sure, and a lot of the people who worked underneath both of them, had gained all of their experience and knowledge at a time when the wrestling business model used television, much like an infomercial. ‘We don’t really care if we make any money on the TV, we just have to sell tickets to that live event.’

That’s where 80% of the revenue came from back in the territory days, whether it was Verne Gagne, Jerry Jarrett, Bill Watts, Bob Geigel, Don Owens, the Von Erichs, you name it. If you’re in that territory business, the vast majority of your revenue for your company was generated by your ability to sell tickets as a result of distributing your local televised wrestling show. So wrestling was almost a throwaway. It was a loss leader. You did it because you had to do it and because that’s what enables you to sell tickets.

By the ’90s, that had started to change dramatically. Vince was ahead of the curve, much more so than the other promoters I just mentioned. Not to be disrespectful to any of them, but it is what it is and was what it was. Vince McMahon was ahead of the curve, much more so than the rest of the promoters that I just mentioned. Not to be disrespectful to any of them, but it is what it is and was what it was. Vince McMahon saw television as the business model, and live events are something that was ancillary to television.

If not ancillary, at least on equal status I guess, is the best way to say it. That changed it. Of course, being a television guy, Ted Turner wanted WCW to operate within the parameters of a television business model. Ratings, because ad sales mean revenue. Sponsorships. All of the things that come along with what we see today. That’s what Ted Turner wanted and that’s what those were when Bill Shaw came in and said, ‘We want this to be a television company, not a rasslin’ company.’ Those were Ted Turner’s words, not Bill Shaw’s words.

Bill was the messenger, and nothing but love and respect for Bill Shaw to this day, we still say stay in contact. And he gave me the opportunity of a lifetime that no one else would have. But truth be known, those were Ted Turner’s words. And that’s why I got excited. And I think the difference, like I say, is where do you put your emphasis? Are you focusing on the quality of your television show first and hoping to find new ways of selling tickets? Or is all of your focus on the live event gate and the touring model, and you’re just doing television because you have to.

Probably the single largest revenue stream in the WWE SEC filings every quarter are television licensing rights. Those did not exist right back then. So, it’s a very significant change in the business model. And again, as it relates to WCW because a lot of the culture emanated from the Crocketts. And when I say culture, I’m talking about the Gary Jesters and the Jim Barnetts, and a lot of the management that came over to WCW or Turner from the Crockett Promotions including David Crockett and others. That culture was more of a ‘rasslin’ culture.

That culture, including the talent, by the way, because they talk the loudest about this type of thing. A lot of that culture in their own way resented the fact that now wrestling was owned by a big television company. So they created their own kind of tribalism if you will. It’s funny, we started off talking about that.

And that’s why I say it was culture. Because there was resentment in a way, ‘Oh, these TV people don’t know anything about our business. They’ve never even put on a pair of boots. Who’d he ever beat?’ In reference to maybe somebody in television, in management from Turner Broadcasting simply asking questions about the way things were done. ‘Oh, this is never going to work. These people, they don’t know anything about. They’ve never put on a pair of boots.’ That was the mentality. And that’s where I think that cultural divide started way back when.

’91, 92. And existed for a long time. Bill Watts was the most, you know, spoke the loudest about it, his resentment for it. It’s like, ‘Wait a minute, these guys are paying you a lot of money. And it is a television company and you resent the fact and you tear people down and you make fun of people because they’ve never put on a pair of boots?’ Well m*therf***er, have you ever edited a show?”

In 1993, Bischoff was appointed as Executive Producer, in which position he orchestrated bold moves like the start of WCW Monday NITRO in 1995, a head-to-head competition against the World Wrestling Federation’s flagship show, WWF Monday Night Raw. This daring decision kickstarted the infamous Monday Night Wars, boosting WCW’s popularity and ratings. Under Bischoff’s leadership, WCW signed top talent, introduced innovative storytelling, and pushed the boundaries of professional wrestling entertainment world wide.

His charisma and determination helped him climb the corporate ladder, eventually becoming President of WCW. Bischoff’s tenure was marked by bold decisions, including controversial storylines and the signing of high-profile stars like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and even Bret Hart.

Though his time at WCW had its ups and downs, Eric Bischoff’s journey from a humble announcer to a powerful figure within the wrestling world is a testament to his vision and tenacity.

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