Eric Bischoff ran WCW in the 90s turned it into the hottest wrestling company at the time and the biggest show with Nitro. Eric now co hosts 83 Weeks with Conrad Thompson looking back at his time running the company.
Munster: what is the main difference between the live show and the podcast?
Eric: well the live shows are much more interactive, with the studio its just me and Conrad Thompson, with the live show the audience is very much apart of the show. On this tour I invite one, possibly more people on stage and see if they have the chops to do their best Conrad Thompson. But you hear a lot of the same things from the podcast plus some other stuff, some light hearted and comedic stuff and stories that haven’t been told, and details that stand out in people’s minds like the podcast
Munster: I interviewed Bruce Prichard recently and he said there are stories he tells live he can’t tell on the podcast because it might be too blue for the podcast, any of that with your live show?
Eric: yeah we have advertisers and we’re rough around the edges and we don’t say many f bombs but there are stories that aren’t appropriate for a sponsored show so plenty of stories you won’t hear on the podcast.
Munster: Your cohost on 83 Weeks is Conrad Thompson, how did you become associated with him and what was his pitch for 83 Weeks?
Eric: Conrad thought there was an audience that was interested in the details of the Monday night wars era. There have been books and documentaries and a thousand interviews on it. I wasn’t that sure that there was an audience for it as its been done but Conrad was confident with sufficient research we can present that content in a fresh way and so far it’s been great.
Munster: The Monday Night Wars started when Nitro went head to head with raw, did you have any idea what would play out?
Eric: no not at all I had goals and targets of course but I don’t think anyone in their right mind could predict what was going to happen. We were a distant second, and by second I mean light years away number 2 to the WWF. My goal and target was to do 60-75% of their rating in my first year I was there. My goal was to achieve that and in the next two or three years we could catch up to the. We exceeded that in the first four months.
Munster: You started your wrestling career in the AWA, what was it like working with the owner Vern Gagne and did his mentoring help you when you ran WCW?
Eric: yes and no I learned the business from a very fundamental level from the ground up. Vern was a very good teacher not that he was always teaching me necessarily. I would listen to Vern coach talent, and how to do promos and teaching psychology and how to make good story telling to happen inside of the ring. So I was a fly on the wall and a fly with very good hearing I was able to grab a real education on a broad spectrum of the wrestling business, in directing talent but also in terms of sponsorship and advertising sales TV station network relations all the things you need to be successful in business and I got that from Vern. So when I arrived at WCW what that gave me was a broad skilled set when it came to the wrestling business. I wasn’t a wrestler but I could do everything else whether it was promoting or syndicating TV and also being an on air talent, so it gave me a good advantage when I applied for the top WCW role.
Munster: You joined the AWA in the late 80s which was the beginning of the end of the AWA and it seems they died a slow death, what was Vern like to deal with? Did he think he could survive and stay in business or did he see the writing on the wall?
Eric: Vern was a very stubborn man and a fighter he was a football player and a great Olympic level amateur wrestler, so people like that are very competitive and stubborn, I think he knew the writing was on the wall but he wasn’t going to tap out.
Munster: AWE recently had their debut pay per view Double or Nothing which was a hit, do you think they have a chance of being a competitive number two promotion or will they be a niece product like ROH and New Japan?
Eric: well I think after what has happened in the last few months AWE is in a position to be a very successful promotion, there thinking a lot more broader than some of the companies you mentioned ROH haven’t really charged there production or how they present there product, its very low production very minimal audience. But it has a purpose, there on Sinclair Broadcasting and they get syndication but they don’t appear to do much more with them so I don’t see them growing. New Japan doesn’t seem to have much focus. There focusing on live events which is fine as it appears to be making money but they don’t seem to have established themselves in the states and I don’t think they will unless they have a different business model or a different set of goals. But as you say with them being competitive, that’s a key word
Munster: You mentioned on the Monday Night Wars DVD you had the chance to buy WCW and they offered you everything but the TV time, but one of the things they offered you was the Video library. Now in 2000 YouTube and streaming sits didn’t/t exist but if it was available at the time would you have jumped on it?
Eric: Well sure, it would be like if I knew when to buy a winning lottery ticket at the right time I would do that too. Clearly none of those platforms where contemplated or an idea in the distant future, but had it and it was available today absolutely, but there’s no way knowing what will happened twenty years in the future, especially with technology
Munster: When Nitro was taken in 2001 do you think the rating justified the axing or do you think they were still doing good enough numbers to stay on the air?
Eric: lets put it this way AWE that are hoping to get on Turner Network, they will need some of the lowest number Nitro had if they want to stay on TV. Even in our lowest numbers we were still getting one or two million people a week at our lowest point right now it would be a huge hit, so to answer the question yes.
Munster: LA Parka was in WCW and is one of my all time favorites do you have any memories of him?
Eric: not a lot I didn’t deal directly with all the talent some I did some I didn’t some a little bit some in between but I don’t speak Spanish and only a few of the Mexican wrestlers spoke English so I didn’t deal a lot with the Mexican wrestlers and only a few spoke fluent English, he was always friendly and professional but I didn’t get to know him
Munster: do you have any aspirations of getting back into wrestling?
Eric: I don’t think too much on screen not at this stage of my life not because I don’t want top and not that I can’t but the public has seen me as more of an authority figure for 25 years in WCW and WWE if I came back the crowd would be excited for a month because when someone old returns they get excited but after a month it feels failures and he did that same thing in 1997 so I think they would be tired of it. But behind the scenes is something different I have mixed emotions there’s that creative side even quick idea whether you’re in a gym for a pub you have that idea and the more you think about it the bigger it gets and that comes from a random thought and i miss that as well as working with young talent how to cut promos, and taking someone who doesn’t a have the skills or is intimidated and taking them aside and giving them aside and then it gets to the point they can’t wait to cut a promo. But I don’t miss the travel, so there’s goof and bad, there’s times I miss it then times I don’t but that’s mostly the travel
Munster: what are you most proud of your time running WCW?
Eric: creating Nitro presenting a new show out of thin air a new format presenting the product in a new way from the WWE is something I’ll be very proud of but I really don’t think about it much I only remember the good stuff I didn’t think of the bad stuff unless it gets brought up in conversation. But also getting to watch my kids grow up in the business it was an exciting time for my family, they saw different parts of the world they never would have got to see.
Munster: whats next?
Eric: I stay busy doing more of these live shows going to do 30 shows in Canada working on a movie projects for Netflix which is a new chance to learn from the entertainment business, but really I’m just staying busying