Sometimes in life you can be at the right place at the right time. One man who exemplifies that very saying more than almost anyone in the modern era of professional wrestling is Eric Bischoff.
As eWrestlingNews.com journalist Ryan Clark reported earlier this week, Eric Bischoff is done with TNA. As the story goes, Bischoff was sent home by the company, and will be paid the remainder of his contract to stay at home. The following is an excerpt from the aforementioned eWN article:
He wasn’t at the PPV…wasn’t at the last TV…won’t be around. A lot of people are really happy on that one. Eric was never very well liked…Eric was very lucky that he had some very smart people propping him up in the WCW Days and those people aren’t there now, and he got exposed on this run real bad.
While on the surface that comment may appear harsh and unnecessary, when you take a closer look, it’s actually quite accurate.
Eric Bischoff is famous for one thing more than any other: beating WWE in television ratings on Monday night’s for 80-plus consecutive weeks during the infamous “Monday Night Wars.” However, was it really Bischoff who beat Vince McMahon? No. WCW beat WWE. How much credit does Bischoff deserve personally for that victory? Almost none. Any pro wrestling historian will tell you, a few key factors were necessary for WCW to defeat WWE in the Monday night television war. In the interest of saving your time, and space on ths page, we won’t list and detail all of those reasons. Simply put, Bischoff had a big fat checkbook to do with what he pleased. It belonged to media mogul Ted Turner. Without that checkbook, and the millions upon millions of dollars he carelessly spent out of it, pulling out every stop imaginable to try and put WWE out of business, he, nor WCW as a company, stood a chance at truly competing with the established WWE brand and product. Furthermore, with that checkbook, all Bischoff really did, when you really get down to it, was lure away wrestlers who embodied WWE. His most famous acquisitions were Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Bret Hart. While you could argue that Hall and Nash worked for WCW prior to WWE, they were never really stars until they were established in WWE. The one thing those four men have in common is simple: at one point or another, they were the flagship talents of Vince McMahon’s New York-based wrestling promotion. They were, as the phrase goes today, “the face of WWE.” In fact, the most famous angle in WCW, the New World Order (nWo) was so successful because it appeared to wrestling fans that WWE was invading WCW. Hell, the very idea itself was ripped off from the Japanese-based pro wrestling organization, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). Once the allure of WWE invading WCW, the focal point of the early nWo angle, wore off, it was up to Bischoff’s creativity to keep the angle, and the company, fresh and interesting. He failed. Miserably.
Many factors contributed to the downfall of WCW, and a lot of them stem from political issues in the backstage atmosphere of the company. However, the root of those political issues can be traced back to Bischoff’s management style. Signing wrestlers to creative control, implementing himself as an on-air character and clouting his judgement, allowing active performers to have a major say in the creative direction of the company, and wasting money left and right, all point back to Bischoff himself. WCW had its’ moments, sure, but most were either based significantly off of something WWE related (I.E. – who’s jumping-ship from WWE this week?) or pure luck (I.E. – the Bill Goldberg phenomenon). When the company relied on creative influence and proper business management, Bischoff tanked. So bad that the big “saving grace” at one point was to bring in Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara. What was the big deal about that? They were the two head writers for WWE during the early stages of the wildly popular “Attitude Era.” Noticing a trend here? Without some kind of tie-in to WWE, or insane amounts of money being spent for hot-shot angles and attractions, WCW had no creative backbone to speak of. When it came down to Bischoff with pen and paper, even with the biggest and most talented roster of performers to work with, he had nothing. He simply had the ability to spend ridiculous sums of money to attract big stars. He had so many “wrestling people” (Kevin Sullivan, Mike Graham and the list goes on and on) doing the real work, while he enjoyed all of the credit. It was a joke. And as harsh as it sounds, so was he.
Further evidence of this claim has come from his recent work with TNA. How many fresh, creative, cutting-edge ideas or concepts did Bischoff produce this go-around? The short answer: none. He went to the well a zillion times, mimicking ideas or concepts that “worked” in WCW during its’ golden years. However, the wrestling business had changed. WWE changed with it. Bischoff didn’t. Brilliant moves such as going head-to-head with WWE RAW on Monday night’s failed miserably. Taking TNA’s flagship television property, Impact Wrestling, on the road, failed miserably. Spending insane amounts of money on Hulk Hogan and other talent who had success in the past with WWE or WCW, failed miserably. Bischoff’s entire run in TNA was a joke. TNA was a cash machine to Bischoff and Hogan. They saw a rich dummy in charge (sorry Dixie Carter) that they could take advantage of. She doesn’t know any better. “Hey, we’re the guys who kicked Vince McMahon’s ass and revolutionized the wrestling industry. Give us a trillion dollars and let us do whatever we want.” I’m not privy to these conversations, but I’m almost positive Dixie’s response was as simple as, “Okay, honey. Here ya go, darlin’!” Millions and millions of dollars in the hole later, someone finally woke up. Someone within the system in TNA, or their financial supporters, finally got tired of losing millions of dollars just so daddy’s little girl could mark out up-close and in person, instead of at home on her plush couch, watching a television screen as large as WWE’s titantron.
Bischoff is gone. TNA isn’t far behind. Sound familiar? WCW all over again. Sometimes history is doomed to repeat itself. Unfortunately for TNA, it didn’t have to in their case. They couldn’t resist themselves, though. It seemed like a great idea, and you can almost understand the mindset. It’s easy to be convinced that they could do it all over again. They had tons of money to play with, and complete control to do basically whatever they wanted. It worked before, right? Why can’t it work again? That was probably the thought process of those who made the call to bring in Bischoff and Hogan. If they were so hell bent on trying to recapture past WCW glory with the same formula, even though 10 years had passed and the wrestling business changed by leaps and bounds, how did they not see this part coming? The story had already been told. The blueprint was already mapped out. If they thought it was going to work, how did they not realize that it would also ultimately bankrupt their company and put them out of business? Sometimes greed is a son of a bitch. Other times, it’s a daughter.
Goodbye, Eric. Have fun pitching more Scott Baio reality shows to third-rate cable stations. The pro wrestling world isn’t going to miss you at all.