Source: Alex Marvez of ScrippsNews
After a lengthy absence, one of the industry’s most influential figures from the 1990s has resurfaced for a major pro-wrestling company. TNA Wrestling has hired Eric Bischoff in a front-office role and as an on-air management figure.
In a telephone interview, Bischoff said he thought his mainstream wrestling days were done and that he couldn’t “honestly say I missed it” after leaving a full-time World Wrestling Entertainment gig in 2005. While involved with minor projects like “Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling” reality show, Bischoff had ventured into other areas of television production with longtime business partner Jason Hervey.
But Bischoff became intrigued with TNA after he and confidant Hogan met last summer with company president Dixie Carter. Bischoff and Hogan are now largely responsible for running TNA’s weekly “Impact” shows (9 p.m. EST Thursdays, Spike TV). Bischoff and Hervey also are hoping to strike other business/television deals with TNA and Spike.
“It was the combination of a lot of things,” Bischoff said of his TNA interest. “Most of all, I like Dixie. She has a lot of integrity and I like to be in business with people like that. Secondly, I saw an opportunity. The way we have our deal structured is great for Bischoff-Hervey Entertainment. And this provided me with a chance to get back into a business I love. I believe a creative person who has a certain feel for this business can change the fortunes of this company in a good way.”
Bischoff returned to the air during a Jan. 4 TNA special that drew a surprisingly strong rating going head-to-head with WWE’s weekly “Monday Night Raw” telecast on USA Network. Bischoff teased the idea of re-forming the New World Order group that led World Championship Wrestling to business success more than a decade ago.
“It felt great,” Bischoff said. “I enjoy performing. It was kind of a release for me in a way. But the biggest kick I got was the process of creating and producing, the backstage pressure of being live and the teamwork we had.”
While running WCW in the mid-’90s, Bischoff was responsible for starting the first Monday-night wrestling war that brought out the best in his company and WWE. Bischoff signed Hogan and other WWE-groomed performers to augment an already impressive roster. He also challenged WWE by counter-programming “WCW Monday Nitro” on TNT against “Raw.”
Bischoff enjoyed so much success that WWE was on the verge of filing for bankruptcy. WWE, though, rebounded while WCW began to unravel under Bischoff’s watch because of dysfunctional management and a declining in-ring product. Bischoff was long gone from the company by the time AOL/Time Warner sold WCW to WWE in March 2001.
Bischoff said he has learned some valuable lessons from his WCW experience.
“No matter what people have said or written about me, I know what I accomplished changed the business and had a positive impact,” said Bischoff, who began running WCW in 1994 after previously serving as a television announcer. “I also made a lot of mistakes and have the scar tissue to prove it. I’m going to try and repeat the good stuff and avoid the bad stuff.”
Bischoff gained more wrestling knowledge when he went to work for WWE and his former archrival, Vince McMahon, in 2002. Because the WWE owner was more intent on humiliating Bischoff in various story lines than doing the right thing for business, McMahon squandered the box-office bonanza that would have resulted from a promoter-vs.-promoter feud. Bischoff, though, said none of those embarrassing WWE skits — including a gross sendoff by an overweight male stripper — bothered him because McMahon has put his family and even himself in similarly awkward positions. Bischoff also gained a newfound respect for a promoter he once publicly challenged to fight on a WCW telecast.
“I have a tremendous respect for Vince and, in a perverse way, like him,” Bischoff said. “But at the end of the day, I think I’m better than him. I’m more creative than him and have a better feel for the business.”
Bischoff then laughed.
“It’s just that he happens to be a lot more successful than I am.”
Bischoff now has another chance to compete with McMahon, although this challenge will be much tougher. WWE is a multimillion juggernaut while TNA lacks the deep pockets that WCW had with AOL/Time Warner backing.
TNA, though, does have the chance to establish itself as a successful secondary U.S. promotion. After the ratings success of last week’s special, Spike is expected to ultimately give TNA a Monday-night time slot opposite “Raw.”
Bischoff said he has watched the Jan. 4 “Impact” between “50 to 75 times” looking for ways to make the show better. While not happy with some of the production values and a disastrous finish to the opening X-Division cage match, Bischoff said he was happy with a product that featured the TNA debuts of Hogan as well as former WWE stars like Ric Flair and Jeff Hardy.
“Think of WWE as a giant aircraft carrier and TNA as an 18-foot speedboat,” said Bischoff, 54. “There’s a lot the aircraft carrier can do, but it’s also big and slow. We can bring a more flexible, aggressive and nimble approach. There is an open-mindedness and risk-taking mentality that exists here. That’s one thing I really like about this company.”
Some of the changes already installed by the Bischoff/Hogan regime will be evident on Sunday’s “Genesis” pay-per-view show emanating from Orlando, Fla. Headlined by what should be a great Kurt Angle-A.J. Styles match, the card also features debuting newcomers Scott Hall and Sean “X-Pac” Waltman (against Beer Money) and The Nasty Boys (versus Team 3-D). For more information, visit www.tnawrestling.com.
(Alex Marvez writes a syndicated pro-wrestling column for Scripps Howard News Service. Contact him at alex1marv(at)aol.com or follow him via Twitter at http://twitter.com/alexmarvez.)
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Alex Marvez Interviews Eric Bischoff – Talks About Vince McMahon, Dixie Carter, WCW, and More!
Source: Alex Marvez of ScrippsNews