Kayfabe Commentaries Timeline WCW 1994 – Eric Bischoff
Written by: Brian Bayless
This was released on July 13th, 2015
The interview was conducted by Sean Oliver
It runs at two hours and twenty-eight minutes long
The interview starts with Oliver briefly running down what was going on in the WWF at the time before asking Bischoff if the seeds of change for WCW were planted in 1994 . Bischoff said 1993 was the most tumultuous year for WCW as 1994 was the beginning of a very important era in wrestling. Bischoff said he was made executive producer around the this time and eventually became Executive Vice President and became more than just a TV producing guy as the year ended. Oliver then asks about Ted Turner being hands on as Bischoff talks about the WWE narrative of Turner wanting to demolish Vince McMahon as Bischoff said it wasnt a Turner vs. McMahon war but that might make Vince feel better thinking it was Turner instead of some guy who auditioned for him four years earlier with a broom. Bischoff said he had little contact with Turner at that time as he was busy with a lot of other stuff. When asked about the booking, Bischoff said he came in after the Bill Watts “debacle” and really had nothing to do with booking and didnt even want to be involved with it but saw that if he didnt take some sort of control over it then it would be tough to do his job. Bischoff wanted Dusty for the job and said he had a good relationship with him. Bischoff talks about the booking disasters WCW had but said Watts took it to a whole new level. Bischoff said he came in and WCW’s financial status was that they were losing $10 million a year before Bill Shaw offered him the job. Bischoff said, when asked, he was not scared of the job as he was young and that his “eyes and balls” were really big at the time so he was not afraid. When asked about the locker room morale, Bischoff said the feeling was that if you got a contract you were set for life as he recalls Larry Zbyszko telling him his first day that once you signed a contract you get a payday for life.
Bischoff hires promoter Zane Bresloff away from the WWF in order to improve the WCW house show business. Bischoff said at the time he hired Bresloff he knew nothing about him and did so on the recommendation of others. When asked about his duties, Bischoff said Bresloff’s job was to be the “boots on the ground” as he would know the buildings, security staff, people in charge, and all the local advertisers as he had built up good relationships with many across the country. Oliver then asks about the competitiveness between WCW and WWF in 1994 as Bischoff said his only mission at the time was for WCW to turn their first dollar of profit as WCW had been losing money hand over fist since Turner purchased the company.
On January 16th, the Super Shockmaster made his debut. Bischoff said he had a lot of bad ideas he can take credit for but this one was not his. Bischoff said that Fred Ottman (who played the gimmick) was a great guy but doesnt remember why they tried to resurrect the gimmick other than people felt bad for him.
Arn Anderson sued Sid Vicious in a civil court on January 25th after getting stabbed with a pair of scissors in Europe the year prior during a fight. Bischoff said he was not on tour when it happened but did receive a phone call early in the morning about the incident. Oliver asks him if there was any consideration of bringing Sid back into the company as he said no as Sid could not have buried himself any deeeper and it made no sense from a liability standpoint.
Dusty lost his job as head booker due to constant low ratings and house show attendance numbers. He said the booking committee was an idea of Bill Shaw, who came from the corporate culture. Bischoff said he likes that process but at the end of the day in the wrestling business you need someone capable of standing up and saying “yes” or “no” and that too many people in that position mucks up everything. He said the committee was a mix of people making political moves and jockeying for position and someone like himself without experience to be a Lorne Michaels-type figure to give the final say. Oliver asks if it was wrong to say Ric Flair was the “de facto booker” as Bischoff said they brought him in to really become the booker. Bischoff talks about Dusty wanting to do the book by himself but he could not let him work that way as it was not with what he wanted to do with the company so he brought along Flair, someone the wrestlers respected.
Bobby Heenan makes his debut as a WCW TV color commentator at “Clash of the Champions XXVI.” Bischoff talks about how Heenan was an important piece of his overall puzzle to take WCW from being perceived as a Southern regional company to becoming a National brand. Bischoff said he knew Heenan from Minneapolis and respected Bobby, someone he loved while watching AWA on TV as a kid. Bischoff expands further about wanting to take WCW from being just a Southern company as he caught flak for that after speaking up about this in meeting. He then talks about staying late and learning everything from the production side to the point where he became a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none. Bischoff did not mean to get personal but took shots at people from the South and said people gave him shit about “never lacing up a boot in his life” as he talks about trying to get WCW National advertisers. Bischoff goes back to Heenan and said he was a class act but that Heenan called WCW for work. Bischoff also said that Heenan never had a bad thing to say about the WWF.
Bischoff is asked about Bobby Walker, who was attacked backstage after the February 1st “WCW Saturday Night” tapings by the Nasty Boys and later sued the company in 2000 for racial discrimination. Oliver also goes into the lawsuit and how Walker said his Caucasian opponents were instructed to make him look bad so he would not end up as a champion and that the company made him appear as “loud, obnoxious, pompous, and shiftless” as Bischoff laughs, stating that described 90% of everyone in the wrestling business, including himself. Bischoff first states he has nothing against Walker then talks about he waited until 2000 to file the lawsuit, when the company was in disarray and a time in which everyone was looking for a payday, then just goes “eh.”
On February 7th, WCW held a marathon taping session for the syndicated “Worldwide” show that would take them through the end of May. Bischoff said it was necessary as Center Stage was a theatre in a round stage that held maybe 450 people and the only ones who came were those that got free tickets and the average person probably had about “fifteen teeth” on average and most came with alcohol. Bischoff believes the audience is the third man in the match and if they are not invested then why would the fans at home care? He also said they needed to shoot in a brighter arena and by saying how they were coming live from Disney the perception of the show would change for the better. Bischoff also gets asked about how they shot so much product at a time as he states they knew the challenge but were driven towards the PPV and had to be careful not to give too much stuff away.
Missy Hyatt was fired on February 8th. Oliver asks Bischoff what happened. Bischoff said there were numerous issues as one of them took place at MGM Studios when she pitched a fit over the fact the company signed Sherri Martel. Bischoff said he had enough of her and she was not a star like Hogan, Piper, or Savage and past her prime then jokes about the whole getting a chance to see her star when she claimed to be leaving for New York to enroll in the Screen Actors Guild.
Terra Ryzing (HHH) was brought in for a dark match at the February 12th tapings and did so well they used him on TV later on in the taping. Bischoff said he was not active in recruiting talent at that time and assumes it was Terry Taylor or Mike Graham who brought him in for a tryout. Bischoff says the only thing he remembers was that he was “crushing” the budget and cutting costs and said in a joking manner that he was “geographically undesirable” as they could not afford to fly him in and out as they wanted guys who lived within a 150 mile radius of the company. Bischoff then talks about how the company used to send tickets to the talent and if they needed you for something else, you would get sent another ticket. Bischoff then said that guys were holding onto the tickets and trading them in for cash and said one star came up to him with a thick stack of tickets, stating that is where the money was. Bischoff said he attacked that when he came into charge and chewed out the travel department for allowing that to happen.
“Wildcat Willie,” the mascot who entertained the crowd at the new Center Stage set, as Bischoff said it was the idea for Bob Dhou and did not think it was necessarily a bad idea. Bischoff said they had to hit the refresh button as the graphics and lighting were tired and needed to improve so they would get advertisers. Bischoff said that graphics and music were the easiest things to fix but they did not own the sound stage so they could not do much about that.
Kevin Sullivan returned on March 12th. Bischoff puts him over for being able to create “heat” and calls it and “art within an art” but that he struggled to get babyfaces over. Regardless, Bischoff said he was an asset to the company.
2 Cold Scorpio was fired as Oliver asks Bischoff if there was a drug problem in WCW. Bischoff said yes and there were problems everywhere in the entertainment and music industry there as it was how guys who were on the road over 250 days a year entertained themselves. Bischoff talks about how wrestlers are performers, like actors in “Breaking Bad” for example and questions why the focus is on wrestling when you have the same problems elsewhere.
He is then asked about the finish at the Spring Stampede match between Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat, in which both guys shoulders were down and how WCW Commissioner Nick Bockwinkel gave the decision to Flair at first but the title ended up being vacated. Bischoff said that anyone who has claimed to have never created a bad idea has never been in the business of creating a good one before saying there were a bunch of them in the room and decides to take the blame for this finish himself.
Regarding the WCW Magazine being cancelled, Bischoff said that he wanted it off of the books as it never worked and cost money. He said that it was revived when a third party came along and handled the costs.
Oliver asks Bischoff about Ray Traylor becoming a Guardian Angel. Bischoff said he reached out to the Guardian Angels and had to get licensing to use the gimmick. He thought it would be a good association to get mainstream coverage
Bischoff talks about working with Paul Heyman and ECW. He doesn’t recall the details but knew Heyman from the AWA. Bischoff said he did not watch ECW but was aware of the promotion. Regarding Heyman, Bischoff felt indifferent about him but also did not trust him either.
Tom Zenk was released on May 16th. Others that also got cut were Erik Watts, Terry Taylor, Awesome Kong, Thunder & Lightning, and Kent & Keith Cole. Bischoff said that Zenk was fired due to a combination of cost-cutting and the fact he never thought much of him, saying that he was a “dick” and not worth the hassle due to being a mediocre talent. (Has anyone ever said a nice thing about Tom Zenk?)
Rick Rude quit on May 22nd after he refused to appear on-air to hand Ric Flair the title, which was due to injury, because they disagreed about what he would be saying during the promo. Flair was the booker at the time as well. Bischoff said that he has known Rude since high-school in Minnesota and that once he was pissed off at you he would stay so for a long time. He then met Rude to get the belt and saw that Rude had a pistol in his trunk next to the belt. Bischoff then said that Rude and Flair always had a lot of heat.
Bischoff is then asked about Cactus Jack & Kevin Sullivan beating the Nasty Boys in a Streetfight for the Tag Team Titles at Slamboree. He said that he did not have the vibe on Philly and their audience like Sullivan, crediting him for getting the match over with the crowd. Bischoff then talks about how Turner Broadcasting was driven by ad sales and once blood became an issue to advertisers, they had to react and change things up.
On the return of Terry Funk at Slamboree and if there were long-term plans, Bischoff said there were not as he just their for the short-term.
Meng made his debut on May 28th. Bischoff does not recall why he was not wrestling right away and said he was gentile and polite but never saw any of the bar fight stories that took place, despite hearing all about them.
Bischoff said he liked Steve Regal as a performer and how his mind worked as he came from a different “school” of wrestling. Bischoff loves his psychology and said a wrestling match is physical dialogue Bischoff then compares Regal to someone who is just as important as a guy on the top of the card due to the way he could create a story in the ring. Oliver then asks Bischoff to rank the emphasis of in-ring and mic skills as Bischoff said it is 55% of mic skills as you can create drama by speaking and notes how he can get people to pay to see someone kill him but he cannot wrestle and refuses to call himself a former wrestler as it is disrespectful to those who are then says that you might be able to overcome what you are unable to do in the ring on the microphone.
Hulk Hogan signed on June 11th, complete with a ticker-tape parade. Bischoff tells the story of how he came to WCW. He said that it process started at a Disney taping a few months prior as Hogan was there for a “Thunder in Paradise” taping. He forgets who the liaison was but recalls sitting in bed with his wife when Hogan called him up and they had a conversation. Bischoff said Hogan’s first priority was the schedule because he had his kids and wanted to spend time with them. Oliver asks Bischoff about the money situation as Bischoff said they were turning things around and corporate executives took notice as families started to come to the Disney tapings as he recalls betting an executive $1 that he could turn a profit in 1995 and how the guy got down on his hands and knees to give him the money. Oliver then talks about Hogan’s reported contract was for $300,000 per match for three PPV’s and “Clash of the Champion” shows plus 25 % of the house and 65% of all merchandise until the end of the year as Bischoff said he remembered the deal for $2 million a year and a big chunk of licensing and merchandising of his own stuff, not everyone in the company. Oliver brings up the issue of creative control and how if you are at the top you basically have that anyway as Bischoff agrees then talks about hearing a lot of people saying they had creative control and believes that is a lie as he only gave it to Hogan in his contract. Oliver asks if the clause caused resentment in the locker room and he said it did among higher-up guys on the card like Ric Flair.
He is now asked about Ric Flair beating Sting in a title unification match where WCW World Champion Ric Flair defeated WCW International Champion Sting at “Clash of the Champions XXVII.” Oliver asks if it was difficult to turn Flair heel at this time as Bischoff said it was one of the biggest challenges he faced. He tells us to take what he said with a grain of salt as he was not a wrestler but before going on about how being a heel gives you a lot of control over what goes on out of the ring. Bischoff did say that Flair liked that control.
Bischoff is asked about Hogan being booed as he talks about how some of the audience would react to him that way due to him being a WWF guy but that he underestimated the hatred of the WCW fans.
He talks about the July 9th episode of “WCW Saturday Night” that featured a live broadcast complete with fan voting. Bischoff said the voting was legitimate and used the gimmick to drive the 1-900 line, which you had to use to vote. He talks about the separate locker rooms and said that they could have done it better. Bischoff then tells a story about how he had a tooth that was attached to a plate in his mouth as a result of an accident that took place in his childhood and during the broadcast he was speaking and his tooth flew out but he caught it in midair and put it back in without anyone noticing, joking how it was his biggest accomplishment.
Hogan won the WCW World Title at the Bash at the Beach. Bischoff said that Flair was excited and puts him over as a performer. He even says that Hogan and Flair where never happier in their lives than when they were in the ring. Oliver puts over the fact that Vince failed to capitalize on a feud between the two as Bischoff said the best he could tell was that Vince never fully committed to a feud between them. Bischoff is then asked about how this was the most promoted show in WCW history at the time and if he was putting all of his eggs in this basket. He said no but it was part of their long-term strategy.
Oliver asks Bischoff about Vader and how he talked about balancing his image in Japan and WCW as he won the UWFI Title. Bischoff said he couldn’t give “two shits” what happened in Japan as he was paying Vader to work for WCW. He said they had a lot of conflict over his stuff in Japan as Bischoff says not to ask for a top contract while wanting to be treated as a part-time employee.
Bischoff is asked about Ricky Steamboat’s claim that he was fired by Federal Express after injury. He said that everyone was fired by Federal Express at the time but that they also deserved a conversation. He tried to call Steamboat but only got his wife, who Bischoff joked acted like his agent. Bischoff said there was no long-term plans for him as his contract expired at the end of the year.
He is asked about Dusty returning to the ring. Bischoff said it was heart-warming to see him tag with his son and says that today (this was filmed before Dusty’s death) he could have a match and still blow the roof off of the building. He said that the heat between him and Flair at that time was very strong but that they were professional enough to conduct business in the ring and the locker room.
Now we get to the Honky Tonk Man getting fired. Bischoff said that Honky refused to do the finish and that he loves Honky but once he said that he fired him on the spot as Bischoff called that one of the happiest days in his life. He said that he brought Honky in against his will and not once did they argue about money.
Alex Wright made his debut at the age of 19. Oliver asks why he didn’t become a bigger star as Bischoff said you cannot get someone over overnight and that being from another country makes it tougher. Bischoff said he was a good talent with a solid head on his shoulders that was easy to work with.
On September 17th, Jesse Ventura was sent home with five months remaining on his contract. Bischoff said he made up his mind at a Disney taping when Ventura held up an entire production crew, soundstage, and talent he was paying to shoot a show when he went to the wrong stage that was not in use and was found by Bischoff taking a nap in the fetal position, looking like he death. Bischoff notes that Ventura was not a drinker or known for doing drugs but said what he did was disrespectful by making everyone wait he couldn’t take it and had to send him home. Bischoff said that he sent Ventura out to do finish the tapings and after that he was done. Oliver asks if that had anything to do regarding Hogan as Bischoff said they had heat as Ventura kept pissing and moaning about Hogan in the company but it was not Ventura’s time or place to undermine the decision to bring Hogan into WCW.
Bischoff puts over Jim Duggan for being able to get an audience behind him but that he was not a good wrestler. Oliver asks him about pinning Steve Austin for the U.S. Title in forty seconds and if Austin himself objected to that. Bischoff said that he doesn’t remember Austin objecting to it but in retrospect the decision was awful. Bischoff said he never interacted with Steve a lot at this time but did before he got power in the company.
Catcus Jack left WCW as Bischoff said he did about frustration as Jack wanted to be more “extreme” but WCW and himself did not want that into the company.
He talks about Ole Anderson being fired. Bischoff said he was narrow-minded and focused to work with but likes him as a person and would like to have a beer with him, despite knowing that will never happen. Bischoff said Ole kept wanting to do things like it was “1975” and it got to the point where it couldn’t take it anymore. Bischoff said they had a fun relationship at the beginning and would wrestle playfully in the control room then puts him over for being a great trainer and would see the passion when he was doing that so decided to make him a trainer at the Power Plant. He tells another story about Blackjack Mulligan, who Bischoff said was very loyal, knock out Ole at the Power Plant after Ole was talking shit about Bischoff.
At Halloween Havoc, Hogan retired Ric Flair after defeating him in a Steel Cage match. Bischoff talks about how at the time he didn’t realize how much Flair missed being in the ring and was being positioned to retire.
On the “When World’s Collide” PPV, Bischoff said that opening his eyes up to Japanese and Mexican wrestling made sense to him at the time so he could start the process of expanding into those markets. Bischoff said he likes Mike Tenay and that Zane Bresloff brought him to his attention. Bischoff puts over his knowledge and how he could present that as a commentator.
Bischoff is asked about Ed Leslie, as “The Butcher,” and how he became involved in a Starrcade main event title match. He swigs his beer then talks about how that was all his fault as he put people at “risk” by making that decision. When asked, he did not believe that Jimmy Hart was necessary as a manager to Hogan on-screen but off camera he was instrumental in getting Hogan around. Bischoff even said that Hart took away from Hogan’s character.
He is now asked about trying to run a show at Madison Square Garden and the WWF blocking it from happening by exercising their contracted right of refusal. Bischoff talks about stopping all house shows in late 1993 after noticing that they were losing a lot of money by running live events.
Randy Savage made his WCW debut on December 3rd. Bischoff said Savage came to him looking for a job after speaking with Hogan. He said it was one of the easiest deals he ever did as the Slim Jim basically covered the first two years of his contract and helped change the perception of the company. Regarding Elizabeth, Randy was excited to work with her and was still protective of her but Bischoff said it was more in a brother and sister type of way.
Vader won the U.S. Title at Starrcade. Bischoff said that Vader was known for being a bit unpredictable and unprofessional and as a result, Hogan did not want to work with him.
Oliver recaps the year and how Bischoff improved things and accomplished most of his goals. Bischoff says that he learned an awful lot this year and hit the ground running in a job that he was probably not qualified for to begin with but what he learned set him up for 1995. He then asks Bischoff for a Ted Turner story as Bischoff talks about a meeting that took place in 1995, even stating he hopes to come back and talk about that year with Kayfabe Commentaries. He met with Turner and had no intention of going head-to-head against Vince McMahon and the WWF. Bischoff wanted to do a deal with a company owned by Rupert Murdoch, someone that hated Turner. Bischoff said that he had a lot of authority to do things on his own but needed Turner’s approval in order to make this happen. Bischoff went in to speak but Turner asked him what they had to do to beat Vince and the WWF. Bischoff then said that his mind was racing and came up with the idea to go primetime instead of Saturday afternoon as Turner gave them two hours on TNT.
Final Thoughts: A tremendous interview. Bischoff was great here and had wonderful chemistry with Oliver, who was also fantastic in his role. His follow-up questions were great.
Having someone from the office do a Timeline is refreshing. Sure, you don’t get to hear about the crazy locker room stories but hearing everything going on from the business side of the company was fascinating. In fact, doing each KC Timeline with a wrestler and someone from the office/business side would be a great idea, IMO.
Bischoff was candid and honest here. He took responsibility for his mistakes and was not here for an agenda. And the fact that he wanted to do the 1995 Timeline was good news to me.
I highly recommend this interview. I don’t think you can go wrong here.