ERIC BISCHOFF is one of the most controversial figures in the history of the wrestling business – being at the very centre of many of its most notorious highs and lows. You can read the entire interview by clicking here.
He’s the man who started the infamous Monday Night Wars, almost putting Vince McMahon and the WWE out of business with his insurgent and hugely successful WCW.
But when WCW self-combusted and itself went under, he ended up spending five years working for his once hated rival.
And now The Bisch is back, alongside Hulk Hogan, with a new reality TV show – Celebrity Championship Wrestling.
In an exclusive chat, and still as controversial as ever, Eric tells The Sun why he thinks the WWE have got it wrong with their new family friendly policy, blasts those who run new rival TNA for being past failures and reveals all about his latest project.
Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling starts in the UK on Bravo this Saturday (February 7) at 8pm. What can British viewers expect?
The show gives fans a chance to get behind the scenes of the wrestling business with the greatest of all time Hulk Hogan – as well as coaches Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake and Brian Knobbs.
We take 10 celebrities who have always had an interest in professional wrestling and give them the opportunity to train and get in the ring.
It’s a competition with an elimination format, similar to the way your British show Strictly Come Dancing works, until we end up with one champion.
Who gets through each week is all about the contestants’ ability to understand the psychology that goes into wrestling, the physical element of learning how to do the moves appropriately and how to get the type of crowd reactions we’re looking for.
Professional wrestling is much like any other stage performance, where you’re creating emotion in the crowd, telling a story and getting the audience to identify with the characters.
When you watch wrestling on TV it looks like anyone can do it – as long as you’re big and strong enough – but when you really learn the art form, you realise there is a lot more to it.
Without giving too much away about who does well in the show, were there any celebrities involved who’d have a shot of success with the WWE?
Todd Bridges and Dustin Diamond are both good candidates.
What is the prize? Is there a job in wrestling waiting for the winner?
The prize is a $8,000-10,000 world championship belt and bragging rights.
There is no wrestling company as of yet, but that is certainly something that could happen in the future. We’re discussing that now.
I heard WWE boss Vince McMahon went mad when he saw the show, thinking it exposed too many secrets of the wrestling business. Do you think he has a point?
Not at all.
I think the reason Vince McMahon got mad is because we put on a great show and it was a fresh idea.
Vince was only disappointed that we got there first.
There are now rumours here in the States that he is going to launch a reality show much like CCW and bring celebrities in.
If Vince were to launch a show similar to yours would you consider legal action?
I wouldn’t, because I’m not a litigious person. But the network may.
There was a situation where the WWE tried to stop Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake using that name. What happened?
They tried and we prevented that.
The WWE served my production company, BHE, with a ‘cease and desist’ to try and prevent us to using any footage that referenced his name.
Our lawyers fired back and basically said: “Stick it in your ass. We have every legal right to do it and we will continue to do it.”
After that we never heard another word from them.
I suppose you are used to all these dirty tricks and ‘cease and desists’ from the WWE v WCW Monday Night Wars?
Yeah – I invented them!
What was the thinking behind doing CCW? Surely you and Hulk could have made a lot of money by going to TNA or even going back to work for WWE?
Neither one of us were interested in TNA. It’s a small organisation that doesn’t have very much vision. The best way to describe it is like WWE-lite. There was nothing exciting there for Hulk or myself.
Although Dixie Carter is a nice woman, and I’m sure very intelligent, the rest of the people in senior management there are not the sort of people we would like to work with.
As far as doing something with WWE, in Hulk’s case, and to a degree in mine, it’s 'been there and done that'.
We wanted to do something of our own, that we control and that we had never done before.
Sure they have.
But look, the people that are involved in the creative process and vision for TNA are people that couldn’t get a job in WWE or shouldn’t have had a job in WCW.
There’s no vision for that company.
They are people who have never been to the dance. They’ve never been a part, really, of any of the decision-making processes that led to the success of the industry.
Some of them happen to have been working there while other people did it, but have never really done it for themselves. They just don’t have the feel for it.
So that’s the reason we wouldn’t want to be there.
For me to sit down and say “listen guys, this is what you have to do to be successful” would be like telling a three-year-old how to fly an aeroplane. You can try all you want, they’re never going to get it.
There are lots of rumours flying around that Hulk Hogan may appear at WWE WrestleMania 25. Do you know anything more on that? Is it something you’d encourage?
Those rumours come around this time every year. We’re kinda used to it.
There’s no animosity or ill will between me and WWE, although it probably sounds like there is.
I don’t like it when they try and push us around or prevent us from doing things in the wrestling business, because they think the wrestling business is their sole domain.
But other than that – and that’s just business, not personal – I have nothing but respect for Vince McMahon, his family and the organisation.
It’s a phenomenal company with lots of great people working there, many of who are friends of mine.
So there’s no animosity, it just doesn’t make any sense for Hulk to do anything with them right now and I think he probably has the same view.
But if the right situation presented itself? Never say never.
Speaking for myself, if something came along that I felt I would really enjoy doing as a performer, would help create more interest in the business and fitted into my schedule then I would do it.
And I’m sure Hulk feels the same way
Why did you leave the WWE? What’s the story there?
My contract was up.
When I went into WWE I expected to be there for a year, and I ended up staying for five.
As the contract was coming to an end we talked about it and the truth is there wasn’t anywhere to go for my character storyline-wise.
After five years the character had played itself out and I wasn’t having fun doing it, as I’d already done it all.
There were no fresh stories that were interesting as a performer.
And as a businessperson I had my own production company with my partner and we were becoming successful, so I didn’t really have the time to do it either.
From the WWE’s point of view they probably thought: “We’ve done everything we can do with this guy. It’s worked really well, but it’s over.”
Did Vince McMahon ever ask you to help book the shows? One thing that has always surprised us is that after your success in WCW you never got to write in WWE?
That’s a very personal thing.
Vince is really the head writer. While there are a lot of guys who bring him ideas and storylines, he has a lot of creative control over the things that happen in that company.
And so he should. It’s his company, he’s been very successful and it’s a formula that works for him.
When you take someone like myself or Paul Heyman with strong opinions, creative perspectives and personalities and put us in a room with Vince McMahon – who has the same – it’s not usually a good fit.
Wrestling now seems to be going back to the pre-Monday Night Wars era, with a more family friendly PG-rated WWE. What do you think of that move?
That’s a good question and requires a complex answer.
Personally I think it is very risky. In the long term it won’t benefit the company. It will put the WWE in a position much like they were pre-Monday Night Wars where they have a small audience that is predominantly children.
That puts you in a difficult position, certainly in the US.
Wrestling is what it is. It is a storyline and character-driven format based on some pretty intense violence.
When you are creating a programme for 18-35 year-old men – as WCW Nitro and WWE Raw did during the Monday Night Wars – it’s acceptable.
When you are producing that content for children, it is at the very best uncomfortable for advertisers.
Because you’re not really fish or foul – meaning you’re not really children’s programming but you’re not adult programming either.
So you find yourself in this murky grey area.
Advertisers who are targeting children are not going to be comfortable doing so in a wrestling programme, because of the inherent nature of the content.
And at the same time you’re not going to be able to sell to advertisers who are looking for 18-35 year-old men, because you’ve created a children’s programme.
It’s very tricky.
I’ve seen some of CCW and it’s great. I’d suggest everyone check it out on Bravo. But at the same time it’s not WrestleMania or the Monday Night Wars. Is there a part of you that misses being at the very pinnacle of the wrestling industry?
Of course I miss it. Absolutely. I think about it all the time.
Going back to the mid to late 1990’s, wrestling was at its absolute peak. It was at fever pitch all around the world. There were probably three times as many people watching the shows as there are now.
But like all things, nothing lasts forever.