WWE – Eric Bischoff: Sports Entertainment’s Most Controversial Figure (Cert 15)
2 Disc Blu-ray / 3 Disc DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 95 minutes approx.
Being labelled the “most controversial” figure in wrestling could easily be applied to the likes of Vince Russo and Herb Abrams, but Eric Bischoff is still a top contender for such ignominy. As this is a WWE production, Bischoff earns this appellation for his success in taking WCW to the top of the US wrestling totem pole in the 1990’s.
This isn’t another character assassination like the infamous Ultimate Warrior DVD though, with Bischoff himself being the main interviewee, along with contributions from his wife Loree, sister Lori (must be awkward at family gatherings), brother Bill and familiar faces Kevin Nash, DDP, Chris Jericho, Greg Gagne, Jason Hervey and Sonny Ono.
Bischoff’s history in WCW and later WWE is already well documented so the opportunity to learn more about the man prior to his involvement in wrestling is a welcome one. It certainly offers us a unique insight into the man behind the persona and puts the piece of the puzzle together in telling the story of how a “mere TV announcer” was able to rise through the ranks run an entire wrestling company.
Young Eric showed an entrepreneurial spirit early on by selling bottle caps, and by his 20’s had set up his own landscaping construction company. He sold his share to his partner then moved on to run a butcher’s deliver service whilst becoming a black belt in Karate and becoming a kickboxing champion. Believe it or not, Eric was also a male model which is where he met Lorre.
Some may remember Sonny Ono as a manager in WCW in the late 90’s but he was in fact an old business partner of Bischoff’s, with whom he created a kids game Ninja Star Wars. Living in Minneapolis at the time, wrestling fan Bischoff approached AWA owner Verne Gagne for a TV spot during his show to promote the game, using it as a prize for the “Fan Of The Week” segment.
There is a awkward clip of AWA announcer Larry Nelson shilling the game, illustrating why it didn’t sell, but it did get Bischoff’s foot in the door of wrestling. Gagne gave Eric a role in the TV sales department then a few years later when Nelson, who was prone to the odd bevy, was “indisposed” Greg Gagne suggested Bischoff as a replacement.
From here Bischoff became a lead announcer for the AWA in its dying days (he famously auditioned for the WWF in 1990 as shown here), but because he was so loyalty to Verne Gagne, Eric didn’t take a paycheque for months driving himself into poverty. Needing money and fast Greg Gagne got Bischoff an interview with WCW and was hired as “C show” announcer in 1991.
By the time 1993 rolled around WCW was a mess, so Turner executive Bob Dhue created a new Executive Producer role to balance the books and rebuild WCW as a TV product. Despite more experienced competition it was Bischoff’s bold ideas that got him the job. The rest of the story you should know.
What is refreshing this time around is to hear Bischoff taking us deeper into the thought processes of his ideas, even the contentious ones like giving away results from taped episodes of RAW. Eric also admits his failures when the nWo honeymoon period ended after 18 months on top, realising that he was too preoccupied with the success to worry about planning for the future.
Eric is also forthcoming in recognising that he didn’t always treat people well and rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, but there are some instances where he puts it down to stress and people not understanding the pressure he was under. Generally he is willing to accept his mistakes and does so with some humility. Whether you believe him or not depends on how much of his contrary past interviews have coloured your opinion of him.
One area where Bischoff is adamant is in the “creative control” clauses in the contracts of top tier WCW talent. He is steadfast in pointing out that only Hogan had this clause, while others had uniquely worded contracts which gave them some privileges but not to the extent of Hogan’s.
Both Eric and Jason Hervey talk about the disappointment in not being able to buy WCW after the AOL/Time Warner regime decided to axe wrestling from its assets and TV schedules. Interestingly, when the sale to Vince McMahon is discussed, print articles from the period shown on screen have been doctored to say “WWE” instead of “WWF” and the word “Entertainment” has mysteriously replaced the word “Federation”.
He may have been a whipping boy for much of his WWE tenure but Bischoff speaks very fondly of his run, and of the McMahon’s. He says the Billy and Chuck wedding was his most favourite skit ever, and it seems being back in the role of employee and not employer saw Bischoff make friends out of former enemies such as Steve Austin and Chris Jericho.
Naturally Eric’s fateful TNA run is omitted as is the Hogan Celebrity Wrestling project but we do get a look at his media production company run with Jason Hervey and his latest beer making endeavours. Bischoff looks calm and relaxed in his new rural lifestyle and this environment has helped him become more introspective and open to recognising the mistakes he made.
Eric Bischoff has quite a story to tell and the 95 minutes allotted to him here don’t feel enough to cover everything, which is where the extras come in handy in filling in some of the gaps. Even with the expected gleeful approach to covering the downfall of WCW (because McMahon) the overall tone is one of balance and positive reflection, and for Bischoff himself, maybe even redemption.
I imagine this will be one of the more niche personality retrospectives the WWE have released but for hardcore wrestling fans it stands a one of the more revelatory titles in their catalogue.
English HOH Subtitles
Legends With JBL Parts 1 & 2
Top 10 Most Controversial Moments
AWA Championship Wrestling on ESPN – October 1st 1989 – Eric interviews Sgt. Slaughter & Baron Von Raschke
AWA All-Star Wrestling – February 18th 1990 – Eric interviews Larry Zbyszko & Colonel DeBeers
WCW Worldwide – December 7th 1991 – Eric interviews The Steiner Brothers
WCW Worldwide – February 1st 1992 – Eric interviews Big Van Vader, Harley Race & Taylor Made Man
WCW Worldwide – February 22nd 1992 – Eric interviews Vinnie Vegas & Harley Race
WCW Worldwide – April 13th 1992 – Eric interviews Stunning Steve Austin & Madusa
WCW Power Hour – May 30th 1992 – Eric Gets A Tour Of The Fabulous Freebirds Enterprises
WCW Halloween Havoc – October 24th 1993 – Eric interviews Sid Vicious & Colonel Robert Parker
WCW Pro-Wrestling – March 6th 1995 – Eric Bischoff’s Candid Camera Gets The Dirt On DDP
WCW Nitro – May 12th 1997 – Will The Real Sting Please Stand Up?
WCW Slamboree – May 17th 1998 – Eric Bischoff vs. Vince McMahon
WCW Thunder – June 11th 1998 – Miss Elizabeth Tells The World Who The Real Macho Man Is
WWE Smackdown – July 18th 2002 – Eric Meets The Great One
WWE Smackdown – September 19th 2002 – Duelling GMs via Satellite
WWE RAW – October 21st 2002 – You Will Bear Witness To The Elimination Chamber
WWE RAW – April 28th 2003 – Non-Televised Footage – Stone Cold Stuns Eric Bischoff
WWE RAW – February 23rd 2004 – Eric Bischoff vs. Vince McMahon – Special Guest Ref – Stone Cold Steve Austin
WWE Taboo Tuesday – October 19th 2004 – Loser Gets Their Head Shaved – Eric Bischoff vs. Eugene
WWE RAW – September 25th 2006 – The Brings His Mentor Home
Rating – ***
Man In Black