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Eric Bischoff on the difference between Hulk Hogan in NWO and any potential John Cena heel turn, Vince Russo being a liar and more


The always controversial (because it creates cash, don't you know) Eric Bischoff has been chatting with Brett Buchanan over at Alternative Nation, and in the second of two articles documenting the interview, the former WCW head has some interesting things to say on a couple of always popular topics.

First, he addresses his old partner and internet lightning rod Vince Russo.  In speaking to Russo and Glenn Gilbertti's emphasis on minute to minute television ratings, Easy E comes just short of calling the men liars:

There's a saying you may have heard many times before, it would be good to revisit it as we venture into this topic: numbers lie, and liars use numbers. I can look at ratings, whether they be minute by minute or quarter hour, and I can twist and turn them if I am talking to people who really don't know what they're doing, and who really can't understand exactly what they're hearing, or don't really have access to the information, or don't have the experience to counter argue it. I can take minute-by-minute numbers, and I can make them tell you any story I want you want to be told. It's bullshit.

Now, you can look at quarter hour over an extended period of time, whether it's a month, 3 months, or 6 months, and you can identify a trend. You can find some consistency, if everything else is consistent around it, and you can start to determine what might really be working, and what's not working. You may be able to do that on a show to show basis, but anybody who takes the position that minute by minutes define a character, or define a format, or a define a story, either don't know what the hell they're talking about, or they have just enough knowledge to be dangerous, which is generally the case, or they're full of shit, and they know it. It's insane. The other part of your question was, did it ever influence me? No. It was one single piece of information, that's all it was, one single piece of information that may or not have relevance in the context of an analysis of what you're doing. But anybody who would sit down and say, ‘Oh the minute by minutes say that Joe Blow is doing great, and the talking segments are better' is full of crap.

He goes farther in smacking down the "talking performs better than wrestling" assertions, too, in a way that will please fans who believe that you can tell a great story without opening your mouth:

I've never seen research that has come back to suggest that talking segments outperform wrestling segments. They're necessary, don't get me wrong, they're absolutely necessary, and sometimes I've done them, and they've run too long, but they don't outperform wrestling segments when the action is good. If the action doesn't have a story behind it, or the characters don't have good characters, if there hasn't been any build and there's not a good format, if it's not a three act structure to the show, if there's no overextending arc that takes the viewers on a ride and makes them want to come along on the journey, then yeah, a wrestling segment can suck. But if you do everything else right, there's no way a talking segment is going to outperform good wrestling, unless you don't know how to produce good wrestling.

Pro wrestling doesn't need to re-invent itself in order to reach the heights it rose to when Bischoff was in charge of Ted Turner's Monday nights, according to the man himself.  Those same attributes that make for "good wrestling" are what will eventually bring the form back to its peak:

Whether it's wrestling, or Sons of Anarchy, or Game of Thrones, whatever it is, it is first and foremost great story. It's great characters that people really relate to, and it's a great presentation. So does wrestling have to completely change everything? No, you don't completely change anything. It wasn't long ago when everybody pounding what they thought was the final nail within the industry of scripted television. You couldn't sell a sitcom, you couldn't give the away, you couldn't sell drama, not even an action series on scripted television, because reality was so popular, and that's where the audience shifted. Everybody put their eggs in the reality basket, and guess what happened? Reality got saturated, and then all of a sudden great scripted dramas started to emerge, thanks to networks like HBO, Showtime, and shows like Breaking Bad.

15 years ago when scripted television was on its last legs, and writers in Hollywood were looking for buildings to jump off of, nobody would have thought that that ever would have ever happened. But what happened was out of necessity, and trying to carve out a niche and survive, somebody that was smart started creating really great story, with really compelling characters. And it wasn't a new formula, that formula has existed since Shakespeare, but everyone got away from it, and everyone got away from it long enough that when it came back, all of a sudden it felt like it was new again. I think something like that will probably happen with wrestling.

One of the things that really fueled wrestling's late 1990s rise was the heel turn of Hulk Hogan.  A lot of fans think a similar turn by the biggest star of this century could trigger another rise, but most inisders and observers - including the star, John Cena - say that there's too much money attached to Cena's character staying the same.  Buchanan hones in on one aspect of that money when he asks Bischoff about Hogan merchandise sales at the time of the turn, and Eric brings up an interesting difference between the two scenarios:

You've got to put everything in the proper context, there were no nWo shirts for sale before I turned Hulk Hogan heel. One disadvantage I had when I launched Nitro, compared to WWE, is that they had very sophisticated licensing and merchandise, WCW didn't have any. This is one of the reasons I had to guarantee contracts, because if I didn't guarantee how much money somebody was going to make, there was no chance in hell they were going to make enough to live off of if it was in part based on licensing and merchandising that didn't exist. It is it is, and was what it was, based on what I inherited, when I inherited it. But it was also an advantage, because I didn't have to risk the same type of financial impact that for example WWE might be analyzing, ‘Okay, what happens if John Cena merchandise goes away?' I didn't have that challenge, because I wasn't making any anyways. I had nowhere to go but up.

As always, give the whole interview a read over at Alternative Nation (, for more on these topics - plus some insight into life backstage at WWE - and let us know what you think.

Do people like a good talking segment more than a wrestling match?

Will pro wrestling become hot again by sticking to its core attributes, or where there a lot of other variable involved in the Monday Night War/Attitude Era heights that will never be replicated again?

Can a Cena heel turn be profitable, and part of a wrestling boom?

Sound off, Cagesiders!

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