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Eric Bischoff on what went wrong during his time in WWE, how he got the job, if he thinks Vince McMahon lost his touch?

Eric Bischoff


This week on "83 Weeks," Eric Bischoff talks about his return to WWE in 2019.

Here are some highlights from the podcast:

Bischoff discussed the beginnings of his return to WWE: “When Bruce and I first started talking, and I think it started at a Starrcast event, Bruce said how would you feel if I threw your name out for a role. I said that is great. I didn’t think anything was going to come of it. I thought it was just Bruce being a good friend and exploring things. When we had that very first conversation when Bruce asked me if it was ok to throw my name out to Vince, it was exciting to think, here is a chance to work with Bruce. That was one of the things I was most excited about. Not taking anything away from WWE or Vince. I thought if I would like the chance to work with Bruce again as we worked together very closely in TNA,”

Bischoff talked about the challenges of moving from Wyoming to Stamford: “I knew deep down that leaving Wyoming and moving to downtown Stamford was going to be a challenge. I just didn’t realize how much of a challenge that was going to be. I minimized it in my mind and compartmentalized it and said I will worry about that once I get there. I will figure out how to adjust once I get there. I was so excited.”

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Bischoff was asked if he knew the expectations of the job the WWE wanted him to do: “Keep in mind, this was a new position. It had never existed in WWE. It did not exist in WCW when I was there. This was a brand new position. I think a lot of thought had been given to it in WWE and been thought through and vetted through some very intelligent people. I had a general sense of expectations, but it was pretty broad. We didn’t discuss benchmarks. That was my bad. If I were to do it again, and I won’t obviously, but, if a situation like that occurred again, I would really drill into the expectations aspect of it. That is where things can fall apart. Failure to communicate honest expectations is probably at the core of more failed relationships, business or otherwise, than almost anything else. That’s where I fuc*ed up. I just assumed and thought I’ll figure that out once I get there or I’ll better understand it because I’m a quick study. In this case, I wasn’t because I was entering something far more complex than I anticipated both from a chemistry perspective and an operational perspective. WWE was a much bigger, much more complex sophisticated machine than I thought it was. Because I underestimated the complexity of the situation, I didn’t spend enough time really thinking about that aspect.”

Bischoff made it clear that Vince McMahon has the final say on everything: “I don’t think it comes as a surprise that Vince McMahon runs that ship. There is nothing that anybody sees, hears, thinks, smells, or otherwise can come into contact with the WWE brand that doesn’t have Vince McMahon’s fingerprints primarily on it. It doesn’t mean that other people don’t contribute. They do. But there is one filter. There is one decision maker in WWE and it’s well documented. It has been over the years. It was pretty obvious to me.”

Bischoff addressed the rumor that he was hired to appease stockholders and to eventually be the fall guy: “I don’t believe that is true at all. Even with 20/20 hindsight, the day I was let go, I didn’t think I was being propped up as a fall guy or put in a position so if things didn’t go well, they could be blamed on me or on Paul (Heyman). I didn’t think it going into the opportunity, I didn’t think it was the case the day I was let go, and I don’t think that’s the case now. I think it’s absurd to hear now as it was to hear then. Even though admittedly, Vince McMahon has his fingerprints on everything that represents the WWE brand in one way, shape, or form. That’s not to say that he’s making every single decision. There is a team of really talented and smart executives in that company that help. Vince has to approve it. Vince has to put his thumbprint on it before it becomes official. But, to suggest that Vince is sitting in his office trying to create this diabolical scheme to placate investors and put somebody in position so that if it doesn’t work out, he can blame them instead of himself is not right.”

Do you think Vince has lost his touch?: “It’s a complex answer. The entertainment business is changing every single day. I think it’s true that Vince is committed to a formula that has provided an unbelievable level of success for the wrestling industry as a whole. Even WWE’s most vocal critics can’t deny that when they look at what the WWE has accomplished in terms of its global significance in the world of global entertainment and not recognize that the formulas that Vince McMahon relied upon to achieve those levels of success were unquestionably amazing success stories and the formulas worked. Do I think there is some reluctance to adapt new formulas to the ever changing nature of entertainment? Yes, I do. I do. Do I understand why people are reluctant to change those formulas? Of course I do. There’s a difference between resisting change and being out of touch. To me, out of touch suggests that you don’t understand the psychology of storytelling. You don’t understand how the product should be presented in today’s environment. Keep in mind, 60% of their revenue is generated through TV rights. This is based on a pie chart the other day and I don’t even know if that pie chart is accurate. If it’s close to accurate, that is a significant amount of money. It is all based on your relationship with advertisers. If the network can’t sell your commercial inventory to their advertisers, you’ve got a big problem. So WWE has to walk this fine line of satisfying the audience while maintaining the relationship with the advertisers they have. They took a long time to build this. They didn’t get the broadcast television deals they got because they got good ratings or because they got ratings in the right demos. They spent 20 years developing the product and the platform they have that appeals to advertisers. Now they have it, they have to treat it with respect and they have to treat it very carefully. There are things the WWE would love to do creatively that they can’t because they know the blow back they will get from advertisers. It’s like creating an action movie for Disney. You have to be really careful how you do that. That is the best analogy I can give. Does that mean he is out of touch or does it mean he is catering his business to his customer, the real customer, the advertiser. Without the advertisers, there is no viewer. I know the viewers like to think they are the most important thing in the world, and in a lot of respects, they are because there is a direct connection to the advertising community. But if the advertising community says, no, I know there are a lot of people watching your show, but we can’t have our product associated with it, you’re dead. You’re done. So, it’s easy to say so and so is out of touch if you don’t understand the complexity of the business as a whole.”

If you use any portion of the quotes from this article please credit 83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff with a h/t to for the transcription