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What If... Eric Bischoff never became WCW President?

Can you imagine a WCW in the 1990s without Eric Bischoff in charge?
Can you imagine a WCW in the 1990s without Eric Bischoff in charge?

In 1993, WWE Hall of Famer Eric Bischoff was given control of World Championship Wrestling - and that changed everything.

And that’s a shoot. Brother. twitter.com/WWEonFOX/statu…

There's an offshoot of Quantum Mechanics known as the Many Worlds Theory. The concept that every action (or lack thereof) each of us makes, results in the creation of a bunch of entirely new universes where those different actions were or weren't taken.

It has something to do with an object not becoming an object until it's observed and… look, it involves a lot of math, but the point is, it's a theory that many people way smarter than me have come up with.

It's like a world where Eric Bischoff is still selling meat out of his truck in Minnesota. Wrestling history - well, all of history, really - is full of these "What If…?" scenarios. So, let's talk about some of those. In fact, let's do that every other week.

We'll take a different scenario and try to determine, using the facts at the time, what might have happened instead. In this article, let's go back to the early 1990s and to one of the most pivotal moments in pro wrestling history - the hiring of Eric Bischoff as executive producer of World Championship Wrestling. But first, a little context...


How important was Eric Bischoff to wrestling history?

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Eric Bischoff will undoubtedly go down as one of the most pivotal figures in professional wrestling history. The man that had the audacity to go head-to-head with WWE, and he even succeeded in doing so for 83 weeks.

He put WCW's flagship program directly against Monday Night Raw, revealed the results of Raw the week it was taped, and focused on making the product more "realistic" as opposed to the "cartoon" WWE was offering.

Bischoff was even offering his talent guaranteed contracts, changing how performers got paid from then on. WWE might have won the "Monday Night War," but only by adopting a lot of things WCW used to compete with them.

But before he could do any of those things, Eric Bischoff had to land the job first...

Eric Bischoff's beginnings in the wrestling business

Eric Bischoff in 1992 with the man he would eventually replace, Bill Watts.
Eric Bischoff in 1992 with the man he would eventually replace, Bill Watts.

So, how did Eric Bischoff get this job, anyway?

In 1993, following the resignation of EVP and head booker "Cowboy" Bill Watts, the higher ups at World Championship Wrestling had a big decision to make. Since the purchase of the company by Ted Turner in 1989, the company had been run by outside executives - who had no experience in the wrestling world. In fact, Turner's first pick to run the promotion was a former Pizza Hut manager by the name of Jim Herd.

Watts, on the other hand, was a wrestling guy through and through. A former wrestler himself, he also ran the now-defunct Universal Wrestling Association before it was bought by Jim Crockett Promotions, which was then bought by Ted Turner.

However, some of his changes to the product (like banning moves from the top rope) were extremely unpopular with both the fans and the performers. No, seriously. Also, a racially-tinged interview he gave before getting hired was extremely unpopular with, well, just about everybody who wasn't "Cowboy" Bill Watts.

WCW executives had to then make a choice. They didn't want a complete outsider to take the reins, but they also didn't want an old-school wrestling type like Watts leading things, either. Could they find someone that was a happy medium between those two? They did, and it was… C-show announcer Eric Bischoff?

He had come from the American Wrestling Association, originally starting with the Minnesota-based promotion as a sales executive. So there was one box checked for Eric Bischoff.

While there, he was asked at the last minute to fill in to do some on-screen interviews. After all, Eric Bischoff was photogenic and was already wearing a suit. That led to a career in wrestling broadcasting that continued even after the AWA, as he was hired by WCW soon after. Second box? Check.

So, how'd that work out? As it turns out, pretty damn well.

The Eric Bischoff regime

Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan, the ultimate BFFs
Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan, the ultimate BFFs

Eric Bischoff's plan upon taking charge was two-fold. First, work towards getting the promotion out of debt and even profitable. The second was to improve the on-screen product.

One of his ideas was to move the production of WCW programming to Disney-MGM Studios. On paper, it was a pretty good idea: it avoided necessitating having to book different venues for each show, and it provided a steady stream of attendees - people who were already visiting the theme park anyway. The results were… a mixed bag, but not worth getting into here.

One result of the arrangement was that it put Eric Bischoff in the vicinity of Hulk Hogan. Or at least that's what Hulk Hogan went with while starring in his latest attempt to prove he was an actor - the TV series Thunder In Paradise.

Hogan had recently left the then-WWF to star in the show and, presumably, to make the film Mr. Nanny. Bischoff, along with Ric Flair, would visit him on set in an attempt to persuade him to sign with WCW - and it eventually worked. The world's biggest wrestling star was working for WWF's biggest competitor.

Soon, an influx of former WWF stars were coming to WCW. Bischoff brought in talent like "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Lex Luger, Madusa/Alundra Blayze, and even announcers like Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and "Mean" Gene Okerlund.

However, it was Bischoff's addition of Scott Hall ("Razor Ramon" in the WWF) and Kevin Nash ("Diesel") that really got things rolling. That was the genesis for the New World Order (nWo). Needless to say, it was successful.


Eric Bischoff on top of the world

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Soon, WCW, not the WWF, was the top wrestling promotion in the country, even the world. The company kept pulling in astounding TV ratings, and not only finally making a profit, but a ridiculous amount of profit.

In 1998, they earned $55 million in profit off of $200 million in revenue. Seemingly the most important of all, WCW Monday Nitro was creaming WWF Monday Night Raw in the TV Nielson ratings - for 83 weeks straight (thus the name of Bischoff's podcast, 83 Weeks.)

As history tells us, this wasn't going to last, and eventually WCW shut its doors for good in 2001 - not before firing and rehiring Bischoff twice. During its time, though, it changed the way the pro wrestling industry did business. And it all started with one hiring decision.

But… What if they hired someone else, and not Eric Bischoff?

One of these two guys could have gotten the job Eric Bischoff was eventually hired to do.
One of these two guys could have gotten the job Eric Bischoff was eventually hired to do.

We don't really know what Eric Bischoff said in his pitch to WCW President Bill Shaw and WCW Executive Vice President Bob Dhue, in order to convince them to give him the job. But for this scenario, let's assume that Bischoff gave his pitch, and the executives just didn't think he was the right guy for the job.

According to legend, the other two contenders for Eric Bischoff's job were WCW producer Tony Schiavone and Vice President of Broadcasting Jim Ross. Oh, yeah, they were also announcers in the company, too.

Both Jim Ross and Tony Shiavone had the experience and qualifications to, at the very least, get a chance at turning the WCW ship around - clearly more than Eric Bischoff did. Jim Ross might have been more closely associated with Bill Watts than the higher-ups may have liked, but he also could have been a mellower version of him, combining an old-school sensibility with the knowledge that comes from years of working in TV production.

There's a reason Tony Shiavone was the lead voice of WCW until its final day - he understood both pro wrestling and television production. He clearly has less of an ego than the man who eventually took the job (look, I'm pretty sure Eric Bischoff would be the first to admit he's got a heck of an ego, while Tony Shiavone is the kind of guy who applied for a job at Starbucks not because he needed the money, but because he thought it would be interesting to work there), but it's hard to say he'd have the same bloodlust (for lack of a better word) that Bischoff carried into his position.

Does no Eric Bischoff still = success?

Eric Bischoff is in the WWE Hall of Fame, and for good reason.
Eric Bischoff is in the WWE Hall of Fame, and for good reason.

Not having Eric Bischoff in charge of WCW means there's less of a chance of Jim Ross going to WWE - which means it's entirely possible we don't see guys like Mick Foley or Steve Austin in the company.

After all, it was Jim Ross who eventually found his way into the position of Head of Talent Relations after leaving WCW and joining WWE. It was also Jim Ross who championed performers like them, and they were instrumental in helping WWE take the lead in the ratings war with WCW.

You have to consider that a Jim Ross - or even Tony Schiavone for that matter - in charge of WCW overall wouldn't have had the bandwidth to focus on hiring talent - and we can't really predict who would have been in charge of that in this scenario.

In the end, Eric Bischoff's drive and ruthlessness (as well as Ted Turner's deep pockets) drove WCW to overtake WWE as the world's #1 promotion. At least for a good long while.

So what would have happened to WCW in this scenario? Chances are, and honestly, it probably would have closed down well before the AOL/Time Warner merger. Ted Turner often said that as long as he was in charge of his networks, wrestling would be on them - but let's be honest - if WCW kept losing money the way it was before Bischoff took over, it probably would have closed down a lot sooner than it did.

The verdict? We still wouldn't have a WCW today, even with someone other than Eric Bischoff in charge. Disagree? Let me know your own theories in the comments below. In the meantime, I'm out of here.

Poll : Would WCW have been as successful without Eric Bischoff?

Yes, much more!

No way, it would have closed down way earlier.

75 votes

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Edited by Arjun
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