By 1999 WCW was a sinking ship as Monday Night Raw beat Nitro in ratings every week of the year. Eric Bischoff felt the wrath of his company failing as he was removed from his president role while Vince Russo took over as head of creative.
In late 2000 Bischoff and a group of partners made one last-ditch effort to save WCW as they offered to purchase the company. A Turner executive accepted the deal and Bischoff was due to become WCW’s owner, but another Turner executive then cancelled all WCW programming from its network. With no network to broadcast on, WCW had little value to Bischoff and the deal never went through.
On his podcast, Bischoff discussed some of the changes that would have occurred had the deal went through and he purchased WCW.
“Tony Schiavone,” Bischoff said about his first big change. “I have always liked and respected Tony. There were never any thoughts of firing Tony, but we did want-we knew that we needed to hit the refresh button in every way possible. We knew that we wanted to rebrand WCW and get as far away as how people had perceived WCW to be as possible as far as we could, which included the announcers. That would have included the look of the show and the location of the show and where we were going to produce the show. It would have included a lot of things including the announce team. It was going to be Joey Styles and Don Callis.”
Fans criticized WCW for their stale programming during their final months as the team of Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara failed to connect with the audience. But despite creative being a problem, that wasn’t the first thing on Bischoff’s docket were he to take over.
“We didn’t really focus on future creative. We talked about what talent we did keep and wanted to keep but there was so much work to do on rebranding, repositioning the company that creative was really the last thing we needed to think about,” Bischoff said.
“The intention really when we were going to acquire the company was going to shut it down for a period of 3-6 months thinking that absence makes the heart grow fonder. We needed to build some anticipation. We had to make people anxious to see what the new, rebranded WCW was going to look like. You couldn’t do that by taking it off of television for a couple of weeks and then coming back. You had to be gone a long enough period of time to really build up anticipation and to market it properly.
“We were focused more on where we wanted to produce the show. How could we help reduce the cost of producing the show? What talent were we able to afford? Who did we want to keep? Rebuilding relationships with sponsors. That was where I really was focused on, not on what we were going to do with a certain talent.”
In the span of a few weeks in 2001, Bischoff agreed to purchase WCW, Turner dropped all WCW programming, Bischoff backed out of his offer to purchase the promotion and, finally, WWE purchased WCW.
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit 83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: 83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.