During his second run with WCW Ric Flair, had a publicized feud with Eric Bischoff, who filed a lawsuit against him for no-showing a live episode of Thunder in 1998. On a recent episode of Bischoff’s 83 Weeks podcast, the former WCW president discussed different topics regarding his experiences working with Flair.
Bischoff went into great detail about Flair’s involvement in getting Hulk Hogan to sign with WCW in 1994. Bischoff said he was the first to make contact with Hogan, but it was Flair who was able to ease Hogan’s concerns about the state of WCW at that time. WCW had been mismanaged for years, so it took some convincing to get Hogan to sign on.
“I didn’t go to Ric Flair and reach out to Hulk Hogan. I did rely 100% on Ric Flair to get Hulk comfortable. Hulk was–and again, context is king, but he was not in WWF, so the urban narrative that I ‘stole’ Hulk Hogan from the WWF is a fabrication. It didn’t happen that way. He had already left. Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan had parted ways over the steroid trial and Hulk had made up his mind that he was done with professional wrestling,” Bischoff said. “He was going to go and do television and movies. He was working on a television series called ‘Thunder in Paradise,’ which was being filmed at the MGM Studios, the same time we were filming there, and that was when I put the word out that I sure would love to talk with Hulk Hogan and Hulk had called me in the middle of the night. It was 1:30 in the morning on a weekday, which I knew who the voice on the other end was. He has a pretty recognizable voice and we started chatting. At that point I tagged Flair in because Hulk didn’t trust anybody. He didn’t trust anybody in WCW. He looked at WCW for what it was at the time, which was a cluster and completely mismanaged. It was a revolving door with senior management and a political nightmare, and Hulk knew that.”
Bischoff said he sweetened the deal for Hogan by offering him more money for less work. Even though Hogan was intrigued by the cushy deal, he still needed assurance that he’d be working with Flair because Flair was the only wrestler in the WCW locker room that he trusted.
“He had liked the deal we presented him; look, Hulk’s kids [Brooke and Nick] were really young so the idea to only work a handful of dates a year and a couple TV’s to support those dates. His original deal was for four pay-per-views a year and then the television appearances that were required; I think three or four of them leading to pay-per-views, so I think you can do the math. It was like 16 dates total, or maybe 20,” Bischoff said. “That meant that Hulk Hogan would be able to spend more time with his kids because at the time that was his main priority, but at the same time he didn’t want to enter into the shark tank of WCW because it was everybody stabbing each other in the back at every opportunity, and Ric Flair was the one guy that Hulk knew he could work with and the one guy he could trust who would absolutely get in the ring for his comeback and can use Ric Flair, so I did use Ric Flair. Ric was down there during every meeting I had with Hulk, with the exception of when I was talking about money, which came at the very end, but in the beginning–if it weren’t for Ric I don’t think Hulk would have ever made the move.”
Bischoff said he was surprised to hear accusations of mistreatment from Flair, but he understands where they came from. Bischoff admitted that he mishandled Flair during the rise of the nWo. As the company’s focus shifted to the infamous faction, Flair felt that he was kicked by the wayside. Bischoff said it was just business and he didn’t intend to make Flair feel like he was being disrespected.
“Nobody was more enthusiastic about bringing Hulk Hogan in than Ric. Nobody was more enthusiastic about doing a job for Hulk Hogan than Ric Flair. He wanted to be the heel to Hulk Hogan’s babyface because that was a perfect role for Ric. There seems to be a lot of bitterness and anger and I was the target of that for guys that were in WWF at the time, it doesn’t surprise me, but it doesn’t reflect what was going on,” Bischoff explained. “I loved Ric Flair. What he hasn’t talked about in his book was that when he was part of the booking committee and he and his family–all of them, would come down to the MGM Studios and his family and my family were all staying down the yacht club together and we became really close friends. That is why when I hear about some of the stuff that supposedly happened during that period of time when I treated him like dirt, that just didn’t happen.
“Granted, in 1996 when my attention shifted and when the nWo became the focus of the company, and by the way, rightfully so, because it was the first time within the company in its history that the company started making money,” he continued. “It wasn’t because I was a mark, or I was friends with Hulk Hogan or wanted to be, or Scott Hall or Kevin Nash. It was happening and the shift of focus and the energy that was being put in the nWo was being put in it because it was the first time we had made some money and it had to be that way. What happened with Ric was that he felt less important to the company. He felt less important to me, and this is where I f**ked up. Rather than communicating, which I could have done more effectively but I didn’t. I am not making excuses, and I feel horrible about it, but it is what it is. It wasn’t because I didn’t respect Ric or that I didn’t like him or that he didn’t have any value, quite the opposite frankly, but all of the focus was going in a different direction away from Ric and it affected Ric. It made him angry and it caused a lot of problems.”
If any portion of these quotes are used, please be sure to credit 83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff with an h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: 83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.