After the demise of WCW, many people were shocked to see Eric Bischoff jump ship and join WWE. Bischoff became the Raw General Manager in July 2002 which was two years after his last WCW TV appearance and over a year after WCW was purchased by WWE.
But Bischoff could have been with WWE much sooner. Just a couple of weeks after WWE purchased WCW in March 2001, Bischoff says he got a call from Jim Ross about a potential opportunity. Bischoff recalled that conversation with JR and revealed why he turned down the first WWE offer presented to him.
"It was short and sweet, really," Bischoff said on his podcast about the call with Ross. "The history between JR and I has been well documented over the years. JR was very bitter I think when the whole regime change took place after Bill Watts was fired. Jim got demoted into television syndication, which he took very badly. As a result, Jim wanted to quit. He voiced that to Bill Shaw, who was my boss at the time. Bill Shaw came to me and said, what should we do? He wants to leave. My response was, 'Let him leave. You're not going to want to keep him hostage here as bitter as he is. All he is going to do is make the people around him bitter and miserable and you are going to have more of the politics and in-fighting that we have been trying to get away from, so if he doesn't want to be here then let him go.'"
Bischoff says that somehow evolved into him firing Jim Ross and that when Ross called him about WWE, that backstory set the tone of their conversation.
"When he did call me, I can tell he wasn't excited about it," Bischoff says of Ross. "There was no positive energy. He wasn't rude or disrespectful, but it was a very matter-of-fact, unemotional phone call. He certainly wasn't trying to sell me anything let's put it that way. He called me and said, 'You know, we would like to bring you in. I think we may have something that may work out.'"
Bischoff was intrigued but the timing of the call wasn't ideal. He would have had to travel from Wyoming to WWE headquarters over Fourth of July weekend which also doubles as his wife's birthday and the anniversary of his father's death. With so much family in town, Bischoff would have needed a great storyline in order to leave them and meet with WWE.
"I wasn't really too excited taking off in the middle of a weekend as people were flying in all throughout the country to visit," admitted Bischoff. "I think that would have been kind of rude, but I was open minded. I thought, well, if it is the right idea, and if it makes sense then I will do it. I asked Jim what exactly he was thinking.
"I am sure he wanted to kayfabe me and I don't blame him for that at all. I respect it, but he kind of led me to believe that nothing was quite figured out; they were bouncing some ideas around and wanted to see if I could make it in for Monday. I just said, 'Look Jim, I really appreciate the opportunity and thank you so much for calling, but I can't do it on this short of notice,' and that was it. He said, 'Okay, great. I will pass on the information.' He hung up the phone. When I hung up, I thought, well, that is the last time I will hear from them. Not too many people turn down the WWE and get a call back, so that was the first contact that I had with them and I had to turn them down."
Bischoff did get a call back a year later and had a five-year run with WWE. He then joined Impact Wrestling in 2009 and had various roles with them during a four-year stint. Bischoff last appeared on WWE television during the Raw 25 episode in which he was featured in a segment with the other Raw GMs.
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.