When Eric Bischoff joined WWE as general manager for Monday Night RAW, it was a huge surprise to the wrestling world. On a recent episode of his 83 Weeks podcast, Bischoff discussed his WWE debut. He revealed that his first interactions with Vince McMahon were more courteous than he would have expected.
"I have said this before, because I often get asked about the first conversation with after everything going down with the Monday Night Wars and the lawsuits and me calling him out and all the crazy stuff that went out, so people are naturally curious on that first conversation like, and again, I just want to be careful that I do a good job with this because I want to be as accurate as I can be. I wasn't overly excited about it but I was really curious and really deep down inside hopeful. I think deep down inside I was ready and I had enough time that had passed between Jim Ross's call and almost a year later Vince McMahon calling me; enough time had passed, even more opportunity to kind of put the past in my rearview mirror and compartmentalize a couple of open issues that I had, probably in 2001 when JR called me and even before that," Bischoff said. "I was angry about the whole AOL Time Warner thing and the entire deal falling apart. There was a list of other things that went on during that time, some of which I still haven't spoken about till this day, just the way things were handled internally, but by the time Vince McMahon called me, all those things were so far away from my rearview mirror that I started to forget about it. I just put it out of my mind, and deep down inside I was hopeful that something was going to work out because I knew, and I had time to think about it, but I knew that if I went to WWE as a character--by the way, even before Vince McMahon even called me, after Kevin Nash gave me the heads up and had a day and a night to think about it, I was almost positive that they weren't going to call me to come in for any kind of management role. I knew that wasn't going to happen. I knew that if they were going to call would be for a talent position.
"I thought about that overnight in an anticipation over Vince McMahon's call because I wanted to have a clear handle where my head was at should Vince McMahon offer me a gig, and I realize that because of everything that had happened at WCW--don't get me wrong, I look at everything now and am grateful for everything; the good and the bad because it is all experience. Sometimes people overvalue positive experience and undervalue negative experience, but I learned far more from my mistakes than I ever have from my successes. I also knew in my heart that my wrestling story didn't end the way I wanted it to. It didn't end on a high note in other words," he continued. "As I thought about that I was in my office; I knew the call was coming and was thinking to myself, you know what? This is my opportunity now to finish my book the way I wanted to finish it. To add that last chapter to my wrestling history and make sure that the last chapter--whether it lasts six weeks or six months, make sure that the last chapter in my wrestling book ends up on a really positive note because I knew that if I went there as a talent the only thing I would be in control over is my talent and my ability and how hard I work and the work I put into that. Not to sound like a pompous a**, I also knew I was good on camera and I had the ability and I had my head on straight and I knew I would do a great job there. I knew that I had worked with a bunch of people I had never worked with before, which was another important consideration for me. I had done everything that I possibly could with the cast of characters. There was no real fresh ideas for me. Had we purchased WCW I probably would have not been on camera. I kind of played everything out as best as I could. I knew that if I had gone to WWE, I knew that I would be working with Steve Austin and The Undertaker, John Cena, Randy Orton and a whole bunch of other guys I had never had the chance to have worked with before, so that was my mindset waiting for the phone call."
Bischoff said that he had heard stories about McMahon through former employees, but he didn't want to let other people's opinions cloud his perception of his potential boss. He said he did his best to remain open-minded for the call, and he was pleasantly surprised with how nice McMahon was.
"I am a pretty good judge of character, at least I think I am in some ways. I am occasionally wrong. As I get older my percentages are much better. I am a pretty good read of people generally speaking. Keep in mind, I had not spoken with Vince McMahon since I had interviewed the broom over a decade earlier, and even that conversation was so brief it didn't really qualify as a conversation. I didn't know Vince at all, but I knew of him through other people, but I had already made up my mind years before that I don't really care what other people--when other people tell me what someone else is like, you know, I listen but I take it with a grain of salt. People usually have their own issues and their own agendas or trying to be funny. Other people tell you what you think you want to hear. I crossed that a lot in my life, especially in wrestling. I am not going to name names because it doesn't serve any purpose right now," he said. "The people who came from WWE to work for me told me all kinds of things about Vince McMahon; of course, when they came to WCW when they are trying to endear themselves to the new boss and to the new company it is human nature sometimes. I had learned that over the years so even though I didn't know Vince McMahon, and knew of him from other people, I didn't put much credibility into it. Like I said, when Vince and I had that first phone call my read, which I trust my own read, even though I am not 100% most of the time, but I do trust my read of people, my read was that this guy is genuinely a good guy. He just is. He didn't have to go that far to make me feel as good as he tried to make me feel. He didn't have to do that. It could have been just a business conversation and a little bit of light-hearted banter things would have been fine, but he make sure right off the bat that he wanted to put me at ease, which he definitely did. I just thought that was classy."
As for his debut, Bischoff said he what excited him the most was the opportunity to have an on-air character as opposed to simply joining the company as a backstage producer. He said he usually tries to dictate his own creative, but he was willing to accept whatever script he was given because he knew it would be a huge deal for him to join WWE. His biggest concern was making sure the debut would be a huge surprise for the fans.
"I did have a pretty good idea. I mean, I knew I was going to be the new general manager. I knew it was going to be a surprise. I knew that I was going to kick off cutting a big promo but I didn't know what the promo was going to be. I also knew--it was a cool thing, for me at least it was, it was such a relief to be just a talent again and it didn't matter. I just didn't care what the script said. It's so hard to talk about because it's hard for me to express my feelings sometimes, but I was so anxious to pull off the surprise, I didn't care what the script says, I am going to make it work," he said. "I am going to own it, and make it work, whatever they want me to say I am going to say because now I am just a talent. I don't have to think about it anymore, other than making sure I do a great job. It is not my decision as to whether it is a good idea or a bad idea, I don't give a f**k. Someone else gets paid for that. My job as a talent is just to perform to the very best of my ability based on what they want me to do. It was such a very liberating feeling for me after everything I had gone through. I guess as part of a reason why, I don't want to make it sound like I didn't care when I say I didn't give a f**k. I don't mean that in a 'I don't care' kind of way, I mean it in a sense that I was so confident that it was going to work that it was irrelevant what the words were on the piece of paper, I knew I was going to make it work.
"Now, I will tell you, as confident as I was in myself and in the idea, I was successful in keeping it a surprise. Had it leaked out; had I read about it before making my appearance I wouldn't have been as confident about it. I would have been more concerned about what the words were, but I knew that since we kept it a secret it almost didn't matter. I could have walked out there and just drooled and we probably would have gotten a pretty good reaction. I was feeling great and knew the script was coming over. Someone sent me a message saying that the script is on its way. They slid it under my door and I opened it up thinking, 'Holy s**t! That is a lot of copy.' It was more than 2-3 pages I think. It was the longest script I had ever read to be honest. I had to get to work because I had to get it memorized. I don't know, it was a good 7-8 minute promo, which is a long time," he said. "It was also very important, because remember, I knew how WWE was based on talking with other people and in talking with Stephanie McMahon. They wanted it word for word. They didn't want me ad-libbing, they didn't want me paraphrasing, or sneaking in some of my own stuff, they wanted it to be word for word. I knew Kevin Dunn would be in the truck following along word for word as he is directing the shot, so I thought, okay, if I am going to impress these guys I have to deliver what they want so my goal at 2 pm, or wherever it was I got the script that I knew I had to read on live television, without a net was to just memorize the script word for word and not miss a beat."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please 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.