Eric Bischoff Recalls Pitching Heel Turn To Hulk Hogan A Year Before The NWO

As previously noted, AEW World Champion Chris Jericho recently welcomed Booker T, 'Diamond' Dallas Page, Eric Bischoff, and Scott Hall to Talk Is Jericho aboard Chris Jericho's Rock 'N' Wrestling Rager At Sea: Part Deux. Among many other things, Bischoff talked about how he came up with the idea for the nWo.

According to Bischoff, he got the idea for the nWo back in 1993 when he was studying a lot of NJPW because American pro wrestling was not hot while the genre was still very hot in Japan.

"About 1993 or so, I started spending a lot of time in Japan with New Japan Pro-Wrestling really trying to? that was back when Masa Saito was very instrumental in bringing a lot of the Americans over." Bischoff continued, "it was really Brad Riggins was my connection. Brad and I knew each other in high school and when I got the spot in WCW, Brad and I were trying to resurrect the relationship between New Japan and WCW because Bill Watts pretty much had burned it to the ground. And in that process, I was spending a lot of time over there. I will try to keep this really short because we don't have a lot of time. But I was studying what was working in Japan because the bsueinss back in '93, '94, they were hot as hell. They were putting 60, 80,000, 100,000 people in Tokyo Dome for the big shows and here in the United States, WWF at the time, WWE, and WCW, were having a hard time in the live event side of things."

Bischoff, who had recently been critical of the predictability of WWE programming, said he noticed the realism of Japanese pro wrestling and wanted WCW to be more reality-based.

"I was over there, kind of studying the differences in the way the product was presented over in Japan and how it is over here in the States. And one of the things I noticed is it was so much more real there. The storylines, the characters, the action in the ring [were] all more reality-based and here in the United States, it was more characters, kind of comedy and cartoonish. And I was kind of watching the inter-company wars and that kind of thing. And that's where the idea started." Bischoff added, "Scott [Hall] became available; Kevin Nash became available; and what started out as a loose idea I had became a reality."

While Bischoff wanted more realism in WCW programming after being influenced by Japanese pro wrestling, the nWo storyline presented itself when Hall and Nash became available. In Bischoff's view, Hall and Nash leaving WCW for WWE and returning to WCW for revenge was the perfect reality-based storyline.  

"It didn't come from Japan," Bischoff claimed. "The reality part of it, the reality portion of the story where two guys, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, who, by the way, used to work for WCW – this is what made this thing work, alright? It was a perfect storm. Scott Hall and Kevin Nash worked in WCW. They were in WCW when I came to WCW, right? They left because they thought they weren't getting paid what they were worth. They thought they could make more money. They thought they could be bigger stars. And they were right and they left, and they went on to WWF where they became big stars. And then, when it came time for them to leave and they became available – and this is the shoot part of this – I went, 'wait a minute! This is a great premise for a great story!' Here's Scott Hall coming back to WCW to get revenge on the people that didn't treat him the way he should have been treated. It was a perfect reality-based storyline."

During the podcast, Bischoff divulged that he did not have to get permission from higher ups at Turner to offer big money contracts unless the deal was worth more than $1 million. 'Easy E' went on to explain that WCW lacked the revenue streams that would make profit-sharing possible. In this way, WCW had to offer guaranteed deals to compete with WWE.

"One of the reasons that WWE, WWF at the time, was able to offer downside guarantees that were so minimal and guys could still make so much money was because there was a lot of profit participation in the pay-per-views, in the house show revenues, specifically licensing and merchandising. Those were all revenue streams that WCW didn't have at the time. WCW had no live event gate. We were giving tickets away to winos who would fall asleep at ringside drinking their cheap wine. Hey, there's no hate here! There's no hate, but we were giving tickets away, there was no licensing and merchandising, pay-per-view were almost nonexistent from a profit point of view, so there was no upside to profit-share with, so the only way we could possibly compete for the upper echelon of talent was to offer that minimum guarantee. It wasn't because we wanted to or because Ted Turner had all this money and wanted to throw it out there, it was, look, if you wanted to be in the business and you want someone like Scott Hall and Kevin Nash or Hulk Hogan and ultimately others, you have to write them a cheque because if you don't write them a cheque, they are going to be able to make it over in WWF." Bischoff recalled, "I had a budget cap or a discretionary cap of $1 million, so any deal that I entered into, if it was $1 million or less, I didn't have to pick up the phone. If it was $1,000,000.01, I would have to run it by the finance committee."

Apparently, Bischoff unsuccessfully tried to convince Hogan to turn heel a year before The Outsiders' WCW debut because everyone knew that red and yellow gimmick was no longer working.

"A year before all this went down, I went down to Tampa [Florida] to meet with Hulk because the red and yellow thing, the babyface thing, the Hulkamania thing, wasn't working. He knew it wasn't working. I knew it wasn't working. The fans knew it wasn't working. Everybody knew it wasn't working, so I flew down there and said, 'okay, I'm going to go down there and take my best shot at convincing Hulk to turn heel." Bischoff remembered pitching the heel turn to Hogan, "I'm selling my guts out and I see him doing this, it's this funky thing he does with his lips. It looks like a fish. And he's stroking his Fu Manchu and I'm thinking he's either really loving this or he's going to f–king punch me. He's doing this and he goes, 'brother, I have to pick the kids up from school. Thanks for coming. Bye. You'll obviously never know what it's like to walk a mile in these boots. Thanks for coming by.' He basically threw me out of his house, but he did it very elegantly. Like, I didn't feel bad, but I was on the way out the door."

While Hogan was off filming a movie, when Hall and Nash debuted for WCW and Bischoff got a call from Hogan about meeting him in California. During this meeting, Hogan suggested himself as the nWo's third man.

"So Hulk is off doing this movie called Santa With Muscles, right, and while he's off doing this movie, what's going on in Atlanta [Georgia] is Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and the 'who's the third guy going to be', right? I think Kevin just powerbombed me off the stage in Baltimore [Maryland] or something. So the next thing you know, my phone rings and it's Hulk! He goes, 'hey brother, can you fly out to California? I'm stuck on location. I can't leave, but I'd really like to talk to you.' 'Sure.' So I go out to California." Bischoff said, "so I sat down with him and he goes, 'so who's the third man going to be?' Yeah, he didn't know and it was going to be Sting because I had been talking to Sting all along. The original third man was going to be Sting because Hulk had already turned me down, right? So the idea of pitching it to Hulk didn't even occur to me, like, the farthest thing from my mind, and Sting was very tan at the time, so it worked for me. Then, I got the phone call to come out to California. I sit down, smoke a couple of Cuban cigars, my head spinning off my shoulders, I shoot a couple of beers, and he says, 'who's the third man going to be?' I'm thinking, 'well, I'm not going to tell him because then he'll tell Jimmy Hart and Jimmy'll tell everybody.' So I said, 'well, who do you think should be the third man?' I went, 'oh f–k, here we go again. I'm going back to Atlanta.' He said, 'you're looking at him, brother.' I went, 'okay!' Because he saw the momentum. He saw what was going on with Scott and Kevin. He could feel it and he threw his name into the hat. I said, 'that makes a lot of sense. Let's see if that works.' And once he threw his name into the hat – and I don't mean to ignore you folks over here, I'm sorry – once he threw his name in the hat – it's good to meet you guys – I knew that was going to be the answer, but the thing I wasn't sure of was whether or not he would really follow through because he was a little unpredictable, let's put it that way, at the time. So I had Sting as my back up and Hulk as my A-choice."

Check out the podcast here. If you use any of the quotes from this article, please credit Talk Is Jericho with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.