On January 4th, 2010, Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan made their debuts on TNA television as a part of the new era of TNA wrestling. For a short period, the company moved their Impact show from Thursday nights to Monday nights to go head-to-head with Monday Night Raw.
Recently on his podcast, 83 Weeks, Bischoff discussed his time in TNA. Bischoff admitted that he wasn’t as excited or involved in the company as many thought he was.
“I wasn’t excited about going to TNA,” Bischoff said. “I didn’t aspire to end up there. I felt like it was a step down from my last run in WWE as a performer and certainly a step down from WCW at the peak of Monday Nitro’s success. It was not something I was genuinely excited about. I did it, I made the choice to go to TNA, partly because I was missing the business a bit. It wasn’t a career move for me, but it was trying to scratch that itch. TNA didn’t want me, they didn’t aspire to have me on their team anymore than I aspired to be on the team. We had a mutual disinterest in each other, but the common denominator was Hulk Hogan.
“Dixie Carter really really wanted Hulk Hogan to join TNA. Hulk wouldn’t consider joining TNA unless I was positioned to, at the very least, watch over his creative. I wasn’t interested in being a part of the creative or even running the creative team on TNA with the exception of those storylines or characters that directly interfaced with Hulk Hogan’s character. That was why I went there and I negotiated Hulks deal. Once I got there and got a little bit more comfortable, my attitude changed. I didn’t look down on them in a way, I didn’t look at it as much as a step down as I did prior to getting in because there’s a lot of good talent there. Dixie had hired every ex-WWE or ex-WCW talent that daddy could pay for.”
Bischoff discussed the move to Monday nights to go head to head with WWE’s flagship show, Monday Night Raw, and what his thought process was in convincing the higher ups doing so.
“I was very much involved in that,” Bischoff said. “I was very supportive of it, if you go back and look at the context and the timing of what was going on at that point, TNA bringing Hulk Hogan in was a move that got a lot of publicity. It wasn’t unlike the strategy or tactics that I used early on in WCW to get WCW on the map. To force or encourage viewers to sample the product which is why we went head to head. We knew if we went head to head we would create enough noise and encourage if not force viewers to at least sample us. We knew that we would still get enough free publicity within the wrestling community, there would be an interest to see how this was going to work. It was our way of putting TNA on the map.
“TNA made a big move by bringing in Hulk Hogan, by bringing Ric Flair in, Ken Anderson in, Jeff Hardy. With all the new names that were coming in and all the established names that were coming back, we thought going head to head was a great way, not necessarily to recreate the Monday Night Wars, that was a false narrative, the intent was to put as many eyeballs on the TNA brand as possible to build an audience. We knew going in that there was a good chance we were going to move back to Thursday nights relatively quickly, it was a fall back position we knew we had. We wanted to ride that Monday Night head to head competition and suck as much publicity out of it and brand awareness we possibly could. We delivered, in that January episode where Hulk and I first showed up, an excess of 2 million viewers. That’s a Monday Night Raw rating folks, that’s how many people are watching Raw and Smackdown now.”
Bischoff explained TNA’s ultimate goal for the Monday Night battle being to create publicity and buzz to try and get some fans to sample their product.
“It’s not a strategy that we created, its competition,” Bischoff said. “It’s a way to get people to sample the product. How do we maximize the addition of Hulk Hogan to the TNA brand? How do we exploit that to the maximum potential, how do we do it? We thought going head to head would do it. We knew that the peripheral wrestling audience, the dirt sheets, would be buzzing about it, either ripping it apart or putting it over. One or the other, didn’t matter. As long as they were talking about it, they were encouraging people to at least sample it out. To either validate the criticism or validate the choice to do it, to make a big move.
“TNA needed to make a big move, they were quite successful as a small niche product in certain segments in the country. They had some of the same problems that WCW had early on in that they weren’t really popular on the west coast, they didn’t have a lot of upper midwest success, they were popular in certain parts of the country, but for the most part in a national brand they were pretty niche. Bringing Hogan and Flair in was a way to change that perception. That’s all that was, let’s let the world know we’re here and we’re here to put on a good show and there’s no better way to do it then make a big move and go slap the giant in the face and see what happens.”
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.