Fan signs at a wrestling show has become a staple for over 30 years. It has started to become less and less noticeable on live shows because WWE has been removing specific signs from fans who say things they don’t want shown on live T.V. In 1995, Eric Bischoff decided to remove specific signs from fans that didn’t lineup with their storylines and creative decisions. Years later, Bischoff decided to change his mind and let fans express themselves during the Attitude Era in whatever way they’d like.
During the 83 Weeks Podcast, Eric Bischoff covered Fall Brawl 1995 and talked about removing signs from certain fans. Bischoff said the decision was made solely by him and that Turner Broadcasting didn’t have much say early on in WCWs existence. He also said removing signs from fans was the wrong decision, and WWE has followed in his footsteps.
“It was my decision,” Bischoff said. “Turner didn’t have any influence; they could have, but that didn’t happen. WCW was about as autonomous an operation as it could possibly be. At least, it was for 1993, ’94, ’95, ’96. It started to change, but for that 3 or 4 [year] period of time, we were very autonomous. We had very little influence, control, concern, or communication from anybody from Turner Broadcasting unless we did something really f***ing stupid.
“Looking back, I think it was the wrong decision. WWE has probably followed in my footsteps of wrong decisions in some cases. I think the fact that there’s such a strict ban on signs in WWE is one of the reasons it’s lost some of its energy. When you let fans express themselves, when you let them come in and tell you how they feel, cheer on their favorites, take shots at people that are not their favorites, that’s part of the fun. When you take the fun away from the crowd, it definitely affects it.”
Bischoff continued to mention how he changed his decision when WCW Monday Nitro and the Monday Night War was born. He said he would grab signs from fans and show them live on Nitro to show how much of a party it was to come to the show.
“You’ll notice that when Nitro came along, I reversed my decision and started encouraging signs,” Bischoff said. “So much so that I would grab signs that I found entertaining and walk to the ring with them, showing them to the camera because I knew they would get a lot of attention. I wasn’t necessarily doing that because I loved the sign so much, but it was my way of communicating to the audience that when you come to Nitro, it’s a party and you can bring your sh** and have fun.
“I know sometimes the signs are a pain in the ass and people do things and write things that are inappropriate, or go against the creative grain, but that’s the fun of it. That’s what makes wrestling fun. Just like tailgating made football fun.”
Bischoff also mentioned how annoying the WCW magazine was for him and the company. He said the magazine never generated any revenue and caused the company to manage creative storylines around it.
“For me, the magazine was more a pain in the ass than anything else,” Bischoff said. “Trying to coordinate stories to make sure that things were along the same timelines was a real challenge. To me, it wasn’t worth it. The magazine was a real pain in my ass. I didn’t want the magazine; it had never generated revenue. It might of been my #5 or #6 on the list of things I wanted to make go away.
“Nobody came to me and said, ‘here’s why it’s not making any money and here’s how we’re going to change that.’ That conversation never happened. Nobody had the answer as to why or how — they just wanted to keep doing it, because we’ve always done that and we need a magazine. Why do you need a magazine? WWF has a magazine.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit 83 Weeks with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.