During a recent episode of the 83 Weeks Podcast, Eric Bischoff covered the 2nd WCW Monday Nitro, which marked the first time Monday Night RAW and Nitro went head-to-head. On that night, WCW drew 2 million viewers and defeated WWE in the ratings war. Bischoff said those inside WCW were all shocked to be able to pull this off so soon against a company that had been building its fanbase for 20+ years.
“To be able to do that on our second episode, going head-to-head with WWE that had spent 20 years as the dominant wrestling organization,” Bischoff said. “To me, it was shocking to be able to pull this one out. On only our second show with minimal amount of marketing, and to be able to defeat RAW coming out of the shoot in our first head-to-head competition was really a great feeling of accomplishment.”
After the 2nd episode of Nitro was such a success, the Turners called Bischoff after the show to say how happy they were. He said the company wasn’t too positive going into the show because they would be going head-to-head with WWE, and they had no idea they would have such great success so early on.
“They were ecstatic,” Bischoff said. “Here’s the truth: we were all surprised. The truth of the matter is, internally, we were all just happy to be competitive. We didn’t tell ourselves if we can get 75% of their audience or 75% of what they do, we’ll consider that a success. None of us expected to defeat WWE.”
Bischoff continued to talk about what it was like to talk to Ted Turner on the phone during the heat of the Monday Night Wars. He said Turner would call him on every Tuesday after the ratings came out and was more excited than Bischoff to hear the numbers WCW was bringing in.
“Ted was a very animated, down to earth leader,” Bischoff said. “When Ted would call, he would call for a long time on Tuesday when the ratings came out. But when I talked to Ted on the phone, it was like talking to somebody that I had known for 20-30 years. When he would call on Tuesdays, he was like a little kid. He was more excited than I was and I was pretty damn excited; I was on cloud nine.”
Bischoff talked about how much he enjoyed working for Turner during the peak of WCW. He said if Turner called him now, he’d get up and go work for him in a heartbeat.
“If Ted Turner called me right now and said, ‘Hey Eric, I need you to come work for me at the ranch, but here’s the catch: you have to cut off your right hand.’ I’d do it,” Bischoff said. “I’d work for Ted in a heartbeat. He was an inspirational leader, he was a risk taker, he appreciated people who took risks, he was not afraid of failure while most people are. Ted was not afraid to fail, he was more afraid of not trying and not conquering that next horizon.”
During the Monday Night Wars, Vince McMahon would send letters to Ted Turner trying to get him to fold WCW because of reasons like the company was embarrassing to Ted’s good name. Bischoff talked about the letters Ted would receive from McMahon, and how Vince would try and push Turner to drop WCW for things his own company would do weeks later.
“Whenever a letter would come to Ted, Bill Shaw would call me and have me come to his office and read it to me, show it to me, and laugh about it or ask about it,” Bischoff said. “Vince was petitioning a lot for Ted. He was trying to embarrass Ted, trying to create some anxiety with the shareholders of Turner Broadcasting. Vince was trying to create some unrest and anxiety by being very, very critical about WCW.
“Whenever you’d see blood in WCW, Vince would write these letters from the king’s court to Ted criticizing him, and WCW, and the health and welfare of the talent by saying it’s gross, it’s crap, and all this. And then he’d turn around and do the same thing a month later. None of us took any of those letters very seriously, and it was pretty obvious what Vince was trying to do. We all just chuckled about it.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit 83 Weeks with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.