During a recent episode of the 83 Weeks Podcast focusing on Starrcade 1991, Eric Bischoff talked about the US Championship during that time being a launching pad directly to the WCW Championship. Bischoff said this was a perfect way to make belts mean something and used in a way where talent wanted to become champion for a reason.
“Absolutely love it,” Bischoff said. “We often hear about belts meaning something, that’s a general criticism I’ve been hearing since 1987. One of the ways that making a championship mean something is the establishment of structure that creates a journey. The journey is a big part of the story. I think when you have the structure of a US title being the last step to the ultimate prize, that inherently creates a lot of story, structure, potential. Without it, it’s just random.
“Matches are made randomly, the stakes as a result are kind of non-existent. I’m a firm believer that you can’t go back to the way things used to be, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some elements of what worked in the past that you can’t adapt to the current product to enhance it.”
Bischoff continued to talk about AEWs rankings system that currently helps them decide the number one contender for each of their titles. He said he approves of the idea strongly because it gives them the opportunity to tell stories that make sense.
“One of the things I like about AEW is the rankings,” Bischoff said. “It provides opportunity for conflict right off the bat. Even if there’s nothing going on today with regard to conflict as a result of the standings, the potential is there. When you call back to it and you need it, it’s right there. You’re not making it up all at once, this stuff is not popping up out of nowhere. You don’t have to use it all the time but when you need it, it’s there.
“The audience already understands it, they’ve already been exposed to it and now all you need to do is create the conflict that can be born out of it. I’m a big fan of that, I think its sorely lacking in today’s product.”
Bischoff went in depth on why there’s so many issues today with storytelling and world championships. He asked specifically why would anyone want to be world champion today because there’s no reason behind it.
“Why do people fight for that?” Bischoff said. “Why is it really a goal? It’s not stated. In Boxing, winning a World Heavyweight championship means you won the biggest part of the purse. It was about the money. We’ve lost that. What does it really mean [to be champion]? Becoming a world champion, what does it really mean for an honest relatable way to the audience?
“All it means is that you’re going to be in the main event a lot. There’s nothing that the average person can relate to, stakes. They’re non-existent. In this case, the championship is really nothing but a prop. It’s something to hold onto while you’re telling a story but it’s not relatable to the audience.”
Bischoff said top stars like Roman Reigns need to explain why they want to be champion and why the belt means so much to them. He also said the average person can’t relate to anyone wanting to be champion because there’s no relatable bonuses when you win that title.
“I would love to hear a Roman Reigns, I’m not sure if he’s a heel or a baby face at this point, but what does it mean to him personally to be [WWE Champion] from a financial standpoint that people can relate to?” Bischoff asked. “Things like that are important. They resonate with the audience. I would like to see structure and relatable stakes and discussion as to why does anyone really care to be World Champion.
“The average person can’t relate to the fact that if Roman Reigns wins the World Championship he gets a really really touring bus as a dressing room. They don’t relate to it. That’s a perk, tell me about the money man. What does it mean to your life, your children, why is it so freaking important to you? I don’t often hear those other things articulated, it’s just ‘Oh, he’s the champion.’ So what? It means he’s going to be on the pay per view every month. Oh, okay cool.”
Bischoff discussed how the pay of a talent pay can be such an important way of telling stories. He also shared if he’s ever heard of a talent being fired from WWE or any company for sharing with the media how much they’ve made and what he would’ve done in WCW if that happened.
“No, I never have,” Bischoff said. “I can tell you my perspective, when I would find out or be convinced that someone was bragging about or using how much they were making to stir things up in a locker room, it would dramatically in a profound way impact my level of respect for said talent. It changed a lot of things for me. People like Sting, kept his s–t to himself. He was a professional about it.
“[In WWE] I’ve heard many stories directly from the individuals involved how they would use information they came across accidentally or intentionally, how they would use that to stir up stuff in the locker room. If I couldn’t fire somebody for that, I would certainly want to.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Grilling JR with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.