Eric Bischoff joined Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette to talk about numerous wrestling topics, including his short stint as the Creative Director of Smackdown back in 2019. Bischoff revealed that he didn’t go into the gig with a ton of creative ideas, and even told WWE owner and chairman Vince McMahon that he wasn’t consistently following the product. He was instead more focused on adding more storytelling elements to WWE’s product.
“I didn’t go in with a lot of what people would consider creative ideas,” Bischoff said. “And I told this to Vince before I agreed to come on board, or he agreed to hire me I should say. I hadn’t been watching the product much. I’d drop in every once in a while like I still do. I probably watch it more now because I find myself being asked questions about the current product, and I’d be a knucklehead if I don’t know anything. So I’ll pick out certain things that are topical and I’ll tune in to see how they’re progressing. And I didn’t even do that back then.
“Every once in a while, if there was nothing else on and I was in the right mood, I’d drop in on wrestling for twenty minutes to a half an hour. Then I’d bail out and go do something else. So I didn’t go in with a lot of ‘hey, what if we have a match between this guy and this guy? And what if that match leads to that?’ I didn’t have anything like that. But one of the things that I am disappointed in myself is that I really think that what’s missing, and this goes for WWE and everybody else that’s producing professional wrestling for content, is the de-emphasis of a story in a time where the audience is watching so much great, compelling story, and great story structure, and great characters on so many other platforms.
“Scripted entertainment is probably more successful now than its ever been. And wrestling, rather than gravitating a more sophisticated storytelling structure, (hasn’t). Not an angle turns into a wrestling match, because that’s what wrestling does. That’s what wrestling has almost always done. Every once in a while, they’ll stumble into a good story that will really resonate, but it’s more by accident than design. And I think that if wrestling today would re-emphasize and introduce a more sophisticated storytelling formula — and I told Vince, here’s where the opportunity lies. The audience is getting smaller and smaller for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the stories suck.
“There are just no stories, there’s no structure to them. The beginning, middle, and end are thrown together haphazardly. That’s not how stories are generally created. They weren’t when I was there last time, and I don’t think they are anywhere else. There’s a way to do it, and that’s what I’m disappointed in myself in. I wasn’t able to play the game more and I wasn’t able to manage myself well enough to be there long enough to really try to effect that change.”
Eric Bischoff ended up only lasting a few months on the job before he was replaced by Bruce Prichard. Bischoff has had a ton of time to look back on what went wrong, and he ultimately concludes he put too much stock into how people perceived him instead of coming in aggressively, as he believes McMahon would’ve liked.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about this, partially because I get asked that a lot and it’s forced me to think about it,” Bischoff said. “Here’s where I fu*ked up. I went into WWE overly concerned about the way people perceive me. And by that, I don’t mean people I meet out on the street, but in a wrestling environment, there’s been so much narrative about how heavy-handed I can be and difficult at times. Some of that is true, I don’t deny it. But it’s been way blown out of proportion. And it was really important to me, this is my error in judgment, it was more important to me to fit into the system and eventually try to implement my ideas and the things that I wanted to do. I don’t think that’s what Vince wanted. Now looking back on it, I think ‘what if I would’ve gone in there and been the kind of alpha executive we all know Vince likes?’ And I could’ve done that because that’s not alien to my nature, to be very aggressive and focused. And sometimes it rubs people the wrong way.”
One problem Eric Bischoff didn’t have during this run was a lack of face time with McMahon, with who he said he interacted more than he wanted to. He clarified however that he has no issues with McMahon, and reiterated that he should’ve been more aggressive in this approach and given himself more time to get acquainted with both the writing team and the talent.
“No. In fact, I had way more of it than I wanted to,” Bischoff said with a laugh. “Look, I like Vince. We’re not like ‘let’s go out to dinner’ friends. We’re not ‘ride or die’ friends, none of that. But I have a lot of respect for Vince, and I’m really disappointed in myself that I didn’t manage myself better to get more of an opportunity to work with him. Here’s where I made that mistake though because it is a catch-22 except I knew going in, based on not what I learned firsthand from Vince but the fact that I competed with the guy, I kind of knew what he was about from that perspective. Everything I’ve ever heard about Vince is he wants you to come in and take control. He wants you to take ownership. He wants to be surrounded by aggressive people who approach their business in an aggressive way. That’s who he is. Of course, he’s going to want somebody just like him, or as close to him or his approach to things as possible. And I went in taking the ‘okay, I’m just going to work my way into the system, and when the time is right (do my thing).’
“And by the way, it would take me at least six months or more to really get to understand what my assets were, really get to understand the writers and what some were really good at and what some weren’t good at so you’re not putting them into situations that they’re probably going to fail at. Cause you’re just handing them assignments as opposed to really nurturing them and helping guide them into the types of scenes and writing that they’re most successful at, or could be most successful at. That just takes time. And then you got to get to know the talent, and not just backstage, ‘hey, how are you? My name is Eric Bischoff.’ ‘Hey, I know who you are. Yeah, okay, great.’ ‘Let’s get together and talk about your ideas.’ ‘Okay, I got to get to a rehearsal.’ That’s not how you do that. You need to spend some time, at least I do. Maybe other people have different talents and they can look at somebody from across the room and go, ‘okay, you’d be perfect at that.’ But I don’t think that’s true.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription
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