The Professional 3 1.13.14: Reviewing Eric Bischoff's 'Controversy Creates Cash''
Posted by Jon Harder on 01.13.2014
Inspired by the talk on TNA's financial future and Jeff Jarrett with Toby Keith, Jon decides to talk Eric Bischoff and go in depth in his 2006 release from WWE Books.
Welcome everyone to another edition of the Professional 3 on 411mania.com! I'm Jon Harder and another week of wrestling is in the books! I just want to state before we go any further that the WWE Network might be the greatest thing ever invented for any die-hard wrestling fan. The only negative for me on this whole deal is that I truly will not have the time to watch it. As an older dude in his late 20s, I've always dreamed of a major announcement and format to be created. However, with a girlfriend who has threatened to make my life difficult if I never socialize again due to this innovative evolution of content viewing, it'll be a little more difficult to enjoy this groundbreaking idea. With a tone of extremely slight disappointment inside my psyche, nonetheless, I intend to bring this week's column to a very unique turning point for myself and for the readers of the P3.
Before we go any further, please check out the Hardway Podcast on TheJonHarder.com with Nubius Black! Nubius is an independent wrestler from the mid-1990s South Philadelphia independents who truly knows the scene! Starting off on ring crew for ECW in the pre-extreme days and working his way through the center of the Northeast capital for Indy wrestling, Nubius has paid his dues and truly learned the meaning of having fun in the sport of kings. You can find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rodney.johnson.735944.
Also, you can follow me on Twitter at @TheJonHarder. I appreciate positive and negative tweets towards me and everything in between. Plus I love random spurts of cursing tweets. For some reason, I just laugh hysterically.
Now, onto this week's piece. Although there is so much to discuss involving the WWE Network, I'd rather touch on a different subject entirely. I wanted to touch base around the OTHER mainstream company possessing prime time television. Over the past several months, there have been rumors of a sale regarding one Total Nonstop Action. According to several internet reports, Panda Energy had put TNA up on the bargaining table and a plethora of interested parties came to the table. In fact, the first rumored buyer in place was Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins and promoter of Resistance Pro. After weeks of rumors, it turned out that the rumor, although solid, was not all 100% true and Dixie Carter joked about it. Then, word came out that country music star Toby Keith was interested in making a purchase, alongside a group of investors. Ultimately, that fell through, Jeff Jarrett announced his resignation from the company, and now more online rumors are abound that Jarrett and Keith are putting the wheels in motion to start a brand new promotion. Not only that, but TNA is still up for sale! The suspense is truly building when it comes to this situation.
Honestly, it reminds me of when World Championship Wrestling was for sale in 2000. As a kid utilizing the internet and learning about the "dirt sheets" for the first time, rumors were always spreading about who would want WCW. There was, according to "The Death of WCW" by RD Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez, SFX Entertainment offering to buy WCW outright for $500 million. Sadly, the deal was turned down by Ted Turner personally. Then, Mandalay Sports, owned by Hollywood hotshot Peter Guber, was rumored to be purchasing the company. That fell through the cracks as well. Finally, right before the World Wrestling Federation purchased WCW, Eric Bischoff headed a group of investors, including Fusient Media Ventures, headed by Classic Sports Network founder (now ESPN Classic) Brian Bedol, to make a giant stab at the company that Bischoff had come THIS close with to putting the WWF out of business in the mid 1990s. Sadly, due to a whole mess of politics, cancelling television deals, and backdoor negotiating, the Fusient deal fell through. However, it really motivated me to learn more about this deal. More importantly, I wanted to learn more about the man who nearly pulled it off. I wanted to learn more about Eric Bischoff.
Say what you will about the man, but Eric Bischoff might be the #2 most powerful wrestling promoter of all time. Granted, his TNA run didn't come out too well, and the stories from the WCW days might have turned a lot of people off to his wrestling intellect, but Eric Bischoff is an extremely influential man in professional wrestling. He has a history for high ratings as a television producer, is well known for being the architect behind Monday Nitro, and quite possibly developed the greatest storyline of all time with the New World Order invasion. When push comes to shove, Bischoff has a lot of clout in wrestling. So when all of this popped into my head, I knew I had to make a purchase at the local Barnes and Noble. I went out and purchased his autobiography "Controversy Creates Cash" paperback. I sat down and within 5 days, I completed this read.
Knowing I had to write a Professional 3 this week, I knew I had to try something different. Doing a phenomenal job trying to find obscure knowledge and portraying such in a column is one thing, but being a niche writer can only take you so far. Knowing that I am definitely the uplifting guy on 411 with my pieces is nice, but every now and again, I feel should change it up. This week will be one of those weeks. In this edition of the P3, I am going to attempt a trial idea that is a first (and quite possibly the last) in my arsenal, and I hope you guys dig it. Without further hesitation...
THE PROFESSIONAL 3: BOOK REVIEW - Eric Bischoff with Jeremy Roberts "Controversy Creates Cash"
At 389 pages, this release from WWE Books from November 2006 entails the life story of Eric Bischoff and how he became involved with the world of pro wrestling. His story entails his upbringing, his athletic stature, work ethic, his breaking into the wrestling business in the AWA, climbing the corporate ladder of WCW to becoming President of the company, dealings with different talent and development of ideas within the company, losing his position and going home with pay in the fall of 1999, coming back and ultimately attempting to purchase the company in late 2000 to early 2001, working on projects with Jason Hervey, and ultimately returning to wrestling in 2002 under the WWE umbrella and subsequent departure in 2005.
I must say, that although Bischoff unveiled information within the book that I had never knew before, there was so much information LEFT OUT. As a reader of WWE books for years, I have always felt spoiled by Mick Foley's literary masterpiece "Have a Nice Day". It was lengthy, disposed a lot of behind-the-scenes information on what goes about being a wrestler and dealing with the day-in, day-out nature of the business, and in-depth viewpoints on the most important moments of his career. Honestly, it is considered the "wrestling bible" in many circles, including mine. Although 389 pages, the print was bigger than I expected and not as detailed on certain topics as I thought.
Maybe it's because I love the history of the business so much, but I truly expected to read more on the highs and lows of WCW, creatively speaking. The fact that the January 4, 1999 was not discussed in detail (besides a quick skim over on the Tony Schiavone / Mick Foley controversy) as a complete turning point in the official Monday Night Wars becoming one-sided was disheartening. The entire Ric Flair saga in 1998 that was a major point behind-the-scenes was barely touched upon with simply the closing line being, "To this day, I would do the same thing." (275) Hell, even the biggest angle ever that Bischoff ever pulled off, the nWo at Bash at the Beach 1996 wasn't described as detailed as I would have hoped for as a reader. When it comes to the nuances of history and the tell-all nature and description of the Eric Bischoff WCW experience, I felt completely underwhelmed with what was brought to the table.
The main focal point of the reasoning for me buying the book, which was to see how much information Bischoff would go into discussing his attempt of purchasing WCW alongside Fusient Media Ventures, was deflating. I would have loved to read his detailed business infrastructure on how he would have handled pay-scale for certain talent on certain levels. Seeing how WCW's creative was shaping up in 2001, I was hoping for the planned creative team, the ideas going forward, even the reshaping of the Cruiserweights into the next generation (the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Titles); instead, it was not even unleashed into the book. Again, maybe because I'm a stickler for information, I was incredibly disappointed into what was divulged by the author to the reader when it came to an important time period in wrestling.
Maybe it's me, but I truly believed that the outright burial of the internet wrestling community was unfair and unnecessary. As an internet columnist on a very popular wrestling website, I can understand and see why, as a reader of this book, you would get upset by the repeated digs into internet journalists and reporters for releasing stories to their websites and newsletters. As Bischoff writes on page 198, "The information was always one-sided and riddled with personal agendas." If you see now what was released back then by the Dave Meltzers and the Scott Keiths and the Wade Kellers of the world, you'd realize that the majority was true. Bischoff is correct on the fact that the IWC does not always know the whole truth regarding certain situations, but there is no need to bash the Hell out of them for simply trying to uncover the truth on what went wrong and the ability to show an opinion on a message board or radio show.
Finally, I will say some of Bischoff completely skipped over some monumental moments of his career and, in some respects, personal life. Although I was NOT expecting any stories from legal disputes, I was at least expecting a rebuttal from him regarding the rumored Ric Flair fight backstage at a Raw taping in March of 2003, as well as more talk on the lawsuit between them besides 1998 and a quick 5 paragraph mention on page 275. Furthermore, I would have loved to read on all of the lawsuits between the WWF and WCW over copyright infringement that took place during the hottest time period in the business. The utter fact that Bischoff's family life was skipped over for a majority of the book lets me down. I would love to have read more about how much his family influenced him to work as hard as humanly possible, but I didn't get that from "Easy E".
Enough about the nitpicking on Mr. Bischoff. This book DID give out some valuable information. Bischoff unleashed his creative philosophy when it came to developing and producing stories on television. Starting on page 219, the SARSA philosophy came fast and furious. STORY, ACTION, REALITY, SURPRISE, ANTICIPATION was Bischoff's credo, coming from an old article in the USA Today with Dick Ebersol about the 1996 Olympics. Bischoff utilized it to further enhance storylines with the nWo and anything else that got pushed on television. He actually credits the 1996 pay-per-view Hog Wild as being a part of the SARSA strategy. This is actually a very positive outlook on how stories can be created and I am happy to have learned that from this book. However, there are 3 main points other than SARSA from Controversy Creates Cash that I truly want to show in a positive light that truly caught me off guard. It was this that made this book enjoyable for me.
1) BISCHOFF'S CAREER WITH THE AWA
In 1987, Eric Bischoff originally went to the AWA to be a salesperson for the company, after impressing Verne Gagne with his pitch to air his commercial for his board game NINJA STAR WARS, which was based off his days practicing and his love for martial arts, on AWA syndication. After impressing Mr. Gagne with his hard work and drive, Bischoff started working in sales within the AWA office, which was at one time a church, and where the AWA recorded television promos for the local markets at that. Over time, due to being at the right place at the right time, Bischoff became the "worst announcer ever" for AWA television. This is where Bischoff started cutting his teeth when it came to promoting and producing televised wrestling. Say what you will about the final days of the AWA, but it was the foundation for what Eric Bischoff became in wrestling.
And finally, unlike the rumors state, he did NOT create the Team Challenge Series that WrestleCrap, and other sources, stated he did. My question...who in the world did?
2) THE TIME WARNER HIERARCHY
This might have been the first documentation of ALL the Time Warner/Turner Broadcasting executives, who handled day-to-day business within WCW and in all of Ted Turner's businesses and organizations. Names like Bill Shaw, Bob Dhue, and Sharon Sidello prior to Bischoff's run as Executive Producer of WCW television come to mind, but so does a woman named Terri Tingle, a woman within Time Warner's Standards and Practices. Due to some of the jokes stolen from Jay Leno during the nWo Nightcap edition, Tingle "proceeded to tell (him) that from that point forward, (he) was to give her all of the scripts for my shows two or three weeks in advance so that she would have time to review them prior to their airing". (289) Ultimately, you would see more of the names come to play like Brad Siegel, Dr. Harvey Schiller, and Bill Busch discussed and gone more into depth on their positives and negatives. Bischoff really shed the light on what Time Warner was truly like.
3) HIS FRIENDSHIP WITH SONNY ONOO
I legitimately had no clue on how close Bischoff and Sonny Onoo truly were! Becoming friends in the 1970s through martial arts, Bischoff and Onoo went into business together in the mid 1980s with the NINJA STAR WARS game that I discussed during the AWA days. Utilizing each other to the fullest, Bischoff signed Onoo to WCW in 1995. Although Onoo was a major point in the WCW vs Japan storyline in 1995 for the World Cup of Wrestling idea at Starrcade 1995 (which was NOT discussed, damnit!), Onoo was a liaison between WCW and New Japan for trading talent overseas during the mid-1990s. Sonny Onoo, without any of us fans realizing it, was more than just a manager for Ultimo Dragon, Yuji Nagata, and other Japanese talent during WCW's heyday; he was a very smart businessman.
In truth, I did like this book. My ultimate gripe is that I wish it was longer and more in-depth. Although the WWE Books brand, as per their other mid 2000 releases, relied on the less is more strategy when it came to its books, it would be like Vince McMahon releasing his memoirs and not going deeper into his run killing territories and true struggles when WCW was on top. However, Eric Bischoff did shed light into a few stories and the struggles of dealing with a corporate atmosphere, mergers, and passion into developing World Championship Wrestling into a premier brand.
Controversy Creates Cash gets thumbs up from 2006 me!
Thanks for reading you guys. I hope you guys get a different feel from this read and see a different perspective of what I bring to the table. Most of all, I hope you see this is why I am hoping the TNA situation gets settled. Eric Bischoff showed that being different helps progress wrestling, not being the same. Enjoy your week and see you next week on the Professional 3!