Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast
Release Date: October 12, 2017
Guest: Eric Bischoff
Recap by: Matthew Wilkinson
- Eric is glad to see a return of WCW themes
- Eric said he never had any control of TNA
- Eric thinks Bret Hart is simply a miserable man
- Sam thought both Hell in a Cell matches were two of the best ever
- Sam wants to see New Day challenge Jinder Mahal
- Sam hopes Neville isn’t actually leaving WWE
Sam welcomes everyone to this week’s episode and promises we have a hell of a podcast. He probably should have just done a bonus State of Wrestling after Hell in a Cell, as he was that excited.
There has been a lot of great feedback from the Bret Hart podcast last week. Sam reached out to Eric Bischoff to get a response from what the Hitman had said previously.
Eric Bishoff Interview
Sam welcomed Eric Bischoff and mentioned how his home looked like paradise in the recent WWE DVD. He asked if that was hard to leave to get back into wrestling with his own podcast. Eric said he hasn’t left, as with podcasting he is lucky enough to do it from wherever he is and right now he is sat at home looking out of his window.
Sam wondered if he had kept up with the business after he was done and before he had his own podcast show. Eric said that while he has had breaks and left at times, until recently he has been pretty active in wrestling.
Bischoff did admit he doesn’t watch a lot of wrestling anymore. He will only tune in if he knows or suspects something is going to happen, or if he knows one of the talents involved personally. He said he can’t sit through three-hours of anything.
Sam mentioned how Eric used to have to book three-hour long Nitros and wondered if it was as difficult as it seems to be for WWE nowadays back then.
Eric said it isn’t hard, because formatting a three-hour show is no different to a two-hour one, but he stated that formatting an entertaining show that holds both the audience’s attention and numbers are two very different things. That is very difficult to do. No matter how big of a fan you are, it is tough to be interested in everything. He gave the comparison that you would get sick of Game of Thrones if it was on three-hours a week, 52 weeks a year.
Sam mentioned how WWE has changed the structure a little to Raw so that the payoff of the opening segment happens at the end of hour two. Eric felt that makes a lot of sense and said they have likely got a lot of data to support that change.
WCW Early Days
Sam asked what it was like early on in WCW. Eric admitted he didn’t think he was ready for the power or responsibility but felt like he grew into the role through a baptism of fire. He wasn’t intimidated or daunted by the challenge, to him it just seemed like a natural thing, but looking back at it now there are so many things he believes he could have done better and smarter.
He mentioned how everyone other than Ted Turner wanted to pull the plug on WCW, and when he took over it had been that beaten and battered the only way to go was up.
Eric also noted he didn’t simply take over, he was originally hired as the Executive Producer and over time his responsibilities grew to the point he ran the whole company.
Sam asked when he felt like he was ready, Eric said he didn’t think he ever really was as he had never worked in a corporate environment before. He said Ted would want him to take risks but AOL/Time Warner wanted the opposite of that.
Sam thought that when his new bosses came in he wouldn’t want to be told what to do. Eric said some of the executives didn’t even know what day of the week the show aired and he had a big conflict with them. Sam said that is something that has never gone away, the fact that wrestling is silly and people see it that way, which Eric agreed with. He said people who are high up in Hollywood have a lot of admiration but don’t understand how tough it actually is to do.
Eric mentions how he once shot a TV show with Randy Savage and the director was incredibly impressed by him, but he points out that is what wrestlers do, they get it done in one take.
Sam asked what the difference was from the partnership with him and Hulk Hogan that ran WCW to succeed to one that ran TNA.
Eric said that they didn’t try to do it again in TNA. The only reason TNA hired him was because they had no choice, Dixie Carter wanted Hulk, and that was obvious, but he didn’t trust their judgement or their ability and he certainly didn’t trust Vince Russo in any form.
Hulk made it clear that if he was going to TNA, Eric had to be there to oversee any creative that was involved with him. That really was his only job. Eventually, his role grew and he gained more influence but that was only ever over creative and nothing else. He didn’t go to any company meetings and wasn’t involved in any business discussions.
Sam asked if at one point he started to roll his eyes and be like “well this is what we are doing, I just have to grin and bear it.” Eric admitted he wasn’t that mature about it and to this day he gets pissed off about the whole thing. He said he hates seeing people waste opportunities and that is what TNA was doing on a consistent basis.
Eric said there was no logic and nobody wanted to hear, nobody wanted to listen; people who knew nothing at all about the wrestling business didn’t want to listen to someone who did. The people in charge were very intimidated by those who knew more than them and therefore they just didn’t ask. It was like a hand grenade tossing contest with children.
Sam said that everyone knows Eric had plans for WCW to continue before WWE bought the company as he had investors and a PPV in the works, he asked Eric if he honestly thought WCW 2.0 would have worked.
Eric said a good portion of him believes it would have worked, as he learned from mistakes that he made during his first time in charge and he had a good team built in place to make it work. But he also said there is a good chance it wouldn’t have.
Sam wondered who he would have built his company around. Eric said it would have been Bill Goldberg while keeping big names such as Hulk Hogan around.
Bret Hart Comments
Sam spoke about the comments Bret made on last week’s show and asked Eric if he had heard them and what his thoughts on the situation were. Eric said he didn’t listen to the show with Bret, but he is generally aware of the kind of things that Bret says because he has been doing it for years. There’s nothing new there.
Eric said Bret is just a miserable guy, the type of guy who has a giant hole in his soul and he has to fill it with somebody. When Bret went to work for WCW, he hated everyone in the McMahon family, he hated Shawn Michaels, he didn’t want to work with Hulk Hogan, he hated Ric Flair, he hated Kevin Nash, he hated everybody.
Sam asked if that meant he didn’t want to do anything major with any of those guys?
Eric said he didn’t and that it was a major effort to get him and Ric on the same page. It was because of Bret, not because of Ric. It makes him laugh when Bret says he doesn’t like how he was treated, as WCW payed him a ton of money and treated him extremely well and yet he was a guy who wouldn’t show up until 45 minutes before a live TV show.
Sam said this is where the crossing of streams happens, because last week Bret said he was eager to put Vince in his place and make him rue the day he threw him out of the company. It’s hard to believe he would have that attitude and this one that Eric was describing.
Eric said he is sure Bret, like a lot of people at this stage in his life, has to look back at certain times in his past and find ways to feel better about himself. This is probably one of the ways he does that. He said Bret would show up just before and was like “what do you have for me” and if he liked it, great, if he didn’t he would go mope somewhere.
Eric stated Bret was a shell of his former self from WWE and if he was really honest about it he would look back and realize he didn’t put the effort into it. When you see guys and look at careers of people like Stone Cold, Chris Jericho, these are guys who are so passionate and so engaged they drive you crazy, they drive you nuts because they are that involved and engaged.
Then you have the flipside of that, a guy that shows up and collects his checks, does the job and then complains about it. That was Bret Hart. Talk to people who worked with him at that time, anyone who is honest about it that isn’t his friend and doesn’t want to hurt his feelings and they will tell you the same thing.
Sam said it’s interesting Eric mentions Chris Jericho, and asked if that in hindsight he wishes he hadn’t let go or was it one at the time that it couldn’t work out? Eric said it was a bit of both. He did try really hard to keep Chris and offered him a lot of money. But he was determined to leave as he only used WCW as a stepping stone to get to WWE.
Eric thinks Chris is one of the most amazing performers in the history of the business because he has been able to reinvent himself so many times. In the process of doing so, he seems to improve his character every time.
Sam said it’s impressive that they are talking about Jericho from so long ago, yet he just arguably got over the best run of his career this year.
Eric said he would be lying if he said he recognized that back then. He knew Chris was a great talent, but they had Goldberg, they had Sting, they had Hulk Hogan. They had a pretty deep main event level roster and he realized he had no way of breaking Chris into that within the timeframe of what he wanted.
Sam wondered if it was difficult having that much star power and have a promotion where you have all these guys and then Randy Savage? Sam doesn’t think we can relate to a promotion having the problem of where to fit in Randy Savage. Eric compared it and said can you imagine what Vince McMahon and the talent would be going through if they had 12 John Cenas? That’s what they had. When you have six to ten players who are capable of playing at that level it is difficult, it can be hard.
WWE Using WCW
Sam asked Eric what he thinks about WWE using old WCW concepts from the cruiserweights to War Games or Starrcade returning. Eric said that everything changes with time. Now we see a lot of it on the WWE Network and they are monetizing the hell out of it. There are wrestling fans now who have never even heard of WCW, and there is a whole generation of fans who are becoming familiar with WCW and its legacy. It is a good thing because they are Dusty Rhodes’ concepts, and he wants to see that legacy continue allowing new fans to learn about it.
Sam said that from a production standpoint, he is interested to see what happens for War Games specifically, because he always thought that was one of the reasons why they never made it to WWE TV. Because from a production standpoint, it makes for an awkward show, when leading to this match you have a spare ring.
Eric agreed that it was, from a production point of view, completely distracting and not the most visually stimulating property.
After a brief chat about North Korea and Eric’s time in the country, as well as his relationship with Dennis Rodman, the conversation turned back to wrestling and who he would market a show around now if he was in charge.
Sam asked who Eric would book a show around now without using anyone obvious. Eric’s answer was Braun Strowman, and surprisingly, Dolph Ziggler. While he admitted he thinks Strowman’s animation needs to be toned down slightly, he thinks he has huge star power. People always laugh when he says Ziggler, but he reminds him of Kurt Angle in the sense that he can be a serious machine and also comedic at the same time.
State of Wrestling – Usos/New Day
Sam said he’s got to start with the Smackdown brand this week. After one of the most newsworthy PPVs of the brand split era, it was one of the first Smackdown exclusive PPVs where people were talking to this extent, to the point where people wanted Hell in a Cell to have its own State of Wrestling.
Sam believes that The Usos are the best performers in WWE right now, that means in the ring, that means promos, the way the crowd reacts to them, relevance, it means all of it. New Day, who were holding the trophy of being the most entertaining force in WWE, have had that title taken from them.
While Sam thinks The Usos have now reached the New Day’s level, he doesn’t think the trio have gone stale and wants to see them potentially go for singles runs, while still being in the group. When New Day had promo time with The Rock, they were on the same level, which most people struggle to do with him. Sam now thinks The Usos could do the same thing if they got the chance.
Sam wouldn’t be surprised to see The New Day knocking on Jinder Mahal’s door with a potential six man tag against him and the Singh Brothers.
Hell in a Cell
Sam said he brought up Usos and New Day because they had an unbelievable Hell in a Cell match on Sunday. He admitted he didn’t know at first when they were taking out all the gimmick weapons that were painted if it was going to work. When the Usos started doing the dives where it looked like they were killing themselves, it was unbelievable. It’s no wonder that the PPV didn’t catch up with that match until the main event.
Sam said that everything in the middle was just okay, but that match was in the list with top Hell in a Cell matches, as was the main event. It’s remarkable that the tag match was so good because they never established why they were actually fighting inside a cage, but the fact they stayed inside the cell impressed Sam. The story that was told in the ring was a story about being stuck in that cell, and why that match is talked about in terms of shortening careers and how badly all four me wanted the championship.
Even though Sam loved that match, the main event stole the show for him because of the story behind everything, which is what he loves most about wrestling. He knows a lot of people thought Shane was back to his old tricks and really not being as credible or being seen as a serious contender against someone like Kevin Owens. Sam doesn’t think it’s fair to call it a stunt show because that’s what it is supposed to be. He added that Shane made him believe that he could win during the match.
Sam thought the fact they were able to make him not know what was happening was amazing given the Falls Count Anywhere stipulation made it obvious they would be going outside for a big spot.
Then the Sami Zayn turn, after all that to have them on the same team, Sam was like ‘oh my god.’ Just because it was hinted at, does not mean anyone truly saw it coming and he didn’t.
Sam thinks this is the first time that a character’s story has taken place before the WWE, with this being a continuation of their stories from ROH and the independents.
He mentioned how Shawn Michaels sees his character from The Rockers all the way to his retirement as one story. It’s now cool to see WWE acting as a backdrop for the next chapter in the Owens/Zayn story.
As far as the rest of the PPV goes, Sam said Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Roode was what it was, both guys are great.
He thinks the women’s title match was the only thing he predicted right, and doesn’t mind the result as Sam believes Charlotte will get it later.
The AJ Styles match was confusing. Once they said Tye Dillinger was involved Sam knew the reasoning behind it. Because of that, he was perplexed as to why AJ Styles lost on SmackDown clean, when they could have done it on Sunday.
The WWE Championship match is one that a lot of people are talking about and he was disappointed. Sam doesn’t think we have seen what Nakamura has to offer and he doesn’t know if that’s his fault or WWE’s fault.
The Rusev vs. Randy Orton match was almost great in his opinion, but when Randy just gave him the RKO you wonder what Randy’s future is as he has already failed to get the championship.
Sam said he doesn’t know what it is about the cruiserweight division, but he was shocked when Austin Aries left WWE and now the rumor is Neville is also going. Sam knows the division doesn’t have a good reputation, but it has a good spotlight put on it and Aries was doing some of his best work. He was at a place where people really cared. With Neville, Sam isn’t sure if it’s a case of too much art mixing with reality in the sense that Neville legit doesn’t want Enzo to be a top guy, because who knows how much of the ‘nuclear heat’ is real.
Seeing Neville walking away is peculiar to say the least, and Sam wonders if it was because of losing the championship, or was something different promised to him, or is the whole thing fake? He hopes Neville isn’t gone, but he thinks sometimes the talent ends up too close to what they’re doing and perhaps Neville doesn’t notice how well he was being received by fans.
Sam said sometimes he wants to help these guys and just tell them, look, you’ve got a good spot, stick at it.
Bray Wyatt/Sister Abigail
Sam said he is really interested to see what product Bray Wyatt puts out with this Sister Abigail thing. The odds of it working are less than the odds of it not working, but he can see a version where it works and Bray Wyatt is the guy who could do it.
Sam said he would like for Bray Wyatt to end up wrestling Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series and admitted he gets on these Bray Wyatt kicks when he can’t get well enough alone, and just can’t say it’s not happening. He would have Bray beat Finn Balor and use the power of Sister Abigail to gain some momentum heading into Survivor Series and he doesn’t think a loss to Lesnar would hurt as he loses all the time.
It was another good episode this week as Sam continues his run of great shows. Hats off to him for getting Eric Bischoff for an instant response to Bret Hart’s comments last week. It was great to do it while everything is fresh. The interview itself was a good listen as Bischoff has some interesting points. Sam’s thoughts on Hell in a Cell were interesting, especially his takes on the tag team division and Shinsuke Nakamura.
Subjects Covered (with timestamps)
00:00- Sponsor Ads
01:20- Show Introduction
04:39- Eric Bischoff Interview
09:04- Booking Shows
17:10- WCW Early Days
30:01- TNA Days
37:11- WCW 2.0
39:40- Bret Hart’s Comments
44:20- Chris Jericho/WCW Star Power
48:23- WWE Using WCW Properties
53:00- Modern Wrestling
1:05:18- State of Wrestling
1:13:30-Hell in a Cell
About the Writer
Matthew Wilkinson is from Bradford, England. He’s been a fan since the late ’90s with the Attitude Era and was then heavily invested again through the rise of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. He can be found on Twitter at @MC_Wilkinson1
For more, check out our archives of the Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast.