Eric Bischoff, a pioneer behind the scenes in sports-entertainment, as well as an incredibly entertaining performer in front of the camera, is the latest inductee in the WWE Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021. He was surprised with the news of his induction on WWE After the Bell, which you can listen to and subscribe to on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
He will enter the WWE Hall of Fame during the 2021 Induction Ceremony, which will take place on Tuesday, April 6, streaming exclusively on Peacock in the United States and on WWE Network in the rest of the world.
Bischoff broke into the sports-entertainment industry in the late 1980s for fellow Hall of Famer Verne Gagne’s AWA. He started off in sales but soon became an on-air talent, hosting the AWA’s shows on ESPN and interviewing the legendary territory’s stars. But as the 1990s arrived, the AWA was on the brink of going out of business, so Bischoff made a move that would eventually change the industry.
He joined World Championship Wrestling in 1991, hosting shows and calling the action on WCW’s weekly television shows. But by the mid-1990s, Bischoff had risen the ranks and became executive producer of WCW. He helped bring Hulk Hogan to the company and launched WCW Monday Nitro, the competitor to WWE’s Monday Night Raw that kicked off the infamous Monday Night War that helped make sports-entertainment a pop culture phenomenon.
Bischoff didn’t shy away from the camera either, joining up with 2020 WWE Hall of Fame inductees The nWo as they ran roughshod on the promotion. After WWE purchased WCW in 2001, he brought his brand of ruthless leadership to WWE in 2002 as the first General Manager of Monday Night Raw. His arrival was one of the most shocking moments in WWE history, and his time in charge of the red brand was defined by one simple phrase: “Controversy creates cash.”
Bischoff never strayed far away from controversy as General Manager, as he engaged in rivalries with the likes of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and John Cena. He continued to innovate, as well, with concepts like Raw Roulette and the Elimination Chamber, which lives on as one of WWE’s annual pay-per-view events.
For Bischoff’s innovation behind the scenes and his memorable performance in front of the camera, there is no greater honour than induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Don’t miss Eric Bischoff take his place in the WWE Hall of Fame during the 2021 Induction Ceremony, Tuesday, April 6, streaming exclusively on Peacock in the United States and WWE Network everywhere else. The ceremony will honour both the 2020 and 2021 classes.
The first time I saw Eric Bischoff, French TV just switched from WWF to WCW. We were in 1997, in the middle of a war I won’t remind you about. His smile and his way to show the world money can buy anything in this business, because that was what nWo was about, just made me want to slap my TV. I didn’t do it but this shows that Eric Bischoff made everything to be hated in this business. He was controversial, obnoxious, and he was making Vince McMahon be nervous about the future of his company. When in 2002, Bischoff became the General Manager of RAW and Vince proudly raised his hands as if he was posing with a hunting trophy, I admit a few fans nearly had a heart attack. That’s exactly what both men wanted and that’s probably why Eric Bischoff will enter the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2021.
Bischoff started in wrestling working in Minneapolis for the American Wrestling Association (AWA) in 1987 under the ownership of Verne Gagne. In 1989, Bischoff would become an on-air interviewer in and host of the AWA until the company folded in 1991. Bischoff at first worked in the sales department on the AWA’s syndicated programming and became an on-air personality virtually by accident and at the last minute when AWA’s announcer, Larry Nelson, was arrested under suspicion of a DUI. Bischoff later said that they thought that he would be a good replacement due to his immediate availability in the television studio, and the fact that he was already wearing a suit and tie. During the gradual demise of the AWA, the company was unable to meet payroll, and Bischoff auditioned for an announcer’s position with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1990 but was not hired.
In 1991, Bischoff joined World Championship Wrestling (WCW) as a C-show announcer, debuting at The Great American Bash. In 1993, after WCW Vice President of Wrestling Operations Bill Watts resigned from the company, Bischoff applied for the job of Executive Producer. Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone seemed to be the two top candidates, however, Bischoff was hired in Watts’ place. In 1994, Bischoff was promoted from Executive Producer to Senior Vice President, putting him in charge of everything WCW. WCW Executive Vice President Bob Dhue resigned, as did Event Manager and Junior Vice-President. Bischoff convinced Turner executives to better finance WCW in order to compete with the WWF. He moved WCW production to Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida.
Hulk Hogan was approached by Bischoff and Ric Flair and signed a contract with WCW. He also invested money in production values and increased the number of WCW pay-per-view. He also started a weekly live program, WCW Monday Nitro, that went directly against WWF’s flagship Monday Night RAW. Bischoff remained an announcer on Nitro, regularly spoiling RAW results (as the latter show was not always aired live) to boost ratings. This created what became known amongst fans as the Monday Night Wars, as both WCW and WWF fought for viewers and in the process kick-started a new level of mainstream popularity for pro wrestling. The changes paid off, and in 1995, WCW turned a profit for the first time in the company’s history. By 1997, Bischoff’s official job title was President of World Championship Wrestling.
In 1996, Bischoff signed WWF superstar Scott Hall, better known at the time as “Razor Ramon”. Two weeks later on Nitro, Hall was joined by Kevin Nash, most previously known as “Diesel” in the WWF, to become “The Outsiders”. Bischoff intentionally depicted the duo as WWF rebels who were not under contract with WCW. To avoid legal action by the WWF, Bischoff in a worked interview at The Great American Bash, asked point-blank if they worked for the WWF, which both Hall and Nash denied. The Outsiders expanded and became the New World Order (nWo) when perennial fan-favourite Hulk Hogan aligned himself with the Outsiders in July 1996.
The nWo was depicted as a rival company engaging in a “hostile takeover” of WCW. Week to week, the angle grew more complex, with a mixture of main-eventers, mid-carders, executives, referees, managers, and announcers involved in various subplots related to the onscreen “WCW vs nWo” power-struggle. Led by the nWo storyline, WCW overtook the WWF as the number one wrestling promotion in America with Nitro defeating RAW in the ratings by a wide margin for 84 consecutive weeks. During this era, Bischoff moved from his role as commentator and joined the nWo as a manager. His television character, dubbed “Eazy E” by Hall (“Sleazy E” by the WCW commentators), became a dictator and egomaniac as the nWo boss.
When the WWF rebranded their product as “WWF Attitude” and began to focus on new superstars such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley, and The Rock, and made owner/longtime announcer Vince McMahon into a character, this eventually resulted in a rating turnaround for WWF. On April 13, 1998, WWF ended WCW’s year and a half run on top of the rating war. Despite losing in the ratings to WWF, WCW continued to post strong ratings, attendance, and PPV buy rates throughout 1998. In 1998 WCW built one of its first homegrown superstars in Bill Goldberg and gave him the WCW World Heavyweight Championship on July 6, 1998, at the Georgia Dome in front of 39,919 people on Nitro.
In early 1999, Bischoff promoted Kevin Nash to head booker. Despite Goldberg drawing at the box office and doing three shows in December/January that did nearly a $1,000,000 gate, the decision was made to end Goldberg’s undefeated streak and put the belt on Nash. On the January 4 Nitro, at the Georgia Dome, Nash dropped the title to Hogan in a match that became known as the Fingerpoke of Doom, and the nWo was rebranded. By March ratings began dropping, and WCW began experiencing an endless streak of rating losses.
Throughout 1999, Bischoff reverted to focusing on ageing WCW stars such as Hogan, Diamond Dallas Page, Randy Savage, Sting, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Nash, Ric Flair, and Sid Vicious. In an effort to improve ratings, WCW also began to focus heavily on several celebrities such as Master P., Chad Brock, Megadeth, Dennis Rodman, and Kiss. One of the last deals Bischoff structured was a deal with the members of the rock band Kiss to have their own wrestling character known as The Kiss Demon.
By late 1999, WCW began losing money. Attendance, PPV buys and ratings were down significantly. On September 10, 1999, the decision was made to relieve Bischoff of power. In April 2000, Bischoff returned as an on-air character alongside Vince Russo to lead the heel faction The New Blood; Bischoff also worked on writing the shows with Russo during this time. Bischoff’s last on-camera role in WCW was in July 2000 at the Bash at the Beach 2000 pay-per-view when Russo did a worked-shoot promo on Hulk Hogan. In March 2001, WCW was bought by WWF.
In 2002, Bischoff was hired by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE, formerly WWF) to be the General Manager of RAW. Although primarily an on-screen role, Bischoff had a wide range of contacts within WWE to whom he could pitch creative ideas.] He debuted as the first RAW General Manager on the July 15 episode. He resurrected his characteristic brand of smarminess with the General Manager position, again playing the arrogant heel character he had employed as the nWo boss in WCW. During his debut on RAW, he told the audience about how he was president of WCW, creator of the nWo and how he forced Vince McMahon to change the ways he does business.
Bischoff’s wrestling innovations in WWE included the RAW Roulette and the Elimination Chamber, as well as feuds with Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shane McMahon, John Cena, SmackDown General Manager Stephanie McMahon, and former Extreme Championship Wrestling owner Paul Heyman. At Taboo Tuesday, Bischoff had his head shaved after failing to beat his (kayfabe) nephew Eugene. Bischoff then began a face turn after his head got shaved. He favoured face wrestlers such as Randy Orton, Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho. Bischoff subsequently took a vacation after allowing Randy Orton’s team to become General Managers for up to four weeks with every member being the General Manager once a week.
Bischoff began favouring heels again after then-WWE Champion John Cena, who was drafted to RAW in June 2005, refused to participate in Bischoff’s vendetta against an impending ECW revival. As a result, Bischoff “declared war” on Cena (citing disdain for Cena’s rapping and “thug nature”) and made wrestlers such as Chris Jericho and Christian try to take away the WWE Championship from Cena. In November, Bischoff aligned himself with Kurt Angle. Bischoff also occasionally played as a face manager due to Muhammad Hassan’s debut and attitude towards the fans and their favourite wrestlers, especially John Cena and his fans in the United States; since that they think that Arabs are the ones responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
Following several months of RAW and SmackDown invasions, Bischoff lost to SmackDown General Manager Theodore Long at Survivor Series after The Boogeyman helped Long beat Bischoff. On the December 5 episode of RAW, Bischoff was “fired” as General Manager, when Cena body-slammed him and Vince McMahon tossed him into a garbage truck, following a “trial” where his history of unscrupulous actions was listed and had him driven out of the arena. Bischoff then sat out the remainder of the year and spent the start of 2006 writing a book that would become “Controversy Creates Cash.” Bischoff was against writing a wrestling book initially, as he believes “most are bitter, self-serving revisionist history at best—and monuments to bullshit at their worst.” He would make sporadic appearances on TV in 2006 and 2007, until his contract expired in August 2007.
He would reappear, alongside Hulk Hogan, in TNA in 2010 where he was also appointed executive producer. He would bring there his son Garrett. After a few years on air, Bischoff focused on his backstage roles. In October 2013, Bischoff was sent home by TNA to sit out the remainder of his contract, which expired in early 2014. He would come back to WWE, make some appearances between 2016 and 2019. In June 2019, WWE announced that Bischoff would be the executive director of SmackDown, and part of Bischoff’s role is to act as an intermediary between WWE and Fox executives due to his background in the television industry. Four months later, it was announced that he had been replaced by Bruce Prichard, and with immediate effect, he had left the company. Despite not being signed, Bischoff made several appearances in AEW in 2020 and earlier this year.
Aside from wrestling, Bischoff produced video games, reality TV shows, hosted wrestling podcasts. But when it comes to wrestling, Bischoff is one of the most polarizing and controversial wrestling figures in professional wrestling history. He was instrumental in the creation and role of the New World Order (nWo) which played a major role in WCW’s success and peak during the Monday Night Wars, forcing WWF’s product to evolve and get better. If some say he just liked to be the boss and keep his hands clean, others credit him for being an example and paving the way for the business evolution. Controversy has very often been fuel for change. Eric Bischoff made it a reason to change a business, make it better in some ways and badder in some others, well put his footprint on it eternally.
All pics and videos courtesy of WWE