The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
Dec. 27, 2022

Eric Bischoff On What Vince McMahon Is Doing In Retirement, CM Punk's Next Move, Why AEW's Ratings Are Down

Eric Bischoff On What Vince McMahon Is Doing In Retirement, CM Punk's Next Move, Why AEW's Ratings Are Down


Eric Bischoff (@ebischoff) is a professional wrestling personality, podcaster, entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author. He joins Chris Van Vliet inside the Blue Wire Studios at Wynn Las Vegas to talk about his new book called "Gratitude", the recent negative comments he made about Ric Flair on his podcast "83 Weeks", why his co-host Conrad Thompson is a business genius, what he thinks Vince McMahon is doing since retiring from WWE, his thoughts on MJF in AEW, what he thinks CM Punk will do next, what he is grateful for and much more!

Check out Eric Bischoff's podcast "83 Weeks" at: http://adfreeshows.com

 

On the heat with Ric Flair:

“That’s a weird one. Six months ago I was out having cocktails with Ric Flair, and Wendy. I ran into him at an autograph signing at a convention in Houston about a year ago, we just had the greatest time. He called me in my room ‘come on down, we’ll have the greatest time, woo!’ I got the text. Then all of a sudden, I get blindsided. And I don’t know, I don’t know what got into Ric. Maybe somebody said something to him that I said, or he heard me say something that rubbed him the wrong way or he had some kind of a flashback. But I honestly don’t know. Even last night, I got into Vegas and I am sitting down and having a beer and looking through my social media. I see stuff that Ric said, I fire back, and as soon I was done, I said that’s it, I’m just not doing this. I have a lot of affection for Ric, I don’t know why, but I love Ric. And I’m sure I’m not the only one that loves Ric and does not know why they love Ric, he’s got that personality. I have a lot of respect for him, and I don’t want to engage anymore in the social media thing. If Ric wants to sit down, have a face-to-face conversation and tell me what I did wrong, how I p*ssed him off or irritated him or whatever, I am happy to do that and put it behind us and move on. But as far as the social media stuff, I’m probably not going to talk about it on my podcast anymore, because I am hoping that it just goes away.”       

On this all being on social media and nothing more:

“No! I don’t even know what I did! I don’t even know what I said. I called Conrad and said ‘Conrad, what the hell?!’ [Did Conrad know?] He doesn’t know, he doesn’t know.”

On if the heat between Eric Bischoff and Ric Flair is all pro-wrestling:

“It’s beyond that. [Is it personal?] Clearly, I don’t know what year it was, I had been in WWE for a couple of years. While I was in WWE, the week before the incident I am about to tell you, I show up to Monday Night Raw, we do TV and Ric is there and Arn Anderson is there. We go out for a beer after the show. Ric says ‘Eric, come on, we will go to the hotel bar, join us.’ So boom, went out to the bar and had a great time, just like old times, right? The following week, I show up to Monday Night Raw and am sitting in what they call the TV office, it was like a prop office in case they needed it. But I always used it for a dressing room because nobody else used it, I had the whole place to myself with a couch and a chair. So I’m in there and I am talking to my wife on the phone, it was my wife and my real estate attorney, we were closing on a piece of property. So I am on a 3 way conference call with my attorney and my wife, I am sitting in a chair. Ric comes walking into the TV office, Arn is behind him and Jonathan Coachman is behind him [Arn]. I’m talking on the phone, ok cool, it wasn’t my office, it was everybody’s office, I just happened to use it. While I am on the phone, Ric comes over and he just starts yelling and screaming at me ‘you MF-er! You get up out of your chair!’ I’m talking on the phone, and he just starts firing shots at me, he’s throwing punches at me, connected with me 3 times, while I’m on the phone. Here’s the deal, Ric Flair has been throwing working punches for so long, I don’t think he knows how to throw a real punch. I’m not saying that to be funny, or try to be a tough guy, because I’m not. But he hit me 3 times, and I still had the phone in my hand. For a minute I thought, is this a work? Is there a camera? Am I in a scene that nobody told me about? Then his lip started bleeding after he hit me for the third time, he was so mad that he bit his own lip and started bleeding all over himself, and I wouldn’t fight him.”  

What was Ric Flair so mad about:

“Well to this day I never really know because we never talked about it. I’ve been able to kind of piece together that there was a point in time in Ric’s life that was a challenging time in his personal life and somehow my name got thrown into a conversation. It just sent him into a tailspin and he got p*ssed off at me all over again, over something that had happened 10 years earlier. He just came in and started firing live rounds. I said ‘Ric, I’m not going to fight you. I’m just not going to fight you.’”  

On the CM Punk controversies:

“I don’t know [what is going on]. I mean, it is a trainwreck, that’s all I know. I wasn’t a big fan of Punk to begin with. I think he was overhyped. I think there was a great mystique, I don’t want to take that away from him, there was a tremendous mystique. When he dropped that Pipe Bomb, that was like rebelling against the man. Everybody in America at one point in time, deep down wishes that they could do what he did. That is what created that mystique, and that mystique lived, even though, you know, he showed up to the UFC a couple of times and got humiliated. It didn’t matter, he still had the mystique with the wrestling fans. When he got to AEW, I was excited, because I was interested to see how that would work. But if you go back and you listen to his opening promo, what did he do? He ripped Hulk Hogan. If you have to get yourself over with that kind of cheap heat, you’re not over, you don’t know how to get over. He was living off the momentum that was created for him in the WWE, he was living off of the mystique, he had it in his hands. I think that the way he was produced, his creative, I didn’t find it compelling at all. He is out there wrestling nobodies.” 

On CM Punk impacting AEW ratings:

“I know it’s sometimes unfair but go back and look at the ratings. Go back and look at the impact that CM Punk had on television ratings. It is the only thing that is black and white. He came out strong, and slowly week after week after week they continued to lose audience. The audience came, they saw, they left and they didn’t come back. What does that tell you?”    

On the power of social media:

“What makes it fascinating for me looking in from the outside is that I love how some talents are using social media effectively, and some talents aren’t. That surprises me, because wrestlers are normally pretty good at figuring out ways to, you know, stay relevant and get themselves over. Becky Lynch, I didn’t know who Becky Lynch was until I came across a couple of her social media posts on Twitter, this is back in 2018. I went wow, that’s pretty good, I’m gonna check her out. All of a sudden I am tuning into Monday Night Raw or whatever she was on at the time. I am tuning in to watch Becky Lynch, who I only knew about because I was really intrigued by how well she used social media.”

On the rise of Goldberg:

“Bill Goldberg is the perfect example. Bill Goldberg didn’t even get a letter next to his storyline. He was like what’s after z, we need a what’s after z story category, because that was what Bill Goldberg was when he came in. By that I mean that Bill Goldberg came in out of the NFL, elite athlete no question. Great looking character, looked like he came right out of central casting for wrestling. We put him in the Power Plant for a very short period of time, and then it was ok, let’s see how the crowd reacts to him in what we call a dark match. For all the listeners and people watching, a dark match is simply where you know, you show up for a live television presentation, and you have a couple of matches before you go on the air live. You do that for a couple of reasons, one is that you want to warm up the crowd for a little bit, if they need it. The other is that you want to take some of your younger talent that don’t have experience working in front of a crowd, and you get them out there on a limited basis. It’s not a real thing, but it is a lot better than just wrestling in the training facility. So we brought Bill out, and the reaction when Bill Goldberg came storming down the ramp was woah, wait a minute, holy smokes. Let’s see if that happens again next week. We do the same thing next week and it’s more so, then the following week it is even more so. Alright, he has only been in the Power Plant for 4 months, but we have got to get him on TV. And that storyline was a reaction to the audience. That whole career was a reaction to the audience.”     

On being able to appear for both WWE and AEW:

“Yeah that one [the AEW relationship] is not as good anymore, but that was my choice. I knew when I said what I was going to say that it will be the last time I get invited there. I was fine with that. I don’t worry about it, it is what it is. But when I was bouncing back between WWE and AEW, first time I got a call from AEW, I called Bruce Prichard. I said that I just want to let you know out of courtesy and respect for our friendship, I am still tight with Bruce. Please let Vince know, if he has got a question about this or an issue, please give me a shout. If not, I am going to go ahead. I got the word back to go and have a ball, it’s just communication and common courtesy.”   

On Eric Bischoff’s lowest point in his career:

“So I have never discussed this before, and I have to be careful about how I say it. During the AOL/Time Warner merger, there was a point sometime around the end of 1998. WCW was rocking and rolling, we were making money hand over fist, the ratings were great, it couldn’t have been better. I think it was around August or September, I got called to Harvey Schiller’s office, Harvey Schiller was my boss and the president of Turner Sports at the time. There was a corporate attorney there, general counsel, sitting in his office. I thought well this is weird. They sat me down, and they said ‘Eric, we just, we have to share something with you.’ I go wow, this is serious. [Schiller continues] ‘For the past several months, we have been doing some private investigation work and some forensic accounting, and we just want you to know that, because we have had to interview certain people in your company.’ I thought ok, cool, why? I probably wasn’t that calm, I got a little more agitated, there might have been an f bomb in there somewhere [laughs]. The corporate counsel said ‘Look Eric, we had no choice. An executive from Time Warner went to a WCW event.’ It was one of our bigger events. [They] Went to the event, ended up in an elevator with a guy wearing a WCW Nitro crew shirt. The gentleman from Time Warner was a very senior executive for Time Warner. This individual started asking the guy in the WCW shirt what do you do? Tell me about WCW. This guy was a disgruntled, he wasn’t really an employee, he was like a freelancer that every once in a while we would hire to help set up rings, stuff like that. But he wasn’t on the regular payroll, wasn’t a regular employee. This guy just unloaded all kinds of fabricated narrative, Dirt Sheet, Reddit type stuff. This is the one that really got to me, this is what they were told, ‘You are giving your friend Diamond Dallas Page $1.5 million and you are getting a kickback.’ That was the narrative, somewhere this guy had got a hold of it. That hurt me, I don’t know if it hurt me, but I lost faith. I had put so much into WCW at that time, put so much into Nitro, and I felt good about it. I loved working with the people, loved working with Ted Turner, he is an amazing person, I would cut off a hand right now if I had the chance to work for him if it was necessary. But that just really bothered me, and I don’t even know why, I think it was the lack of trust. The idea that they didn’t tell me until the investigation was over, ‘By the way, we have got nothing on you. We have been through you, your finances, your friends, your family, your neighbours, we know all about you.’ Well thank you very much! It put a dent in me, let’s put it that way.”            

On WWE listening to its fans:

“Obviously I wasn’t there on the inside when Vince left. I was there for 4 months, I worked with Vince almost every day. On those days we did work together, it was often for hours and hours and hours. I don’t want to say that I know Vince McMahon, because I don’t, I don’t think anybody does outside of his immediate family. We all get little glimpses of him, but I don’t think many people really know Vince McMahon. My experience was Vince had a strong vision, clearly, look where WWE is today, clearly he has had a strong vision throughout his life. The challenge for me and the people I worked with on the creative side were to come up with things that would get Vince’s attention in a positive way. You never knew what that was going to be, because there was no consistency there. Every day was a brand new day, it’s not like I could get a read on Vince McMahon. I think that stifled creativity a lot. You’ve heard these stories, and I don’t mean to share these experiences as like a tell all or anything negative, because it worked for them and it worked for Vince McMahon, I wish I could have figured those out. But you have heard the stories of showing up to television at 1 o'clock, tearing up the script and starting from scratch. Those aren’t exaggerations. That process, or lack thereof, is not conducive to great creativity. And I think, I’m guessing on this, because I don’t know Paul Levesque well either, I have worked a long time around him. Paul had been a part of that creative process long enough to know what the weak points were, to know what was holding it back, to know what was frustrating the people that were charged with coming up with good creative. I think that Paul made a lot of those changes very quickly, and I would imagine that the quality of the writing and the quality of the creative got much tighter. Writers got more confidence, because it was a more predictable environment, just the quality went up, that’s my take.”

On what Vince McMahon might be doing in retirement:

“I don’t know, like I said I don't really know him. I know he is interested in cars, he’s got nice cars. But I have never heard a story of him like going golfing, yachting or fishing. I don’t think he did anything but work or workout.”     

On the brilliance of MJF:

“I have jeans older than him! He’s so good. I think the reason, well there are many reasons, but one of the reasons is that he lives it. A lot of guys that play heels on TV don’t play heels in real life and don’t want to be. It’s human nature, no one wants to be hated. I think wrestling in particular, it’s not like being an actor. You can be a villain in a movie, and everyone knows you are just playing a movie. But in wrestling, when you’re a villain in wrestling they think you are a villain in real life. It’s true though, isn't it.”            

On if the story is ever changed on 83 Weeks:

“No, I have made a fortune in p*ssing people off. I have no inhibitions when it comes to speaking my mind. Plus, it frees you. I try not to keep things in. You ask about talking about uncomfortable things or failures, I don’t mind talking about that stuff. I actually feel liberated talking about that stuff, because I have learned to embrace it. Again, it all comes back to my wife, over 38 to 40 years, [she] has taught me how to become grateful and the instinct to look for the lighter things. But I don’t mind it, it’s all part of it.”

On heat from the podcast:

“That happens occasionally, but I don’t do it out of, I’m not trying to be mean or hurt people’s feelings or p*ss anybody off. I am just trying to be as honest as I can be, sometimes my delivery is aggressive, but that is just part of who I am. I am not trying to be mean or disrespectful, it is just part of my point of view. I’ve spent 30 odd years of people say things about me that are not true or put me in situations that never existed, or suggested they were in my mind. I’ve listened to that and not get mad about it. If I can learn to not get angry about the other things they say about me, then they can get used to it too.”

On why the new book Gratitude took so long:

“You know, I didn’t think that I had anything else to say. Even with the first book, Controversy Creates Cash, when I was first approached about that, well everybody already knows everything about what happened, does anybody care? The process of going through, well in my case my life and wrestling up until 2006, there was so much that I forgot about. You are living in that moment, you are doing it, thinking about what is next… I had never had time to sit down and think about all of the things that I was grateful for. So you go through the book and go oh wow, this was pretty interesting. Guy Evans, who was the co-writer, he called me and he said ‘I’ve been listening to your podcast, I think you have got another book in you.’ Once again I said no, really? But he kind of laid it out to me, so we gave it a try, it was such a fun experience.”

On the power of nostalgia:

“For me, all of this is like swimming upstream. When Conrad first reached out to me about doing a podcast, I had tried one previously, but it didn’t go anywhere and the chemistry wasn’t right. When Conrad called me, I was excited because of all of the success that he had with Bruce Prichard, like real success. So I knew Conrad knew what he was doing, but I asked him about the format, what does the show look like? He told me Monday Night Wars nostalgia era, and I was like oh man! Monday Night Wars, there’s been books, there’s been DVD’s, there has been 2000 shoot interviews. He said it would work and I trusted his instinct, he was so on the money. He has done a phenomenal job, not just mine, but like the 37 others too.”

On the most talked about episode:

“Probably Starrcade 1997, when Conrad yelled at me. He was MF’ing me, it got really hot, and people still talk about it all the time. So here is what happened, we are getting to December, and people go ‘well on this date, several years ago, Hulk Hogan beat Sting because he didn’t have a tan.’ I get that all the time! We are going to be doing a watchalong with [former WWE referee] Nick Patrick. I talked to Nick Patrick for the first time on the phone to do this in how many decades? It’s been a long time. Nick has his point of view and I have mine, we will see how it goes.”

On why Sting wasn’t ready at Starrcade 1997:

“This is going to suck, but I can’t, I just can only tell you what was going on from my perspective, I don’t want to try and get in somebody else’s head. I have a ton of respect for Steve Borden, so I am going to do the best I can here. But it was a judgement call, we got to a point where both Hulk and I didn’t feel like Sting’s head was in the game. It didn’t look like he was really, I don’t want to say he wasn’t excited at what he was about to do, but we had been building this thing up for over a year. Everybody else was excited about it, the amps were pretty high going into that day. But when we finally sat down and tried to figure out how we were going to do it, we didn’t feel like we were connecting, it was a judgement call. It wasn’t one that I made, I wish we went the other way obviously. I’ve also learned in the process of learning how to be grateful is to look on the brighter side, look at the things that came out more positively. It was an unfortunate situation, but we made the best of it, and I am still making money from it. So there’s that.”  

On what Eric Bischoff is grateful for:

“To be alive, my faith and my wife and family.”