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Eric Bischoff: Controversy Creates Cash by…
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Eric Bischoff: Controversy Creates Cash

by Eric Bischoff

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872212,273 (3.34)3
The creator of World Championship Wrestling tells the story of the rise and fall of his organization in its head-to-head, no-holds-barred ratings war with WWE ("Nitro" vs. "Raw"), and how he helped shape the sports entertainment industry into the billion dollar business it is today.--From publisher description.… (more)

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In Controversy Creates Cash, former WCW executive Eric Bischoff gives his side of the story against a decades worth of bad press he received in the Internet Wrestling Community. Bischoff quickly starts off by setting the record straight on some of his early life and how he got into the wrestling business in AWA. Then goes through his ups and downs in WCW before leading the organization even coming close to quitting and going to Hollywood. Once in charge of WCW, Bischoff explains his philosophy to make the organization successful and how he implemented it. Bischoff also discussed how in 3 1/2 years, WCW went from being a multi-million dollar property to being sold for chum change and all the factors that led to it.

From the outset, Bischoff tells he readers he knows they come into reading autobiographies that they expect shameless self-promotion and/or b.s. While Bischoff tries to avoid this, he's still guilty of doing this, more so on the self-promotion than on the b.s. though. Bischoff repeatedly brings up the "dirt sheet" writers and after a while it gets old, but one can tell that he feels they were the one most responsible for giving false information about him. Throughout the book, Bischoff does discuss some famous situations in which he had been cast as the villain, but instead of going all defensive Bischoff is very balanced. If in retrospect Bischoff believes he mishandled a situation he lets the reader know, but he never throws a wrestler "under the bus" however if it was a corporate officer Bischoff takes them to task.

My opinion of this book changed throughout my reading of it, the first half of the book I was very positive but the majority of the latter part of the book I felt only so-so especially as Bischoff really let his frustrations show that even his co-author couldn't improve upon. But considering that Eric Bischoff is the top five individuals ever in pro wrestling, I recommend this book. ( )
1 vote mattries37315 | Jul 9, 2013 |
I don't generally read a lot of wrestling related books, which is strange considering I've been a fan of the "sport" since I was about five or six years old. You would think I'd be devouring these sort of books left and right, but they've never struck much of a chord with me. Partially because if I want to hear stories straight from the horse's mouth, I'd rather watch a shoot interview with a wrestler - and those tomes penned by folks who haven't actually been in the business are just, well... Bischoff himself says it best in the prologue:

"The truth is, I hate most wrestling books. I read a sentence, a paragraph, sometimes a page, then quit. They don't take a serious look at the enterprise. Most are bitter, self-serving revisionist history at best -- and monuments to bullshit at their worst."

I purchased this book the moment it came out and read it inside a day (I'm a slow reader, so that's pretty impressive for me). The writing style is nothing to write home about, but the stories Bischoff has to tell through his ghost writer were salivating to this long-time wrestling fan and kept me hooked throughout. And I have to admit, I've always found the man somewhat fascinating anyway. His play-it-by-ear business sense was such a stark contrast to Vince McMahon's, and if you believe all of the stories about some of Bischoff's... er... 'lifestyle' choices with his wife, well... let's just say he makes for a compelling and interesting character, both in and out of the ring.

There are some brief sections of the book that detail Bischoff's childhood and family life, although much of the personal information has been kept out, save for his pursuits in fly fishing and martial arts. What we do find out is that Eric's father had terrible health issues and the resulting medical bills (and subsequent passing of his father) meant the family was constantly strapped for cash. Growing up in a broke household certainly had a tremendous influence on young Eric, because the man clearly wakes up every morning nowadays with the intent of putting more green in his bank account. Bischoff discusses his pre-wrestling days, where he did pretty much any kind of entrepreneur job he could find his way into - whether that was selling meat or doing work for construction companies, the young Bischoff had a nose for sniffing out where there was money to be made, and he was making that money on his own terms.

His entry into the world of pro-wrestling was quite accidental, and the man himself goes out of his way to tell us he never originally had any aspiration to advance beyond his initial station, which was doing office work for Verge Gagne's AWA as nothing more than a side gig. One thing would lead to another though, and the Bisch would soon find himself in an on-air role, as an announcer and interviewer. Man, if you thought he was a terrible announcer in WCW, just go back and watch some old AWA footage. It's BRUTAL. To be fair, Bischoff doesn't try to make any excuses for how poor he was, and he also claims "I didn't get the job because I didn't deserve it" when discussing a fateful try-out in Connecticut with the then-WWF. Had he nailed that try-out, perhaps the wrestling world as we know it today would be completely different.

The AWA section is quite interesting for fans of the old-school, and Eric speaks with nothing but respect for Verne and Greg. His only criticism of Verne Gagne was that he just couldn't adapt once the WWF went national, and he made some poor financial decisions towards the end of the promotion's life. There are a few mentions of some old-timers active during that period, such as Larry Zbyszko and Nikita Koloff, but Eric insists he had yet to develop much of a rapport with "the boys" at this stage of his career. He also debunks the myth that he was responsible for the atrocious "Team Challenge Series" angle that sounded the death knell for the AWA, which makes sense considering he never once had any booking responsibilities for the company (another reason why wrestling books by non-wrestling people are unworthy of your time - they're often filled with gross misinformation).

Bischoff would join WCW in mid-1991, initially just as an announcer reporting up to both Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone. Eric speaks frankly about both men's politicking for the top position in the company after Bill Watts was fired, although the Bisch fails to mention any of his own political games at the time. Somehow though, he was able to sell himself to both Bill Shaw and Bob Dhue and was named executive producer of WCW, a move which caused Jim Ross to instantly resign from the company and move to the WWF. Although Eric doesn't resort to any mud-slinging about JR in this book, it's evident that Ross wouldn't piss on Bischoff if he were on fire, and vice versa. Schiavone meanwhile, is portrayed as the stooge he has always been - once he lost out the executive's position and became Eric's subordinate, the ass kissing began in earnest.

It's interesting to hear the thought process behind some of the moves Eric's WCW made at this time. People have accused Bischoff of blowing a lot of cash away once WCW hit its peak (and they would be correct), but the company was hemorrhaging money at a much more suicidal rate before he took the helm. The promotion was on a full house show loop at the time, playing huge arenas to half-empty houses, while also doing unnecessary television tapings across the country and running some incredibly stupid angles to boot thanks to the rather poor booking team of Dusty Rhodes and Ole Anderson. I admit, I used to be one of the guys who ribbed WCW for doing all their tapings at the Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, but the money it saved them when Bischoff ousted Dusty and Ole and moved the production there was enough to raise the production values of their TV shows so they at least looked on par with the slick WWF product. It also convinced Ted Turner himself that Bischoff was savvy enough to release some of the purse strings to, allowing Bischoff to pursue and sign former WWF talents such as Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage.

Bischoff goes on to discuss the bluff to Turner that led to the creation of Nitro, and how the show initially began life as a complete alternative to the WWF's then cartoon-like Monday Night Raw. In a roundabout way, Bischoff admits to borrowing the idea of luchadores and light heavyweight wrestlers from ECW; but even if he did snag the idea (and the wrestlers), he can be credited for finding the appropriate way to make smaller guys in masks like Psychosis, Rey Mysterio Jr, and Juventud Guerrrera work in prime-time for a national audience. He had a good formula going for Nitro at the outset, which attracted the 18-35 demographic away from WWF programming. As you read Controversy Creates Cash, you'll discover that the man knows his shit when it comes to television demographics, something the lame-brain WWF writers have struggled with for many years.

This soon moves into the creation of the nWo, perhaps the biggest angle in the history of wrestling (at least in terms of the ratings and notoriety gained - McMahon/Austin is the only thing that rivals it, although Dusty vs. the Horsemen was probably the best written and executed storyline of all-time). To this day, Bischoff still has quite the ego about the nWo, which may very well be warranted considering it ultimately led to WCW toppling the WWF and winning the ratings war for 84 consecutive weeks. He does take responsibility for the angle eventually becoming too watered down and confusing (all the red and black vs. white and black crap), and fesses up that his ploy to piss off McMahon and reveal the result of a pre-taped WWF show in which Mick Foley won the WWF World Title on a live WCW telecast was a big mistake. Bischoff makes no apologies for it though, because that's how he does business - by the seat of his pants.

My only disappointment with Controversy Creates Cash is that Bischoff completely passes the buck when it comes to the downfall of WCW. I do believe him when he talks about all the restrictions on the product that came from the suits after Time Warner acquired Turner Broadcasting (his hands were completely tied when they brought him back to the company in the spring of 2000, for instance), but the bigwigs weren't entirely at fault. Stretching Nitro from two to three hours was a horrific mistake, as was the addition of Thunder, which became a prime-time jobber show and overexposed their product. Bischoff also neglects to mention his failed efforts in bringing in mainstream 'stars' to bolster ratings, which resulted in Jay Leno being incorporated into the nWo storyline, or dud performances from musical acts such as Kiss and Master P. There's also no insight into Bischoff's attempts to take WCW beyond the world of professional wrestling, notably the Nitro Grill restaurant in Vegas that died a quick death inside of a year.

Still, it's very insightful to hear some of these tales direct from the source, even if some of those tales are laced with a few moderate to high doses of egotism. I didn't even mention his time with the WWE after the sale of WCW, and there's also a number of stories about wrestlers like Hogan, Hall, Nash, Flair, Regal, Guerrero, Foley, and Austin (a 'man-up' award to Bischoff for not shying away from his controversial firing of Austin via Fed Ex). If you're a long-suffering 'rasslin fan looking for a decent book and you can get over how much of a tool Bischoff looks on the front cover, Controversy Creates Cash is a worthwhile, albeit somewhat concise, afternoon's read. ( )
  OrkCaptain | Feb 12, 2009 |
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Eric Bischoffprimary authorall editionscalculated
Roberts, Jeremysecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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East Rutherford, N.J., July 15, 2002: I'm sitting in the back of a stretch limo in the parking lot of Continental Airlines Arena, waiting to make my appearance on a televised wrestling show.
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