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Eric Bischoff Says WCW Added More House Shows To Offset Cost Of Thunder in 1999, Ted Turner Mandated Second Show

May 23, 2019 | Posted by Joseph Lee
WCW Thunder

In the latest episode of 83 Weeks, Eric Bischoff spoke about the fact that WCW talent in 1999 would often be burned out by the time it came to tape Nitro due to a long touring schedule, of which Nitro was the last date. He said that there were more house shows than normal at that time because the company had to offset the cost of Thunder, which WCW had to figure out how to pay for instead of TBS paying them for the show, something he didn’t want to do but Ted Turner wanted the show despite not having a way to pay for it. Here are highlights:

On WCW having to pay for the cost of producing Thunder: “I’m going to try to be judicious in how often I refer back to the AOL-Time Warner merger and re-budgeting after budgets had been approved, but it’s hard to not talk about those things because it had such a dramatic impact on so many different levels. It was a combination of things. First of all, it was Thunder. We’ve touched on this in previous shows. But when Ted Turner mandated Thunder, he left it up to everybody else to come up with a way to pay for it. It was a very expensive show to produce. It was a live show, it was on the road, you had to bring in more talent, all the things we’ve talked about before. Typically, TBS would pay for that show. The network that was carrying it would offset the production, at least the expense of it. Not that they would pay us a license fee with a margin built in so that there was profit-building for it, but the idea should have been that TBS, who was going to be getting the show and presumably the advertising that went along with it, should have stepped up to offset to cost of production so it didn’t come out of WCW’s budget. That’s not what happened.”

On Turner looking down on WCW and how they paid for Thunder: “In WCW’s case, we went from being the redheaded stepchild to all of a sudden, we’re the golden child of Turner Broadcasting. Ted Turner’s calling me up every Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 to congratulate me. Right? Everything we touch is working and people are actually proud of WCW. Now we’re back to being the redheaded stepchildren again. And Ted Turner said, ‘Eric, go produce Thunder.’ And Bill Burch [AOL Time-Warner executive] says, ‘Eric, I’m not paying for it. It’s not coming out of my budget. You figure it out.’ Well how did I figure it out? We tried to increase our revenues in order to offset the expense that we were forced to eat. Ted wanted it, nobody else wanted to pay for it, I had no choice but to do it, we had to pay for it. So what did we do? We couldn’t increase any more PPVs. I couldn’t add another month to the calendar year. We weren’t going to do two PPVs in one month, that didn’t make sense to me at the time. We were having a difficult enough time delivering decent PPVs once a month. The only thing we could do is increase house shows to increase revenue to help offset the cost of Thunder. We didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to do that. A lot of our top guys had limits in their contracts that kept them out of the schedule that unfortunately some other guys had and those people that didn’t have limits in their agreements or had more dates that they owed us in their agreements, they worked their guts out.”

On how it affected the end product: “I think the grind, it obviously affects the talent. And so often, especially in WCW, finishes, the way matches were laid out, were subpar for the level of competition we were trying to achieve. Very very subpar, I might add. WCW never had a history, before I got there, while I was there as an announcer, while I was there running the company and subsequent to me leaving, WCW never ever was known for great finishes. Occasionally there would be a match or two that would stand out over the course of the year but I think if you look but I think if you look at some of the reporting from whose ever dirt sheet you wanted to believe in, you know I think the one consistent thing, and I would agree with it, is that our finishes sucked. Especially now as I go back and look at it. […] The agents were also on the receiving end of that. And I think people were just mentally and physically shot. And we didn’t have deep bench anyway when it came to agents and people who had great experience or even decent experience in laying out finishes so oftentimes, it was the talent themselves that were doing it. And it shows.”

If you use any quotes, please credit 83 weeks with an h/t to 411mania.com

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Eric Bischoff, Joseph Lee