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Eric Bischoff on Why WCW Shifted Focus to Nitro and Phased Out Clash of the Champions in 1997

August 18, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Eric Bischoff

– During the latest 83 Weeks, Eric Bischoff discussed running the 100th episode of Monday Nitro and how focus shifted to mainly WCW Monday Nitro and away from the Clash of the Champions specials on TBS. Below are some highlights.

Eric Bischoff on why WCW shifted emphasis to Nitro over Clash of the Champions in 1997: “The dynamic with Clash of the Champions — because there was so much emphasis put on Nitro and resources and Nitro was driving the ship, and Clash of the Champions was historically the big network special on TBS. But historically, there was a point where, you know, corporately, you had to make a decision. Were you going to put all of our eggs in the Nitro basket, or are you going to try to keep this TBS thing alive. And then we put so much emphasis creatively and financially and every other way into Nitro that I hate it this way, I can’t think of a better way to say it or a different way to see it, but Clash of the Champions became kind of a secondary effort. Not that we went into it wanting to feel that way but because it was so much energy and focus on Nitro that inherently I guess or naturally, Clash of the Champions became kind of an afterthought, which was unfortunate because Clash of the Champions really was, from a legacy perspective I guess, one of the things that made WCW stand out on the TBS Network.”

“So, it was a conflict. How do we make Clash of the Champions feel as big as Nitro, but Nitro became a victim of its own success. Or I should say Clash of the Champions became a victim Nitro’s success would be a better way to say it. Nitro became such a living, breathing animal that there was really nothing we could really do to keep Clash of the Champions feeling special, especially with as many pay-per-views as we were doing. Because now, you not only get Nitro, this living, breathing animal that ate up a ton of talent and a ton of creative, and were always looking for ways to top ourselves each and every week, that took a lot of creative horsepower and intellectual property horsepower. Oh, and by the way, all that effort is really driving a pay-per-view, and you have to deliver on that pay-per-view once a month or whatever it was by that point in 1997. I think by that time, we were probably at 12 or close to it. And just by default, Clash of the Champions became kind of an afterthought — Not an afterthought, that’s the wrong way to say it Eric, but it became — it was a third priority, not a first priority as it had previously been.”

Bischoff on Nitro becoming the flagship and putting big matches on the show, while Clash was starting to feel more like WCW Saturday Night: “Definitely, and I think — we all hear, especially if you’re in sales or marketing or any kind of related business — we all hear the term ‘brand’ bandied about on a regular basis to the point where nobody really knows what it means, but I think this is a perfect example of ho Nitro was indeed a brand. It had its own person personality. It had its own message. It was unpredictable. It was action-packed. It was groundbreaking. It was innovative. There was always surprised. All of the elements, all of the attributes that made Nitro so successful didn’t necessarily cross over to the other WCW related properties. Clash of the Champions just didn’t have that same identity. We talked about it earlier on in this podcast, but I think that’s a perfect example of why. Just because it’s a WCW product didn’t mean that it had the same petina or the same power or the same energy as Nitro. Nitro was a WCW property, so was the Clash of the Champions. One was pop-culture, energy, [for] everybody, it was must-see-tv back in the day. Clash — WCW property — not so much.”

Eric Bischoff on how the talent didn’t drive Nitro: “Same talent by the way. And that’s what’s really funny when you look at it. It wasn’t the talent so much that drove the strength of Nitro because it was the same talent on Clash of the Champions for the most part. It was just that the energy and the idea of the brand of Nitro.”

Eric Bischoff on Nitro’s elements that made it unique: “And again, not to beat this into the ground, there were elements of Nitro that made it unique. Nitro inherently had surprises. You could always expect to see the unexpected. Sometimes it was small. Sometimes those moments and surprises were small and seemingly insignificant, but oftentimes they were large, aka Lex Luger. The very thing I did was to make an impact with Lex Luger to communicate to the audience that when you tune into Nitro, you’re going to see something you never expected to see. That’s it. Not super f***ing complicated, right? But we couldn’t always do it on a scale of Lex Luger surprisingly showing up, but if you ask yourself when you’re writing an episode, ‘What can we do in this episode that the audience isn’t going to expect?’ Just start from there. Start from that premise, ‘What can we do?’ And sometimes you can do something big, and sometimes you do something small. But as long as you consistently delivered on that promise, if you will, not that you state dit every week. We didn’t go out and tell everybody, ‘We’re gonna surprise you every week!’ But in your writing and presentation, if you can figure out a way to do something to kind of service that need — what does the audience need? What do they want? Why do they tune into this stuff? If every week, we check that box, after a while, that becomes your identity. And it becomes your brand kind of statement. That’s what what the audience tunes into expect, and that’s when you get, ‘tune in every week.'”

If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit 83 Weeks with a h/t to 411mania.com for the transcription.