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Bischoff:  Love Him, or Hate Him?
July 16, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


It actually happened:  Eric Bischoff on WWE TV.

People have been speculating about it for some time, and ever since the Brand Extension some 4 months ago, it's ALMOST seemed like a logical idea to somehow get Bischoff into the mix.  Even I had proposed not one, but TWO fairly detailed scenarios in which Bischoff could play a key role in making the brand split concept work:  one from right around WM when the Split had yet to happen, and one from about two months ago when it seemed the split already needed to be saved.  And I wasn't alone among the fantasy bookers...

At least one other guy was sitting back with a grand scheme that involved Bischoff:  his name is Vince Russo.  By all accounts, his master plan for saving WWE involved bringing Bischoff in to completely revamp RAW... some even say he wanted to strip all champions and call the show "Nitro."  And unlike your humble webmaster, Vince Russo got a call to come up and visit Titan Towers and pitch his ideas to the WWE creative team.

Well, I can see how they might have been a bit hesitant to rename the show and strip all the champions... but somebody, somewhere, must have like the core concept that Russo was promoting.  Because even though Russo is gone, now in the employ of NWA-TNA, the "Eric Bischoff Takes Over RAW" angle is in full effect.

And just as at all points in the past, Bischoff seems to have completely polarized wrestling fans.  Is it the greatest, most shocking "Holy Shit" swerve of all times?  Or a pathetic sign of desperation?

Leaning towards the latter, apparently, is Christopher Robin Zimmerman.  His SlashWrestling.com features a black screen, and the ominous message "Good Night."  [As an aside, CRZ says he IM'ed last night to tell me he quit...  I didn't get the message until he sent an e-mail, though.  This is because I don't do Instant Messaging; I don't even have any IM software installed.  So, faithful readers, if you see somebody claiming to be me on AIM or Yahoo or whatever -- even if they are using my quasi-official "OO Rick" screen name -- tell them to fuck off on my behalf.  But then go back and tell them, thanks, and that I'm flattered to be so important to them that I'm worth impersonating.]

Then, Lee Filas DOES file his Squared Circle Jerk for RAW... but when he finds out the new GM is Bischoff, he quits, mid-column.  Is he serious, or just yanking our chains?  Tune in next week and find out!

So I guess that leaves me to tell you that you might as well go check out the plain-vanilla Officially Sanctioned WWE.com RAW Recap, if you need to know what happened.  Do it, if for no other reason than to show yourself just how much you are going to miss CRZ's wit, insight, and complete transcriptions of even the most inane bullshit!

But on the other side of the spectrum from CRZ is, well, me.  By the time Bischoff appeared on-screen, it wasn't exactly a total shock; the silly smark-y rumors (and my own hyper-active imaginiation, as witnessed by that previous links) meant I was already open to the idea of Bischoff appearing to head up RAW.  Shane McMahon's comments sealed the deal.  But it was still surreal enough a moment that I hopped right on my PC and had this site updated with the pertinent info by 10:30pm (eastern).  Screw you west coasters and your "spoilers"!

Not much has changed since that first report I did.  You can get the more detailed report on Bischoff's actions elsewhere, and at this point, even WWE.com is confirming that Bischoff has been hired in an on-screen performer capacity, not to genuinely head up the creative direction of the RAW brand.  As I said last night, his ideas and contributions will be welcome, just as they are welcome from any performer, but he's got no additional clout.

But as we sit here today, with a bit more time to think about things, I wanted to strike while the iron was hot.  Because at least ONE of the Bischoff-related topics has a shelf-life of less than 12 more hours.  That one being, of course:  Who will be the General Manager of SmackDown!?

The names most bandied about by fans have been Mick Foley, Paul Heyman, Stephanie McMahon, Shawn Michaels, Shane McMahon, and Dusty Rhodes.  Some of these were even teased as options on RAW; the last is an internet creation based on information that Dusty has been in contact with Vince McMahon within the last week.

Now, with the RAW GM being a heel, you'd think that the SD! GM oughta be a babyface... if that conventional wisdom holds, then Heyman and Steph are right out.  Heyman COULD be a babyface, but it'd side track the more important project of advancing Brock Lesnar.  And Steph, like her old man, does not seem to possess the Believable Babyface Gene.  

Mick Foley?  Well, there was an upsurge of Foley-related material over the weekend (in the form of one whole article on the WWE website), which in the past has signaled a major return (remember Shawn Michaels on Confidential one week, and then on RAW the next?)...  but Foley has got his plate full, and honestly does not need the WWE.  Not Foley, I say.

Shane?  To me, he'd be the best choice.  He is the McMahon with the Babyface Gene, for one.  And two, if it ever came down to GM vs. GM in a Sports Entertainment Segment, I'd want Shane involved to take the wild bumps and to keep things moving along against the less-useful Bischoff.  But alas, the mere fact that Shane appeared in a cameo on RAW means he probably won't get the job.  But maybe it DOES mean he can get back on TV in the next few months as part of a mission to regain control that Bischoff has usurped?

Shawn Michaels WAS a heel, but could easily and quickly be turned into a babyface.  But that would just reek too much of "Hey, we got this guy hanging around and need something for him to do" more than anything else.  I wouldn't go with Shawn, personally, but I guess I wouldn't complain if it was him.

That leaves Dusty as the most likely of those babyface candidates.  And only in pro wrestling does "least talked about and most closely guarded" equate to "most obvious."  I'm weeping at the thought of Dusty vs. Bischoff, but whatchya gonna do?  But he can play a believable rube who Bischoff can take advantage of, and that might be enough of a reason to go ahead with him...

I guess I'll be happy just as long as they stay away from Steph.  As good a heel performer as she is, she simply cannot afford to get put back into a position where she'd be overexposed (and not in the good way like when she threatened to pop out of her clothes) as she was in the last year and a half or so.  A little Steph is one of the most effective things the Fed's got in its back pocket, right now. But too much Steph will again alienate a bunch of fans and leave them demanding another "Loser Leaves TV" match.

The pretty cool idea for a SD! GM that I've gotten in e-mail:  Roddy Piper.  I know it'd probably get old faster than Steph returning to TV, but there's something very mark-out-for-able about the thought of Hot Rod doing some focused mic work as part of getting this GM concept rolling...

And then there's tons of other things to talk about in relation to Bischoff and the whole General Manager concept...  mostly, it's just kind of a nebulous thing where I'd like to ramble about if I think it's good or bad.

The fact that I'm not just walking away should be proof enough that I think this is mostly a cool idea.  I am not without my concerns, but based on one night, hey, I gotta admit I got a charge out of seeing Eric Bischoff on RAW.

One of Bischoff's strengths is that he is a hate-able on-screen performer.  He's a guy who'll elicit boos and "asshole" chants, and who's got the sort of smarmy insincerity that makes him genuinely despicable.  In WWE, that's all he'll be worrying about: being an effective on-screen performer.  He ain't running Vince's company, folks, make no mistake.

Another strength that Bischoff is playing to is that he seems poised to re-create his own well-documented past.  How did Bischoff make WCW such a powerhouse?  Well, millions of WWF fans will tell you he did it by stealing away superstars that were made by Vince McMahon and making them his own.  His position as GM of RAW is already being portrayed as one that will allow him to "raid" the SmackDown! roster for top level stars; though the Fed's lack of establishing the precise guidelines that legislate the brand split will obfuscate matters, I'm guessing they'll be able to convey the idea that "by hook or by crook," Bischoff will try to sign away as many of SD! top names as possible.

This has the secondary effect of FINALLY doing what I talked about back in those fantasy scenarios from months ago:  creating a REASON and a basis for the split, and making the two shows competitive with each other within storylines.  The new GM of SD! will have to counter by trying to KEEP his (or her) talent on SD!  I honestly do like the idea of trying to create hostility between the brands, and think Bischoff is the perfect guy to spark that competition.

Another benefit of Bischoff as one of two dueling GMs:  it creates an excuse for WWE to bring new talents into storylines.  Bischoff is known as a guy who acquires talent, regardless of cost, just because he can.  He doesn't have Ted Turner's deep pockets, but I promise you, Vince McMahon will have no problem putting himself over on TV as a billionaire with Deep Pockets of his own.  Bischoff, with Vince's deep pockets, could sign Goldberg.  Or Scott Steiner.  Or maybe, if fences can be mended, he could even lure back Steve Austin?

A lot of doors are opened up, not just in terms of swapping and re-aligning the WWE talent, but also in terms of bringing new guys in.

But that doesn't mean I'm not without my concerns.

First and foremost, there is the omni-present threat of doing too much, too fast.  Blowing the wad without the right amount of build up.  My scenario had Bischoff's take over and revelation of his true plans and motivations playing out over months...  so my hope is that we've only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Bischoff is REALLY doing accepting this job, and that the Fed will allow it to slowly build up to something big.

Which allows me to go directly into my second concern:  there better be something big at the end of this tunnel.  Just carting out Bischoff was good for one night of surreal TV.  But now, there needs to be a plan, a place to be in six months that will have a lot of twists and turns, but which will ultimately enthrall the audience.  And if there isn't one, what we'll end up with is "Evil Boss has Issues with his Talent."  And I think we've all had just about enough of that storyline. And it isn't like Bischoff is such a great performer that he can make it fresh again after four years of seeing Vince play the part.

Also: a certain, possibly sizeable, percentage of fans knew what Bischoff was talking about in his promo.  But I'm guessing that a large percentage didn't know the full backstage poop, and what's more, probably didn't really care.  To entertain those of us who know the full story of the Monday Night Wars, it might be best to avoid the subtle re-writing of shoot history.  It annoys us smarks.  To entertain the unwashed masses, they can re-write all the way, but they better have some better way to present Bischoff's past than his own over-long monologues; as good and as intriguing as I thought it was, he seemed to lose people about half-way through.  So I say, use the video library, try to keep this in the realm of what Bischoff, the on-screen character has done in the past, and avoid the shoot-y type comments, unless you're going to let Bischoff REALLY present his side of how shit went down.

Cuz I know that when Bischoff went and did online chats 5 years ago, he never once admitted that he only accomplished his success thanks to Ted Turner's money.  He never once admitted that he might have gained an edge when Vince's attention was turned away during the federal steroid trial.  He was full of himself, his masterful management of the company, his ability to main event a PPV in a tag match that also involved Jay Leno, and the genius that was exhibited in Master P and the No Limit Soldiers.

But anyway, that's about enough for today's post mortem.  I'm amped by the possibilities Bischoff and the GM concept offer.  I'm concerned that we may see the Fed get off-track with yet another "shouldn't-miss" concept, just as they did with last year's Invasion.  That's because I am, as always, a man who holds sway over the Middle Ground with a mighty fist.  Our motto here:  Let's wait and see.

Thoughts about the other parts of RAW, some backlash against HHH, spoilers (including the SD! GM), and lots more will all be a part of the regularly scheduled edition of OO that goes up tomorrow.  See you then. 


Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.

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