Third Time Charm For Bischoff?

Eric Bischoff

Eric Bischoff

An article by Mike Mooneyham

Jan. 21, 2001

Ric Flair ushered in a new era for WCW last week by turning heel, telling everyone to take a seat and put down the remote, because “Your world changes tonight!”

The new owners of World Championship Wrestling are banking on it. They are hoping, against seemingly insurmountable odds, that the third time around is a charm for Eric Bischoff and that he can recreate that contagious “boy wonder” enthusiasm and lead the once-mighty WCW back into the Monday night ratings war.

To do it, though, he’ll need soldiers like Flair on his side. Bischoff realizes that, despite past differences, Flair is still the glue that holds the promotion together. Working under an assortment of company bosses, Flair has proven time and time again that he is the consummate team player, and he has the haircut to show for it. Besides, at this stage of his career, Flair can always walk if he doesn’t like the scenery.

Fusient Media Ventures is counting on Bischoff to build a team capable of competing with the WWF. The company will handle the marketing and promotional strategy, but Bischoff must somehow assemble the horses to do battle with WCW’s powerful counterpart.

“The only way they (the new owners) know wrestling is through Eric right now,” said one WCW official. “Their eyes will be opened to it here real quickly. I think they are going to make a big impact. They have to change a lot of things in how we do business, and that probably means a new address, a new approach to the product and new people who are doing that.”

The official said WCW, now headquartered in Smyrna, Ga., will likely see a change in location.

“I can see it breaking up, going east and west coast for certain parts of the company. It’s just going to be different from how we know it now. I don’t know if one building, where everything is located, is necessarily needed anymore. You can have other people who are handling certain things for you. You can really streamline a lot of things. It doesn’t have to be set up the way we are here. We were a Turner company, and that’s why we were set up the way we were.”

It is also likely that the Power Plant will be phased out and that WCW will adopt a training program similar to that used by the WWF, which relies heavily on develop mental territories to groom its talent. WCW has been criticized in the past for churning out Power Plant products who were not quite ready for prime time.

For the most part, the new WCW brass, including Bischoff, know more than they are saying publicly. WCW performers, likewise, have been uncharacteristically mum, not wanting to put themselves in harm with the new group. So, for now, every thing appears to be on a positive track at WCW.

“I’m sure they have a plan, but it’s not time to say what it is right now,” said a source.

One of WCW’s first creative tasks should be establishing who the heels are and who the babyfaces are. The lines have been blurred and performers have flip-flopped roles for too long. Effectively bringing back Sting, Booker T and Bill Goldberg to get heat on the bad guys would be a step in the right direction.

Paul Heyman, whose ECW empire appears to be dying a slow death, could be the hottest free agent on the market if his company folds. Although he and Eric Bischoff have had their differences in the past, Heyman could make an immediate impact on WCW if those fences could be mended. One of the most creative minds in the business, Heyman possesses a quality that WCW desperately needs, and that’s the ability to produce a diverse and entertaining wrestling product. Whether Bischoff would be willing to share creative control with Heyman is a different matter.

“We’re going to find out exactly what kind of influence Eric has, but it’s definitely going to be on the TV side,” said a WCW source. “And it’s going to be creative and dealing with the talent. He’s going to start assembling his team, and whether it’s made up of the guys there now or whether it’s going to be a new crew six months from now … The current crew were all friends of Vince (Russo) for the most part except for Terry.

“If he (Heyman) and Eric could get along without choking each other, it might work. Eric needs somebody who can book day to day. That would definitely be something months from now, because they have enough little distractions and things to get together right now without bringing another name into the group. Already wrestlers are falling all over themselves to kiss Eric’s ass or Brian Bedol’s ass. They’re just ready to line up. They’re just trying to figure out who’s got the stroke.”

It is unlikely, however, that Heyman would be willing to betray Vince McMahon, who has bailed him out on numerous occasions. Heyman also is looking to sell ECW if he’s unable to land a TV deal, and his asking price reportedly is under $10 million.

Sid Vicious (Sid Eudy) is expected to be out of action six to eight months with a compound fracture of his lower leg suffered at last weekend’s Sin pay-per-view. The grotesque-looking injury, reminiscent of the Joe Theisman-Lawrence Taylor accident some years ago, saw both bones in his leg snapped above his ankle, with at least one of the bones breaking through the skin.

The 6-9, 315-pound veteran broke his tibia and fibula of his left leg after executing a maneuver jumping off the ring ropes. A 43-centimeter rod was placed in his leg during the two-hour surgery.

Sid was released from Indianapolis Methodist Hospital on Tuesday night. He will be recovering at his home in Marion, Ark.

Ironically, Canada’s TSN (The Sports Network), the same network that ran numerous replays of the ugly Marty McSorley-Donald Brashear incident, decided that the footage of Sid’s injury was inappropriate for airing.

Sid’s injury caused Nitro to be rewritten the day of the show. The main event, switched to Kevin Nash vs. Scott Steiner, had been Nash, Dallas Page and Sid against Steiner, Jeff Jarrett and Animal.

Assistant booker Johnny Ace (John Laurinidas), taking a page out of the All Japan playbook, recommended the move in which Sid was injured. Ace, who joined WCW as a consultant last year after Ace ended his longtime relationship with All Japan, also helped arrange the surprise appearance by real-life brother Road Warrior Animal (Joe Laurinidas) in the main event of the Sin PPV.

Animal, who was described as looking to be in good shape and “big as a house,” is not expected to be joined by former partner Road Warrior Hawk (Mike Hegstrand), who was been out of action since blowing out the ventricle on the left side of his heart, a condition that only repairs itself through intensive cardiovascular conditioning. On the bright side, however, Hawk’s liver problems have been in full remission.

Animal’s most recent stints in both the WWF and WCW (with Hawk) have been largely unsuccessful. The two last appeared together in the WWF as mid-card team Legion of Doom.

New Japan Pro Wrestling president Tatsumi Fujinami was scheduled to fly to Atlanta to meet with WCW president Eric Bischoff in an attempt to negotiate a new deal between his company and WCW. Masa Saito, a longtime friend of Bischoff dating back to Bischoff’s days with the now-defunct AWA, also was scheduled to make the trip.

Diamond Dallas Page commented on the sale of WCW in an edition of the “Union Of Diamond Cutters” newsletter he maintains on egroups.com.

“I will say one thing about the takeover. From what I understand, this is not going to be the same car with a different driver. This is a whole new vehicle. I look for slight changes over the next 30 to 45 days, but within 3 months I see things in full swing and a major difference. Attitudes from most everyone I talked to are high, as are expectations. It’s a new year and a new dawn for World Championship Wrestling where I believe the wrestling fans will be the biggest winner. Remember when Nitro first went against Raw? Both shows only got better. Now that we have a captain on board, we know it won’t be smooth sailing, but at least we have a destination and we’re on the move.”

Buff Bagwell, whose contract expires in March, appears to be getting a push despite being very outspoken about the company in recent months. Former WCW creative chief Vince Russo, however, is expected to get the boot. And don’t look for Vince McMahon to welcome him back at Titan.

Look for the booking staff to be tightened to a small unit led by Bischoff. The futures of Terry Taylor, Johnny Ace and Ed Ferrara remain up in the air, although Ferrara may be the odd man out due to his connection with Russo. Bischoff has praised Ace’s work since he joined the company last year, while Taylor has proven to be a solid, consistent player.

Jim Ross addressed his recent negotiations with Shawn Michaels last week on a wwf.com report.

Said Ross: “My meeting recently with Shawn Michaels has been widely discussed on the Internet. The Heartbreak Kid will definitely have an expanded role on future Federation television broadcasts but when, if, or how many actual matches he has hasn’t and cannot be determined until he gets the first one under his belt. No date has been set for this first match but it is probably three to four months away.”

Ross also said Vince McMahon wouldn’t be taking any “significant” time away from the WWF to devote to the XFL, although some WWF performers have been grumbling recently.

Al Snow was involved in a recent car accident on a nasty curve in his home area of Lima, Ohio. The other car had three teen-agers in it and came into his lane after they had hit a patch of ice and their car began to skid. They hit his car head on. Snow hit the windshield and broke his knuckle on the hand he has been out rehabing, and sprained his neck. The three teen-agers ended up in intensive care. Snow later visited the three.

Evan Ginzburg recently published his Wrestling – Then and Now Annual for 2000, and it’s must reading for any serious fan of the business. The 72-page professionally printed magazine features a lengthy tribute to Johnny “The Champ” Valentine, along with many other interviews, extensive clippings and rare photos, and much more. The annual is a signed/numbered collectible, with every copy autographed by wrestler Bill Anderson, who is featured on the cover with the late Louis Spicolli. Also included is a nicely done piece on yours truly by veteran writer Jeff Archer. The annual is $12 U.S./$15 overseas, and checks should be made payable to: Evan Ginzburg, P.O. Box 640471, Oakland Gardens Station, Flushing, N.Y. 11364. For more information, check out Wrestling – Then & Now at www.walker town.com/wtnow.

A coroner has attributed fluid in the lungs as the reason for the death of former WWF champ Yokozuna (Rodney Anoia) last October while the 600-pound Yoko was on tour in Liverpool, England. It originally had been reported that he died of heart failure. Hilton Head native Sean O’Haire continues to impress WCW higher-ups and appears to be on the brink of breaking away from The Natural Born Thrillers pack.

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler are scheduled to do the “B” XFL games for NBC. Both are very knowledgeable on the game of football, but watch for them to be closely scrutinized by the media.

Highlighted by the banning of fair catches on punts, the XFL has announced key rules changes for the league’s upcoming season. In addition to eliminating fair catches, the XFL has also modified current punting rules in several other ways to introduce the “most exciting fourth down in football.” Most prominently among these changes is the fact that in the XFL, any punt traveling more than 25 yards will be a live ball recoverable by either team.

“You can sure that no fan will get a drink or go to the bathroom during an XFL punt,” said XFL President Basil V. DeVito Jr. “When the punter lets fly anything can happen. The strategic possibilities are endless.”

With the banning of the fair catch also comes protection for punt returners in the form of a five-yard protective “halo” by potential tacklers until the punt is caught, and members of the kicking team will not be able to release from the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked.

Another major XFL rules change involves the point after touchdown, which also has been changed to eliminate what has become football’s most automatic score. In the XFL, there will be no PAT kicks, in stead teams will have to run or pass from the two-yard line to score one point. What’s more, since the clock will be running during this play, any fumbled or intercepted attempt can be returned by the defending team for a one-point score of its own.

Columbia native and longtime women’s wrestling champion The Fabulous Moolah (Lillian Ellison) recently went through double bypass heart surgery and a bad case of pneumonia that left her literally dead in the hospital on two different occasions before being revived by doctors.

Moolah recently spoke with wwf.com about her near-death experience.

“God brought me back for some reason, I don’t know why. But I’m here. I’m having the roughest match of my life, I guess.”

Two days before Halloween, Moolah mentioned to a doctor friend of hers that she was having dizzy spells. He gave her a checkup and discovered serious heart problems. He told her to report the hospital immediately the next day. When Moolah didn’t want to take her doctor on, he force fully told her, “You do what I say.” She did – and she’s alive to tell about it.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go without a hitch. After the original surgery, there were still problems. She had two blocked arteries, but surgery couldn’t be performed right away because of the pneumonia she was infected with in the hospital. On Dec. 20, she finally went back under the knife. The surgery was a resounding success – but her bad luck didn’t quite end there.

Right now, Moolah is suffering from an injured vertebrae in her back, which was caused by blackout and slip-and-fall. She might not be able to get treatment for at least a month because she’s currently on blood-thinner medication.


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