Monday, December 14, 2009

Eric Bischoff Defends Firing Steve Austin Before WWE Fame


Wade Keller: You mentioned Steve Austin earlier. I think that's a good example where there's two sides to stories. The anti-Bischoff side got a lot of publicity while you were busy running the company. In your book you gave your side of a lot of things. I did the "Torch Talk" with Steve Austin after he left WCW, right before he signed with the WWF, and he said he couldn't believe you fired him over the phone or didn't bring him into the office and was very upset. You provided a pretty compelling second side to it, which is him telling his wife when you called, "Tell him I'm not home." And you overheard that. I think a lot of people sympathized with your decision to pull the trigger on him at that point because he wasn't, in your mind, in any position to be that unprofessional. That acknowledged, that there were two sides to it, do you think look back and think you still should have maybe recognized what a lot of people had been writing for a couple of years, what a lot of his colleagues thought for a couple of years, which is he could be the next big thing. Because I think in your book you probably understated how many people recognized him in that year before he was fired by you - a lot of people were saying "he has it, he has that It Factor." He's not quite focused on what he's going to become to be a top star, but he's headed that direction. When you look back do you think maybe you should have seen that a little more?

Eric Bischoff: I don't know who all those people were, Wade? Nobody was coming to me with that point of view. Nobody pulled me aside and said, "Hey, Eric, I think you're making a mistake. I think this guy has that It-Factor. I think he could be the Next Big Thing. Maybe people that were reading your sheets and your audience were saying that.

Keller: It was a limited number of people, but it was definitely being written about. But also, I really think colleagues, other wrestlers were saying that. I thought it was pretty commonly thought that he was among the top draft picks if you were planning three-to-five years down the road.

Bischoff: Like I said, I didn't look to the Torch or the Wrestling Observer to kind of base my futures decisions on, number one. Number two, if there were any of his colleagues or Dusty Rhodes or whoever it was that was around me at the time, certainly none of those people pulled me aside and said, "Look, I think you're underestimating this guy or undervaluing him." I think, again, going back. Now we're going back 15 years, not 10, but I had always liked "Stunning" Steve. I always got along with him. We weren't beer drinking buddies or any of that kind of stuff; we hadn't gone hunting and fishing together. But we were friendly and got along great. We got along great when I was an announcer at WCW. We're probably more alike than we are not in terms of people. We're both pretty direct, we both like to hunt and fish, we both like to drink beer. We're kind of both rednecks. I'm standing on my deck looking out at the Rocky Mountains right now because I like to be here to hunt and fish. There's not a lot of chemistry differences between Steve and I. So we got along fine, but going back 15 years ago, this was a guy who, he and Brian Pillman were great as The Hollywood Blondes, a great tag team. But Steve was struggling with injuries. He had some pretty severe injuries at the time. His character, we kept trying a few different things and he kept experimenting and nothing was really clicking. After I fired him, he went to WWE and it took a while to find anything that clicked. Anybody that tells me they had this crystal ball and knew that Steve Austin was going to become Stone Cold in 1997 or 1998 after I fired him in nineteen-ninety-whatever, they're full of sh--. It's easy to look back and say, "Aw, I told you so!" But this is a guy that had been in the business for a long time, he had struggled with a lot of different characters, he had reached a good level of success, but he wasn't knocking super-stardom's door in WCW or in WWE until after the Nitro era opened the door for him to become an entirely different character than he had ever been before.

More of the interview tomorrow from!

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