Inside Pulse 12

Voice Of Reason 1.17.01: The Bischoff Touch

We have all seen (or read about) Sin Sunday and the 1.15.00 edition of Monday Nitro, which were the first two TV programs produced since Fusient announced their purchase of WCW. And because I was weak this week, I also skimmed the Thunder spoilers (this column will have some spoilers, so if you are reading before Thunder, be aware). The changes seen so far in the WCW product is subtle, but diehard watchers of WCW’s product (like yours truly) will see that Eric Bischoff’s finger prints are already all over WCW.

The conspiracy of Evil CEO Ric Flair and his band of evil wrestlers that went down at Sin was actually a well crafted angle that very few, if any, fans predicted. During the actual Sin broadcast the Flair turn was obvious, but the seeds were planted on WCW TV as well, with secret meetings between Flair and Totally Buff and Flair’s overly corny demeanor.

But as the dust settles, and the WCW landscape is clear for the next few weeks and months, the main players in the main angle all have one major thing in common- they are all old. In fact, the Flair-led Evil team looks a hell of a lot like the ill-fated Millionaire’s Club, and those in the MC not on Flair’s team are against it.

While it’s far too early to judge, it appears as if there will once again be a thick layer of old established stars on top of the promotion. Hopefully, this will be a fair short-lived phenomenon. If it only lasts a month or two, it could actually be stabilizing influence on WCW, which seems to have no direction or focus. By first re-establishing the major stars, WCW will be in a much better position to begin to push their next generation of stars in March or April. It will do Lance Storm, Kidman, Sean O’Haire and others much better to battle against Rick Steiner, Lex Luger and the others if they are first presented as the top tier again.

A major reason why Booker T, Jeff Jarrett and to a lesser extent Scott Steiner are not perceived to be “major players” is because they were simply thrust into the main event, without really beating the established stars first. If the Millionaire’s Club 2001, or whatever its called is only on top for a short time, the rise of the next group will seem important. Bischoff has to prove to fans that he will use his “brand name” stars to create new stars, and soon.

Scott Steiner and Kevin Nash put on a pretty damned good main event on Nitro, which is particularly shocking considering how bad Nash usually is. However, another Bischoff trademark reared its ugly head at the end, when about 10 wrestlers ran down and caused a screwjob DQ ending, saving the title for Scott Steiner. Even more disturbing, the same thing happened in the Thunder main event, as Jeff Jarrett and DDP were interrupted by a similar cavalcade from the locker room.

There are enough stars in WCW at this point so that TV main events can be varied. There is no excuse to have no winner in these matches, and there should be an easy way for the top names to trade jobs with each other with all the TV matches possible. Bischoff has to prove to current and prospective WCW fans that he will not only deliver these big matches, but, for the first time in his booking career, deliver satisfying finishes that further rivalries and generate heat for PPV matches.

It was curious to see a renewed emphasis on the cruiserweight title in the past month, and now that Bischoff is officially back in the picture, it’s easy to see why. Bischoff has long been a fan of the cruiserweight division, and his support of Mexican and Japanese cruiserweights in the mid-90s was a contributing reason to the success of WCW. With Chavo Guerrero as a strong heel champion, the division is on a slow road to recovery. There are plenty of wrestlers in WCW that can fill out the division, including Rey Mysterio Jr., Kidman, Shane Helms, Shannon Moore, Yang, Kaz Hayashi, Jamie Knoble, Evan Karagias and so on. And if the foreign wrestlers let go by WCW over the past year are rehired, the division can be amazing once again.

Imagine if each Nitro, Thunder and PPV had just two matches involving these great wrestlers! Well Sin and Nitro both did have two fantastic cruiserweight matches, and the crowd was hot for all four by the end. If WCW audiences can be re-conditioned to appreciate the in ring work and amazing ability of the cruiserweights, WCW will have a unique and refreshing part of their federation that is not seen elsewhere.

Eric Bischoff’s influence is already felt throughout WCW with the return of many older stars, the non-finishes in the main events and the renewed push of the cruiserweight division. Fans have seen these things from Bischoff before. His task is now to use what he’s learned to extract the positives from his past and combine it with new ideas in the present to bring new fans to WCW in the future.

Can he do it? WCW’s last chance is riding on the chance that he can.