My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I started really watching wrestling in late 2000 during the Attitude Era when I started dating my boyfriend (now husband) at the time. We were young college kids. Up to that point, I'd only glimpsed wrestling on television. I had a cousin who was big fan of wrestling when we were kids and was convinced that she was going to marry Shawn Michaels. She talked nonstop about him. I knew a little about NWO and Goldberg, but that was the extent of my knowledge. When I started watching wrestling, I was solely watching the WWE product. I was immediately taken by characters like Lita and The Rock. I didn't even give the WCW brand a glance. I was so invested in the stories the WWE was telling that it never even crossed my mind to give the other guys a chance.
On my birthday in 2001, Vince made the announcement on RAW that he'd acquired WCW. I still didn't really know who Eric Bischoff was at that point. However, I started going back, watching old matches and shows from both products. I wanted to know the history of wrestling and its players. I blame my love of history and needing to know the history of things for this. I've always thought that Eric Bischoff was a great heel character once I learned about him, and I never hated the guy. I understand why he is a polarizing character, but I never despised him or felt the same level of antipathy that many fans have for him.
I recently watched every episode of Monday Night Wars on the WWE Network, which was fascinating. A fellow wrestling friend gifted me with a few wrestling memoirs to check out after we had some long discussions about the rivalry between the WWE and WCW (Bischoff says it was less a rivalry and more a "rout" during the weeks they reigned supreme). Controversy Creates Cash was one of the books in this treasure trove. Eric Bischoff's book focuses more on the business side of wrestling rather than wrestling. Bischoff was a businessman, and it makes sense that his book focused on the backstage politics and troubles. He does talk about his younger years and other failed ventures that he tried in the beginning, and he jumps around quite a bit on various subjects. Some of these sections felt a bit like filler and unnecessary, especially since they lacked buildup, but perhaps there was a connection that I was missing between these scenes.
Bischoff gives entirely too much book time to his dislike of internet wrestling sites. Mentioning them once or twice would've sufficed. Often his thoughts are mentioned as asides when he discusses certain changes he made or ideas he incorporated and how wrestling sites misconstrued the intent behind these things. He even goes as far as to make disparaging remarks about how these people must be losers in real life. In a portion of his book he accuses Missy Hyatt of being catty, but his own remarks about "dirtsheets" and some of the talent/backstage employees show that he is equally as catty and political as they are. I found it particularly hilarious that he singled out Dave Meltzer who runs Wrestling Observer, accusing his paid newsletter of being unedited trash that seemed written by a 5th grader when this book was pretty terribly edited. Even in the lines about Meltzer, the word "wrestler" is spelled wrong. There's some irony there.
Eric Bischoff accuses other wrestling memoirs of being revisionist history meant to paint the author in a more favorable light. However, no matter how straightforward Bischoff believes his own narrative is, he falls into that category as well, seeming to bathe himself in a softer narrative as suits him. Anyone who's ever watched any documentary that Bischoff has been part of, especially the ones centered around the Monday Night Wars, is hardly fooled by this kinder, gentler Bischoff he tried to sell in this book. It's interesting to see how Bischoff's memories of events differ from how the other players view the events. Such as how he felt the WCW did great things with its cruiserweight division versus how people like Chris Jericho (who was part of this cruiserweight push) view those same events, which are often memories filled with frustration on their part.
However, despite the mixed feelings I had about Bischoff's account of things, I can't say that this book isn't compelling. Bischoff admits that during that time he lacked insight and didn't think about the bigger picture of some of his ideas and changes. Reading his version of some events prove there still is some lack of insight on his part. Eric talks about Paul Heyman and how he felt that Heyman was so full of shit that he believed his own delusions. That felt like the pot calling the kettle black. Bischoff seems locked in his own mind in portions of this story, choosing to believe his version of events. Do I think Eric Bischoff was the death of WCW? No, I don't. I think he got caught in the whirlwind that is business politics and was dragged along to an inevitable end. I think his assessment of the business side of wrestling as far as perceptions and the problems faced being part of a corporation like Turner/Time Warner are probably the most honest parts of this memoir.
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