Best known as the former President of WCW, Eric Bischoff has claimed that WCW’s Nitro was already beating WWE Monday Night RAW even before the NWO formed.
On the 83 Week Podcast, Bischoff and co-host Conrad Thompson were breaking down the reasons as to why WCW was breaking new ground in wrestling during the 90’s. The Monday Night Wars were simmering, WWF (as they were then known) had control of the demographics long before WCW started to evolve – what WWF didn’t see coming was the sudden surge of interest that audiences had in WCW television.
Amongst many things, Eric singled out the International talents he brought into WCW as one of the driving factors behind the success of Nitro. Bischoff was willing to roll the dice on those lesser known, unfamiliar characters, and not the “paint by numbers” stencil that the wrestling industry was becoming.
This was part of a bigger strategy [by WCW]. You know, bringing in international talent, it wasn’t like I invented that s**t. I just did it with a strategy in mind as opposed to just a one-off “Hey! We’ve got Mutoh coming over!” for a week, boom, gone.
Bringing the Japanese over as part of the Cruiserweight Division, the Luchadores over, it made wrestling different than the audience was used to. They leaned forward, and wanted to see more, wanted to learn more, realised that WCW was different than everything they’d be watching for so long prior.
I underestimated, at the time, the value of the Cruiserweights, and I mean specifically the Luchadores and the Japanese and the International talent that were a part of it.
The core of the Cruiserweight Division was built upon International talent. And I think that had a much more significant impact on the growth and the success of Nitro than people think – or I thought at the time!
Eric then goes on to discuss the common “misconception” that the only reason WCW Nitro got ‘over’ was because of the NWO – his response to that a very clear “F**k you”.
NWO was the reason Nitro got over? No, f**k you. You’re wrong. Nitro was gaining and defeating WWE shortly before the NWO.
The fact is, we were defeating WWE without the NWO. The NWO catapulted it, but it was the things like [the cruiserweight division matches] that gave us the ability to be different than them.
And that was the whole premise of Nitro, I knew it wouldn’t be successful if it was wasn’t different than WWE.
More now than ever, ‘smaller’ talent are becoming stars on all of the wrestling brands. We see stars such as Darby Allin and Daniel Bryan, Marko Stunt and Drake Maverick lead very successful careers in the wrestling business despite their size – often compensated by insane athletic abilities.
Bischoff is right that he wasn’t the first to do it, but the way in which he showcased the Cruiserweights (in his eyes) was one of the biggest factors in the success of WCW over it’s then rivals, WWE.