On a recent edition of his “83 Weeks” podcast, WWE Hall of Famer Eric Bischoff discussed his experience working with Ted Turner while in WCW.
You can check out some highlights from the podcast below:
On Ted Turner being hands-off with WCW: “Well, in my experience, at least, almost no direct connection. Probably had a more direct connection with me than he did with anybody that preceded me, with the exception of maybe Jack Petrik and Jim Herd initially. He had to be, Ted didn’t — I mean, if you look at just everything that Ted accomplished between 1980 and the debut of CNN, forget about everything that happened. But by the way, he created the first superstation. That was another first, Chicago WGN became a superstation shortly thereafter. Ted pretty much created the model and the methodology. But if you look at it, he owned New Line, he owned Castle Rock, he owned Hanna-Barbara. The acquisition of the MGM film library, the creation of all the various networks, Cartoon Network for example, all the various networks that are now under the, or were under the brand of Turner Broadcasting, now Warner Brothers Discovery. Ted didn’t have time to manage a wrestling business. Ted didn’t have the time to manage a lot of the businesses that he built so rapidly. You’re not talking about 100 years of growth here, you’re talking about 20. If you look at where Turner Broadcasting was in the 1980 premiere of CNN, within a 20-year period he built a media empire. He certainly wasn’t going to have time to run any individual business of it.
“Now, he was more interested in the Braves. He wasn’t [with] probably some of the other businesses because of his affection for the team and baseball in general. I think he may have gotten a little bit more involved in the Braves from an operational point of view, actually played in a game at one point. I remember hearing a story where, this was when nobody was watching the Braves, and he decided he was going to create some kind of a stunt. And I think he ran some bases or something crazy. But I mean, that was Ted. Ted was crazy, much like Vince McMahon was crazy. I had a little touch of crazy now and then. Myself, there’s no comparing me to either Vince or Ted, but there’s a common theme there where you’re just not afraid to put yourself out there and do crazy shit to get the right attention. And maybe that’s being an entrepreneur, I don’t know. But you look at everything that Ted accomplished in that 20-year window, which is a minute, it’s like 64 seconds in real life. He didn’t have time to operate anything. Maybe things would have been different had he [had the time]. But he had wanted to, even when I was there early when I was there before I got into management, it was discussed and kind of well known. It was no secret Ted wanted, he was trying to buy CBS. He wanted to buy a legacy network. He wanted to buy NBC. I believe he took a run at it once or twice and failed, which is one of the reasons why when the AOL Time Warner thing came along, it looked to Ted at that moment, in that snapshot, it looked like this was his opportunity to own a media empire that eclipsed NBC or CBS. That’s why Ted was so motivated and why he gave up so much, including his own position in the company. But no, Ted had very minimal contact with WCW. Very minimal contact.”
On Jim Barrett’s relationship with Ted Turner: “I could never put a finger on it. Jim was a great storyteller. And I never dug into it to try to find out what was true or wasn’t true, but here’s what I do know. Jim came over with — Jim as a part of the Jack Terick, Jim Herd’s original configuration. Jim Barnett was right there, central to it, I think Jim Barnett kind of acted as a consultant with Ted, perhaps pre-acquisition of Crockett Promotions. So Jim was there, but he was never in a defined role. It’s like Ted went, ‘All right, Jim helped me put this deal together. He’s getting on. I’m going to give him a job, make him comfortable. I’m not going to require too much of him. He’s just going to be there as a resource.’ That’s really what Jim Barnett was, I think, for the longest time. And Jim Barnett was really good at playing that. Because Jim Barnett loved, Barnett and Gary Juster both were cut out of the same cloth in that respect. They just loved the political, corporate intrigue. And there was a lot of it to love back then. It was a mess, to be honest. But Jim was — everybody, you know, when Bill Watts came in he had his opinions about Jim Barnett and his value to WCW. But he didn’t cross him. Right. Because you never knew where Jim’s relationships were with regard to Ted. So Jim was able to exist in his little world all on his own, and just watch everyone play their rols in this big stage name called WCW.”
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Ted Turner is a name that is synonymous with the media industry. As the founder of CNN and the creator of the first superstation, Turner has left an indelible mark on the world of television. However, his involvement in the wrestling business, particularly with WCW (World Championship Wrestling), is often overlooked. In a recent episode of the “83 Weeks” podcast, WWE Hall of Famer Eric Bischoff shed some light on his experience working with Turner and the extent of his involvement in WCW.
One of the key points Bischoff highlighted was Turner’s hands-off approach to WCW. Despite being the owner of the company, Turner had minimal direct contact with the wrestling promotion. This was largely due to his numerous other business ventures and his rapid expansion of Turner Broadcasting. From owning New Line and Castle Rock to acquiring the MGM film library and creating networks like Cartoon Network, Turner had built a media empire in a relatively short period. With such a busy schedule, he simply did not have the time to manage individual businesses like WCW.
Turner’s primary interest seemed to lie in the Atlanta Braves baseball team. Bischoff mentioned that Turner was more involved with the Braves than with other businesses under his umbrella. In fact, Turner even played in a game for the Braves at one point, showcasing his eccentric personality and willingness to do whatever it took to draw attention. Bischoff drew parallels between Turner and Vince McMahon, stating that both men were not afraid to put themselves out there and do unconventional things to garner the right kind of attention.
Bischoff also touched upon Jim Barnett’s relationship with Turner. Barnett, who played a significant role in putting together the deal that led to Turner’s acquisition of Crockett Promotions (which eventually became WCW), seemed to have a unique position within the company. While Barnett was never in a defined role, he was considered a resource for Turner. Bischoff speculated that Turner saw Barnett as someone who helped him put the deal together and wanted to make him comfortable by giving him a job without requiring too much from him. This allowed Barnett to exist in his own little world within WCW and observe the political and corporate dynamics at play.
Overall, Bischoff’s insights shed light on Turner’s limited involvement in WCW. Despite being the owner, Turner’s focus was primarily on his other business ventures, particularly the Atlanta Braves. His hands-off approach allowed Bischoff and others within WCW to have more autonomy in running the promotion. While Turner’s influence may not have been as direct as some might expect, his impact on the wrestling industry cannot be denied. His ownership of WCW provided a platform for innovative ideas and competition with WWE, leading to the famous Monday Night Wars and forever changing the landscape of professional wrestling.
In conclusion, Ted Turner’s involvement in WCW was characterized by a hands-off approach due to his numerous other business ventures. While he may not have had direct contact with the wrestling promotion, his ownership provided opportunities for growth and competition within the industry. Turner’s impact on the media landscape cannot be overstated, and his brief foray into professional wrestling left a lasting legacy.