In a recent edition of 83 Weeks, Eric Bischoff discussed his reaction to Mike Tyson appearing on RAW in 1998, the Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon rivalry, and much more. You can read his comments below.
Eric Bischoff on his reaction to Mike Tyson appearing on RAW in 1998: “Vince came out and did this promo – I saw it the first time about a year ago – where he basically let the world know WWE was going to be changing their creative approach. Their old style of storytelling and presentation was no longer what the audience wanted, and Vince promised he was going to deliver. At the time, I thought, ‘Whatever.’ But then I heard rumblings about Mike Tyson. When I got that phone call…..I remember I was at the flight school in Kissimmee, Florida. I had just gotten back from a flight, and my pager went off and it was Zane Breslov. He wanted me to call him ASAP. I went to a payphone, and he said, ‘You’re never gonna believe this, but they’re bringing in Mike Tyson.’
“When he said it, I took a pause and it started soaking in. I didn’t connect what was gonna become the Attitude Era and the new way of telling stories. I didn’t know that’s what Vince meant when he made the big announcement. But when I heard about Tyson, it started giving me pause. I thought if they use him right, it’s gonna be a game-changer and shit’s gonna be really serious. In ’97, we were kicking WWE’s ass. In early 1998, we were kicking their ass. But I was fearful that the Tyson thing would be a big deal, and I was unfortunately right.”
On how the Tyson angle changed WWE: “I think it was the pivot point in WWE. So many things happened in this one angle – Steve Austin’s equity went right through the roof. He was already a big star and heading in the right direction, but with the Tyson storyline, he got catapulted into the stratosphere. I think Vince McMahon became a real character and not a parody of one when he came out as the owner and took on a more serious role. If you go back and look, he even changed the way he dressed. He started wearing a black jean jacket to the ring. Everything changed in a big, loud, effective way.”
On what made the Tyson storyline work: “What made this work wasn’t just because Mike Tyson was on Monday Night RAW. What made this work was the way they used Mike Tyson and how that set up the story with Vince and Steve Austin. That’s the part that really worked. Tyson was instrumental. You can’t have a great movie without a great three-act structure. They used Tyson to get a bump in the ratings, but what they really used Tyson for was to launch act one. If they would’ve paid him six million dollars, hell, in retrospect, 16 million dollars – it would’ve been a good investment in the long run for what it did for Steve Austin.
“Who knows what that story between Austin and McMahon would’ve looked like had it not kicked off with something as big and believable and credible as this was. It wasn’t just Tyson showing up on television. You’re only gonna get so much outta that. But the way they used Mike, the way it catapulted Steve Austin, the way it set up the second and third acts of Austin and McMahon, this was the magic and genius in the way they used Tyson. This was fantastic. It set up Austin and McMahon in a way that I don’t think any other story or any other angle could’ve possibly have done.”
If using any of the above quotes, please credit 83 Weeks with an h/t to 411mania.com for the transcription.