J.J. Dillon on WCW being sold

Much of my recent conversation with WWE Hall of Famer J.J. Dillon can be found in the new WWE 50 book. The portions that didn’t make the book, however, have been published here in recent weeks, including Dillon’s thoughts on Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon Sr. In addition to these pieces, here is Dillon’s recollection of WCW demise:

 

What was it like once WCW finally closed its doors?

 

J.J. Dillon: My contract was paid out, so I got paid for another nine months. Kevin Sullivan got paid for another two years. I had gone there and hoped to retire, so I was disappointed. But I had come to terms with the fact that it was inevitable. It was like sitting in the Titanic and seeing this huge iceberg ahead on the radar screen and yelling to everybody to come look. But everybody looking thought that WCW was a huge indestructible vessel and didn’t even bother looking at the screen until they hit the iceberg and sunk the thing.

 

The sad part is that WCW had approximately 70 people who were full-time in the business making a living wrestling. It was a talent pool from which Vince McMahon could pick from. And you could go back in time and look at talent that came out of WCW and became huge stars working with Vince: Undertaker, Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Mick Foley … and that’s just four names off the top of my head that WCW didn’t know what to do with, but Vince did. But Vince couldn’t hire everybody in the business, so it put guys out of work. At least with WCW, there was an alternative product that was never a threat to Vince, even when they were winning the war. All they were was a pool of talent that Vince could’ve tapped into from time to time when he needed a top talent. I was disappointed for the guys who worked there and their families.

 

Pick up the new WWE 50 book!

 

On a personal level, I was disappointed because I hated that after my lengthy career, I was involved with something that failed so miserably, even though I was not directly responsible. Every time they talk about the failure of WCW, you don’t hear about my name mentioned as being a contributing factor.

 

And the third one that I felt bad for was Ted Turner. Here’s a guy who had a vision of taking his small UHF station and making a superstation. And the core of his programming was two things: Wrestling and the Atlanta Braves. If you ask Ted in order, wrestling would be No. 1 and the Braves would be No. 2. Ted worked so hard to protect wrestling from the vultures that looked down their nose at it. He loved it. He had it at 6:05 p.m. for well over 25 years, and then Eric Bischoff undermined that program and killed it.

 

If you have a successful program with a consistent timeslot, there’s nothing of any greater value in the industry. People always used to tell me that they planned their Saturdays around 6:05. They made sure they were home in front of their televisions at that time to watch wrestling. They were loyal followers that Bischoff didn’t understand the value of.

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Wrestling’s greatest arenas: Rosemont Horizon

After posting my piece on Madison Square Garden being the greatest wrestling arena of all time, I received many messages from readers wondering where I thought other arenas ranked. Rosemont Horizon, Greensboro Coliseum, and the Cow Palace were just a few of the venues that were asked about. And while all were great, I still think MSG holds the crown. But just for fun, I plan on taking a look at other arenas over the next few weeks. From there, we can collectively see where they rank. For now, let’s look at the Rosemont Horizon in Rosemont, Illinois (sometimes it’s listed as Chicago to give that big-city feel. And nowadays, it’s called the Allstate Arena):

 

  • Site of WWE’s first-ever pay-per-view, The Wrestling Classic (11/7/85)
  • Hosted 3 WrestleManias (2, 13, 22). No other arena held more.
  • Once crowned 3 new WWE Champions in one night (10/7/07: Randy Orton, Triple H, then Orton again)
  • Hosted Survivor Series 1989, Judgment Day 1998, Backlash 2001, No Mercy 2007, Judgment Day 2009, Night of Champions 2010, Money in the Bank 2011, Extreme Rules 2012, Payback 2013, and Payback 2014.
  • Hosted WCW Spring Stampede 1994
  • Site of Mr. McMahon saying, “You’re fired” for the first time to Stone Cold (10/18/98)
  • Site of 6 WWE Title changes, the second most in history
  • Site of Christian’s debut (10/18/98)
  • Hosted 21 episodes of Monday Night Raw, 11 episodes of SmackDown, and 1 Nitro
  • Memorable matches:

Stone Cold vs. Bret Hart, WrestleMania 13
Edge vs. Mick Foley, WrestleMania 22
John Cena vs. CM Punk, Money in the Bank, 2011
John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar, Extreme Rules 2012

J.J. Dillon on Eric Bischoff

Much of my recent conversation with WWE Hall of Famer J.J. Dillon can be found in the new WWE 50 book. The portions that didn’t make the book, however, will be published here over the next few weeks. For now, enjoy this bit about Dillon recalling his days working with Eric Bischoff.

 

How did you end up in WCW after your stint in WWE?

J.J. Dillon: I went to WCW in October 1996. I had been high profile, and it would’ve been difficult for Eric Bischoff not to hire me. How would he explain to the higher-ups at Turner that I was on the market, but wasn’t hired? So I did get hired. There were two ways that Bischoff could’ve looked at me. First, he could’ve looked at me as somebody who had spent his life in the business and had just spent seven-and-a-half years working with Vince McMahon at a high level, and somebody that could’ve been a resource he could tap into. Or the other way Eric Bischoff could’ve looked at me was as a threat, who would quickly realize how inept he was. He truly was someone who knew nothing about the wrestling business and was very inexperienced. I never had a good relationship with him. From the very first time I met him, all he talked about was putting Vince out of business and wondering how much longer Vince could hold on.

 

What was the atmosphere like at WCW?

J.J. Dillon: WCW kept increasing the production budget; it was a runaway freight train. And there was nobody from a wrestling mindset above that could look over Eric Bischoff’s shoulder and know whether what he was doing was making sense or not. And obviously it wasn’t because he had no clue. He would walk in and look at quarter-hour ratings and he would want something dramatic to happen in every quarter hour, and you can’t do that. In old-school vernacular, it would be called hotshot booking. You could do that short-term, but you can’t give a steady diet of that because eventually it will burn you out, and that‘s what happened in WCW. They won the battle for all those weeks, but as they were doing so, they lost the war because their production costs went crazy and there was nobody second guessing anything. Bischoff basically had a blank checkbook because he was spending somebody else’s money and as long as the ratings were there, they thought all was well.

 

And they never did establish live events, they basically couldn’t run live events. They basically were never profitable in pay-per-view for the same reason because everything was geared toward television ratings. Meanwhile, Vince was controlling his production costs, he was still doing good business in live events and through that whole Monday Night War, he was still profitable in pay-per-view. Bischoff’s big picture in terms of running the company was a whole different philosophy and there wasn’t anybody at WCW that could realize what was happening. They only saw the ratings.

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