Sunday, February 04, 2007

Controversy Creates Ca$h

Would that the title were a typo. Sadly, it is not.

Instead, the title of this blog is the title of Eric Bischoff's book, Controversy Creates Ca$h. Personally I think the dollar sign in the title is unnecessary, but hey, who am I to complain?

I got this book as a gift from my brother-in-law for Christmas because, as I think I've indicated before, I'm a fan of professional wrestling. That's another admission that's kind of hard for me to make. Most people associate professional wrestling with slack-jawed yokels and I'd like to think that I'm anything but.

I became a wrestling fan mostly because of Eric Bischoff. One Monday evening in college, I was flipping through the channels, bored out of my mind, when I came across and episode of Nitro, the WCW's flagship show. I remember spotting Hulk Hogan in a match and I was amazed that Hulk was still wrestling. At the time, I figured he was too old to be wrestling anymore. But I stuck around long enough to catch the end of the show, which ended on some sort of cliffhanger and I figured I might as well come back and see what happened.

This was right before the Monday Night Wars started. A few weeks after I started watching, Scott Hall made his infamous appearance on Nitro and pretty soon, the New World Order (or nWo) was formed.

At the time, I was a bit naive about how it all worked. I knew that wrestling was fake, like everyone, but I wasn't sure how fake it was. I got sucked in by the work of wrestlers like Rey Mysterio and Sting. I wanted to see the nWo taken down. During my years at the Seminary, I couldn't watch the shows, but when I came to Blue Earth, I picked up where I left off.

Just in time to see the WCW bought by Vince McMahon of the WWE.

Since that time, I've made the jump to the big 'E (for better or worse, but that's another story for another day). I've learned a lot more about the business and I'm not quite as naive. But there was one thing that I always wanted to know:

What happened to the WCW? Why did it go under? What led up to the WWE buying them?

For a while, I couldn't get a straight answer. Like most victors, the WWE wrote the history of the Monday Night Wars from their side, painting themselves as the put-upon heroes by a bunch of upstarts. I could pick up bits and pieces from here and there, but for the most part, the WCW's story was never told.

And then Eric Bischoff published his book. Now, I'm no dummy; the fact that this book was financed by the WWE makes me suspect that at least some of it was fed through the WWE-filter. But at the same time, I think Bischoff was remarkably candid about his side of things.

He claims that the WCW going under wasn't his fault (which is the widely believed story that circulates among wrestling fans). Instead, he says that what destroyed WCW was the merger of AOL Time Warner with Turner Broadcasting. This brought in people with no vision, no creativity, and no tolerance for what WCW was doing.

Maybe that's what happened; maybe it isn't. I suspect we'll never get an unbiased version of the Monday Night Wars.

The book itself was both interesting to read and frustrating at the same time. In some ways, it was nice to read Bischoff's side of things and he certainly doesn't seem to hold back in what he thinks. But that's only if he wants to share what he thinks. I got the feeling that there were a lot more stories he could have told but didn't. Worse, there were times when he glossed over stories that should have been told.

Also frustrating were the number of typos in the book. You'd think that a good editor would have caught the multiple misspellings of the last name "Steiner", but apparently not.

The one interesting thing that I gleaned from this actually has to do with writing, believe it or not. Bischoff said that in the beginning of the Monday Night Wars, he had his staff follow a five-letter formula that helped them put together their shows: SARSA, which stands for "Story, Action, Realism, Surprise, and Anticipation." He said that if an idea had all five elements, it could fuel a storyline for two years. If it had four, it could be used for a few pay-per-views. If it had three ... well, you get the idea.

I think that's not a bad thing to keep in mind for writing in any medium. All stories should have the SARSA elements, even if they're set in not-so-realistic places or even if they're an inner-journey through a person's psyche. If you can keep at least four of the elements going in your writing, you should do okay.

So anyway, this was a pretty decent book if you're a wrestling fan. If not, maybe not the book for you.

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