BOOK REVIEW: “Grateful” by Eric Bischoff
Picking up where he finished with his 2006 memoir Controversy Creates Cash, Eric Bischoff, alongside Guy Evans (NITRO: The Incredible Rise and The Inevitable Fall of Ted Turner’s WCW), details his life and career post-WWE from 2007 until the present day.
Following his 2005 exit as RAW General Manager in December, he believed that he was finished with the wrestling industry. After all, by this point, Eric had founded a successful production company several years earlier alongside business partner Jason Hervey and already had several successful reality television projects under his belt. However, when it comes to the wrestling industry, much like the mob, just when you think you get out, you get pulled back in.
In 2009, Hulk Hogan had been contemplating a move to TNA, at the time WWE’s biggest competitor. With Eric having recently pulled Hogan out of both a professional and personal crisis, Hogan did not feel comfortable going in alone requesting that Eric go in with him to help oversee his character. Eric would then negotiate his own deal (being brought in as Bischoff-Hervey Entertainment) alongside Hogan. This would not only lead to Eric becoming an on-screen character, he would also be named an executive producer and begin working on the creative side alongside notorious writer Vince Russo.
Not to take anything away from the rest of the book, but I feel the stories surrounding the corporate structure of TNA during Eric’s tenure are the true strength of the book. This is not surprising given that is exactly what I feel made Guy’s NITRO book so endlessly interesting. Given the real-life drama unfolding in the WWE boardroom at the moment, there continues to be a seemingly insatiable appetite for behind-the-scenes stories and maneuvers. People can lament some of the more puzzling creative decisions that made it to TV during Eric’s time in the driver’s seat (not to imply that he was solely responsible), but Eric shone a spotlight on the mismanagement, lack of vision, and cluelessness on the part of those who ran the business end of TNA is absolutely astounding – especially executives’ institutionalized distrust and general unwillingness to view SpikeTV as a true partner.
The sheer amount of support and help provided and offered by SpikeTV, the television home for iMPACT during Bischoff’s run, was eye-opening. Not only were they spending their own money to foot the bills for the contracts of several of TNA’s top-tier talent (Kurt Angle, Hulk Hogan, Sting, and Eric himself) they had once offered to buy a stake in the company essentially making them partners thus allowing for airtime security moving forward. Dixie Carter, then owner, declined, which would be responsible for years of instability in finding a stable home for the promotion.
While Eric offers insight into the wrongdoings in the executive arm of TNA, he makes it crystal clear that he wanted absolutely nothing to do with the business and financial end of the company’s operations. It almost seemed like avoiding landmines behind the scenes as Dixie Carter had tried to pull Eric into the boardroom on a few occasions.
That being said, it’s not all negativity when it comes to his years in TNA. Eric discusses the true joy of working alongside his son Garrett as well as being proud of the Aces & Eights storyline that began in June 2012 and would ultimately reach its culmination in March of 2013 – at the time an eternity for a single angle to play out in an era when it seemed that patience was truly a virtue.
Beyond that, Eric details several of his business ventures, some successful and others not so much. Admittedly, Eric’s attraction to taking big risks would ultimately lead to Bischoff declaring bankruptcy at 62 years old. I found this to be truly shocking having had no idea he had been dealing with such financial strain. He pulled himself out and with the wildly successful podcast he began with Conrad Thompson, 83 Weeks, he’s rebuilt his life and paid back his debts.
He briefly touches on his return to WWE in 2019 when he was appointed to oversee anything that touches Smackdown with Paul Heyman in the same role for Monday Night RAW. I only say briefly as we all know that it was very short-lived with Eric vacating the role only a few months later. Just like with Brian Gewirtz’s book, the chaos described in working under Vince McMahon is something I cannot imagine many people wanting to do for long.
I should mention, one thing that absolutely sets this book apart from other wrestling memoirs is that co-author Guy Evans included QR codes at the conclusion of each chapter sending the reader online for bonus content. The majority of the additional content is in the form of shorter (10-15 minute) interviews that are hosted on YouTube. Evans catches up with Eric’s children (Garrett and Montanna), his wife Lorree, Lex Luger, Conrad Thompson, and many others.*
GRATEFUL does not overstay its welcome, to say the least. The chapters are brief and the book itself comes in at under three hundred pages. That isn’t to say Eric isn’t introspective or offers much in the way of detail surrounding the previous fifteen years, but there isn’t any fluff or padding here either. If you had read and enjoyed Eric’s prior release, I would recommend his follow-up.
*Bonus content for Chapters 6 through 8 was not available at the time of this review.
Grateful by Eric Bischoff is available on Amazon and GuyEvansBooks.com