'Grateful' Excerpt: All Possibilities
The following is an excerpt from Grateful, the new book from Eric Bischoff and Guy Evans. Purchase a copy of the book - signed by both Eric and co-author Guy Evans - at this link!
Albuquerque, N.M., March 2016: I’m sitting in the back of a pickup truck in the parking lot of the Westside Community Center, waiting to make my appearance on an independent wrestling show. It took me about eight hours to drive here, but with only minutes to go before showtime, I’ll be damned if anybody sees me now. To the promoter of tonight’s event, I have repeated my feelings ad nauseum: just keep this thing a secret.
Don’t tell anyone who doesn’t need to know.
It’s hard not to smile back here. The assembled crowd – perhaps a few hundred of them in total – clearly don’t suspect a thing. As they excitedly file into the venue, it looks like some of the performers in tonight’s show have blended in with them. The very idea of a similar scene occurring elsewhere – prior to an episode of WWE’s Monday Night Raw, for example – makes my smile even wider.
One thing is for sure - the contrast between the two worlds is fascinating. This small venue – likely one of the more, ahem, affordable settings that the Destiny Wrestling Organization could get a hold of – doesn’t have any of the trappings of a major arena. In fact, it’s situated in an area that would never be confused with other, more affluent parts of town – and that’s being kind.
Still, I’m here, and not by necessity, by the way – I’m here by choice.
Sitting in my truck, I think back to an event produced under entirely different circumstances; specifically, my on-screen debut with WWE, the industry leader, televised to millions some 14 years earlier. On that night, the reaction to my surprise appearance – immortalized forever on WWE television – would become almost as famous as the appearance itself. Memorably, and shockingly, it was Vince McMahon himself - once my bitter business rival during the previous decade – with whom I embraced on the stage at Continental Airlines Arena.
That rumbling beneath your feet, I told Vince as 17,000 fans became unglued, is a whole lot of people turning over in their graves.
My agreement then to sign with Vince, the Chairman and driving force of WWE, sent shockwaves throughout the entire wrestling world. What followed, for yours truly, was an improbable - almost impossible, really – three-and-a-half-year run as Raw’s on-screen ‘General Manager’ (before wrestling’s ‘authority figure’ role became, well, such an agonizing trope).
Quite naturally, back then in 2002, my decision to sign with Vince came with a simple request: just keep this thing a secret. Imagine that! I even took the liberty of flying myself in for that particular show, booking my own hotel, and doing everything possible to keep my presence under wraps.
And you know what? It worked.
Why did it work? It worked because the element of surprise is one of the most undervalued aspects of professional wrestling. Had I been advertised – had people known I was there – the audience still would have reacted, but the response would have been exponentially weaker. I can’t explain it - it’s just different when you walk out, unadvertised, unexpected, and all of a sudden, there you are on a live wrestling show.
But here on this night – right now in Albuquerque - the final few patrons are starting to shuffle in. I could be wrong, but it looks like one guy may have spotted me in my truck. I see him slowly turn back to enter the building, and that’s enough for me - the time to wait is over. I glance left, glimpse right, and soon make an immediate beeline for the backdoor entrance.
One step inside, and my grin is incandescent: I’m in.
As I approach backstage in this very small building, there’s not a familiar face in sight. Rather, I’m greeted by perhaps 30 or 40 guys and girls – the wrestlers on tonight’s card - most of whom are in complete disbelief at my presence. It’s clear that the promoter has kept his word.
I can see now that my instincts were right. The promoter was respectful, polite and painfully honest during the initial contact - especially with respect to what his organization is trying to accomplish. Besides, if I’m to be candid, I always did have a soft spot for people just like him – young entrepreneurs, or people who are very passionate about what they’re doing.
He realized that asking me here (via Twitter, no less!) was a long shot, but I thought, ‘You know what? This guy is trying. He’s hustling. He’s passionate.’
I kind of shrugged and said, ‘Here’s my phone number – feel free to give me a call.’
All in all, it could certainly be described as an atypical situation – in fact, things couldn’t actually be more different than what I’m used to. For the purpose of this show, I sense that some of the participants are here purely for fun, with only a few harboring greater ambitions. Of the latter category, it remains to be seen who will pan out. But taking in the entire group, one can see all kinds of potential outcomes.
All kinds of possibilities.
The enthusiasm surrounding my arrival is dying down now, at least for a second, as the wrestlers start laying out their matches, preparing the show in earnest. I find myself standing back, quite a bit away from everyone, as if to survey the scene from a distance.
It’s fun to watch everybody get ready. It’s fun to simply take in the moment, as I see so much of what I used to love – so much of my own early days in wrestling.
And just like that, that’s how it hits me: I’m seeing the journey – maybe my journey – from the start all over again.
I know, I know. There are those of you screaming at this book already: Eric! Enough of the sentimental crap!
After all, this is ‘Eazy E’, mucker futhers - the man who changed professional wrestling with World Championship Wrestling, the nWo and Monday Nitro in particular. Chances are, you remember me not as the guy who surprised 250 fans in New Mexico, but rather the guy who reinvented the entire pro wrestling format!
In reading my opening salvo here, you may also be reminded of my previous book, Controversy Creates Cash, which began with a recounting of my WWE debut, and covered my entire career up until 2006.
I was very proud of that book, which debuted at #16 on the New York Times Best Seller list. I remember ending the manuscript in a very deliberate (and provocative) manner:
When people ask, ‘Do you think there’ll be another competitor to the WWE?’ my answer is, ‘I don’t think so.’ When people ask, ‘Will you ever go head-to-head with Vince McMahon again?’ my answer is, ‘Probably not.’
But never say never.
In this business, you never want to fully close the door behind you. Then again, in all honesty, if you were to talk to me in 2006 or 2007, I fully believed that my days in pro wrestling were behind me. If you had asked me what the next 15 years of my life would look like, it would be nothing like what ultimately transpired.
Truthfully, over these past 15 years - while I’ve had some wonderful successes - I’ve had some spectacular failures, too. I guess it’s a consequence of my nature. I’m often so, so right about things, but I’ve been pretty wrong about some things - as many fans can surely attest to.
But there have been some really difficult times for my family and I. In fact, far from being grateful, there were years in which I was frequently angry – and mostly angry at myself, by the way. I found myself suffering with decisions and choices that I had made – and risks that I took, quite frankly - that put me, and my family, in a rather precarious position.
There were times when I was positively miserable about leaving to go to a personal appearance, an autograph signing, whatever. I was cranky. I was irritable. I was just…not a fun person to be around. I soon realized, as did my wife, Loree, that the pattern was always the same: every time I had to go out of town, I would turn into a person, if given the opportunity, to be avoided at all costs.
And then, of course, when I came home after doing an event, my attitude would get even worse.
At one point in time, if you said I would be driving eight hours to appear on an independent wrestling show, I would think you were smoking crack.
Nuts. They’re going freaking nuts. I just walked out, here in Albuquerque, in front of this crowd for the very first time. They’re about to see me verbally spar - something I can do very well - but not with Vince McMahon, or Hulk Hogan, or ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. Rather, it is Hobo Hank who is to be my adversary on this night. He’s really getting into it, jumping into the audience and doing crazy stuff like eating people’s hot dogs. Talk about living the character. Talk about living in the moment! This is what it’s all about.
You know what? If I start to think about that show in Albuquerque much longer, I’ll start to well up. I’ll start to get tears in my eyes, purely because the energy – the sheer energy – is something that remains palpable to this day. I think I may have had more fun than even the talent did – just feeling that energy, and seeing the appreciation of the audience and performers alike. It elevated them, I think, in the sense that someone who didn’t have to go to their show, was, in fact, there as a participant on their show. I would like to think that my presence helped bring more attention to them.
To this day, about two or three times a year, I’ll get a message on social media from someone who was there that day.
Now I’m welling up again.
By now, you may have figured out something: this will be no ordinary pro wrestling autobiography. While granted, this is a story about what’s happened in my life over the past 15 years, it’s also about some of the broader lessons I learned along the way. Now don’t get me wrong: throughout this book, there will be more than enough rasslin’ talk to shake a stick at. TNA? It’s all here. My relationship with Hulk Hogan? Read on. My return to WWE in 2019? The Hall of Fame? AEW? Yes, yes and yes.
Equally, however, I hope you take away some useful insights about some of the other topics that are important to me: life, death, family, relationships, business and perhaps some things you’ve rarely heard me talk about – until now.
I’m about to surprise you – again.
The above is an excerpt from Grateful, the new book from Eric Bischoff and Guy Evans. Purchase a copy of the book - signed by both Eric and co-author Guy Evans - at this link!