Curt Hennig Ribs Eric Bischoff on Live TV
Curt Hennig was known as the ultimate ribber, often to a fault (he caused the Dynamite Kid vs Jacques Rougeau fight and allegedly poisoned the WWF locker room with GHB). Eric Bischoff was once the target of a rib on live television, although in hindsight, Bischoff got off easy.
Date: May 7, 2000
Location: Kemper Arena in Kansas City, MO
Source: What Happened When Episode 19: Slamboree 2000
As the year 2000 began, it was apparent to the higher-ups at TBS what everyone else in wrestling had known all along: Vince Russo was a complete idiot.
In just a few months as WCW’s head writer, Russo had further eroded their television ratings with his abysmal writing and booking. They wisely got rid of Russo, but putting Kevin Sullivan back in charge didn’t help matters when certain wrestlers revolted. Management surprisingly granted many of them their release, which resulted in the Radicalz (Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddy Guerrero, and Perry Saturn) immediately jumping to the WWF. Benoit was actually WCW champion at the time, so it was a disaster for WCW and Sullivan was eventually let go.
WCW then had the genius idea of bringing Vince Russo back, except this time they’d also bring back Eric Bischoff with the idea he’d be smart enough to edit some of Russo’s idiocy. The first Monday Nitro under their regime was good, and then it fell from there with more awful booking and mismanagement. To this day, Bischoff still hates Vince Russo, and with good reason.
Slamboree took place in May, just a month into the Bischoff/Russo regime. Business was falling badly at this time, thanks to the destructive booking each of them had done in 1999 for the company. For details of how WCW went from being the biggest company in the world (thanks to Eric Bischoff) to a company that lost a record amount of money and lost a wrestling war they should’ve easily won for decades (also thanks to Bischoff, but with Russo’s help), read the “Death of WCW” book that chronicles it perfectly.
If the bad booking and bad wrestling weren’t enough, WCW also reeked of poor taste. Slamboree took place at the Kemper Arena, which was the same exact building Owen Hart fell to his death in just one year earlier at the WWF’s Over the Edge pay-per-view.
It wasn’t just the same building, and the same month, of Owen’s death. It was also Owen’s birthday (May 7).
WCW’s genius idea was to exploit this death in a way that sickened the fans in attendance, many of whom had attended the Over the Edge show a year earlier. Amazingly, they had enough sense to not have Sting descend from the arena on a harness, which would’ve been a horrible idea given how Owen died doing the same thing. They did not have enough sense, however, to change the planned finish.
The show itself received strong reviews for the workrate and booking, although in hindsight, it seems people had very low expectations and were grading on a curve. They drew under 5,000 fans, a number that was on pace to be higher, but tickets stopped selling once actor David Arquette was put in the main event (as WCW champion, no less).
The finish was Jeff Jarrett winning the WCW title, and after the match, Chris Kanyon would do a run-in to help DDP (who was also in the match). The main event was in a triple cage, and the idea was for Mike Awesome to toss Kanyon off the cage and onto the rampway.
It was a dangerous spot, so to mitigate the risk of injury, Kanyon practiced the bump successfully the day before the event. They had stacked cardboard under the spot where he was to land, so he wasn’t injured at all. The bump went off without a hitch, and Kanyon landed perfectly. That was the good news.
The bad news is that the storyline was Kanyon may have been paralyzed, and he positioned his body to where it looked like he was either dead or paralyzed. Most fans watching at home didn’t think much of it. However the fans in the arena left with a bad taste in their mouths, feeling it was far too similar to what happened to Owen Hart. They felt the company tried to play off the death of Owen, and it came off very poorly. How anyone at WCW couldn’t see the obvious comparison is mind boggling.
The day of the show, Eric Bischoff brought everybody out to the ramp, including the wrestlers and production team. He showed everyone the exact spot on the ramp where Kanyon would be taking the bump, and he implored everyone that they were to, under any circumstances, NOT take any bumps there. If they did, it would screw up the main event and biggest spot on the show.
At the time, matches were less scripted and laid out than they are today. Bischoff knew the guys had more freedom, which is why he made sure to tell them. The area was also heavily marked, so it was clear where they should avoid taking bumps. Bischoff was serious in his tone and was adamant his instructions be followed.
Not long into the show, Curt Hennig wrestled Shawn Stasiak. Stasiak was a young, second generation wrestler who was good looking and had a perfectly ripped, chiseled body. WCW was trying to strongly put over new talent at the time (their judgment of new talent was often poor, but at least they had the right idea), so Stasiak won the match. But not before Curt Hennig was going to have his fun.
During the match, Hennig picked up Stasiak for a body slam, right near where Bischoff told him to avoid taking bumps on the ramp. Hennig walked over and looked like he was about to slam Stasiak on the same exact spot Bischoff told him NOT to. He was going to slam Stasiak and screw up the entire main event!
As Hennig was about to slam Stasiak, Bischoff was backstage freaking out and about to have a heart attack.
Just before Hennig was about to slam Stasiak, his back went out and he never slammed him after all.
The spot was a total work. Hennig knew damn well Bischoff was watching backstage, and wanted to give him a scare. He planned the whole thing, from teasing the body slam, to pretending his back went out.
Everyone had a big laugh about it backstage. It’s not known whether Bischoff was upset or relieved at what happened, but either way, it’s a funny story in hindsight that only reinforced Hennig’s already legendary reputation as a world class prankster.