Nobody In WCW Wanted To Do Thunder, But Ted Turner Did

WCW did so well in 1997 with Nitro that the company added Thunder to the schedule in 1998. The two-hour show aired Thursdays on TBS and after starting off as important, quickly tailed into a punchline by fans, critics, and even some wrestlers. 

Speaking on 83 Weeks with Conrad Thompson, Eric Bischoff revealed Ted Turner was the man who wanted to bring Thunder to life despite the red flags. 

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"It's important for people to understand that, I didn't want to do this show," said Bischoff. "Harvey Schiller didn't want to do this show. Brad Siegel didn't want to do this show. The only people that wanted to do this show would be Ted Turner, he was determined to put it on, and Bill Burke. Bill wanted to do the show because -- Bill came out and said, 'TBS cannot pay for it.' This was a perfect storm, January 1998. 1997 was a blowout success, huge success for WCW and Turner Broadcasting and TNT. Things were going so well for us, but you had the AOL/Time Warner merger on the horizon and there was this huge internal commitment to improve everybody's bottom line. Everybody across the board at Turner, not just WCW, is gutting their cost, trying to reduce expenses as low as they could possibly be to show the large EBITDA they could, Ted comes along and goes, 'I want you to do this two-hour show on TBS.' Bill Burke, smart guy, immediately said, 'We can't afford it. Our budgets are set.' Nobody wanted to pay for it. It wasn't just the cost of producing the show, which was in the area of of $350,000 to $450,000 an episode as just hard cost, not including talent. Ultimately, WCW had to pay for the show to put on Turner Broadcasting. That's what really gutted us. More than anything else. More than bad booking, the Finger Poke of Doom, guaranteed contracts."

Bischoff continued, revealing that President of Turner Entertainment Networks Brad Siegel knew the show was a bad idea, but could seemingly do nothing to convince Turner of such. 

"Brad was pissed because Brad was smart. He knew, if we put out a two-hour show on Thursday, it was going to dilute the Nitro show. You're just going to split the audience, maybe not 100%, but you're going to hurt your Monday night audience by having a second primetime show. And that's exactly what happened," he said. 

WCW Thunder lasted from January 8, 1998-February 9, 2000. All episodes of the program are available on WWE Network.

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