I’m Richard Steinberg, and for many years, I was the Director of Corporate Research at Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. (TBS) and Director of Marketing Services for World Championship Wrestling (WCW).
While working in those prominent roles, I grew close with multiple wrestlers and was involved in many legendary (and unusual!) moments behind the scenes and on the road. Incredibly, I somehow lived through it all!
Richard Steinberg – “My Time in Wrestling”
Through the following stories, I will be sharing an insider’s perspective of the wrestling business and the individuals involved. Some of these stories aren’t pretty, but it was the way it was!
In a bid not to forget any of my experiences, I will be sharing my recollections in installments here on Pro Wrestling Stories as they come to mind and in no particular chronological order. Let’s dive in!
1. A Difficult Night for Sid Vicious
I was the WCW official directly involved with the Sid Vicious and Arn Anderson incident in Blackburn, England. For those who want to know the blow-by-blow details of what occurred, this article has you covered!
At the time, I was the Director of Marketing Services for WCW and was on the entire tour.
I received a phone call in my room about 2:30 a.m. that there was a major incident and I was needed in the lobby ASAP. I told them to call the Tour Director or the Head of Security (Doug Dellinger), but I was told he could not be found!
I got dressed and grabbed the elevator down to the first floor.
Blood was everywhere… all over the hotel walls leading down the corridor to the lobby. I passed Sid and Arn’s rooms which were across the hall from each other. Both doors were open—lots of blood and smashed furniture everywhere.
I got to the lobby, and the entire front glass window of the lobby was smashed out with plate glass broken everywhere all over the place.
At this point, I knew nothing except what I saw! I later learned that Sid and Arn had got into an argument, tempers flared, and scissors got involved.
Sid was lying on the floor and bleeding from several wounds when I arrived. I immediately covered two of Sid’s wounds with my hands to try and stop the bleeding. I asked for an ambulance and was told it was on its way! At this point, I knew nothing about Arn.
I got in the ambulance with Sid, and he was crying all the way to the hospital that he didn’t want to die! He was also telling me that he “f***ed up” his big chance to be WCW World Champion, but mostly was moaning that he didn’t want to die! Here was this huge guy crying like a baby!
I entered the emergency room with Sid while the doctor treated him. He was still crying and moaning, “I don’t want to die!” The doctor took a look at his wounds and told me to leave while he treated him.
I walked outside the treatment room, where I encountered 2 Cold Scorpio. He told me the full story of what happened and that he stayed with Arn during his ambulance ride into the emergency room with him.
I made the decision to contact WCW back in Atlanta immediately. I grabbed a payphone, but, of course, it was the middle of the night back in Atlanta, and nobody answered the phone. I left a message for Bischoff and returned to Scorpio.
Scorpio and I remained in charge of the two guys. Scorpio finally left, and I stayed at the hospital for several more hours. I got back to the hotel and netted the police there and Doug Dellinger, the WCW security guy. I then grabbed a couple of hours of sleep.
In the morning, I received a call from Atlanta telling me to remain in Blackburn with Sid and Arn while the tour continued to the next cities. So I remained behind the tour to deal with potential police charges and extensive damage at the hotel.
I had the hotel calculate the entire amount of damages and faxed the information back to Atlanta. WCW then increased the limit on my company Visa card, and I paid the bill at the hotel.
(It should be noted that after my return to Atlanta, it was discovered that a hotel employee had stolen my credit card number and made additional unauthorized charges on my account. So much fun!)
A day or two later, when the guys were stable enough to travel, WCW told me to take the guys on different days to different airports to get them back to the United States. I ultimately put Sid in a taxi and sent him on his way to the airport.
The next day I did the same with Arn but taxied to a different airport.
On the third day, I grabbed two trains and caught up with the tour in Birmingham, England. I walked into the lobby of the hotel and promptly sat down to breakfast with Rick Rude. Onto another day in the circus!
2. Paranoid Eric Bischoff
Eric Bischoff was completely paranoid about info leaks in WCW.
Somehow, information about potential new angles, new talent, and even pay-per-view bouts and finishes were making their way to Dave Meltzer at Wrestling Observer and into WWF and onto gossip lines, so Bischoff was on the hunt looking for the “mole” or “moles.”
We would have weekly (sometimes daily) company meetings where we would be threatened with firing if he caught anyone leaking information!
The funny thing was that the company fax machine was in the mailroom, AND confidential info would come across and sit there for hours at a time until Janie Engle (Bischoff’s assistant) or he or others would retrieve it.
Frankly, anyone and everyone could see or read it without any problem!
I never leaked any info, but I saw literally tons of failed drug tests, new talent signed contracts before anyone else knew they were joining WCW, potential angles for upcoming TV, and all sorts of so-called confidential info just lying there out in the open, so it came as no surprise that information got leaked!
3. Finding Ways to Improve WCW
My original job was Director of Corporate Research at Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. I had responsibility for conducting consumer and new business and all other market research for each and every one of the Turner Television networks.
One fateful day, Bill Shaw, who was Ted Turner’s right-hand man and a senior exec at TBS, invited me into his office.
He told me that Turner was concerned that WCW ratings were not so hot and that the company was losing ground, financial and otherwise, to the then WWF. He asked me to figure out what was going on, why WWF was more popular, how to improve the WCW on-air and in-arena product, and how to improve the cash revenue streams at WCW as well.
I sat down and developed a full-scale investigative market and marketing research program for Turner Corporate to discover ways to improve the WCW product. I submitted my proposal to Bill Shaw and heard nothing back for weeks.
Then, one day, I received a call from Shaw telling me to come upstairs. He told me that my plan was approved (financial and otherwise) and to move forward with great haste.
My comprehensive analysis included secretively going to WWF events (TV at the Manhattan Center in New York City) and other live event locales, secretively interviewing WWF attendees at various local events, conducting consumer focus groups with WCW and WWF television viewers, analyzing wrestling talent in both companies, and conducting interviews with former and current WCW management.
I also investigated revenue streams like the 800 Phone Lines, the magazines, the merchandising, and all other cash revenue lines of business. I also interviewed Bill Apter, Dave Meltzer, and other rag sheet and trade publication journalists.
Needless to say, my job was NOT welcomed by WCW management as they felt it was an intrusion into their domain (even though it was ordered by Corporate)!
Dusty Rhodes, among others, tried to sabotage everything I did. Dusty was ordered to cooperate with me by management, and that didn’t go over very well. He was the head booker at the time.
In the end, I wrote this massive document about the pros and cons of each wrestling organization, what worked and what didn’t, a dissertation on wrestling talent, an internal organization chart and flows of lines of business, and more. The final document resembled a tome like “War and Peace!” It was a massive and completely thorough analysis of the entire wrestling business from the WCW and WWF perspectives.
Bill Shaw was soon later placed in charge of WCW, and he took me from my corporate Turner job into WCW.
Based on my document, he made many changes, some of which were accepted, and others were fought by WCW management. I was put in charge of merchandising to improve the virtually non-existent revenue streams and WCW Magazine and 800 Phone lines and all other non-wrestling revenue.
In my first year, I improved cash income from a miserable $1 million to more than $4 million, and revenue grew every year during my tenure.
I was at Turner Corporate for five years and at WCW for another three years.
I finally had enough of Bischoff and his bullying and oppression and left the company to become Director of Research at Blockbuster Entertainment in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
During my time, I was also responsible, in part, for character development (face vs. heel), costuming, signature moves, and whatever it took to help create and improve the wrestling talent.
4. A WWE Offer By Linda and Vince McMahon Refused
After my life in WCW, I was offered the VP of Marketing job at WWF (now WWE). They flew me up to Vince McMahon’s house in Connecticut to talk over the job.
The McMahons lived in a gated community, but they had NO LOCKS on the door of their house! I kept thinking that my potential WWF salary wouldn’t even begin to cover the cost of electricity in their guest bathroom! It was that type of mansion.
Linda made me a turkey sandwich in their kitchen while they tried to hire me. Such a funny recollection!
In the end, I turned down the offer. It was a time when Vince was going through financial problems, and he had recently just let Bret Hart go (even though Bret had a lifetime contract)! WWF was too financially unstable for me to move my family to Connecticut AND to put up with Vince’s B.S. at the same time.
5. Ric Flair Has a Temper Tantrum
The wrestler I hated dealing with the most was Ric Flair. He was a real miserable human piece of work (see below).
Regal always had a kind word, and I loved hearing about his youth wrestling on the pier in Blackpool, England.
Sting would generally play cards on the tour bus and keep to himself for the rest of the tour. He would stay in his room at the hotel and always avoided the craziness going on around him!
Part of my role as Director Of Marketing Services was to continually create innovative lines of merchandise for sale in arenas, online, and through catalog sales.
One fateful day, I made the decision to create a product line of Wrestling Autographed Collectables, similar to the items sold in MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA hobby stores.
I got several of the boys to commit to signing/autographing photos, gimmicks, and other pro-wrestling-type memorabilia.
Naturally, the guys would get a dollar remuneration based upon a percentage of items sold. Each item would be numbered and produced in a limited series to create high perceived value on the part of the collectibles’ buyers.
I was able to get a really cool photo of Ric Flair winning the WCW World Championship belt following a championship fight (as seen above). In any event, Flair “promised me” that he would sign 500 numbered and sequenced photos which I could sell for $10-25 each.
We were heading on tour to the UK, and there was plenty of down/free time when traveling between various UK cities for Flair to affix his signature to the photos.
So the first day, on a 6+ hour bus ride, Flair autographed a whopping 25 photos and spent the rest of the bus trip drinking like a fish.
On the second day, Flair signed ten photos and again quit, personally overcome by the availability of massive amounts of alcohol on the bus.
Day three, Flair signed ZERO pictures, and nothing more got signed for the entire rest of the tour! He adamantly refused to sign another photo.
When we got back to the States, and the first day in the office, I walked into the accounting area and told them not to pay Flair his royalty as I was stuck with at least 465 numbered but unsigned photos! So much for Flair’s promise to make it happen!
No sooner than I walk out of the accounting area, Flair walks in and demands that they pay him for the so-called 500 signatures.
In an unusual turn of events, I was surprised to learn that instead of paying Flair, the accountants actually billed him for the unsigned and thus unusable 465 collectible-numbered photographs!
The next day, Flair appeared in my office yelling and screaming at me like a mad man. He was so hot and heated, and his face was red such that I thought he was going to have an aneurysm! He ranted and raved and yelled and screamed at me for a solid 40-minutes.
When he was done, I turned to him and simply said, “Do you feel better now?”
That set him off on another 25-30 minute tirade!
He eventually left my office and went to continue his tantrum in Bischoff’s office.
A few days later, I heard that Bischoff made the accounting team restore the money withheld for the non-signed photos.
It was a Ric Flair temper tantrum personified!
6. Cactus Jack and His Removable Ear
I did eight to nine tours of Germany with the guys. One night, we were playing in Wurzburg (I believe), and Cactus Jack was wrestling Vader. Suddenly, Cactus gets his head caught in the ropes, and the next thing I see is his ear flying off his head and landing in the middle of the ring!
The referee picked up the ear and handed it to our in-ring announcer, Gary Michael Capetta. Gary then delivered the ear to the medics, where it was put on ice and into a box.
Guess who then got possession of the ear/box? Moi!
The match was either stopped or quickly went to the finish. I don’t remember which because I was fixated on the ear.
The next thing I knew, Cactus was in an ambulance, and I was riding in the back with him and his ear packed in a layer of ice!
It took a while for us to reach the Krankenhaus (hospital) in Frankfurt. When we eventually arrived, we were escorted into the emergency room.
I handed the ice-cold ear over to the ER doctor, who then went on to spend several minutes assessing Cactus Jack’s head and the severed ear at the same time. After a while, an assessment was made to attempt to reattach the ear.
At this point, I was kicked out of the ER, so I ran to find the nearest phone to call back to Atlanta!
Sound familiar? Just like my time with Arn and Sid. Just my luck.
At around 2 a.m., I left Cactus at the hospital and made my way back to the Holiday Inn in Frankfurt, where we were staying for the tour. I walked into the hotel, and there was a massive party going on with the wrestlers and many local fans. The party was totally wild and crazy.
I decided to join the party for a while to detox from the recent severed appendage event!
Somewhere around 2:45 a.m., one of the locals decided to take Hulk Hogan to the street outside the front lobby to show Hogan the guy’s new motorcycle.
For some reason unknown to me, Hogan walked the motorcycle into the hotel lobby, mounted it, and proceeded to ride it completely around the lobby left to right, front to back, and around the inside hotel lobby.
I still have vivid memories of the hotel night manager chasing behind Hogan, trying to get him off the bike and stop all the noise and mayhem!
I finally crashed about 3:15 a.m. and don’t remember much after that!
7. Big Van Vader and his Beloved Adult Toy
My first international tour of the UK with WCW was doing a series of bought shows across England. Essentially, WCW was paid a nightly fee to put on each event on tour, and the UK promoter was responsible for all promotion, arenas, etc., and he collected all of the ticket sales/revenue. Merchandising revenue was separate and collected solely by WCW (me).
During this time, Vader was with us on tour. He kept promoting himself with the slogan that he was the “The Bull Of the Woods!” Don’t ask why… it was simply Leon White’s thing!
I had about an hour before I had to jump on the tour bus and was wandering around London. Low and behold, I came across a sex shop that had an inflatable sheep for sale in the front window!
In my mind, it was the closest thing to a bull that I was going to find! SO I bought the stupid thing and inflated it, and took it on the tour bus before we departed.
Naturally, I put the thing on Leon’s (Vader’s) seat.
(For the record, it was an anatomically correct sheep!)
Somehow, Vader took a real fancy to the thing, and he carried it around with him for the better part of the tour… day and night!
The last time I saw it, he was taking it into his room before going to sleep. I never saw it again, NOR did I ever inquire about its location or ultimate resolution!
8. Hamburg Happenings with The Nasty Boys and Flyin’ Brian Pillman
We were in Hamburg, Germany, on several different tours. The city is most notable for its Red Light District.
On our first visit, we arrived by tour bus around 1:00 a.m. after a grueling, long bus ride following a show in another city.
When we got to the hotel’s lobby, all of the guys decided that they needed to go to the Red Light District immediately! They dumped their luggage at the hotel and piled into several taxis, and headed off.
I was left behind with the tour photographer, Colin Bowman. He and I decided to follow the impending mayhem, so we too jumped into a cab and headed down to the Reeperbahn area.
In one of my less than brilliant moments, we saw Knobs and Sags of The Nasty Boys walking along the street, so we decided to join them.
They were their usual boisterous, loud, and crazy selves, and suddenly they come across one of the “ladies of the evening!”
They started to annoy, bother, and harass her to the point where she had to flag down a passing police car.
The Nasties are wild men, and at this point, one started to urinate on the street right in front of the cops!
My entire career instantly passed before my eyes. I could envision the morning newspaper headlines: “Turner Broadcasting Executive Gets Arrested with Pro Wrestlers in Reeperbahn!”
Please don’t ask me how but The Nasties were able to talk their way out of all of us going to jail!
I decided to break away from the guys. It was way too much excitement for me.
While I was ready to head back to the hotel for some seriously needed sleep, I ran across Brian Pullman (then Flyin’ Brian in WCW) walking on the street. Pillman told me “he needs me” and that I had to come with him right away.
Pillman dragged me with him to Herbertstrasse, the closed street where all of the “ladies of the night” in Hamburg are located. Just like in Amsterdam, they ply their trade in shopfront windows.
Pillman took me to one of the storefronts where some girl was strutting her stuff. He told me that I need to “cover his back,” and if he isn’t out in 20 minutes, I am to start banging on the door!
He gave me his watch and wallet because he didn’t want to get rolled or robbed by the girl or anyone else hiding inside and hustled off for some short-form entertainment!
Fortunately, he reappeared about 15 minutes later, and we shared a taxi ride back to the hotel where I had to hear about his exploit in every last detail!
We got back to the hotel about 5:30 a.m. It was one hell of a night!
I was due in the arena about 1:00 p.m. the following day to sort our issues with merchandising, and I also had a meeting with the arena manager. I told the front desk clerk to ring my room with a wake-up call starting at 11:00 a.m. and call again EVERY 15 minutes until noon. If I hadn’t answered my phone by noon, I told them to come bang on the door of my room until I physically answered it!
I then walked into my room and immediately crashed on the bed.
The next thing I knew, I was awakened by loud banging on the door of my room!
Apparently, I slept entirely through ALL four wake-up calls and never heard a thing! I literally spent the next 30+ minutes in the shower in an attempt to again become functional! I don’t know how but I did make it to my 1 p.m. meeting on time!
It was always so much fun on tour with WCW. How I lived through this stuff is beyond me!
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- WCW Monday Nitro | Behind the Curtain on Its Final Show
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