– On the latest 83 Weeks, Eric Bischoff recalled Arn Anderson’s retirement speech as well as the nWo promo the next week that mocked it. Anderson announced his retirement from the ring on the August 25th, 1997 episode of Nitro due to the neck and upper back injuries. The speech was an incredibly powerful one, with the Four Horsemen in the ring, and Ric Flair in particular can be seen very choked up as Anderson spoke.
The moment, however, led to another controversy when the nWo parodied the speech the next week. Kevin Nash came out as Arn Anderson with a neck brace on and holding one of Anderson’s coolers, with Syxx as Ric Flair pretending to cry in over the top fashion at everything “Arn” said. Anderson was angry because it hurt his family and referenced his past drinking issues, which his wife was upset about. The incident caused a lot of fallout backstage.
Highlights from Bischoff’s discussion, and the full podcast, are below:
On Anderson’s retirement speech: “I just remember how powerful it was. And that was the thing about Arn, you didn’t need to script it. I didn’t need, I wasn’t worried at all about what he was going to say, he was an absolute professional. It wasn’t like he was going to go out there and drop a pipe bomb on the audience. He didn’t have a grudge I was afraid he was grind out on live TV. I also didn’t want to influence what he felt he needed to say. He earned that opportunity. He had my respect, he earned that opportunity and I didn’t want to take one syllable of what he had to say away from him for any reason. And again, I trusted him. I wasn’t worried about any adverse impact. I wanted it to be what Arn felt he needed to say, and I knew that from an audience perspective, they not only would believe it, but they would feel compassion for Arn.”
On when he found out Anderson needed to retire: “I’d be lying if I remembered when. If it happened the day before, two days before, the day of. I don’t remember, honestly. I remember having the conversation, but I don’t remember the timeframe necessarily.”
On what the feeling and mood was backstage: “I think it’s exactly as you described it. You described Sting’s perspective [of being upset]. I think everybody — look, I don’t think there was anybody who didn’t absolutely respect Arn Anderson. There may have been people that didn’t like him, but there was no one that didn’t have a tremendous amount of respect for him. And again, at that time, here you’ve got a guy in Arn Anderson who had spent the majority of his adult life in the ring. It was his life. It was the way he fed his family, it was his identity, you know? And I think that happens with a lot of talent who have been around for a long time … that identity that they’ve lived with for so long, and has fed their family as a character really becomes a part of who they are as a person. And when you’re faced with having to walk away from that? It’s a mind-f**k. It really, really is, and I understand that. And I think that’s what Arn was going through and I think talent, the performers, the people backstage that were watching that. You combine their understanding of that along with the fact that they had so much respect for him, it was a very powerful moment. I don’t want to say sad, probably not the right word, but it’s the closest thing I can think of right now. And it had a profound impact on people.”
On the nWo promo parodying the retirement speech: “Obviously I remember it happened. I remember the fallout from it. I remember having to — I felt pretty bad about it, obviously. And as time has gone on, I feel even worse about it now than I did then. Because I think I just have a better understanding than people, and I’m probably more mature now than I was back then. You know, when you’re caught up in television and constantly trying to outdo yourself and push the envelope, and break the barriers and all the other things, think out of the box. However you want to say it. You sometimes become desensitized to how certain things can make people feel. And in retrospect, probably one of the things I regret most in terms of allowing it to happen, you know? I get it. I mean, I don’t know what else to say about it. I remember –yeah, it was f**king horrible.”
On Terry Taylor getting heat for the parody: ” I believe Terry Taylor was probably the agent, and I guess is why he would have been the target. But it’s not really Terry’s fault either. You’ll not hear me spend a lot of time on this podcast defending Terry Taylor. I like Terry, but he did a lot of stupid s**t when he worked for WCW that caused issues. But in this case, I don’t think Terry was necessarily to blame either. Because the talent involved, they were walking pipe bombs, literally.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit 83 Weeks with a h/t to 411mania.com for the transcription.