|World Championship Wrestling|
World Championship Wrestling was an American professional wrestling promotion which, in its proper form, existed from 1988 to 2001. Although the name "World Championship Wrestling" had been used as a brand and television show name by various National Wrestling Alliance (NWA)-affiliated promotions (most notably Georgia Championship Wrestling and Jim Crockett Promotions) since 1983, it was not until five years later that an actual NWA-affiliated promotion called World Championship Wrestling appeared on the national scene, under the ownership of Atlanta, Georgia-based media mogul Ted Turner.
During all its time as a separate promotion, WCW was the chief rival of World Wrestling Entertainment (then called World Wrestling Federation), and even the owners of its NWA-affiliated forerunner promotions regarded WWE as their major competitor. At the outset of WCW's existence, as well as with the promotions that came before it, the company was strongly identified with the Southern-style of professional wrestling (or rasslin'), which emphasized athletic in-ring competition over the showmanship and cartoonish characters of WWE. This identification persisted into the 1990s, even as the company signed former WWE stars such as Hulk Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage. WCW dominated pro wrestling's television ratings from 1996 to 1998, mainly due to its incredibly popular New World Order storyline, but thereafter began to lose heavy ground to WWE, which had recovered greatly due to its new WWE "Attitude" branding. The promotion began losing large amounts of money, leading to parent company AOL Time Warner selling the company's assets, trademarks and a selected number of wrestler contracts to the rival WWE for roughly $7 million in 2001.
The NWA years
Although World Championship Wrestling was a brand name used by promoter Jim Barnett for his Australian promotion, the first promotion in the United States to use the World Championship Wrestling brand name (though it was never referred to as "WCW") on a wide scale was Georgia Championship Wrestling (although Vincent James McMahon's Capitol Wrestling Corporation did in fact use the name in some house show promotion).
This promotion, owned primarily by Jack Brisco and Gerald Brisco and booked by Ole Anderson, was the first NWA territory to gain cable TV access. In 1983, Georgia Championship Wrestling changed the name of its television show (and thus its public face) to World Championship Wrestling since it was already starting to run shows in "neutral" territories such as Ohio and Michigan. Although many in the business felt that Anderson was mismanaging the company, Georgia Championship Wrestling had managed to compete against the other major territory trying to go national (Vince McMahon's WWF); the name World Championship Wrestling was first thought up for the company in 1982, when the WWE became the top promotion after Vince McMahon Jr.'s company Titan Sports Inc purchased Capitol Wrestling (WWE), as a result from the huge success that occurred for the company after the epic cage match between Jimmy Snuka and Bob Backlund took place on June 28, 1982. This change in name helped make Georgia Championship Wrestling the top promotion once again, until the WWE was able to officially leave the NWA and create the show WWE All American Wrestling. It was then that Jim Crockett created- in order to prevent another Showdown At Shea from occurring, and bring the NWA on top- Starrcade, and the NWA was now on top once again. However, the WWE was able to counter the NWA the following January with Hulk Hogan's title victory and Tuesday Night Titans.
- Main article: Black Saturday
In May 1984, the Brisco brothers sold their shares in Georgia Championship Wrestling, including their timeslot on the TBS cable TV network to Vince McMahon; this time slot was a primetime slot as well. The WWF show did not fare well in ratings. World Championship Wrestling's core audience was not interested in the WWF's cartoonish approach, preferring a more athletic style. Despite originally promising to produce original programming for the TBS timeslot in Atlanta, McMahon chose instead to provide only a clip show for TBS, featuring highlights from other WWF programming. It was then that Bill Watts and Ole Anderson were able to air Mid South Wrestling (Watts' promotion) and Championship Wrestling from Georgia (Anderson's new promotion) on TBS, and make them more successful in the TV ratings than the WWF's clip show. In May 1985, McMahon sold the TBS timeslot to Jim Crockett Promotions (owned by Jim Crockett, Jr.) under pressure from Ted Turner, who resurrected the World Championship Wrestling name (Turner Broadcasting had copyrighted it and prevented McMahon from using it). The WWF and Hulk Hogan, however, were now the superior figures of wrestling after the success of WrestleMania, so the sale took place to successfully put the company in better shape. The new WCW, which was now a combination of Jim Crockett Promotions (Mid Atlantic Wrestling) and Georgia Championship Wrestling, was now the top show on TBS, and helped make Jim Crockett Jr. the NWA President once again.
By 1986, Jim Crockett, Jr. controlled key portions of the NWA under the name Jim Crockett Promotions, including the traditional NWA territories in The Carolinas, Georgia, and St. Louis. Crockett merged his various NWA territories into one group, promoting under the banner of the National Wrestling Alliance (in fact, JCP virtually became synonymous with "the NWA"). A feud between Crockett and Vince McMahon's WWE sprang up, and both companies attempted to outmaneuver the other to acquire key TV slots. It was the WWF, however, who was able to become a big hit in St. Louis (and the rest of Missouri as well), which brought trouble to the NWA Central States. The WWF was able to become a hit across the country as well, as the feud between Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff appealed to a large audience. As a result, Bob Geigel became the NWA President once again.
In the same year, JCP also purchased Heart of America Sports Attractions Inc (HASA), which owned the rights to promote wrestling shows through several central states (Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa). HASA was known in the business as "the Central States territory," and ran a TV show called All Star Wrestling.
In 1987, JCP would enter into agreement to control Championship Wrestling from Florida (though JCP never bought that company), and Universal Wrestling Federation (which covered Oklahoma, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana), and which was not an NWA member; this helped make him NWA President once again. The Florida & Mid-South territories (along with those companies' rosters of wrestlers) were absorbed into JCP. Jim Crockett now owned NWA St Louis, the UWF, his own Jim Crockett Promotions, Georgia Championship Wrestling, Central States Wrestling, Championship Wrestling from Georgia and the CWF as well.
Crockett had almost accomplished his goal of creating a national promotion. Between his purchasing several NWA territories, World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas leaving the NWA in 1986 (and later merging with Jerry Jarrett's Championship Wrestling Alliance in Memphis to create the United States Wrestling Association) brand, and the once highly viable Portland territory going bankrupt (it closed in 1992), he was the last bastion of the NWA, and the last member with national TV exposure. Since it was all they now saw, many people began to believe that Jim Crockett Promotions was the NWA. Although JCP and the NWA were still two separate entities, with Crockett as NWA President, they were very much on the same page. The NWA was effectively an on-paper organization funded by Crockett, and allowed Crockett to use the NWA brand name for promoting.
With the large amount of capital needed to take a wrestling federation on a national tour, Crockett's territorial acquisitions had seriously drained JCP's coffers. He was in a similar situation to that of the WWE in the early 1980s: a large debt load, and the success or failure of a federation hinging on the success or failure of a series of PPVs. Crockett marketed StarrCade '87 as the NWA's answer to WrestleMania. However, the WWE promoted Survivor Series on the same day. The WWE informed cable companies that if they chose to carry Starrcade, they would not be allowed to carry future WWE events. The vast majority of companies showed Survivor Series (only three opted to remain loyal to their contract with Crockett). In January 1988, JCP promoted the Bunkhouse Stampede PPV, and McMahon counter-programmed with the first Royal Rumble on USA. Both NWA PPVs achieved low buyrates and the resulting financial blow due to the low buyates both Starrcade and Bunkhouse Stampede were in many ways both the beginning of the end for Jim Crockett Promotions and the birth of WCW in which would take Jim Crockett Promotions' place. In addition, the decision to hold these events in Chicago and New York alienated the Crockett's main fanbase in the Carolinas, hampering their drawing power for arena shows in the Southeast.
In 1985, Crockett had signed Dusty Rhodes and made him booker for JCP. Rhodes had a reputation for creativity and authored many of the memorable feuds and storylines of this period and gimmick matches like WarGames. By 1988, after three years of trying to compete with Vince McMahon, and a long, drawn-out political struggle with champion Ric Flair, Rhodes was burned out. Fans were getting tired of the "Charlotte Clique" (Rhodes, Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Nikita Koloff among others), and the Dusty Finish (and other non-endings for shows) had obliterated the once-profitable house show market. One of the last creative things Dusty Rhodes could do was create the first Clash of The Champions, on the night of Wrestlemania IV, and gained a high amount of viewers- even over Wrestlemania IV, for a whole quarter-hour- as the Ric Flair vs. Sting match continued to take place; and as an epic match, that also made Sting now a top player for WCW; However, this main event match ended long before the four-hour Wrestlemania IV ended, and people soon afterwards saw Randy Savage win his first WWE Title, and insured more victory for the WWE. By the end of 1988, Rhodes was booking cards seemingly at random, and planning at one point to have mid-card wrestler Rick Steiner defeat Ric Flair in a five-minute match at Starrcade for the NWA World Championship. At the end of 1988, Rhodes was fired by the promotion after an angle he booked where Road Warrior Animal pulled a spike out of his shoulder pad and jammed it in Rhodes's eye busting it wide open, despite a strict "no-blood" policy laid down by Turner after his recent purchase of the company.
WCW under Ted Turner: The Early Years
To preserve the inexpensive network programming provided by professional wrestling, Jim Crockett Promotions was purchased outright by Turner on November 21, 1988. Originally incorporated by TBS as the Universal Wrestling Corporation, Turner promised the fans that WCW would be the athlete-oriented style of NWA.
1989 proved to be a turnaround year for WCW, with Ric Flair on top for most of the year both as World Champion and also as head booker. Flair had helped bring in Ricky Steamboat and Terry Funk, and his PPV matches with both were successful, financially and critically. Young stars such as Sid Vicious, Sting, Scott Steiner, The Road Warriors, Brian Pillman, The Great Muta and Lex Luger were given big storylines and championship opportunities.
Despite this influx of talent, WCW soon began working to gradually incorporate much of the glamour and showy gimmicks for which the WWE was better known. Virtually none of these stunts- such as the live cross-promotional appearance of RoboCop at a PPV event in 1990, the Chamber of Horrors gimmick and the notorious Black Scorpion storyline- succeeded. Behind the scenes, WCW was also becoming more autonomous and slowly started separating itself from the historic NWA name. In January 1991, WCW officially split from the NWA and began to recognize its own WCW World Heavyweight Championship and WCW World Tag Team Championship.
Both the WCW and the NWA recognized Ric Flair (who was by now no longer the head booker) as their World Heavyweight Champion throughout most of the first half of 1991, but WCW, particularly recently installed company president Jim Herd, turned against Flair for various reasons and fired him just prior to the July 1991 Great American Bash PPV after failed contract negotiations. In the process, they officially stripped him of the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. However, according to Flair's autobiography, they refused to return the $25,000 deposit he had put down on the (physical) belt, so he kept it and took it with him when he was hired by WWE at the request of Vince McMahon. Flair then incorporated the belt into his gimmick, dubbing himself "The Real World's Champion".
WCW later renegotiated the use of the NWA name as a co-promotional gimmick with New Japan Pro Wrestling, and sued WWE to stop showing Flair with the old NWA World title belt on its programs, claiming a trademark on the physical design of the belt. The belt was returned to WCW by Flair when Jim Herd was let go and he received his deposit back plus interest, and it was brought back as the revived NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
During the period that WCW operated with its own World Champion while also recognizing the NWA's world title, Flair would later leave WWE on good terms and returned to WCW, regaining the title from Barry Windham in July 1993. Immediately, the other, now smaller, member organizations of the NWA began demanding that Flair defend the title under their rules in their territories, as mandated by old NWA agreements. The title was later scheduled to be dropped by Flair to Rick Rude, a title change which was exposed by the Disney Tapings, the months-in-advance taping of WCW's syndicated television shows at Disney-owned studios in Orlando, Florida. The NWA board of directors, working separately from WCW, objected to Rude, with WCW finally leaving the NWA for good again in September 1993.
However, WCW still legally owned and used the actual belt which represented the NWA World Heavyweight Championship (Rick Rude even defended it as The Big Gold Belt) but they could no longer use the NWA name. The title thus became known as the WCW International World Heavyweight Title (meaning the World heavyweight championship as sanctioned by "WCW International," a fictional organization made up of promoters from around the world, essentially their in-house version of the real NWA).
WCW realized that the title belt, because of its rich in-ring history and visual impact, was highly sought after and respected in Japan and as such created this fictional subsidiary dubbed WCW International to inject some credibility back into the belt. WCW claimed that "WCWI" still recognized the belt as a legitimate World Championship. For a short while, there were essentially two World titles up for competition in the organization.
Sting eventually won the WCW International Championship and lost the belt to then-WCW World Champion Ric Flair in a unification match on June 23, 1994 when the experiment was jettisoned. The Big Gold belt (or "Big Goldy") was then used to represent the lone World title in the company. It was used as such until WCW's closure in 2001. The belt (in a slightly altered design) is still seen today in WWE as the World Heavyweight Championship on their SmackDown! brand (previously on RAW). However, WWE considers it a separate title and WWE.com officially lists the title history of the World Heavyweight Championship as beginning with Triple H being awarded the belt by Eric Bischoff on RAW on September 2, 2002.
The Eric Bischoff era begins
The creative product of the company sank very noticeably in 1992 and 1993 under the presidency of Jim Herd and, subsequently, Bill Watts. There were signs of gradual recovery in late 1993 when former commentator Eric Bischoff was appointed as Executive Vice President of WCW. Bischoff, originally brought in as a secondary commentator behind Jim Ross after the AWA became defunct, was desperate to give WCW a new direction and impressed Turner's top brass with his confrontational tactics and business-savvy.
Bischoff's first year was considered unsuccessful. Dusty Rhodes and Ole Anderson were still in full creative control at this point, with what were considered to be cartoonish storylines, as well as seemingly pointless feuds with little or no buildup. For example: The Cactus Jack lost in Cleveland angle, the mini movies that build up the PPV (Spin the Wheel Make the deal, White Castle of Fear and the infamous beach blast mini movie) and Spin the Wheel make the deal angles. During a segment of "A Flair For the Gold" on a live Clash of the Champions to build up the Fall Brawl PPV, WCW decided to introduce a "mystery partner" for the babyfaces, a masked man known as The Shockmaster. The Shockmaster (previously known as Typhoon in WWE) was supposed to crash through a fake wall and intimidate the heels. Instead, he tripped through the wall and fell on live television, rendering himself as a joke character (despite winning some matches.)
WCW in 1993 decided to once again base the promotion around Ric Flair. This was seen as more or less a necessity, as prospective top babyface Sid Vicious tried to injure wrestler Arn Anderson with a pair of scissors four weeks before StarrCade while on tour in England and was fired. Flair won the title at StarrCade and was once again made booker.
Bischoff would declare open war on McMahon's WWE in the media and aggressively recruited high-profile former WWE superstars such as Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage in 1994. Using Turner's monetary resources, Bischoff placed his faith in the established stars with proven track records. Because of their high profiles, Hogan and Savage were able to demand and get several concessions not usually allowed to wrestlers at the time, such as multi-year, multimillion dollar guaranteed contracts and significant creative control. This would later become a problem during subsequent years of competition with the WWE, as other wrestlers were able to make similar demands, and contract values soared out of control. Hogan, in particular, was able to gain considerable influence through a friendship with Bischoff. Another thing Bischoff may have failed to consider was the fact that many WCW fans watched it as an alternative to the product of the WWE in the early 90s, and many NWA fans saw the hiring of former WWE talent as an attempt to copy its success, as opposed to being an alternative product with an emphasis on in-ring action.
But WCW's first major Pay Per View event since Hogan's hiring Bash at the Beach, saw the former WWE mainstay cleanly defeat Ric Flair for the WCW Championship. The two had worked for the WWE at the same time from 1991 to 1992, and a feud was teased between them, but the big-money match originally planned for WrestleMania VIII was changed to Flair/Savage and Hogan/Sid. When WCW delivered the match, the PPV drew a high buy rate by WCW standards due to mainstream intrigue and hype. Despite being a critical and financial success, the glory would not last long as the Hogan/Flair feud was only a one-off match and the hoped for long term effects on Pay Per View buyrates and ratings did not materialize.
This was not lost on Turner management, however, and Bischoff's bold, expensive steps didn't quite meet their expectations when they came to check up on things in mid-1995. Thus, Bischoff called Turner and requested a private meeting, which he was granted.
Monday Night Wars
- Main article: Monday Night Wars
- Main article: Starrcade 1997
In 1997, WCW entered its peak, largely due to the nWo storyline. During that time, the nWo feuded with the revived (and face-turned) Four Horsemen as well as returning WCW hero Sting (who now had a gimmick that resembled The Crow). The latter feud served to build up the StarrCade pay-per-view in December. When WCW delivered the Sting vs. Hogan match for the WCW World Championship, the PPV drew WCW's biggest buyrate and Bischoff was largely praised in the months leading up to this pay-per-view because of his refusal to "hotshot" (give away a big money PPV match before proper build up, causing a lesser buy rate) Sting vs. Hogan for the WCW World Title.
However, some wrestling fans consider this show to be the beginning of the end for WCW, even though WCW was dominating the WWF in the television ratings at the time. Hogan was heavily criticized for not doing a clean finish to the match, which confused and irritated fans who had waited over a year to see Sting take down the nWo. The finish actually involved a recently introduced Bret Hart (who had refereed the preceding match between Bischoff and Larry Zbyszko for control of Monday Nitro) coming down to the ring after Hogan had supposedly won the match. Hart alleged that referee Nick Patrick had performed a fast count on Sting, and wanted to "make things right." He insisted the match continue (with himself as referee) in order to prevent Sting from being "screwed" just like he had been in the WWF with the Montreal Screwjob.
Vince McMahon strikes back
When Hart left the WWF after the Montreal Screwjob at the 1997 Survivor Series, it looked as though WCW was going to push the WWF right off the map. WCW seemingly possessed the biggest stars in the industry, such as Hogan, Savage, Sting, Flair, Hart, Hall, and Nash. In addition, the company also had credible midcard stars such as Chris Benoit and Raven, as well as an exciting cruiserweight division featuring high-flying competitors from Mexico (the luchadors) and Japan as well as the United States. However, things would unfold quite differently from what WCW had planned.
The popular opinion was that the Screwjob and the acquisition of Hart was a deathblow for the WWF and a major score for WCW. The combination of a company screwing over a popular wrestler and angering many fans should have dealt a massive blow to the WWF and given WCW a great amount of hype to work with. However, after WrestleMania XIV in March 1998, Vince McMahon regained the lead in the Monday Night Wars with his new "WWF Attitude" brand, led in particular by rising stars Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, and Mankind. The classic feud between McMahon (who was re-imagined and re-branded as the evil company chairman character Mr. McMahon) and Austin (who, ironically, had been released by Bischoff in the summer of 1995 for not being marketable) captured the imaginations of fans. The April 13, 1998 episode of RAW, headlined by a match between Austin and McMahon, marked the first time that WCW had lost the head-to-head Monday night ratings battle in the 84 weeks since 1996. The WWF did not stop there. Their ratings increased dramatically in the next two years, more than ever before. WCW attempted to counter this by dividing the nWo into the Hogan-led heel nWo Hollywood faction and the Nash-led face nWo Wolfpac faction, but many felt that it was a poor rehash of the original WCW vs. nWo storyline. Undeterred, WCW also launched a new Thursday TV show, the aforementioned WCW Thunder, around this time.
WCW's next big attempt at ratings supremacy was marketing ex-NFL newcomer Bill Goldberg as an invincible monster with a record-breaking winning streak. Goldberg was indeed incredibly popular from the outset, with chants of 'Gold-berg, Gold-berg' heralding his approach to the ring, but business still quickly fell off for WCW, especially as the list of stars ready to be destroyed by Goldberg grew shorter. One of WCW's last big genuine wins in the Monday night ratings war was on July 6, 1998, when WCW gave the long-awaited World Title match in Atlanta between Hogan and Goldberg (which Goldberg won), away for free on Nitro. By doing this, they indeed "spiked" and defeated RAW in the TV ratings for a week, but lost millions of possible PPV dollars in the process, as Hogan vs. Goldberg was a clear PPV main event. On September 14, 1998, WCW won the ratings war once again with a memorable moment that featured Ric Flair's return to WCW and the reformation of the legendary Four Horsemen. On October 25, 1998, WCW's Halloween Havoc PPV ended up running longer than the time allowed due to the last-minute addition of a Tag Team Title match. As a result, several thousand people lost the PPV feed at 11pm which was during the World Title match between Diamond Dallas Page and Goldberg. The following night, WCW decided to correct the problem by airing the entire match for free on Nitro and thus winning the ratings war for the final time.
WCW slowly slid into a period of extravagant overspending and what was viewed almost universally as creative decline, with the reason why it happened and who let it happen still a matter of debate. One possible reason was the overuse of celebrities (such as Dennis Rodman and Jay Leno) to wrestle PPV matches. Another was that WCW's credibility was badly damaged by embarrassing product placement, like Rick Steiner trading barbs with Chucky the killer doll (which was roundly booed by the in-house audience on the live Nitro broadcast) in the hopes of generating interest in the 1998 film Bride of Chucky. Yet another possible reason was the stale, pointless, and at times self-serving storylines concocted by inexperienced bookers such as Kevin Nash, and the fact that the top-level stars had no motivation to excel in the ring due to their long-term guaranteed-money contracts, only giving their utmost when it suited them to do so. What is known is that WCW programming slowly started to go downhill in quality, with people turning off their TVs or switching to WWF programming, and in reaction the company began to panic and tried to solve its problems by throwing money at a variety of personalities, a practice it could ill-afford to engage in. Many talents were reportedly signed simply to keep them from appearing on WWF television. At one point, WCW held over 260 individual performers under guaranteed contracts, and often paid many of them to simply stay at home and collect a paycheck.
As mentioned above, people were growing suspicious of Nash's questionable storylines, which were dominated by his on-screen persona. After booking himself to win the World War 3 battle royal in November 1998, he went on to end Goldberg's winning streak and win the World Title on the StarrCade PPV just one month later. Then came the infamous "fingerpoke of doom" match with Hulk Hogan in January 1999. The particular Nitro in which this match aired was being advertised as a StarrCade rematch between Nash and Goldberg. As a result, the arena was a complete sellout, with over 40,000 people watching live and millions more around the world hoping for the rematch. All night long, the announcers hyped the main event as being the "biggest match in the history of our sport" and said that "unlike the other guys, we have a real main event." Instead, a storyline that put Goldberg in a bad light called for him to be replaced by Hollywood Hogan. The World Heavyweight Championship changed hands when Hogan knocked Nash to the mat by prodding him in the chest with one finger and then pinning him, further damaging the credibility and perceived value of the title. Also damaged was the credibility of the company itself, which did not present the match that had been advertised, as well as what was perceived to be an underhanded way of selling out the arena for that night's telecast. It was also this same episode of Nitro that Tony Schiavone mockingly announced the Mick Foley WWF's Title win, which shifted the ratings for the night in the WWF's favor.
For more details on this topic, see: Fingerpoke of Doom: The Impact
Also in 1998, The Ultimate Warrior, a former WWF star, was recruited by Eric Bischoff to feud with Hogan (Warrior's WrestleMania VI opponent). Their October 1998 encounter at Halloween Havoc was mostly seen as sub-par, and Warrior vanished soon after. The Ultimate Warrior also insisted on a number of elaborate and costly apparatuses such as a trapdoor in the ring, which badly injured The British Bulldog when he landed on it.
In addition, no matter who was in charge, WCW did not like promoting its younger stars to the company's top slots. Despite having many talented younger wrestlers such as Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Billy Kidman, Chavo Guerrero, Jr., Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn, Raven, Rey Mysterio, Jr., and Booker T on its roster, they were kept away from the main event scene. What was seen as WCW's poor talent decisions combined with the massive popularity of the new, hip, and edgy WWF's "Attitude Era", likely began WCW's rapid demise.
Bischoff was eventually removed from power by the Turner higher-ups on September 10, 1999. The last straws perhaps being what was felt as a bizarre and mystifying push for the 1970s rock group KISS through WCW shows, a storyline involving rapper Master P and The No Limit Soldiers that saw Master P last only two weeks (the "No Limit Soldiers" stable flopped so badly that the West Texas Rednecks heel stable that they were feuding with was cheered by the WCW's traditional southern fanbase); an announced million-dollar contest that was later canceled; a planned Nitro animated series that was scrapped, as well; and Bischoff's long-standing desire to put on a huge, outdoor rock 'n' wrestling concert featuring KISS on December 31, 1999.
Another factor that lead to the demise of the WCW, which has largely gone unnoticed, is that unlike Nitro, the locations WCW used to hire for their PPV events were too small in terms of their capacity. Although WCW had an abundance of superstars in their ranks, this area was largely neglected by the management. For the record, WCW staged some of the biggest wrestling matches in arenas having mediocre capacity. For example the much awaited encounter between Randy Savage and Ric Flair at the 1995 Great American Bash was scheduled at the Hara Arena, in Dayton, Ohio had a mere capacity of 6,000 seats. Similarly, the match between Sting and Giant for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship at the 1996 Slamboree took placed at the Riverside Centroplex in Baton Rouge, Louisiana which only 8,000 seats available. All and all, it has been said that had WCW management opted for bigger venues their profit would have been much more.
The Death of WCW
Bischoff was unexpectedly replaced by former WWF head writer Vince Russo and his colleague Ed Ferrara. Russo and Ferrera had been writers involved in the WWF's "Attitude Era", but billed themselves as the brains behind the operation. WCW offered them lucrative contracts to jump ship in October 1999 in an effort to revitalize their own flagging product and weaken the product of the WWF. Russo and Ferrera tried to push the younger WCW talents straight away, and phase out aging stars such as Hogan and Flair. However, Russo was thought by many to be incapable of recreating the intriguing and cutting-edge TV he had produced while working for McMahon.
Russo and Ferrera struggled to gain approval for their near-the-knuckle ideas from the WCW management, such as "Piñata on a Pole" matches between Mexican wrestlers. In late 1999, Russo and Ferrera revived the nWo storyline, this time with Jeff Jarrett and Bret Hart at the helm. They next targeted WWF announcer Jim Ross with a parody character called "Oklahoma", who was played onscreen by Ferrera (Ross had been suffering from Bell's palsy, and the character lampooned his resultant facial defects). Bad luck struck in December 1999 when Hart suffered a genuine (and ultimately career-ending) concussion at the hands of Goldberg, who severely damaged his own hand less than a week later while punching through a limousine window in Salisbury, Maryland as part of a storyline that was written by Russo. Russo himself became an onscreen character during this period, though one whose face was never shown on camera, in a manner similar to Doctor Claw from Inspector Gadget and the George Steinbrenner character from Seinfeld. Only his hand and the back of his chair were ever actually seen, as he called wrestlers into his office to receive their marching orders for the night.
Both Russo and Ferrera were suspended just three months later amid rumors that they wanted to make former UFC fighter Tank Abbott the WCW Champion (Abbott, despite his legitimate fighting background, had little wrestling experience and had failed to connect with WCW audiences). Kevin Sullivan, who had been an on/off booker over the course of several years, was placed in charge in the interim. The new writing team attempted to appease the demoralized wrestlers and fans by making Chris Benoit the WCW Champion at the Souled Out PPV in January 2000. However, because of the real-life personal issues between himself and Sullivan (Sullivan's wife left him for Benoit), let alone that prior to the PPV he and a few other wrestlers demanded their releases from the company (due to their lack of being pushed to stardom as well as their similar hatred for Sullivan), Benoit handed the belt back right after winning it and the next day left WCW. He signed with the WWF along with his similarly frustrated friends Perry Saturn, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko. The four quickly became popular in the WWF as "The Radicalz".
On February 11, 2000, black wrestlers Bobby Walker and Harrison Norris and Japanese manager Sonny Onoo launched racial discrimination lawsuits against WCW, claiming that, as a result of their ethnicities, they had not been pushed, had not been paid as well as other wrestlers and personalities, and had been given offensive gimmicks. Some speculated that the charges of racism brought against WCW (and the resultant bad publicity for the company, which had been dogged by accusations of racism for years), were partially responsible for black wrestler Booker T winning the WCW Championship later that year and his brother Stevie Ray being made a color commentator, with Ray himself acknowledging that it might have been a factor.
In April 2000, with ratings hitting new lows, both Russo and Bischoff were reinstated by WCW. They formed an on-screen union that stood up for the younger talent in the company (which they dubbed the New Blood) in their battle against the Millionaires Club, which consisted of the older, higher-paid, and more visible stars such as Hogan, Sting, and Diamond Dallas Page. Though initially well-received, the storyline quickly degenerated into yet another nWo rehash, with the heel nWo recast as the New Blood and the face WCW embodied in the Millionaire's Club. As well, the unorthodox and often controversial storylines continued. These included making actor David Arquette the WCW Champion in order to promote a WCW-themed movie, Ready to Rumble; Russo himself winning the WCW Championship in September 2000 (Russo, like Arquette, was not a trained wrestler); a botched June heel turn for Goldberg that greatly diminished his drawing power; and a shoot speech by Russo at Bash at the Beach 2000 aimed at Hulk Hogan which led to Hogan resigning and filing a defamation of character lawsuit against the company (which was eventually dismissed in 2002). Bischoff vanished once more in July 2000, and Russo was gone from WCW completely by late 2000, leaving Terry Taylor holding the reins.
Meanwhile, when Time Warner bought out Turner's cable empire in 1996, it also purchased WCW. Even though Turner was a big fan and faithful to the professional wrestling shows on his stations (a professional wrestling program had helped get Turner's very first TV station, WTBS, off the ground, and WCW was, in fact, the modern incarnation of the promotion that Turner had run on WTBS back in those days) regardless of whether it was losing him money, Time Warner did not share his loyalty, especially when accounts showed that WCW was losing between $12–$17 million a year because of its decline. However, Turner was still the single largest Time Warner shareholder, and WCW was supported at his behest. When AOL merged with Time Warner in 2000, Turner was effectively forced out of his own empire. The new AOL Time Warner finally had the power to auction off WCW, which they saw as an unnecessary drain on resources.
In late 2000, Bischoff and a group of private investors, calling themselves Fusient Media Ventures, inquired about buying WCW, but backed out when Turner Network's head (and The WB founder) Jamie Kellner formally canceled all WCW programming from its TV networks. With no network to air its programming, WCW was of little value to Fusient, whose offer was dependent on the Turner networks continuing to air WCW programming.
On March 23, 2001, virtually all of WCW's trademarks and archived footage, along with the contracts of 24 wrestlers under WCW contract, were sold to Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. for around $2 million. AOL Time Warner retained the former WCW, which subsequently reverted to its previous name of Universal Wrestling Corporation and now operated solely for the purpose of dealing with the guaranteed contracts of wrestlers who were directly under contract to AOL Time Warner and not WCW, as well as lawsuits and other legal issues. As of 2014, the Universal Wrestling Corporation still exists as a legal entity under the ownership of Time Warner.
The Acquisition by WWF/E
A gloating McMahon (in character, but at least partly genuine) opened the last-ever episode of WCW Monday Nitro simulcast with RAW on March 26, 2001 with a self-praising speech. US Champion Booker T cleanly defeated the world champion, Scott Steiner, to become WCW's final World Heavyweight Champion, as well as its final US Heavyweight Champion. Sting vs. Ric Flair (won by Sting) was the highlight nostalgia match of the final broadcast, ending affectionately with a respectful embrace.
When Vince came on RAW after the Sting/Flair match to declare victory over WCW, Vince's son Shane McMahon appeared at the Nitro event, declaring that he had bought WCW. However, this was kayfabe and part of a WWE storyline that would have Shane leading the WCW Invasion of WWE, which lasted from March to November 2001 and marked the end of WCW. Despite aborted attempts to run WCW-branded events (including a proposed Saturday night timeslot that later evolved into WWF Excess and then WWE Velocity), the WWF only ran a handful of matches on RAW and SmackDown! under the WCW banner.
When the WWF bought WCW's assets in March 2001, several top WCW wrestlers, including Flair, Goldberg, Kevin Nash, and Sting had high-priced contracts with AOL Time Warner that WWF was unwilling to pick up. This was one the reasons the planned WCW Invasion of WWF storyline failed. The WCW was not seen as a powerhouse organization invading WWF when most of their top stars did not appear. However, all of the above wrestlers except Sting signed contracts with the WWF after the Invasion subsided.
It has also been noticed often in WCW that they somewhat misused the great roster they used to have. At times they tried to recreate the magic of those encounters which were already successful in WWF and Hogan-Warrior and Hogan-Savage was no exception. Moreover, there was hardly any face vs. face matches in WCW except of Goldberg-DDP (which was reasonably successful). It was also noted that with the roster WCW used to have they could have created some great encounters which had never been seen before in WWF, such as Hogan-Bret, Warrior-Bret, Flair-Warrior, Luger-Savage etc. Adding insult to injury was the bad timings, short length and poor homework on the part of bookers of various feuds, which caused a lot of damage to WCW during a pivotal time where it couldn't afford to make such mistakes. The Savage-Bret rivalry which started when Bret become a nWo member was indeed a great idea but it was short lived. The Hogan-Nash encounter could have drawn millions of dollars had it been on a pay per view but due to the poor booking, timing and execution of the match the result is what was infamously remembered as ’Fingerpoke of Doom’. All and all the talent of WCW was utilized poorly as majority of superstar and talented athletes had nothing to do but move in the shadow of either Hogan or Nash as a part of nWo while others used to get their opportunity once in a blue moon in the mid card.
The WCW World Heavyweight Championship would be merged with the WWF Championship into the WWF Undisputed Championship when Chris Jericho defeated The Rock and Steve Austin for the respective titles on December 9, 2001 on the PPV, Vengeance. However, in September 2002 (the year the WWE Brand Extension between RAW and SmackDown! was instituted) the World Heavyweight Championship was reinstated by GM (at the time) Eric Bischoff on an episode of RAW after the then-undisputed WWE Champion Brock Lesnar was moved to SmackDown! to become that show's champion. This version of the belt, along with champion Dave Batista, was moved over to the Smackdown! brand in June 2005. Three years later in June 2008, the World Heavyweight Championship was moved back to RAW (CM Punk of RAW defeated Smackdown's champion Edge in an impromptu "Money in the Bank" match on Monday Night RAW), where it remained for a while. At No Way Out 2009, Edge, a SmackDown superstar, won the RAW Elimination Chamber match after inserting himself into it, thus bringing the title with him to SmackDown.
This is a list of the champions as they were at the end of the last WCW Monday Nitro on March 26, 2001
|Championship||Final Champion (s)||Date Won||Event|
|WCW World Heavyweight Championship||Booker T||March 26, 2001||Nitro|
|WCW United States Championship||Booker T||March 18, 2001||Greed|
|WCW World Tag Team Champions||Chuck Palumbo and Sean O'Haire||January 14, 2001||Sin|
|WCW Cruiserweight Championship||Shane Helms||March 18, 2001||Greed|
|WCW World Television Championship||Jim Duggan||February 16, 2000||Thunder|
|WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Champions||Billy Kidman and Rey Mysterio||March 26, 2001||Nitro|
|WCW Hardcore Championship||Meng||January 14, 2001||Sin|
Here's a list of the final WCW Champions under banner of WWE.
|Championship||Final Champion (s)||Date Won||Event|
|WCW World Heavyweight Championship
|Chris Jericho||December 9, 2001||Vengeance 2001|
|Edge||November 12, 2001||RAW|
|WCW World Tag Team Champions
|The Dudley Boyz||November 18, 2001||Survivor Series|
|WCW Cruiserweight Championship
|Tajiri||October 22, 2001||RAW|
- 1Unified with the WWE Championship at Vengeance 2001. The belt design was later reintroduced as the WWE sanctioned World Heavyweight Championship in September 2002.
- 2Unified with the WWE Tag Team Championship at Survivor Series 2001.
- 3Unified with the WWE Intercontinental Championship against Test. Reactivated in 2003 as the WWE United States Championship.
- 4Kept active after WCW and renamed WWE Cruiserweight Championship after The Invasion.
Championships and accomplishments
- WCW World Heavyweight Championship
- WCW United States Heavyweight Championship
- WCW World Cruiserweight Championship
- WCW World Tag Team Championship
- WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship
- WCW World Television Championship
- WCW Hardcore Championship
- WCW United States Tag Team Championship
- WCW World Six-Man Tag Team Championship
- WCW International World Heavyweight Championship
- WCW Light Heavyweight Championship
- WCW Women's Championship
- WCW Women's Cruiserweight Championship
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship
- NWA World Tag Team Championship
List of WCW programming
Throughout its history, World Championship Wrestling (and its predecessor, Jim Crockett Promotions) has presented several wrestling programs.
- WCW Monday Nitro (1995-2001)
- WCW Thunder (1998-2001)
- WCW Saturday Night, aka WCW Saturday Morning, Georgia Championship Wrestling, and World Championship Wrestling (1971-2000)
- World Championship Wrestling: Sunday Edition (197?-1987)
- WCW WorldWide, aka World Wide Wrestling (1975-2001)
- WCW Pro, aka NWA Pro Wrestling and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling (1985-1998)
- WCW Main Event, aka NWA Power Hour (1989-1992)
- WCW Power Hour, aka NWA Power Hour (1989-1992)
- WCW Prime (1995-1997)
- WCW Clash of the Champions aka NWA Clash of Champions
- The Death of WCW by R.D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez, 2004, ISBN 1-55022-661-4.
- The Monday Night War: WWE Raw vs. WCW Monday Nitro World Wrestling Entertainment, 2004, ASIN B0001CCXCA.
- Controversy Creates Cash by Eric Bischoff and Jeremy Roberts, 2006
- World Championship Wrestling alumni
- Event history
- List of WCW pay-per-view events
- Jim Crockett Promotions
- The Alliance
- Monday Night Wars
- Nitro Girls
- WCW Saturday Night
- WCW Monday Nitro
- WCW Thunder
- The Legacy of WCW Homepage
- WCW Worldwide
- WCW Title Histories
- DDT Digest - "The Unofficial Resting Place Of WCW"
- The Complete History of WCW
- History of Wrestling on TBS
|World Wrestling Entertainment Promotions|