10. The Introduction of the Fake Sting
If there is one cardinal rule for what doesn't work to further a wrestling story line it is that using a fake wrestler in an angle never works.
When the nWo took over WCW the only wrestler they never humiliated was Sting, who changed his persona from the neon spiked hair Sting, to a persona straight out of Brandon Lee's performance in the Crow.
The fake Sting was brought out as the sixth member of the nWo, a move so poorly thought out that the next week when Sean Waltman was brought into the group he was given the name Syxx.
If the fake Sting were brought out only once as a swerve it would have been one thing, however week-after-week the Fake Sting showed up fooling only stupid wrestlers like Lex Luger and the even more stupid announcer Tony Schiavone, who was duped by the Fake Sting on a weekly basis.
9. Goldberg Ends Bret Hart's Career
After a year of pitiful booking Bret Hart was finally getting real heel heat and a World Championship push that he deserved.
Behind the scenes many wrestlers talked openly about how bad a worker Goldberg was and how eventually his lack of skill would either end his career or the career of an opponent.
During a title defense at Starrcade Goldberg hit Hart with a superkick that nearly took the Hitman's head off, giving Bret a career-ending concussion.
The injury not only ended the career of arguably the greatest pure wrestler of all time, but also was the last hole in the sinking ship that was WCW.
8. The Devaluation of the Cruiserweight Division
Many people will argue that Eric Bischoff did nothing right as the head of WCW, however Bischoff hit a home run with the introduction of Cruiserweight and Lucha Libre wrestling to a nationwide audience.
While the Cruiserweight trend was started with Paul Heyman at ECW, it was Bischoff who pushed the likes of Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio Jr., and Juventud Guerrera and their exciting brand of wrestling.
However, when Bischoff was forced out by the Time Warner brass and replaced with Vince Russo, one of "the Mastermind's" first act was to all but end the cruiserweight division.
Not only did Russo end the Cruiserweight division, but he turned a style of wrestling universally well liked by wrestling fans into a joke by booking Medusa and Oklahoma for the Cruiserweight title.
7. Bret Hart Undoes a Screwjob That Never Took Place
The obvious angle when Bret entered WCW was to bring up his grievances with Vince McMahon and the WWF for the Montreal Screwjob.
However, a little over a month after the screwjob in Montreal, Bret Hart was booked to take matters into his own hands and undo a miscarriage of justice against Sting at the hands of the corporate picked champion Hulk Hogan.
The only problem is that no screwjob took place; referee Nick Patrick's three count was fair, and the match and angle were so poorly executed that it seemed Hogan beat the long absent Sting in a five minute squash match.
True wrestling fans saw through the angle and knew it was a 'work' that was so poorly executed that not even the biggest Mark watching thought that Sting was screwed.
6. Kevin Sullivan is Promoted to Head Booker
The obvious choice for booking fiasco's in WCW is to pin the downfall solely on Kevin Nash and his tenure.
While Nash was guilty of putting himself, Hall, and Hogan over at the expense of other wrestlers, he was at some level only doing either what he was told (by WCW management) or what he had no choice but to do (Hogan with "complete creative control" could book himself as Champion any time he felt like it).
However, as bad as Nash was, Kevin Sullivan's tenure had a more disastrous effect on the company. Sullivan had real heat with many of the promotion's top performers (notably Chris Benoit) who felt that for years Sullivan had tried to keep them down in the industry.
As a result Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Makenko, and Perry Saturn asked for, and were given, their release. Saturn and Malenko would achieve some level of stardom in the WWE, while Benoit and Guerrero became main eventers.
5. The Handling of Ric Flair From 1996-2001
It's one thing not to like a guy, it's another to do everything within your power to screw the most well-respected man in the industry for the sheer sake of screwing him.
It was no secret that Hogan, Kevin Nash, and, in particular, Bischoff didn't care for Ric Flair. The three of them did everything possible to make his life miserable for a five-year period.
Flair was beaten up unmercifully in the old Southeast territories, where he was still king at every show, to put Hogan and the nWo over; and Bischoff even went as far as to use Flair's own son in an attempt to further humiliate him (a blantant second-rate rip off of the Sandman/Raven angle in ECW).
The worst screwjob of all was when Bischoff fired Flair when Ric refused to cut a promo at a Thunder taping because he had given notice that he wanted off that week to attend his son's National AAU wrestling tournament.
4. Bischoff Goes Celebrity Crazy
For decades Vince McMahon has used celebrities at his Wrestlemania shows as ring announcers (Pete Rose), referees (Mike Tyson), and even as performers (Mr. T, Lawrence Taylor, and Floyd Mayweather).
However, Vince never relied on celebrity power on a regular basis as a cornerstone of his promotion, and as with every other decision he made, even this one led to excess for Eric Bischoff.
The rock bands hired to bring in ratings led to some of Nitro's lowest ratings ever -- the bringing in of Master P's No Limit Soldiers was a disaster, and non-wrestlers such as Karl Malone and Kevin Greene were booked on PPV main events. Then you have Bischoff and Hogan's odd man-crush on Dennis "Rodzilla" Rodman, which was mind-boggling given that he no-showed events and at one pay-per-view even attempted to wrestle while clearly drunk.
However, even if Bischoff brought in guys like Kevin Greene and Dennis Rodman you could clearly assume that those guys were big enough and athletic enough to possibly put on a good match...
...but Jay Leno??
3. "The Fingerpoke of Death"
In my previous column I spoke in depth about the January 4, 1999 edition of Monday Nitro where the idiotic Tony Schivone cut the infamous "That will put some butts in the seats" promo referring to the universally respected and beloved Mick Foley.
However, the real turning point on that show was the events leading up to that night's main event and the main event itself, both of which were two of the most fan-insulting moments in wrestling history.
The main event was supposed to be a rematch from Starrcade with Goldberg and Kevin Nash, however, earlier in the show Goldberg was arrested in the back on charges that he was "aggravatedly stalking" Miss Elizabeth. To make matters worse, the creative team wanted an attempted rape storyline which Goldberg refused.
The cops eventually saw through Elizabeth's false charges, however Goldberg couldn't make it back to the Georgia Dome in time (ironically the police station he was taken to was shown to be only 100 yards from the venue and Goldberg had 15 minutes to get to the Dome!).
In the meantime, Hogan arranges for himself to take Goldberg's spot. The match begins with Hogan and Nash circling each other for two minutes, Hogan poking his finger in Nash's chest, and Nash laying down for Hogan to get the pin.
2. Vince Russo
Vince Russo's place in history is secure as being the greatest con-man in professional wrestling history.
For years Russo would tell anybody who would listen that it was he who was single-handedly behind the growing success of the WWE's "Attitude Era", and eventually he parlayed that spin into a promotion as the Executive Producer of WCW.
Even if Vince McManhon gets no credit for the WWE's late 90's turn around, at best Russo's "brilliant ideas" were simply variations of story lines that were tweaked from what Paul Heyman was doing in ECW.
However, without any creative restraint from McMahon, Russo went from taking inspiration from what Heyman was doing to totally exaggerating everything ECW did at the time.
Russo's mistakes are too numerous to mention: from having every single wrestler admit they were breaking Kayfabe (the worst being Buff Bagwell who would gleefully admit to the fans when he jobbed matches), to childishly exploiting racial stereotypes for the sake of childishly exploiting racial stereotypes, to taking one of the most classless cheap shots in wrestling history at Jim Ross in the form of the character 'Oklahoma'.
Needless to say, ratings under Russo tanked in part because Russo never realized that the reason people watch professional wrestling is because they know at some level it's fake (or "predetermined" might be a better word), yet they watch as a form of entertainment and escape.
Nobody wants to see a blockbuster action flick only to have Will Smith or Matt Damon come to the screen in a close-up and say, "That wasn't real you idiot." However, that is exactly what Vince Russo did every week and the wrestling fans hated him for exactly that.
1. David Arquette Becomes the World's Heavyweight Champion
Ric Flair...Harley Race...Lou Thesz...Ricky Steamboat...Dory Funk Jr...Terry Funk...Dusty Rhodes...Sting...Hulk Hogan...Bret Hart...David Arquette?
You can thank Vince Russo for this stroke of genius as well who in his infinite wisdom said to himself, "Well since everybody knows it's fake we'll show them how fake it really is."
Arquette a B-movie actor who's primary claim to fame is that he married the actress who played Monica on Friends, was given the privilege to be handed something that men like Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero were denied an opportunity to even pursue.
To his credit Arquette never wanted the belt and fought hard to keep from taking the strap, however his management company, under pressure from Time Warner (who produced the crappy wrestling movie he was starring in at the time) and Russo, "highly suggested" he work the angle.
With this one move, not only did Vince Russo lose all credibility with the wrestling fans but he devalued perhaps the greatest Championship in wrestling history, simply to prove how fake wrestling is and to do cross-promotion for a crappy movie Arquette was starring in.
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