WCW's 7 Deadly Sins: 7 Important Wrestling Lessons That WWE Has Ignored
No one ever believed that WCW would collapse. Those witnessing Goldberg cleanly defeat Hulk Hogan in Atlanta in front of 40,000 fans, could never have imagined that a few years later, the Empire of the South would have been razed to the ground. WCW was never expected to die.
And yet, 11 years later, wrestling has arguably still not recovered. The dominance of the WWE has created a monopoly that not even Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair could challenge. There was a time and market for such a challenge, but alas it had no power behind it.
TNA still has a chance, but for every year that passes by with the WWE unmatched, the quality of wrestling suffers.
If wrestling is to prosper and develop a third golden era, then it needs to learn from the past and move forward. But has Vince McMahon really learned from history?
The 3 Hours of Wrestling
For a company struggling to stay relevant and who has also been heavily criticised for its creative direction, adding a third hour is a bizarre move by the WWE. With superstar burnout and chaotic scheduling, such a move is only liken to make things worse for the cartoon-like sportsmen of the squared circle.
The third hour could cater for a greater promotion of the underdeveloped areas in the WWE such as the Women's Division, Tag Team or a potential new Cruiserweight scene. However its more than likely a crude idea to sell more advertisement, more ridiculous comedy promos, guest hosts flogging their wares and more interviews from wrestlers who are poor actors.
The decision of WCW to switch to three hours was universally panned because it over-saturated their product and forced them to repeat too much.
Has Vince McMahon taken a massive gamble here?
Top-Heavy Suppression of the Vanilla Midgets
He may be bound for the Hall of Fame, but Kevin Nash's legacy will always be tainted by his suppression of the midcard in WCW.
Rey Mysterio and the late Eddie Guerrero were notable champions in the WWE and produced some iconic moments. And yet had Nash had his way(and in WCW, he did), these global superstars would have been left floundering.
In the WWE today, the midcard has seldom changed as legends come back for one quick paycheck. It is perhaps indicative that the midcard has not stood out under the creative dictatorship of Vince McMahon but it speaks volumes that fans are more interested in The Rock and Brock Lesnar than the next generation.
The legends are timely reminders of yesteryear but when it comes at the expense of the future, then it will damage the quality of the product in the long term. The golden generations are now close to retirement. The future must stand up and be nurtured.
Celebrity Culture or Financial Pandering?
Charlie Sheen as "social media ambassador"?
How is Charlie Sheen selling your product ever a good thing for a so-called "family friendly" company?
The world of Vince McMahon's wrestling has always relied upon celebrities to bolster its image. However, over the past few years, some choices have been driven entirely upon cheap commercialism
The use of celebrity can, in certain instances, gives wrestling what it has always craved: prime time presence. In certain instances such as Jerry Lawler and Andy Kauffman it creates a scenario and interest in wrestling that appeals to non-wrestling fans.
However when wrestling makes a deal with those that only have an interest in promoting themselves, it comes across badly to those who love wrestling. The recent Guest Hosts of Raw may very well be cited by future authors as a crucial period if the WWE Empire was to ever collapse.
After all, the likes of David Arquette still sends wrestling fans into rants a decade later.
And on a further point, when wrestling sells out to the likes of Mike Tyson and Charlie Sheen, it sends the worst kind of message to its fans that such behaviour is being condoned.
One-Dimension Creative: John Cena and the New World Order
When success occurs, almost immediately there is a sequel or knock-off in the making. In some cases, it is just good economic sense, in others, it is financial greed. There is also a problem relating to how far the successful entity can run.
The nWo remains the best example of how one successful idea turned into a tired concept because those who were creatively behind it had no idea how to adapt it back into mainstream wrestling. And so there were many reformations, heel turns, face turns and spin-offs.
The original concept of the nWo, which was to be dynamic and innovative, was slowly lost. And with every reincarnation the legacy of the group is further tarnished. The sight of the Band in TNA was misguided and evidence of Eric Bischoff's limitations as a wrestling promoter.
In the WWE such repetitions occur with the likes of John Cena, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio and others. There is too much stock placed in the audience willing to be entertained by the same thing time and time again. The rise of John Cena the Superman has been running largely unchanged for years now.
The long awaited heel turn just does not seem to be happening. All the while the WWE audience grows tired of the product and vote with their feet. Time and time again, Cena is targeted, beaten down, challenged and just as he seems to be beat, he turns the tide and wins.
How many times is this possible?
Big Contracts for Little Impact
In the days of the Attitude Era, WCW was able to buy anyone they wanted. The decision by Ted Turner to bankroll his organisation to the tune of millions of dollars meant that they could afford to pick up the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Bret Hart.
However the costs of these performers especially those who were not developing the next generation, soon became a massive burden on WCW. When the cracks first appeared, the upper-end contracts became a chokechain.
Flash forward and we have just had the departure of Brock Lesnar whose contract for wrestling a handful of events is likely to have cost Vince McMahon several million dollars. A proposed match against the Undertaker at either the Survivor Series or WrestleMania is possible, but if not then we must ask what was the point in this acquisition for only two matches?
Money can do so much good. But in the world of wrestling, could this not have been used to promote or develop certain superstars who are on the cusp of making it?
Selling Your Product Through the Commentators
When then-WCW commentator Tony Shiavone announced the winner of the Mick Foley title match live on Nitro, hundreds of thousands of fans changed stations. It was an Eric Bischoff-type of strategy of trying to damage the WWE's programming. It however has gone down in history as a pivotal moment when the Monday Night Wars began to change in the WWE's favor.
The commentator is more than simply a person who tells you what is happening. They are the first line in a PR team that sells everything about wrestling to the fans. What we think and what we do is orchestrated by the commentator.
Or at least they used to.
The likes of Michael Cole, while showing some glimpses of quality, have become too distracting to wrestling ears. They are not doing what is required of their trade. Perhaps it is from growing up with the likes of Gorilla Monsoon, Bobby Heenan and Jim Ross; but, when they got excited, we got excited. And when we got excited, we got engaged.
The ability of Jim Ross does not need to be explained or remarked upon, but wrestling needs a southern style of excitement and enthusiasm. This is just not present in wrestling today.
Long-Term Trends and Fan Power
The wrestling world is an eclectic group of fans. We are divided. We do not always know what is best for wrestling. However we do pay our hard-earned money every year to attend events, buy merchandise and order Pay-per-Views.
As a result, we as fans need to have a greater input into what we see. We need to have our concerns addressed. Otherwise we vote with our feet.
Wrestling needs a strong central authority to dictate direction, but when that direction loses sight of what is needed, then there has to be a strong judiciary to keep it in check. In the WWE and wrestling in general, this just does not occur.
WCW stopped listening to its fans because it failed to recognise that they were bored with the New World Order. They were tired of Hogan, Bischoff and Nash running the show while the Vanilla Midgets were crushed.
The Vanilla Midgets moved on and became hugely successful, and the WCW collapsed.
The WWE is so strong at the moment in certain areas that it does not need to listen to us just yet. However as the ratings begin to fall (as the pigskin reappears), how worried will shareholders get?
And with the first WrestleMania without the Undertaker, Shawn Michaels and Co. in sight, could wrestling be at a turning point? What will generate the same amounts of cash if wrestling fans begin to walk away?
For those dismissing these words, just remember, no one expected WCW to die.
The WWE has many good years left. Their Empire will stand for a few years yet. However whether it's built on sand or rock will become more apparent as time goes by. WCW's empire was built upon on sand, and had no security once the first plan went awry.
The WWE has a product it sells. And despite criticism it still manages to get a core rating and support. And yet, as generations continue, what is left once the golden generation finally retires?
What is WrestleMania without the Undertaker?
Summerslam without Attitude?
Survivor Series without the Rock?
How many times is John Cena's winning the WWE Championship going to get people excited?
Time will tell. However in this writer's opinion, the WWE has made, and continues to make the same mistakes that caused the demise of the old WCW.
That night in Atlanta with Goldberg and Hulk Hogan was a great wrestling moment, but now is also one of great sadness, given how much wrestling has changed. WCW and the Monday Night Wars could have driven wrestling for decades.
And yet, we are left with a monopoly driven dictatorship where success or failure is untapped.