WCW: How It Died, and How WWE and Vince McMahon Made Sure It Never Rose Again
When you think of Pro-Wrestling, really only one name comes up nowadays, that being WWE. Sometimes you hear it called WWF by those far out of the loop, but it's the same company either way.
However back in the '90s, two names, even three were thrown out. That being WWF, WCW and ECW.
ECW was considered more experimental than anything else. While WWE was on USA Network, ECW was on TNN.
Vince McMahon got in on the ground floor with ECW.
See, McMahon knew that if he helped ECW out, he could have one company working and getting talent over, while he had a show or two going on in WWE. It was like a higher version of developmental for him.
Paul Heyman and Vince McMahon agreed to a talent exchange. This is how we saw Rob Van Dam on WWE RAW one week, then ECW the next.
We then saw the Dudleys and Tazz arrive in WWE.
Once they arrived in WWE, McMahon owned all rights to the names. This is why Tazz changed his name to Taz when he went to TNA, and why the Dudleys had to change their name to Team 3D in TNA and Internationally.
The Dudleys wanted to stay in ECW, and said if Heyman just went $1 over WWE's offer, then they would stay.
Heyman refused as he had already agreed to the talent exchange.
But in any case, ECW was seemingly co-promoting with WWE. This is why many thought they lasted as long as they did, and why Vinny Mac had no issue with doing any sort of tribute to them, even dedicating a brand to them for a few years.
However, WCW lasted on their own.
They had backing from Ted Turner, a very rich man during the time, who owned many film companies and channels, including the Atlanta Braves. The man was bathing in moola, so he could waste any amount of money he cared to.
All WCW had to say was, "I need 5 million for a new ramp," and Turner wrote the check.
Turner was a wrestling fan, so, when he saw a young, budding wrestling company which could rival that of another company that was on the rise in WWF, he took the chance.
USA Network was in the same amount of homes that TNT was in. Turner decided that because he had a network, he'd put something called WCW Nitro up every Monday to rival a TV show called WWF RAW Is WAR.
RAW was getting pretty big numbers, and Turner knew it. Being the business man that he was, he decided to put Nitro up against it.
Thing is, the men he first hired were horrible. They had no idea how to run a wrestling business, instead opting to hire men familiar with entertainment.
After a while, Turner hired guys who knew the wrestling business, like Bill Watts and Dusty Rhodes.
The problem was that they were so big on the territory days being brought to the mainstream, they couldn't grow an audience. Only hardcore fans were interested, and while they may be the ones who really drive a company, you have to have the casuals and people who are new to the business who can become fans.
The territory days were dead, and they needed to move on.
After a while, he knew certain talents were needed to help the show. If he were to beat WWF, he would have to make sure the big time players were in WCW, He also needed a change in how the entire company was run.
So, he went out and found a man who knew the wrestling business and could make it more the company of the day.
His name was Eric Bischoff. Turner made him Executive Producer for a bit, then he became WCW President.
Bischoff, while many criticize him, actually made good moves in growing WCW. He went out and got the big names like Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. Even those like Lex Luger, Ric Flair and Randy Savage, along with Bret Hart were coming in.
The big names coming in all the time made the WCW a very interesting company every week to watch.
Luger and Rick Rude came into WCW in controversial ways. EB also called out WWF live on television, and even gave away an entire taped show, which included a night in which Mankind won the WWF Championship.
These things did not sit well with McMahon. He hated WCW, I mean really hated the company.
During the time EB basically ran WCW, the company was beating WWF RAW every week.
While many jumped from WWF to WCW, not many went the other way. Most went to the WWF after WCW went out of business.
People such as Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho made the jump, but those were really just a few of the big names.
WWF however, still stood strong and was doing a lot, even regaining ratings, when WCW had the bigger stars. WWF just simply grew big names, like Stone Cold, Undertaker, Triple H, Kane, Kurt Angle and the Rock.
Most of these names were home grown talents, while WCW simply picked out talents that had already been established in the WWF. This is when we started either seeing new big names or other stars getting gimmick makeovers.
WCW then started up the Power Plant, which was one of the worst wrestling schools ever devised. It taught basic wrestling and entertainment skills, but were horrible in their training for the most part.
Basically, what was good for TV was taught.
The Power Plant produced stars such as Goldberg, Chris Kanyon, the Giant, Chuck Palumbo, Sean O'Haire, DDP, Stacy Keibler and Torrie Wilson, who all attended and graduated from the school.
The school took just about anyone if they looked the part, as they needed new stars big time.
So, indy wrestlers and athletes from all over went in to the school hoping for a WCW career.
A lot of the time, WCW execs or wrestlers would see someone they felt could be big, and would hire them, and send them to the Plant.
Some just showed up, those who weren't scouted and hired, and had to pay to train there.
The cost was about $3,000 for 6 months of training.
It was known for being a tough school, with a drop-out rate near 85 percent.
Goldberg, who was probably the most popular graduate, said he blamed his short career on the Power Plant, saying: "I don't think it was a priority to protect your opponent."
He said that because the new stars like himself who came in were careless in the ring and had to be carried by other stars.
Like I said, they taught what was good for TV, which wasn't very good.
The Giant, who we know now as The Big Show, said in his recent DVD release, that the Power Plant taught him basic skills, but he realized that he had to be carried in matches.
But the thing was, it was OK at that point. They didn't care. When he arrived in WWE, he said it was a complete 180, he had to actually know how to wrestle.
He was put on the rise quickly in WCW because they needed to develop stars for the future. This is why we went from seeing former big stars, to random guys no one ever heard of, winning all sorts of titles.
This is the about the same time Sting got a gimmick change, Booker T got bigger and Rey Mysterio made his impact.
EB wanted the Cruiserweight division to be big, so, he went out and hired guys from around the world to add International flair. People such as Jushin Liger made his mark during this time.
They had so many stars, but nothing really to do with them.
Now, while WCW did start to lose ratings to WWF slowly but surely, they still were getting big ratings in the 4.0s and 5.0s.
Nowadays, WWE is happy with mid-3.0s.
So, neither really lost a lot back then. But, it was the competition that made these two companies do crazy things.
This is when EB did some of the most irrational things imaginable.
While the NWO was great at the time, even those internally thought it lasted 6 months too long. Bischoff then saw contract after contract expiring. So, he kept asking for money to re-sign these men and women.
They basically named their price.
People such as Hogan, Nash and Hall ran the company from the inside, with Nash even being in charge of booking at one point, which curiously was around the time he ended Goldberg's winning streak. But obviously he wouldn't kill the streak to get himself over, right?
Then we saw the Finger Poke of Doom, one of the biggest mistakes ever developed by a creative team.
However, throughout all the cash mishandling, creative issues and clear stupidity done by all WCW management, one thing really started to kill WCW faster: WCW Thunder.
Ted Turner needed another show to help out his new network TBS. TNT was doing great, and Nitro was one of the reasons.
Knowing this, Turner told Bischoff to get another show on weekly for TBS to get views and grow just like TNT.
He promised more money, so obviously EB took the chance!
Thunder did well during it's time, but it really took a lot out of management.
It was a rough time and WCW was suffering. But, that wasn't killing them yet. A final nail in the coffin was needed.
Time Warner merged with AOL, which would slaughter the cash cow for good.
AOL controlled everything of Turner's at this time, including WCW.
They didn't know what they had and it was a billion dollar business. Turner knew it, the fans knew it, it seemed everyone knew it but AOL.
Because they felt it was a bit low brow and wouldn't fit with their image.
They decided to sell the company.
Who would be a buyer? Well Vince McMahon. The only thing he wouldn't own was the wrestlers themselves. In fact, because AOL basically shut down WCW, the wrestlers and their contracts were done. So, because many had made deals with Time Warner instead of WCW, they had to be paid.
Vinny Mac didn't have to pay these contracts out, but AOL had to.
So, Vince paid a few million to buy up WCW, then he brought in some of the names, especially the young guys and some popular names like DDP and Booker T.
Later on, other names popped up like Scott Steiner, Nash, Hogan, Hall and even Goldberg.
But what it came down to was this, WCW was gone and Vince was happy. He knew he won.
Vince didn't have to pay tribute, because in his eyes, he did it already during the Invasion storyline. Nowadays, we see nothing WCW related.
Wrestlemania 27 is in Atlanta, so one would think it could have a WCW theme, but, of course, Vince decides against it. Once again keeping WCW buried, and never heard from again.
It is simply a memory.
Why does Vince not pay respects to WCW?
In his mind he doesn't have to, despite it's success and place in history. His hatred for the promotion is probably why.
But sooner or later, one has to get over grudges. Whether it's a year, or twenty from now, I think one day Vince will pay respects to WCW.
Mainly because the promotion deserves it.
You can hate someone who ran it, the people who jumped ship to it, or the people who ended it.
It doesn't matter. WCW is gone, but the fans won't forget it. This much is true, and Vince must recognize it.
After all Vinny Mac, wasn't it you who said anything would be done if it's good for business?
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