It’s hard to believe how multi-million dollar promotions with a decent roster, a steady budget and acceptable production, can suddenly falter and collapse. Wrestling promotions rely on one important factor to stay in business, and that is the fans. We the fans are an intangible part to a wrestling promotion’s success, and even big promotions like WWE rely on fan support. Wrestling fans are a strange breed (we like what we like, and if we don’t enjoy what we are seeing, we are sure to make whoever is in charge hear our plea for change). Wrestling fans are judgmental but loyal (to a certain point); if we feel betrayed or our intelligence is challenged, we will look for a change.
This brings me to the article at hand. WWE, WCW and ECW had great success at one point in time, but all three ultimately went through a downward spiral and lost fan support, with WWE surviving their low point and being the only remaining promotion. What all three of these promotions have in common is there were people who were significant in the promotions’ problems. From executives, bookers and wrestlers, these people had an effect on the promotion’s decline. Some would go on to damage the promotion beyond repair.
In all this, we the fans have suffered the most, as wrestling will never be as good as when these three promotions were all in business and fighting to be at the top. It was the hottest time in wrestling and now all we are left with are memories.
12. Demon Kiss
It was gimmicks like this that really turned wrestling fans away from WCW. Bischoff signed a contract with Kiss. The “Demon” character was originally supposed to be the beginning of a stable called “The Warriors of KISS”, in which the other original members of the band would have a wrestler representing their look and gimmick. In the contract Kiss was guaranteed that their demon themed wrestler would main event at a PPV (I know it’s ridiculous and hard to believe, but it’s true). After Bischoff got fired, executives fell out of favor with the idea. Demon Kiss would go on to wrestle at a PPV in a “special main event” which was the fourth match on the card. This horrible idea eventually was pushed to midcard status and died once WWE purchased WCW.
11. nWo Sting
The idea wasn’t terribly bad when it first was developed; nWo Sting would go around attacking the real Sting’s allies, causing confusion to Stings’s character and making fans believe Sting turned and joined the nWo. The two Stings would finally go face to face at Fall Brawl, which should have ended this gimmick of a “fake Sting”. However, WCW bookings were so out of touch with what worked and continued this “fake Sting” angle by making it a more comedic gimmick. The whole thing was horrible and nWo Sting spent more time over in Japan because he was actually welcomed by fans over there.
He was the top star at the height of WCW and a main reason for its success. However, Goldberg was also a major contributor to the reason WCW eventually failed and went out of business. Let’s be honest, Goldberg was an average wrestler at best (I’m being very generous). He had the perfect look as a monster that could go through any competition, similar to Brock Lesnar today. WCW gave him wrestlers to squash and move up the card with a ridiculously exaggerated 173 match win streak. This streak lead to Bill becoming very selfish, as he never wanted to lose, especially to smaller competition and got a lot of backstage heat for that. An example of this is when Goldberg had a program with Jericho for a month and they were going to face off at the next PPV. Goldberg wanted to squash Jericho in under 2 minutes (like he did everyone else), however, Jericho who was probably the most talented wrestler they had, obviously disagreed. This created backstage heat which eventually led to Jericho leaving. This happened on more than one occasion because Goldberg’s ego got in the way of future talent getting noticed. Eric Bischoff summed up Goldberg up perfectly as a “business monster”. Meaning he didn’t do what was best for business, he did what was best for Goldberg.
9. Scott Hall
Hall’s involvement in the fall of WCW wasn’t as much as his two friends, Hogan and Nash (I’ll get to those two later), but he did have an influence on WCW failing. Hall’s contract was ridiculous; he was at one point getting 1.4 million which was one of the top five salaries in WCW at that time. He was always in the spotlight and as an aging star, Hall wasn’t very good in the ring like he used to be. Furthermore, he battled substance abuse and showed up to Nitro events drunk and high on painkillers on more than one occasion, which eventually led him to go to rehab. If this was any other wrestler, he would have been fired especially with such a large cap hit, but since he was one of the boys, he was left alone.
8. David Arquette
Oh, Vince Russo; this was one of his self-proclaimed (not to worry, I’m getting to Russo) brilliant ideas, having David Arquette hold onto the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. This idea was a slap in the face to past champions who put their bodies on the line, night after night to make a living in the wrestling business. Arquette was reluctant of the idea as he knew wrestling fans would be against such a thing, but he was convinced by Russo that it would be good for WCW and bring in mainstream popularity. To Arquette’s credit, he donated to the families of Owen, Brian Pillman and Darren Drozdov. Arquette’s championship run was listed as the top reason for the “failure” of Nitro in a list published by WWE Magazine.
7. Vince Russo
Russo came into WCW as a creative genius that apparently built some monumental names with the WWE, like The Undertaker and the faction of DX. When WCW acquired him many thought he would do the same now for WCW. Unfortunately, that was not the case and Russo’s supposed genius ideas failed miserably and proved that it was more the talent of WWE than Russo’s ideas that made WWE win the Monday Night Wars. Russo attempted to make the same “Crash TV” style that he did on Raw with Monday Night Nitro. Russo’s writing style created more lengthy non wrestling segments, constant heel and face turns, and titles constantly changing. Russo booked David Arquette to win the title and also booked himself as champion, two things that plagued WCW and are noted as the biggest reasons why it failed.
6. Paul Heyman
Paul Heyman is credited to turning a small Philadelphia based wrestling company and transforming it into a mainstream cult following wrestling promotion. Although Heyman is the main reason ECW was so profitable, he is also the reason for its downfall. At one point during the Monday Night Wars, Tommy Dreamer came to Heyman with an idea that could have changed the course of wrestling history. Dreamer’s idea was for an invasion angle; ECW wrestlers would go on Nitro and invade WCW. This would have been very profitable for both companies. Dreamer has been stated saying that he was furious at Heyman for never taking the opportunity on this angle. However, the reason behind Heyman disregarding the idea, was believed to be because he had an agreement with Vince that he would never support WCW, which this angle would have done. Heyman had an ally in Vince, in the early days of ECW, McMahon had sent some WWE wrestlers to ECW (under WWE payroll) to develop them. This angle could have possibly changed the course of wrestling history. Dreamer believes that the company would still be alive today if not for Paul Heyman.
5. The Kliq
The best way to describe ‘The Kliq’ is a group of top guys in the business that took care of their own. At the time, ‘The Kliq’ were the most influential and powerful people in WWE (asides from Vince McMahon). They buried other wrestlers that they didn’t get along with and caused many backstage feuds. ‘The Kliq’ would do business on their terms and not follow rules which was evident with the infamous “MSG Curtain Call” incident. While ‘The Kliq’ were in power, WWE ratings were at a low, the “top guys” weren’t getting the job done and were destroying the locker room in the process. ‘The Kliq’ being in Vince’s ear was a significant part to the WWE’s collapse as the top wrestling promotion at that time. Some wrestlers call this the darkest era in WWE history.
4. nWo Factions (nWo Hollywood, nWo Wolfpack, LWO)
Arguably the greatest wrestling faction of all time, the nWo was the key reason WCW were beating WWE in the ratings war for a year and a half. The nWo were cool and edgy and fans couldn’t get enough of it…well until it dragged on for 4 years (nWo were re-branded in 2000). Members of the faction had too much creative control with no direction. WCW became a wrestling show of factions, at one point having three separate groups having the nWo moniker. Wrestlers would be joining these factions so they wouldn’t be buried in storylines, and WCW became an asylum that was ran by the inmates because of the nWo. Fans became uninterested and eventually changed their television sets over to WWE’s product.
3. Kevin Nash
There are many reasons Nash had an influence on the demise of WCW from having a huge guaranteed contract, but the one moment that defined the death of WCW was the “finger poke of doom”. After Nash defeated Goldberg at Starrcade and broke his 173 win streak, he had a match with Hogan the following night on Nitro and to the dismay and shock of wrestling fans, Hogan poked Nash and pinned him for the victory. This was the brilliant idea of Nash, as he was the booker at that time. Like always he and his friends were in the spotlight again. Fans had been burned one time too many times by WCW and the nWo. To make matters worse after the match Tony Schiavone announced Mick Foley was going to win the championship on Raw, which prompted viewers to change channel making Raw the ratings winner that night. WCW would never recover from this incident.
2. Hulk Hogan
When you give an egoistic wrestling legend a full guaranteed contract with creative control, the likely outcome is going to be disorder, and that’s what Hogan brought to WCW. He was a major factor in WCW’s high point in the Monday Night Wars. However, he was also one of the factors it crumbled. Hogan buried up incoming young talent so he could have stayed the “top dog” in the company, even though he was clearly passed his prime. Wrestling fans were tired of seeing a slow aging man perform a body slam or two and a leg drop. On many occasions, Hogan refused to drop the title which made writers scramble to change the direction of Nitro and PPVs. Hogan abused his creative control, forcing WCW to fire him on live TV and bury him in a shoot promo. This action came far too late as Hogan already damaged WCW beyond repair.
1. Eric Bischoff
No surprise Bischoff is here, as he was one of the most significant people in killing the WCW. To his credit, he did help make WCW beat WWE in ratings for over a year and a half because the creation of the nWo. However, that would eventually be the downfall of WCW. No new talent was being created or pushed to the main event, and he kept on building WCW around aging stars like Savage, Nash and Hogan. Bischoff did not know how to use the responsibility that was placed on him, as he wanted to be “one of the boys” with the likes of Hogan and Nash. Moreover, he gave out huge guaranteed contracts to aging talent and creative control to some others. By late 1999, WCW lost five million dollars a month which led to Bischoff being relieved of his duties. WCW would never recover from the loss.