During the wrestling boom in the 90’s, the WWE and the WCW were two multi-million dollar promotions going at it for wrestling supremacy. This era was truly a great time to be a wrestling fan.
The WCW is typically remembered as being a second rate wrestling promotion to the powerhouse that was the WWE. Though, the WCW product was better than most perceived it to be. Its roots were strongly identified by the southern style of wrestling which emphasized athletic and competitive in-ring performances over the showmanship and cartoon-like characterizations of the WWE. In an educated move the WCW pried away stars from the WWE, stars like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage had large fan bases and brought a new audience to the WCW program. On the back of Hogan’s heel turn and the formation of the nWo, the WCW dominated the pro wrestling television ratings for 84 straight weeks. Nevertheless, due to numerous financial and creative mistakes and an abundance of egos in the locker-room, the WCW eventually started to lose ground over the WWE.
The WCW had its low points like every other promotion, from The Shockmaster’s debut to David Arquette winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Even with these major blunders the WCW was the only promotion ever to get the best of Vince McMahon and the WWE Empire. With innovative ideas, unlimited talent and interesting concepts, the WCW was a special place to be a part of at one point. Here are 13 things the WCW did better than the WWE.
13. Deep Roster
An important factor in the quality of the WCW product was the overall talent from top to bottom. WCW had a very talented and deep mid-card roster with the likes of Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit and Raven, just to name a few. All the mid-card wrestlers had the opportunity to shine in the WCW, with three titles (Cruiserweight, TV, United Sates) associated with the mid-card talent, and this gave many developing mid-card level talent a chance to shine with a huge fan base. Asides from its stars, Steve Austin, The Rock and The Undertaker, the WWE did not have a deep talented roster, and they exclusively relied on their stars to propel them earlier on in the Monday Night Wars. Years later the tables would turn however.
12. Star Studded Matches on Nitro
It was a joy for fans to tune into Nitro every Monday night and see matches that were suitable for PPV events. Several criticized the WCW for booking marque matches for their flagship show instead of saving them for their PPVs. Nevertheless, Nitro would become the wrestling show to watch because of their frequent big moments with their top stars pinned against each other. On two separate occasions, Hogan lost the WCW World Heavyweight Championship to Lex Luger and Goldberg, which was very unprecedented. Furthermore, Sting and Ric Flair wrestled several times on Nitro putting on stellar matches.
11. Creation of PPVs
With the enormous success of the first WrestleMania in 1985, several believed the concept of wrestling PPVs was the creation of Vince McMahon. However, that impression is false; Jim Crockett came up with the idea two years earlier in 1983. After purchasing a mobile television production unit for $1 million, Crockett unveiled what became the NWA’s dominant, end-of-year, annual supercard: Starrcade. Jim Crockett was a wrestling innovator and is responsible for expanding wrestling in the south territories. Crockett sold his promotion to Ted Turner in 1988, and it was renamed World Championship Wrestling. Turner would then take on Crockett’s fight with McMahon for wrestling supremacy, a fight which he took to a level nobody could have ever anticipated.
10. Goldberg’s Streak
The famous streak consisting of 173 wins in a row was a breath of fresh air for wrestling fans. Each week Goldberg would run through his opponents in a matter of seconds, and after the match he would show no emotion or even speak when interviewed. This enigmatic, athletic wrestler was taking the wrestling industry by storm. The domination Goldberg was showcasing in the WCW was making him the hottest commodity in wrestling at that time, and he was turning out to be the biggest homegrown star since Sting. This streak is something no one will ever see again in professional wrestling, as many wrestlers have to be squashed in the process, and the depth of the rosters today is nothing like the depth in 90s, that’s for sure.
9. Cruiserweight Division
The influx of young high flying talent in today’s wrestling world can be contributed by the influence of the WCW’s Cruiserweight Division. In the 90s, smaller wrestlers who relied on high flying moves were considered lower level talent, so when WCW created their Cruiserweight Division it was considered ground-breaking. Smaller wrestlers were given an opportunity to showcase their talents. If it wasn’t for the creation of this division, talents like the late great Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio would have never been discovered by mainstream wrestling fans. The WWE tried their own Lightweight Division, however it was a failure as they did not have the talent and weren’t as committed to it as the WCW were.
WCW used innovative ways to debut new stars. They went against the norm of showing vignettes for weeks before a talent’s debut; Goldberg had no build and won his first match in dominating fashion. Raven would sit in the front row at shows and provide cryptic promos. Scott Hall came from the stands, interrupted a match, and cut an incredibly realistic promo about invading the WCW. While the WCW were inventive with their debuts, the WWE were still showcasing vignettes for future talents. Vince did not use the surprise factor provided for him in a time where the internet was scarcely used and information was never leaked (in comparison to today’s online world).
7. International Talent
In the aspect of having international talent, the WCW were head and shoulders above the WWE. When the WCW started to become a really hot product, the opening matches on Nitro and every PPV were led by new and credible talent. With the influx of international talent, they brought new wrestling styles to the program. The WCW acquired talent from Japan (Ultimo Dragon, The Great Muta, Masahiro Chono), Canada (Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit) and Mexico (Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Psicosis). This lead to a broader viewership from other countries and expanded the company’s reach internationally.
6. The nWo
No other faction in history of pro wrestling had the impact of the nWo. The stable changed the landscape of wrestling and was an integral part of the WCW beating the WWE in the Monday Night Wars for 84 consecutive weeks. The brilliant concept of the nWo created a sense of paranoia on television every week, as fans didn’t know if the superstars they loved would turn and join Hogan on his tirade to take over the WCW. The nWo gave wrestling and the WCW product a sense of realism compared to what the WWE was doing at that time with the reliance of cartoon characters. Till DX came along the WWE’s product was extremely outdated and in need of an attitude lift.
5. Star Power
When Hogan decided to leave the WWE, it provided a favorable shift in the wrestling industry for WCW. Hogan’s departure left a gaping hole in the WWE’s roster, as they had no mega star they could lean on at that time. The WWE did have Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, but even though they were stars, they did not have the drawing power Hogan could provide which was much more mainstream than anybody else.
The WCW did not stop with Hogan though, they added another mega star in Randy Savage. With a roster consisting of names like Sting, Flair, Luger, Piper and the two mentioned above, the WCW were stacked with stars compared to the WWE. Future stars like DDP and Goldberg would eventually join the fold and add to the already impressive roster. It wasn’t until the WWE would develop younger wrestlers like Austin and The Rock, that the star balance would finally begin to shift.
4. Sting vs Flair: 45 Minute Match
Wrestling fans may not know about this match because it was overshadowed by WrestleMania 4, which consequently is widely considered the worst WrestleMania of all time. While the WWE were putting on a snooze fest of an event, the WCW also had a supercard program airing with Clash of Champions (the main event saw Sting and Flair put on an incredible 45 minute match). This bout was considered Sting’s coming out party, as he proved to the fans and the organization that he was a special talent and was the future of the WCW. Sting and Flair showcased their technical abilities and put on one of the greatest matches in the history of the WCW. To add to the beauty of this match, it went 45 minutes, something wrestling fans had not seen live on the air till that point. This match was revolutionary in more ways than one.
Considered as the face of the WCW, Sting was the cornerstone for much of the success of the promotion. He transitioned from being a California golden boy to a dark mysterious character. This is a key reason why the WCW were winning the Monday Night Wars at one point in time. Sting’s transition was the idea of Scott Hall, as he wanted to replicate a dark character like The Undertaker’s (at that time, The Crow was a popular cult film). Therefore, the decision was made to do a rip off of The Crow. This was a very important gimmick and a challenging one to execute. To Sting’s own admission it could have very easily gone wrong. Sting’s character became revolutionary, and his gimmick was the first ever to challenge authority, something the WWE later followed suit with the utilization of Stone Cold Steve Austin.
2. Variety of Wrestlers
The most enjoyable aspect of the WCW was the variety of the roster; it suited all different types of wrestling fans. For the old school fans they were treated to Hulk Hogan, Macho Man, Ric Flair, and Roddy Piper. The hardcore brawling generation had the likes of DDP and Raven. High flyer wrestling fans were entertained by Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho and Ultimo Dragon. Furthermore, the WCW had arguably the best technical wrestlers that die-hard fans loved, with the likes of Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit. Not to mention the WCW’s homegrown talent of Goldberg and Sting; one was the unstoppable beast and the other was a dark out of the ordinary character made for that generation of fans. The WWE at that time had far less of a variety of high flyers and technical wrestlers.
1. Hogan Turns Heel
When everyone’s childhood hero became a villain and turned heel, many knew a change of direction in the wrestling industry was beginning. Hogan became what he was fighting against all those years; a bad guy. He ditched the red and yellow for black and white and exposed a ruthless side to him no fan thought he had. The cultural shift in society deemed good guys to be passé, and the WCW jumped on the opportunity to display the company’s hero turning against everything he believed in and his fans. This was something Vince McMahon was afraid to do with Hogan and his other face stars in the WWE at that time. To Bischoff’s credit, this move forever changed the landscape of pro wrestling.