History has not been kind to the memory of World Championship Wrestling. When wrestling fans think back to WCW’s body of work, it is usually with a snicker. The company was an unintentional comedy that couldn’t help itself from self-sabotage.
To a certain extent, this memory of the company is accurate; WCW really did do itself no favors, and contributed some of the worst moments in the history of professional wrestling. The list of horrible wrestling moments the company produced is vast and would take dozens of these articles to fully exhaust. A list of just such moments that occurred during Vince Russo’s brief reign would eclipse a complete list of the company’s positive contributions to wrestling.
What gets little attention, however, is that when WCW did do something right, it was often quite spectacular. There was a reason that WCW and Monday Nitro ushered in a new era of professional wrestling and overtook the WWE for a period as the top pro-wrestling company in the world. It’s just that this period did not last very long, and the only people that can be blamed for it ending are those that were working in the company at the time.
The moments on this list are the times in which WCW made a positive contribution to the business of pro-wrestling.
15. International Talent-Sharing Deals
WWE’s modern day product struggles to even acknowledge that other wrestling organizations exist. When AJ Styles debuted for the company at the 2016 Royal Rumble and acknowledged his career in Japan, it was the first time WWE gave any real recognition of another wrestling company since perhaps when they alluded to Ring of Honor’s existence at the peak of CM Punk’s or Daniel Bryan’s popularity.
World Championship Wrestling was different in this regard, and would work with and even co-promote with other organizations. The most notable example of this was 1994’s “When World’s Collide” PPV, an event featuring WCW wrestlers and the Lucha Libre stars of AAA. The event would help launch the careers of wrestlers Konnan, Eddie Guerrero, and Rey Mysterio Jr., all of who would end up having lengthy careers with WCW afterwards.
New Japan Pro Wrestling was another company WCW would work with, even having a New World Order Japan stable that included legendary Japanese wrestlers Masahiro Chono and the Great Muta.
14. Running Monday Nitro Live
When WCW launched Monday Nitro to go head-to-head with WWF’s Monday Night Raw in late 1995, Raw was only shown live on some occasions.
Both WCW and WWF would run live PPVs but the idea of running live weekly shows was something that Vince McMahon felt was too costly at the time. The TV taping schedule would generally involve the WWF taping two episodes of Monday Night Raw back-to-back, with one airing live and the other airing the following week.
WCW, seeking an edge on their competition wherever they could find one, opted to spend the money and tape every show live. To really hammer home the point that their shows were live and WWF’s weren’t always, WCW would occasionally read out the results of the pre-taped Raws before they aired, something history does not look back kindly on.
Eventually running live shows on Monday night became the norm in the wrestling business, and WCW was the catalyst for this.
13. Mid-Card Workers
Something that WWE-produced DVDs on the history of WCW or the Monday Night Wars often don’t focus on is the fact that WCW was more prone to giving TV time to good workers than WWF was.
At the start of the Monday Night Wars, Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart were the best workers on the WWF roster, and both were featured prominently in main events. Below those two, however, there wasn’t much going on in terms of work rate on the WWF’s roster.
Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero were the most prominent of WCWs roster of mid-card workers that hyped up crowds before the main eventers came out. WWF’s mid-card during the same period often included guys like Ahmed Johnson, Duke “the Dumpster” Droese, or other large wrestlers who were incapable of pulling off the technical wrestling masterpieces that the guys in WCW could and often did.
12. Stealing From ECW
One could argue that it was unethical for WCW to take ideas and characters that had first been presented in Extreme Championship Wrestling, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a smart decision for them to make. ECW was a hot product, and had they had the financial backing that either of the bigger companies had or equal production values they could have made an even bigger mark on the wrestling business than they did.
Paul Heyman was the owner and booker for the company during the majority of its run, and his creative direction was something WCW would try to imitate from time to time.
Raven had been a huge star in ECW (arguably their biggest star). WCW signed Raven in 1997 and kept his character exactly the same, even including a group of flunkies that followed him around. In ECW, the flunkies were his “Nest” but in WCW, it was his “Flock.” In ECW he feuded with Tommy Dreamer, the man ECW fans found the most relatable to them, and in WCW this role was similarly developed for Diamond Dallas Page.
In addition to the Raven gimmick and storyline WCW would also utilize hardcore matches (even introducing a Hardcore Title at one point) and bring in other ECW alumni including the Sandman (who went by the name Hak), Stevie Richards, the Public Enemy, and Perry Saturn.
11. Monthly Pay-Per-View Events
Anything that WWF did, WCW sought to go one step further. When WCW began to compete head-to-head with WWF through the Monday Night Wars in 1995, they also increased the amount of pay-per-views they aired.
WWF for the longest time had focused on their Big 4: Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and the Survivor Series. WCW attempted to go bigger by increasing their PPV tally to 9 in 1995, and by 1997, began running PPVs on a monthly basis.
WWF initially treaded carefully into the world of secondary PPVs, first launching their ‘In Your House’ shows, which were only 2 hours in length and carried a reduced cost. Eventually WWF followed suit and began running monthly PPVs as well.
10. Unscripted Interview Segments
Complaints about the modern day WWE include the show feeling too scripted. In the past wrestlers were often given a general idea as to what they should say during interview segments but allowed to come up with their own material otherwise, something McMahon and co. only allow certain individuals to do today (John Cena, Chris Jericho and Triple H all reportedly are allowed this freedom).
In WCW it seemed even the general guidelines were overlooked and the wrestlers were just saying whatever they felt like. While this may have been a nightmare for standards and practices (when Konnan invited other wrestlers to “toss his salad” for instance), it also created some really entertaining television.
One problem that did develop out of this was when wrestlers would cut promos on guys that the office had no intention of them having a match with. A few examples of this include Scott Steiner cutting scathing promos on just about everyone, but most notably Diamond Dallas Page or Ric Flair, and Jericho developing an entire program with Goldberg, only without Goldberg actually participating.
9. The Cruiserweight Division
While the vast majority of wrestling fans look back on WCW in the same way one looks back on a blockbuster film that flopped, hardly anyone has anything bad to say about the Cruiserweight division.
Monday Nitro began featuring smaller wrestlers immediately, showcasing Japanese star Jushin Liger and Brian Pillman, and would eventually create a division just for such wrestlers. In the early days of the Cruiserweight division the top stars were Dean Malenko, Ultimo Dragon, and Rey Mysterio Jr. The matches those wrestlers were having at the time were mind-blowing to fans that had never seen wrestling presented in such a style before.
As the NWO angle further developed, Sean Waltman would begin to play a large role in the division as well. Of course as WCW plummeted in respectability near the end of its life, so did the quality of the Cruiserweight division. For a good few years however, it was one of the best things in wrestling.
8. Taking a Chance on Diamond Dallas Page
Diamond Dallas Page was 38 years old when he began competing as a wrestler for WCW in 1994, far older than anyone else trying to break into the business at the time.
Page had been a manger for the company, representing the likes of Scott Hall and the Fabulous Freebirds, but his early attempts at becoming an in-ring competitor did not yield any success. Page decided to give it another shot while he was already in his mid-30s, a gutsy move to make considering how harsh the business can be.
DDP did have the size though, and he was friends with Eric Bischoff, so there were a lot of reasons to believe he could be successful in this endeavor. While Bischoff may have been the reason that DDP was given TV time early in his WCW in-ring career, the fans responded positively to him and his signature move the Diamond Cutter. Page would become one of the most popular guys on the roster.
DDP would go on to be a multi-time WCW Champion and in his retirement became the founder and face of DDP Yoga.
7. Putting Macho Man Randy Savage Back in the Ring
‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage was one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. By 1994 however, Vince McMahon was more interested in Savage being a color commentator on Monday Night Raw than being a wrestler. Savage was 42 years old at the time, and Vince, who had allowed the then 45-year-old Ric Flair to leave the company the previous year, was looking to cut back how much his company featured wrestlers who were starting to creep up in age.
Savage wanted to wrestle, however, and the WCW was willing to give him the chance that WWF wouldn’t.
Macho Man would have some great years in WCW, winning the World Championship multiple times and participating in many memorable storylines, including as a part of the New World Order, and a classic rivalry with Flair.
6. Putting Nature Boy Ric Flair Back in the Ring
In a similar case to Randy Savage’s situation in 1994, Ric Flair went back to WCW in 1993. Flair had a WWF run of just less than two years, most notable for his 1992 Royal Rumble victory that earned him his first WWF Championship.
In 1993, Vince let Ric go back to WCW, as WWF hoped to focus less on older stars such as Flair and Hogan, and more on wrestlers in their 30s such as Bret Hart and Lex Luger.
Flair was 45 at the time, but would still have some great years with WCW from that point on. Flair would win back the World Championship and finally have the dream feud with Hulk Hogan that never really materialized to the degree it should have in WWF. He would also reunite the Four Horsemen (multiple times), develop a strong rivalry with Randy Savage, and continue to cut great promos and have classic matches for years to come.
5. Sting’s Crow Gimmick
Sting had long been a fan favorite in WCW before the New World Order invasion angle and the peak of the Monday Night Wars, but it would be his Crow-inspired gimmick that he developed which would earn him the highest praise of his career.
When the New World Order began invading WCW, the WCW wrestlers didn’t know whom to trust. The NWO trotted out a fake Sting and convinced the wrestlers (but not the fans) that Sting had joined their stable. Sting was upset that his friends Luger, Macho and others didn’t trust him, and he turned his back on both WCW and the NWO. Sting would be shown lurking high in the rafters dressed as the Crow (from the Brandon Lee movie). Sting never spoke and hardly ever did much of anything, but when he finally did, the arena usually roared in approval.
4. Bill Goldberg
Bill Goldberg would debut with WCW in 1997, wrestling frequently but never losing a match until Starcade ‘98.
WCW built a monster in Bill Goldberg using a very simplistic booking technique: he won all of his wrestling matches. In the beginning, Goldberg matches usually consisted only of Goldberg delivering a spear and then a jackhammer to his opponents, with the match lasting mere seconds. The short length of said matches was a good decision by WCW, as Goldberg was still new to the business and not a very seasoned wrestler.
Goldberg’s popularity would give new life to WCW throughout 1998 until the streak was ended by Kevin Nash at Starcade, and the ‘Finger Poke of Doom’ the following night made even the most hardened WCW fan reconsider their commitment to the brand.
3. The New World Order
The New World Order angle is one of the most fondly remembered wrestling angles of all time. Critics of WCW often point to how long WCW continued with the angle, and how overly dependent the company became on the stable, but there can be no doubt that at one time the NWO was all the talk in the wrestling business.
The catalyst for the angle was Hall and Nash’s debut for the company in ‘96, and the way this was subtly presented to the audience was as if the WWF’s wrestlers were invading WCW. Of course this was also the basis for a lawsuit the WWF filed against WCW.
Over the years the New World Order would see many incarnations, even showing up to help their archrival Sting at WrestleMania 31 in his match against Triple H.
2. Hulk Hogan Turning Heel
While Hulk Hogan turning bad guy was part of the New World Order storyline, it was still a decision all to itself, and one that reinvigorated Hogan’s career and shot WCW to the top of the wrestling world.
Approaching 1996’s Bash at the Beach PPV Scott Hall and Kevin Nash had teased that a third member of their group would be unveiled, and fans were shocked when Hogan dropped the big leg drop on Randy Savage, and then embraced Hall and Nash and revealed himself to be the newest member of the faction.
Up until turning heel, Hogan had been getting booed in arenas with WCW. His character was stale and the negative PR from the steroid scandal prevented him from being the top babyface he once had been.
Becoming a heel allowed Hogan to take all the negativity surrounding him at the time and use it to once again get himself over. Hogan spent the rest of the mid-to-late ‘90s as the hottest heel in wrestling.
1. The Birth of Monday Nitro
Even World Championship Wrestling’s greatest detractors cannot overlook the contributions made to the wrestling business by Monday Nitro.
Before Nitro the weekly wrestling programs consisted primarily of ‘squash’ matches, that is they only featured one good wrestler completely dominating a jobber.
When Nitro debuted in 1995 it changed all that. Matches that had normally been reserved only for PPV events were now taking place live on TV every week. Major angles that wrestling fans could expect only once or twice a year now took place regularly, and title belts changing hands was no longer something that one would see only on rare occasions.
While there certainly have been pitfalls to this new style of wrestling program, it sure beats watching nothing but squash matches, and we have WCW to thank for that.