Founded on October 11th, 1988 by Jim Crockett, nobody could have predicted the impact the company would have on the wrestling business ten years later.
When Ted Turner came in, everything changed. All of a sudden, the company had a prominent station to air its show, along with an endless supply of money. With all these resources, Eric Bischoff was asked to run the company internally. Bischoff signed just about every established wrestler he could get his hands on and never looked back. Before you knew it, WCW was featured on shows like Late Night with Jay Leno and dominating the WWE for 84 weeks in a row; that was the good and part of the rise.
Unfortunately, there was also the bad which caused the company’s fall. Poor leadership, lack of direction and too many fishes in the sea caused the company to squander the good it once had. We will document these situations in the article with pictures that reflect those circumstances.
So without further ado let us begin. Here are 20 rare pictures of the rise and fall of WCW. Enjoy!
20. Fall: The Failed New School
By the time WCW had realized that it was time to promote new and younger wrestlers, it was just far too late. The fans had fled from the company and weren’t coming back. Russo tried to save the company by promoting a new wave of stars, although he failed miserably and probably made things even worse (if that’s even possible). Russo once again used a faction storyline pertaining to “The New Blood” and the new stars of WCW. The change did nothing as the in-ring product continued to suffer and the entertainment aspect got worse and just downright silly.
Some of the casualties from this era actually had decent abilities, like the guys you see in the picture above. Both members of KroniK were big imposing men, Bischoff actually pushed Clark heavily at one point only to see his momentum come crashing down following an injury.
Big Vito and Bill DeMott are the other two in the picture; both wrestlers joined the WWE but left on bitter terms. Vito is suing the company for concussion related issues while DeMott was terminated after several wrestlers complained about his behavior as a coach down in NXT and OVW.
19. Rise: Hogan’s WCW Debut
The Hulkster left the WWE in 93’ and would not return till 2002. When he left the WWE initially, many thought this was the end for Hulk in the world of wrestling as he was pursuing a Hollywood career.
Enter Eric Bischoff.
With a massive checkbook, Bischoff was able to convince Hulk to return to the wrestling business, something many thought was an impossibility. In June of 1994, the wrestling business was turned on its head upside down when Hogan signed a deal with Ted Turner’s company. This truly was the beginning of the rise for WCW, and all of a sudden Vince was breathing a lot heavier.
After signing his deal, Hogan began shortly after and won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in his debut at Bash at the Beach, defeating Ric Flair. Two years later, at the same PPV he made his debut at, Hogan would change the business forever launching his heel run with the nWo.
18. Rise: Macho Man Wins World Title
When looking back at the career of Macho Man, many remember him for being one of the most loyal wrestlers in the business. He was also quite emotional when it came to certain aspects of the business as he constantly wore his heart on his sleeve.
With the WWE emphasizing a youth movement, Randy Savage was shown the door despite the fact that he wanted to continue wrestling for the company.
His bitter release caused the Macho Man to join WCW as a full-time wrestler and not a commentator that the WWE used him as during his final days. Savage recreated himself and won the WCW World Title during the World War III event. He won a 60 man Battle Royal which featured three rings (yes, WCW loved to go over the top with WWE concepts).
Ultimately, his championship run was huge and proved the WWE made a big mistake by letting him go. With that said, it furthered WCW’s rise at the time and shortly after, the WWE would be dethroned in the ratings war.
17. Fall: The Failed Mick Foley Experiment
WCW dropped the ball with several megastars throughout the course of its run. Bischoff was all about draw value, so if he didn’t see it right away, the chances of you thriving were rather slim.
Foley surprisingly spent almost three years with the company making his debut back in September of 1991. He was initially pushed quite heavily, making his debut as Cactus Jack and feuding with the company’s top babyface Sting. After his prominent heel run came to an end Foley bounced around the card turning into a babyface. Mick finally grew frustrated with the direction of his character and fled the scene joining ECW.
It was there where the legend of Foley truly began to surface. He’d join the WWE in 1996 and take his popularity to new heights. He would ultimately play a pivotal role in the demise of WCW, which is quite fitting when you really think about it.
16. Fall: Miss Elizabeth
She is going to be forever recognized as the first lady in the world of professional wrestling; Miss Elizabeth reached levels of popularity that weren’t seen before during the late 80s. Elizabeth began as Macho Man’s manager back in the summer of 1985 and the duo never looked back, rising to superstardom. The crowds were in love with their love and the duo helped pave the way for the company’s success heading into the 90s.
After things went south with Macho Man, Elizabeth fled the scene and joined the WCW. Like so many other talents, Elizabeth was basically swept under a rug and fell to irrelevancy. The company even tried putting her in the ring at one point which was truly awful. She flopped and bounced around for years while she wanted out the entire time.
15. Fall: The Nitro Girls
When it came to being different, Bischoff was very “hit” or “miss”. He hit a homerun with the nWo concept bringing in kayfabe to pro wrestling, but he also failed miserably several times as well.
One of his failed concepts was with the Nitro Girls. It was Bischoff’s idea to launch this awkward weekly angle and it was usually just that, awkward. Kimberly Page led the way for the dancers. Not only did they have their own segments but they also had a special Swimsuit PPV. The company also turned the Nitro Girls into two rival groups featuring the heels and babyfaces on each side. It was all pretty random and weird.
WWE alumni Stacy Keibler, became one of the final members when she won a competition and joined the group. The band actually managed to stay together up until the WCW was forced to closed their doors when Vince purchased the company.
14. Rise: Bischoff And Flair
Some believe Sting against the nWo was the closest version of Austin against McMahon, though if you took a closer look, the entire Flair/Bischoff saga was actually the closest in reality and worked brilliantly.
The reason why the two worked so well together was because of the fact that they genuinely hated each other. This would ultimately lead to some awesome segments, like the reunion of the Horsemen (which saw Flair return and verbally attack Bischoff, which all seemed so kayfabe). We wish the WCW would have emphasized this bitter rivalry a little more, as it could have certainly exploded to new levels.
The heat between the two continued onto the WWE. After a backstage brawl during Bischoff’s first day with the company, the two finally put their differences aside. They’re surprisingly friends today and at times touring together visiting various conventions around the globe.
13. Fall: The Wolfpac
WCW revolutionized the business with the nWo; the only problem with this was the fact that everything revolved around that concept for several years. WCW’s creative team took things a step further when they launched the nWo Wolfpac, which was a baby face version of the New World Order that donned the black and red, as opposed to the conventional black and white.
Nash was the leader of the group. He was later followed by a plethora of performers including Sting, Luger, Konnan, Randy Savage, Elizabeth, Scott Steiner, Hall, Curt Hennig and even Buff Bagwell. To make matters even more bizarre, Hogan and Bischoff would also join the band.
The idea became old real fast, and things got worse in 99’ when the company launched the nWo “Elite and the B-Team”.
At that point, fans were long gone and watching The Rock and Steve Austin tear it up over on Monday Night Raw.
12. Rise: The Celeb Involvement Early On
It’s a pet peeve for us wrestling fans but having celeb involvement is a great way to gain exposure especially early on. WCW did this very well due to its unlimited resources. Not only was billionaire Ted an actual billionaire, but he also had connections all over the place. This led the company to bringing several Hollywood stars throughout the years, including some prominent sports figures like Charles Barkley and even Karl Malone who actually fought a match.
These types of moves would help put WCW on the map globally. Turner wasn’t afraid to pay a premium price as long as it meant two things; ratings and exposure. The early celeb cameos did both to help the company and before you knew it, the WCW would take an improbable lead in the ratings war and began to get glamorized by the media around the world for its constant celeb involvement on the show.
11. Fall: David Flair
For WCW, their ultimate undoing was a lack of planning and a failed in-ring product. Matches were quite terrible featuring wrestlers who barely had any experience, and David Flair was the poster boy for this.
He had wrestling in his blood but sadly, that could not translate in the ring. In his defense, the guy barely had any time to train with merely a couple of months of wrestling training. His performances were truly uncomfortable to watch but WCW didn’t care. Again, they were all about image and less about what went into the actual in-ring product.
Flair would somehow manage to win a United States Championship during his run, and this was all in the midst of WCW’s massive downwards spiral. When Turner and the company closed the door on pro wrestling, Flair continued for a little bit but later left the business starting a new career elsewhere.
10. Rise: The Jay Leno Cameo
The Road Wild PPV was a big deal for WCW as it was going head-to-head with WWE’s event of the summer, SummerSlam. With that in mind, the company needed something big in order to keep up with the WWE’s product.
The promotion once again opted for a celebrity involvement, this time putting that person in the ring. The company chose Late Night host Jay Leno, to appear at the event in the main event matchup. Leno helped the company to promote the encounter globally and it did a lot of good for the company, even if wrestling fans hated the idea of a celeb main eventing. During that climate, it simply worked.
Jay teamed up with rising star DDP (he also helped Page’s stock grow even larger as a babyface). The duo was victorious in the final match of the night defeating Hogan and Eric Bischoff in Tag Team action.
9. Fall: The KISS Involvement
Not every celebrity cameo worked, and WCW learned that the hard way when they decided to main event the show with a KISS concert. Now it’s one thing to put a celeb in a wrestling main event but having one perform is an entire other story. Just image Leno interviewing someone in the main event as opposed to wrestling. At the end of the day, the fans are tuning in to watch wrestling and not a concert; there is a variety of other channels you can tune in to watch such a thing.
Well, Bischoff was obsessed with bringing in things that he liked personally, so he decided to use that in the main event when Kiss performed. The concert was one of the lowest rated segments in Nitro history and was received terribly by wrestling fans.
8. Fall: Repackaging Talent
At the end of the day when looking back at the Monday Night Wars, this was the reason why WCW lost the long battle against its rival WWE. McMahon emphasized new and exciting talent. While WCW was snagging away the WWE’s older stars, the company was creating fresh new ones. These performers like The Rock, Steve Austin and Triple H, eventually grew into global stars. The WCW however, did not have anything of the sorts.
The company instead opted to take established talents and repackage them. The idea worked for a little while but then began to flounder. Fans were getting tired of seeing the same faces and it caused them to switch the channel. The only viable home grown talent the company had aside from Sting was Goldberg. Though the difficulty with him was that his entire persona was built around a streak, so once that was up, even he lost so much meaning. This was a major part of WCW’s fall and demise.
7. Fall: Judy Bagwell Wins Tag Title
We featured this story in our 15 Mind Blowing WCW Title Holders article. The idea was so bad that it actually took home the number one spot in a piece that featured some of the worst ideas in pro wrestling history.
This one was not only bad but a true slap in the face to the others on the roster at the time. Needing a Tag Team partner, Rick Steiner somehow landed on Judy Bagwell, Buff’s mother. Obviously you know what came next; the team would end up winning the Tag Titles that night, only to drop them shortly after because of an injury to Steiner. At that point, the title was bouncing around the company like a bingo ball. It seemed so bad that it was like they were purposely trying to be terrible.
In any event, the idea was terrible to say the least, and is still being discussed as one of the worst moments in WCW history. We wonder if the company would do it differently a second time around?
6. Fall: The Arquette Disaster
We praised celebrity cameos in other entries, but this one takes the cake for all the wrong reasons; if you never heard this story, you’ve been living under a rock.
The WCW was once again putting their chips in the world of mainstream media. With the movie Ready to Rumble, featuring WCW stars, the company decided to involve the star of the movie on the program, David Arquette.
Not only would David get involved but he’d win the damn Championship. Not any Championship, the freakin’ World Heavyweight Championship. The same title that was held by Hogan, Sting, Goldberg and Flair.
To make matters worse (even though it couldn’t have been any worse), the title change went down during a tag match on Thunder, which saw Arquette pin Eric Bischoff for the Championship.
5. Fall: Failing To Use Their Resources
A major problem with WCW was the fact that they simply had way too much talent. The company had just about everything to its disposal and this ultimately cost them big time.
Two talents in particular that suffered are featured in this picture; both Jericho and Mysterio became performers once they left WCW for the WWE. That special quality was quite frankly always there, the company just failed to realize it because of so many stars and so many voices in their ear.
Looking at Jericho, it was obvious early on, the guy was a star. WCW just didn’t see him in that light and caused Goldberg to run him over when it seemed like Chris was finally getting pushed. This caused his exit from the company.
The same goes for Mysterio; he was small in size so the company generally saw him as a mid-carder at best. The WWE pounced on his uniqueness and turned him into a merchandise-selling machine, becoming one of the most popular acts in the company.
4. Rise: The Legend Of Sting
For every fail the WCW underwent, the one constant the company had throughout its journey was the man they call Sting.
His loyalty to WCW was heartwarming to watch as a fan. The WWE offered Sting deals but he’d turn them down pleading his loyalty to the WCW brand through thick and thin, a rarity in the wrestling business.
He began his rise with the company in 1987 and would later alter his persona becoming one of the faces during the Monday Night Wars. His body of work and accomplishments with the company were legendary to say the least. He finished his journey with six World Heavyweight Championships, along with US, TV and Tag Title reigns. His feud with Ric Flair is also regarded as the greatest pro wrestling feud of all time.
3. Fall: Veterans Were Absolutely Wasted
Like we discussed earlier in the article, so many talents were absolutely wasted during WCW’s run, which was a major downfall and perhaps one of the biggest. We discussed the young talents being underutilised but so were some of the old wrestlers. Ultimate Warrior was basically brought in to be embarrassed by Hulk Hogan. The two had a terrible encounter at Halloween Havoc which tarnished Warrior’s reputation.
Other veterans also failed to make an impact, like Rowdy Piper who was arguably the greatest heel in pro wrestling history. With WCW, he instead became a background player you barely even heard of.
The list of talents goes on and on; we can make a separate article for wrestlers the company failed to utilize properly. It truly was that bad. Whether they were young or established, WCW failed to hit the mark with various performers and had things gone differently, the company might have been alive today.
2. Rise: The Jackhammer Heard Around The World
This moment goes down as the highest point in WCW history. You’d find it pretty impossible to find a better moment during the company’s run. It seemed like the dawning of a new era in World Championship Wrestling.
Goldberg was one of the few WCW stars that the company built ground up. His demeanor and persona was built around a dominant streak that got the fans talking.
On July 6th 1998, the streak reached its absolute peak. After defeating Scott Hall earlier in the night, Goldberg received a title shot during the main event of Nitro. During the match, Goldberg hit his finishing jackhammer which was a sensational scene that featured fans jumping all over the place. When the ref hit the three count the crowd roared with their approval for the new WCW World Heavyweight Champion. That moment stands atop of the WCW totem pole as the greatest of all time.
1. Fall: Steve Austin
Even Eric Bischoff himself knew he had something special in Steve Austin at the time of his run with WCW. Ultimately, the company just wasn’t willing to make Steve “the guy”. On top of that, Austin had a Texas-sized attitude to him which rubbed Bischoff the wrong way. Things would ultimately get worse and in 1995, and the company would release Austin after he was nursing a triceps injury. An infuriated Austin fled the scene and took his talents to newer heights with ECW.
Following his brief but impactful stint with Heyman’s promotion, Austin joined the WWE and would eventually revolutionize the business forever. Steve put the WWE on its back and led the company back on top, dethroning WCW after an 84 week lead. Can you imagine the WWE without Steve? Would they have survived? Probably not.
Ultimately, his departure opened the door and sealed the WCW’s faith. This turned out to be one of WCW’s biggest falls that they didn’t even see it coming.