Founded in October of 1988, WCW helped to recreate the entire landscape of the pro wrestling business with a monumental run in the mid 90s. With an open check book, Ted Turner’s company invaded the WWE roster bringing in several established stars helping the brand gain some serious credibility. The company would not only survive, but it would thrive doing the impossible and defeating the WWE for 84 weeks in a row, an accomplishment that may never be duplicated again.
Although, the same things that helped the WCW product eventually helped to bury the company with some shocking mistakes. As you will see in this article, a short term mindset killed a company that could have still been around today if not for some horrible decision-making skills.
Today, we go back down memory lane and take a look at some of the worst blunders in WCW history that helped to officially close its doors in 2001 when Vince McMahon shocked the wrestling world by purchasing Ted Turner’s company, and finally putting an end to the greatest era in pro wrestling history. Today, we look back at 15 shocking mistakes made by WCW. Enjoy!
16 PPV Quality Matches On Nitro
To this day, Eric Bischoff claims he has no regrets with how he booked Nitro, especially with high profile main events he would typically use for Nitro and not PPVs. Bischoff made the argument that he wanted Nitro to be must-see television every week, so he did not regret his decisions.
Like everything else WCW did, this ideology helped them on a short term basis. Eventually, all the high profile matches had already been seen before by fans because WCW would give it to them quickly and for free on Nitro. This eventually caused PPV buy rates to dip significantly because of fans not caring enough for PPV quality matches. This hurt the company deeply and put them into a major deficit financially over time. With the company losing money over PPVs, WCW became a liability and would later lose a Network deal causing it to close shop for good.
15 Program Depth (Women’s Division)
In order to survive, wrestling programs need to sustain a degree of depth throughout the show. How? Ideally, by establishing different divisions and storylines throughout a show that keeps the audience intrigued during the entire episode. After a while, WCW failed at doing so. Yes, they did have a revolutionary Cruiserweight Division at one point, but that just wasn’t enough. The show was repetitive each week during its prime with a constant emphasis on the nWo and their constant battle for power against the WCW. It seemed like each segment and match had that stipulation put in place.
Other types of feuds or storylines lacked, and a women’s division could have helped to save that, but unfortunately the WCW never fully embraced the idea of women’s wrestling. Many thought it was on the upswing with the controversial debut of Madusa. This was not the case and ultimately, did nothing for the division. If the product could have sustained some greater quality depth, it might still have been around today.
14 Booking of Established Names
With an open check book, Eric Bischoff took the initiative of signing countless established stars that had already created a legacy with the WWE ranks. With too many cooks in the kitchen, came some terrible bookings of countless stars which had immense draw value with the WWE. Take Lex Luger for example, who was billed to be the next Hulk Hogan at one point with the WWE. Instead of WCW making him a huge star and a rival of Hulk’s in the long term, he became an irrelevant part of the show rather quickly.
Macho Man is another name that comes to mind; once again with WCW, Macho Man was forced to play second fiddle to Hulk Hogan making him a B+ player at best throughout his run. Other established stars from the WWE either served as nWo members, or after a slight push were moved down into the mid to lower-card. The booking of established stars eventually caught up to the company. Once the word got out that the company destroyed careers, no one was willing to jump ship any longer. Big Show was the first wrestler to make the opposite jump and paved the way for so many others to recreate their legacy among the WWE ranks.
12 Three Hour Nitro
Similar to putting PPV type matches on Nitro, the show length also eventually plagued the product. Three hours was just way too long; once again, it worked for a little while but then just became ridiculous causing fans to turn the channel over a certain period of the show. Nitro used useless segments to drag the show on, like having Nitro Girls put on a skit each show. Sometimes, they would perform more than once. I understand you want to add some sort of depth, but it’s a wrestling show, not a Las Vegas type of show. The company went as far as adding a Kiss Concert on a Nitro main event at one point which flopped horribly, resulting in one of the lowest ratings of all time for the company.
The WWE is actually currently plagued by the same issue. Even for a company that has no competition today and decent roster depth, three hours just seems to drag resulting in the crowd getting too quiet during certain segments. We hope that the WWE will eventually learn from WCW’s mistake and go back to a two hour action packed episode of Monday Night Raw.
11 WCW Thunder
WCW contracts eventually killed the company. One contract term which severely hurt the promotion was the amount of appearances a wrestler was entitled to per year. With Nitro being WCW’s flagship program, wrestlers would typically miss the Thunder tapings in order to only fulfill their contract duties on either Nitro or PPVs. Not all wrestlers were exempt, only the really good ones unfortunately. With this in mind, WCW didn’t even try to salvage the show by creating a theme based on future talent, they instead just shot the show every week with low level talent, mixed in with random meaningless segments.
The quality of the show was further exposed when the WWE debut a new ground breaking program on Thursday nights called SmackDown. The show was an instant hit and unlike WCW, the company used all its assets on the show. The WWE thrived with two shows a week helping to intensify upper-card feuds, while WCW used Thunder as just another show with B level wrestlers.
10 Too Much nWo
Similar to what we discussed earlier in relation to program depth, WCW just simply overdid the nWo storyline. It went from good, to being over done to eventually plaguing the company dearly. The nWo at one point looked like a promotion of its own, you couldn’t even keep track of who was with the faction at one point.
Instead of cutting down the faction size, or eliminating the angle altogether into a new storyline, the company instead figured it would be a good idea to start another nWo faction, this time made up of baby faces; a group called the nWo Wolfpack. At this point, fans started to lose interest and the baby face faction certainly was not the answer. The logical choice would have been to scrap the entire faction gimmick and focus on building new singles stars and paving the way for something new, like Goldberg for example. This did not happen and eventually the nWo was a shocking mistake by the company.
9 Kevin Nash Becomes a Booker
The company was looking for an extra spark, unfortunately it came in the form of Kevin Nash, a wrestler that was paid millions despite never working any creative position prior in his career. The decision to bring in Nash flopped brutally and ranks as one of the biggest mistakes in WCW history. This was mostly apparent during a high profile matchup on Nitro involving Nash and Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Instead of the two dominant WCW stars going at it, the match ended abruptly when Hogan finger poked Nash for an immediate one, two, three victory.
The result was heavily scrutinized by not only the crowd at hand, but millions watching at home. The failed angle of yet another nWo comeback caused millions of fans to change the channel and never turn back to Turner’s WCW again. Known as the finger poke of doom, this was regarded as the moment WCW unofficially died.
8 David Arquette
Since its early beginnings, WCW had an obsession with making mainstream headlines featuring Hollywood celebs in storylines. Who can forget Jay Leno and Dennis Rodman partaking in WCW matchups. A limited involvement worked, however what WCW would attempt to do in its later years would turn out to be one of the biggest slaps in the face in pro wrestling history.
The company felt like in order to gain some public exposure and with the film Ready To Rumble out in theaters, that Arquette winning the championship would somehow help the company on a larger scale. Well, the large scale of people didn’t care, while the only fans they had left were baffled at such a decision. Arquette himself was reluctant at first to accept such an accomplishment. The move was met with anger and disgust, thankfully his title run was short lived. At that point, there was really no turning back for WCW, as the end was near.
7 Giving Away WWE’s Results
Like most WCW ideas, they started off okay and ultimately backfired causing fans to turn away from the product. Giving away WWE results ultimately worked out the same way, it worked for a while although ruthless in its nature, but eventually it was best for WCW to only focus on their product and not mention the WWE at all.
Eventually this tactic would backfire causing fans to turn away from the lackluster product and watch Mick Foley capture the WWE Championship thanks to the Nitro broadcaster Tony Schiavone making the announcement live on Nitro.
WCW basically dug their own grave with this decision; instead of focusing on their own product development, the company (for whatever reason) always felt a necessity to show how much better they were than the WWE. This blew up in their face and caused millions of fans to turn the channel and watch Mick Foley capture the championship in one of the highest rated segments in RAW history. Ouch.
6 PPV Disaster
So fitting that the WCW PPV feed would cut during one of their best main event matches of all time featuring DDP and Goldberg. Still regarded as one of the worst blunders in pro wrestling history, a terrible encounter between Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior that night went too long and caused the PPV to cut during the main event match of the 1998 Halloween Havoc. Fans were outraged and rightfully so. Not only was the feed cut, but fans were not reimbursed for the awful finish.
In order to make things right, the company once again featured the bout for free the very next night on Nitro. Fans got to see the entire match from the previous night on the telecast. The lasting legacy of that very night will forever be remembered by a hideous Hogan and Warrior encounter, instead of one of the greatest matches featuring two stars that were built by WCW. What a tragedy.
5 Goldberg’s Streak Ending
Oh, what could have been. At one point, it seemed like all WCW had going for them was a streak they built from the ground up with a star that was homegrown. Goldberg’s 173 victories in a row, was a streak that was unmatched in the world of professional wrestling. The only upper-card relevancy the company managed to maintain was the viewers tuning in to see if Goldberg’s streak would finally be broken. You had to believe whoever was going to accomplish such a task would be a young star destined for greatness. Well, this was not the case at all. Instead, the company inexplicably gave the title to a transitional champion who was already established and certainly did not need the championship; as you probably already know, that man was Kevin Nash.
In terms of long term effect, the loss did nothing and failed to generate what it could have for a lesser known star. This shocking mistake was such a missed opportunity. In comparison, look at what beating The Undertaker did for Brock’s career. The guy became must-see television instantly after his win. WCW failed miserably at creating a similar story.
4 New Era Focuses On Stables Once Again
In an attempt to once again recreate the company’s image, it seemed like they were finally headed the right direction in growing new stars that the world of pro wrestling had never seen before. Just as this began to surface, once again Vince Russo turned the situation into yet another stable angle (shockingly). The company promoted the WCW’s New Blood taking the old faces, which featured the likes of Sting and Goldberg. Once again, this idea flopped, giving fans yet another stable storyline they were simply uninterested in.
The change really did nothing for the company and provided some of the dullest entertainment in WCW's history. What seemed like such a promising turn around flopped horribly but this time the company would not get a chance to redeem itself and would soon be bought out by Vince McMahon. With a better booking of the situation, the company could still have been around today.
3 Vince Russo
His run was so bad that those in the WCW ranks thought that Russo was sent in as a plant to destroy WCW. Once again, the company put their chips in the hand of a former face that simply did not have the “it” factor anymore. The company quickly learned this upon his arrival, his ideas were so out there and ultimately turned the product into a laughable show with matches that made no sense. It seemed like every week there was an object on a pole match.
His creative ideas hurt the company. This was especially apparent because this time Russo didn’t have a filter by his side. That filter was usually Vince McMahon who turned down most of Russo’s wacky ideas. With the power to run wild, the world got a glimpse of what Russo was like without Vince; an absolute disaster. Ultimately, his WCW involvement caused the demise of the company and one that they would never recover from.
2 Creative Control
Two contractual obligatory words single-handily took down an entire company. At the end of the day, wrestlers had way too much control in what went on in terms of their character development. This clause caused a circus-like atmosphere backstage with too many wrestlers having an opinion on a match outcome or booking decision. The situation got so bad at times, that minutes before Nitro went on the air, the talent still did not have a clue of what was going to occur on the show.
Just imagine: you have your gear on ready to perform in from of thousands in attendance and millions at home but you still don’t have a clue on what you’ll be doing that night. This basically sums up what the WCW talent had to deal with on a regular basis, including the commentators that would vocalize their frustrations live on the air in several instances. An abuse over power from certain individuals was a shocking mistake that helped bury the company.
1 Short Term Vision (Guaranteed Contracts)
At the end of the day, a short term mindset destroyed the company and was regarded as the biggest mistake. WCW was built on the grounds of a win now mentality, while McMahon and the WWE laid a foundation for a product that was to be built for years and years to come with an emphasis on young and exciting stars.
WCW thought the opposite way by building established stars and using them ineffectively. Eventually, their draw value was enough to lure fans in, but for only a limited amount of time. Factor this in with guaranteed contracts and the company quickly became an invaluable liability for Ted Turner and his company. WCW did have some groundbreaking ideas that could have made it last much longer and perhaps to this day. If not for a short term mentality, you can’t help but to wonder if the company might still be around today.
Sources: esquire.com, si.com
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