WCW is the only wrestling promotion to truly stand against Vince McMahon and his WWE since the global expansion of the wrestling business in which McMahon spearheaded throughout the 1980s. Birthed out of the National Wrestling Alliance, the oldest governing body in sports entertainment, WCW was formed when Ted Turner purchased the majority of former NWA President Jim Crockett’s assets. Turner used his considerable wealth to make the promotion he would rename World Championship Wrestling a global competitor in the wrestling world, and he openly challenged McMahon and WWE’s status as the number one promotion in the country when he did so.
WCW officially formed in 1988, and was rapidly losing money and thus purchased by Vince McMahon 13 years later in March of 2001. WCW still had control of two weekly television shows, Nitro and Thunder, until moments before the sale was final, and many felt the promotion might have been able to survive and perhaps one day in the future again strive on that television despite the amount of money they were losing overall. However, certain Turner executives made the final decision to cancel the TV shows and essentially kill WCW once and for all. We’ll eventually name those TV executives and explain exactly how they ensured the oldest company in wrestling would go out of business, but there were dozens of wrestlers and sports entertainment personalities involved in WCW over the years who no doubt share some of the blame in the eventual demise of the promotion. Keep reading to discover 15 people you didn’t know contributed to the death of WCW.
15 Sid Vicious
Sid Vicious has a look synonymous with the words “pro wrestler,” and we’re not going to deny there were moments throughout his career where he was the most popular person in the company he was working for. However, those moments mostly occurred in the early ‘90s, and only through sheer “attitude” was Sid able to become a superstar World Champion for WWE in 1996. Sid left WWE in 1997 and spent a few years playing softball and making minor appearances for ECW until he re-joined WCW in the summer of 1999. Things were fine at first and it looked like Sid might be a viable contender for the WCW World Championship, but Sid’s final two runs in the company were dragged down by disaster after disaster that made it clear WCW never should’ve hired him in the first place.
Sid returned as the bodyguard of Randy Savage, but quickly dropped that angle to instead focus on becoming “The Millennium Man,” and surpassing Goldberg’s famous winning streak. Sid accomplished this by squashing every talented low-card performer on the show for months, and still failed to get over by doing so. He was booked to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and held it for several months in early 2000, and it was during his reign that 3 ratings started turning into 2’s or lower. Sid left WCW during the April reboot only to return at the end of the year, and while this final return came when the company was circling the drain anyway, the most horrific leg injury in sports entertainment history is probably a sign Sid should’ve kept away from the ring.
14 Kevin Sullivan
Most people who point fingers at WCW writers being responsible for the company going under would place all of the blame on Vince Russo, and spoiler alert, we’ll get there. The fact of the matter remains, though, that Russo was hardly the only writer in WCW who was either in over his head or perhaps simply had no idea what the hell he was doing in the first place. Such is the case with Kevin Sullivan, who was the head of WCW creative at least twice, and both times the company dramatically suffered as a result.
Sullivan isn’t the worst wrestler around, or at least he wasn’t in the 1980s, and he’s always been a pretty great promo. His booking talents leave a little bit to be desired, though, as anyone who sat through the insane Alliance To End Hulkamania and original Dungeon of Doom angles can attest. Wrestling as The Taskmaster, Sullivan was the leader of the Dungeon of Doom in their battles with Hogan, and you’d be hard pressed to find a single fan who believed the middle aged man less than a foot shorter than Hogan was truly a threat to Hulkamania spreading throughout WCW. Sullivan’s booking set the tone early on that things in WCW were all about Hogan from the minute he walked in the door, and though the company survived long after the initial realization of that point, the writing was truly on the wall from the very start.
As for Sullivan’s second stint as head writer, well, re-read what we said about Sid Vicious as World Champion, because that was all Kevin’s idea. And that’s not even to mention the fact Sullivan’s promotion back to head writer is what caused Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn, and Dean Malenko to walk out of the company and jump to WWE in January of 2000.
13 Jim Duggan
Jim Duggan may be the least responsible for killing WCW out of anyone on this list, but he was highly implicit in one of the events that ensured the company wasn’t ever going to truly become the forefront of the wrestling industry. Duggan jumped to WCW in 1994, and very quickly squashed the WCW United States Champion, “Stunning” Steve Austin, for the title. Austin had been working his way up the ranks of WCW for the past several years, and had also already won the World Television and World Tag Team Championships, and the US title was seen as the final stepping stone before he was made into a star. Then Hulk Hogan came along and demanded Austin lose to his buddy Jim Duggan.
Austin lost all of his momentum when he lost to Duggan, and would never get a chance to get it back, at least in WCW. He continued jobbing to Hogan’s friends, including “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and soon thereafter he suffered an injury in Japan. Eric Bischoff fired Austin over the phone, and the whole ordeal inspired Austin to become the biggest star in the history of the industry—of course, he did so for WCW’s rival. Maybe Jim Duggan the person didn’t play a huge role, but Jim Duggan the wrestler did, and he deserves mention on this list as a result.
12 Jim Herd
Jim Herd was actually the very first Executive Vice President of WCW, and he left the company in 1992, so it’s not like he delivered the final blow ending decades of wrestling success. Herd is still extremely significant in WCW history, though, as he was the first and perhaps worst in a long line of completely incompetent executives the company would never quite learn how to stop hiring. Earlier in his life, Herd was the station manager for KPLT-TV in St. Louis. The next notable mark on his resume was a long stint as regional manager for Pizza Hut. Thanks to some high powered connections at Turner Sports, Herd got the strangest promotion in history when he went from Pizza Hut manager to VP of WCW, despite having absolutely no experience whatsoever in wrestling.
Herd had plenty of bizarre ideas we could focus on, like a tag team of unbeatable hunchbacks (they couldn’t get pinned, you see), a tag team of dudes who really like ringing bells (The Ding Dongs), and a lumberjack who danced with bears (though in fairness, WWE used the same wrestler to create Doink the Clown). His biggest mistake, though, was attempting to turn Ric Flair into a bald Gladiator named “Spartacus.” Flair felt incredibly insulted and jumped to WWE while still World Champion as a result. Although WCW obviously survived the Herd affair for 10 years, it set the precedent for mistreating the top stars who actually mean something to the company, particularly Ric Flair. Flair returned to WCW after Herd left, but he never received the respect he deserved, and it was Herd’s example that proved WCW could get away with that as long as they wanted—or until someone easily drove them out of business because they were ignoring their top star.
11 The KISS Demon
Dale Torborg, best known in wrestling as The KISS Demon, barely played a role in WCW and disappeared from the industry shortly after his brief stint with the company. How, then, could he possibly be one of the people responsible for the demise of the promotion? Well, Torborg’s gimmick came by way of an agreement with the actual KISS, the rock band infamous for marketing absolutely everything and somehow making millions of dollars in the process. This time, they made those millions through being booked for a concert live on Nitro, and for a bonus they ensured The KISS Demon would be a prominently featured character on the show from his introduction moving forward.
On August 23, 1999, the KISS concert took place as scheduled on WCW Monday Nitro. The result was the lowest rated segment in the history of the show up to that point, but the stipulations of the contract meant Torborg still needed to receive a push and somehow wind up in a Pay-Per-View main event. The saga of the KISS Demon was yet another reminder WCW would do absolutely anything for celebrity attention, including spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay a rock band to play for an audience that didn’t want to see them in the first place. Making matters worse, even if The KISS Demon were somehow successful as a wrestler, all of the profits still would have gone to KISS, as they owned the copyright behind the gimmick.
10 Tony Schiavone
Tony Schiavone was the voice of WCW in a manner few announcers have ever came close to matching. There were several years throughout WCW’s run when Schiavone wasn’t the lead play-by-play announcer, but every single program the company produced at one point featured Schiavone at the helm, usually for significant tenures. Schiavone also called virtually every Pay-Per-View the company produced from the advent of the Monday Night Wars onward, and through this it truly felt like Schiavone was the company’s biggest fan and most loyal supporter. That isn’t to say he was particularly great at his job, though.
Schiavone has long been criticized for his over excitement, ridiculous hyperbole, and lack of knowledge in regards to the technical names of wrestling moves, but that’s not what contributed to the death of the company. Schiavone was also harshly political, and his broadcast colleagues have described him as vindictive and shallow at best. Bobby Heenan in particular disliked working with Schiavone, and had nothing but critical things to say about him and his style throughout his career. The worst moment for Schiavone was January 4, 1999, when he announced Mick Foley would be winning the WWE World title on Raw the same time Nitro would be airing their main event of Kevin Nash vs Hollywood Hogan. Schiavone quipped “that’ll put butts in the seats,” and indeed millions more fans watched Raw that evening, thanks to Schiavone’s bold and company killing prediction.
9 David Arquette
In all fairness, David Arquette the man, the actor, the comedian—he has nothing to do with the death of WCW. By all accounts, he was a fan who didn’t want any of what we’re about to write about to happen. But Arquette’s time in the wrestling industry did happen, and most people who witnessed it would agree not only was it the low point of WCW, but perhaps the low point of professional wrestling in general.
In the year 2000, Arquette starred in a film called Ready To Rumble, a buddy comedy about two diehard wrestling fans becoming personally involved in reviving their favorite grappler’s career. The movie itself was a critical bomb, and although it would turn into a minor cult hit amongst ironic wrestling fans, at the time of release, the less attention given to it probably would have been better. It was officially sponsored by WCW and co-starred dozens of WCW wrestlers, though, so there was no chance of that happening, and instead WCW revolved months of storylines around Arquette and his film. The worst part of the ordeal was Arquette winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship from Eric Bischoff in a tag match also featuring “Diamond” Dallas Page and Jeff Jarrett, an act from which the title’s prestige never recovered. The prestige of the company itself would slowly be thrown out the window along with it over the span of the next 10 months.
8 Ed Ferrara
The writers and bookers of WCW get an appropriate amount of blame for the slow demise of the company, but the focus is usually placed on a select few instead of naming the writer’s room as a whole. Ed Ferrara is just on the fringes of being in that select few and one of the forgotten and short-lived bookers like Hüsker Dü guitarist Bob Mould, who just missed our list. Ferrara is slightly more notable to WCW fans for the fact he also briefly portrayed the absolutely tasteless character Oklahoma, who did to the WCW Cruiserweight Championship what Arquette did to the World Championship a few months before that incident took place.
Oklahoma was a disgusting idea that was needlessly offensive, but as the creative partner of Vince Russo, Ferrara was involved in a plethora of terrible ideas that helped drive the company into the ground. Russo’s first tenure in WCW was so bad he was fired in a manner of months, and this was the tenure where Ferrara was firmly in position as his equal partner. Speaking of Russo…
7 Vince Russo
Vince Russo likes to take credit for being the head writer of WWE during the Attitude Era, and while this is true on paper, he needed the constant direction of Vince McMahon and the hard working of countless wrestlers in order for that time frame to be as successful as it was. Regardless of what he was or wasn’t responsible for, Russo left WWE in September of 1999 citing creative burnout. Russo quickly jumped to WCW along with his creative partner Ed Ferrara, who as we just cited would officially become Russo's co-head writer in WCW.
Russo and Ferrara’s main idea was to reset WCW to its most successful era by recreating the nWo and making them the focus of the company once again, this time with Bret Hart as the leader. Unfortunately, Hart was injured almost immediately after he won the WCW World Championship, and his main opposition for the title, Goldberg, was also injured very early into the feud. Lower on the card, things were completely chaotic, with offensive and insulting characters wrestling two minute matches with constant interference opposed to simply letting the wrestlers be themselves and succeed on their own merits as had always worked before. Russo’s second stint in the company in the summer of 2000 was even more disastrous, with Russo himself becoming the primary focus of the company, winning the World Championship and spending most Nitros talking about himself and his dubious contributions to the sport.
6 Kevin Nash
The writers and the bookers definitely helped make the company a creative mess, but the wrestlers with creative control clauses in their contract arguably did even more to cause WCW to fall into chaos and eventual destruction. Kevin Nash was one of the worst offenders in this regard, and things got even worse in 1999 when he was also made the head booker of the company. It's one thing for a wrestler to be able to turn management down and do whatever they want to make themselves a bigger star than anybody else, but to actually put them in charge of writing the entire show is an extremely risky proposition that Nash proved could have severe repercussions to the company.
History is kind of muddy as to when exactly Kevin Nash was the booker of WCW, but it is clear that any time the company revolved around him, the show was an all around mess as a result. Nash infamously ended Goldberg’s undefeated streak at Starrcade 1998 only to lose to Hollywood Hogan two weeks later on Nitro after the Fingerpoke of Doom, and later was the main focus of the confusing white hummer angle that dominated WCW for the summer of 1999. Most tellingly, the ratings dropped steadily from the point Nash won his first World Championship onward, but for some reason that didn’t stop WCW from giving him four more runs with the belt on the way towards implosion. Perhaps the fact he was the person in charge of handing out title reigns had something to do with that one.
5 Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan is arguably the person most responsible for turning WCW from a moderately successful national wrestling company into a worldwide smash on the level of Vince McMahon’s WWE, but he has also been accused of being the person most responsible for running the company into the ground with his excessive political maneuvering. Hogan never had complete control of booking WCW like Nash did, but he did have creative control over his own character, and thanks to Hogan’s boundless ego, that managed to extend to every second of wrestling-related programming one could imagine.
It’s hard to say in just a few words how severely Hogan’s political actions hurt WCW, so to put it briefly, his desire to be the center of attention was so vast it ruined anyone else’s chances to ever eclipse him, regardless of who the fans actually wanted to see. Hogan’s worst offense was Starrcade 1997, when the entire wrestling world wanted to see Sting tear Hogan to pieces. Instead, a contrived angle was created involving Hogan paying off a referee, and to complicate things even further, Hogan actually paid off the referee to perform his job poorly and make it look like Hogan was the winner, fair and square. This ruined what could have been the biggest moment in WCW history, and many feel it was a slow crawl to the end from then on. Hogan’s next three title reigns certainly didn’t help things in the slightest, either.
4 Eric Bischoff
As the man in charge for the most successful years of the company, Eric Bischoff truly was most responsible for the heights WCW was able to reach. Unfortunately, his shortsightedness and eventual creative burnout was equally responsible for the downfall the company would face as soon as his initial burst of creativity started to wear down. Bischoff had an inauspicious start in the wrestling industry as an announcer for the AWA, and after being turned down by WWE, he become an announcer for WCW in the early ‘90s. Bischoff surprised everyone by becoming Vice President of the company in 1996, and his executive decisions helped WCW turn into the strongest competition Vince McMahon ever faced.
Bischoff’s big successes were turning Hulk Hogan heel and revolving all of his programming around the nWo. The nWo at first felt edgy and realistic in a manner wrestling had never seen, and they quickly became the star attractions of the wrestling world. Unfortunately, Bischoff only really had one big idea, and when ratings eventually started to lag because WWE was having boundless new and creative ideas at the same time on the other channel, he kept going back to the one idea with diminishing returns, and eventually fans got bored and turned away. Bischoff tried his best to save WCW in the end by purchasing it with Fusient Media, but in many ways it was when that purchase fell through that WCW truly could be declared dead.
3 Vince McMahon
The winners get to write the war, and as a result, Vince McMahon might tell you he’s the man solely responsible for the demise of his strongest and closest rival. This list shows again and again that obviously isn’t the case, but there’s no denying McMahon actually played a big role in the ultimate destruction of the only promotion to come close to putting his WWE out of business. McMahon has claimed on various DVD releases that his business motto is to “always help himself and never hurt the other guy,” but McMahon’s actions in regard to WCW repeatedly proved he was either lying about that statement or just happens to be a massive hypocrite.
Vince McMahon has always existed in a bubble where he is only truly aware of his own company, but WCW caused that bubble to pop by nearly running him out of business and forcing him to fight back in a serious manner. WWE was suffering a downward spiral throughout the mid ‘90s, and once it seemed like Vince could be losing his company to WCW, he found himself reinvigorated and prepared to remind the world who McMahon was in the wrestling industry. While all of the people on this list helped drive WCW out of business, Vince symbolically killed it on Pay-Per-View at Survivor Series 2001, and to the victor went the spoils.
2 Ted Turner
Ted Turner was the owner and ultimate executive of WCW throughout the full existence of the company, so there’s really no way to tell the story of how it went out of business without including him in a starring role. In all fairness, Ted Turner liked and respected wrestling, and was happy to have it as a part of his television schedule over the years and easy to produce and relatively inexpensive entertainment. Not everybody in the television business agreed with Turner, though, and as he slowly lost control of his own company thanks to a merger with AOL in 2001, Turner found himself unable to stop the cancellation of his program and the death of his wrestling company.
Unlike WWE, which is a privately owned company of the McMahon family, WCW was a business subsidiary of Turner Sports and later Time Warner, which meant a great number of executives had control over the company as opposed to the one person in charge of WWE. Turner was the chief executive, but after Time Warner merged with AOL, he had exponentially less power over his companies and their subsidiaries as time went on. Ultimately, Turner had no control over WCW when it came time to pull the plug, and he was merely one of many people to sign the contracts when the sale to WWE was made official.
1 Jamie Kellner
Truth be told, the above 14 people didn’t have that much to do with the ultimate death of WCW. In fact, most of them probably would have preferred the company last forever, continuing to provide them with paychecks and personal amusement until they reached retirement. There is, however, one man directly responsible for the death of WCW, and in a way it could be said he outright murdered the company with one swift executive decision.
Jamie Kellner isn’t a well known name in the wrestling industry, but he’s without any question the person who killed WCW. Kellner was in control of Turner Broadcasting as a result of the AOL-Time Warner merger, and he decided that wrestling was no longer part of the image he wanted his networks to represented. Kellner canceled both WCW Monday Nitro and Thunder, despite the fact the shows were still amongst the two highest rated programs TNT or TBS were airing at the time. Even if Turner couldn’t keep WCW as a part of his empire, Eric Bischoff had still planned to buy the company until the TV shows were canceled, at which point there was virtually no value to the brand for any outsider investors to have interest in the company. Because of Kellner, WCW was McMahon’s for the picking, and WCW, as they say, was history.
Sources: The Death of WCW
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