Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Founder(s): Ted Turner
Owner(s): Turner Broadcasting System/Turner (1988-96)
Time Warner (1996-2001)
World Wrestling Entertainment (2001-present)
Parent: Turner Broadcasting System/Turner (1988-96)
Time Warner (1996-2001)
World Wrestling Entertainment (2001-present)
Formerly: NWA Eastern States Championship Wrestling
NWA Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling
Georgia Championship Wrestling
Jim Crockett Promotions
NWA World Championship Wrestling
Universal Wrestling Corporation
Merged with: World Wrestling Entertainment
World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was an American professional wrestling promotion which, in its proper form, existed from 1988 to 2001. Although the name "World Championship Wrestling" had been used as a brand and television show name by various National Wrestling Alliance (NWA)-affiliated promotions (most notably Georgia Championship Wrestling and Jim Crockett Promotions) since 1983, it was not until five years later that an actual NWA-affiliated promotion called World Championship Wrestling appeared on the national scene, under the ownership of Atlanta, Georgia-based media mogul Ted Turner.
For the entirety of its existence as a separate promotion, WCW was the chief rival of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), and even the owners of its NWA-affiliated forerunner promotions regarded the WWF as their major competitor. At the outset of WCW's existence, as well as with the promotions that came before it, the company was strongly identified with the Southern style of professional wrestling (or rasslin'), which emphasized athletic in-ring competition over the showmanship and cartoonish characters of the WWF. This identification persisted into the 1990s, even as the company signed former WWF stars such as Hulk Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage. WCW dominated pro wrestling's television ratings from 1996 to 1998, mainly due to its incredibly popular New World Order (nWo) storyline, but thereafter began to lose heavy ground to the WWF, which had recovered greatly due to its new WWF "Attitude" branding. The promotion began losing large amounts of money, leading to parent company AOL Time Warner selling the company to the WWF for roughly $7 million in 2001.
The NWA years
Although World Championship Wrestling was a brand name used by promoter Jim Barnett for his Australian promotion, the first promotion in the United States to use the World Championship Wrestling brand name (though it was never referred to as "WCW") on a wide scale was Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW, although Vincent J. McMahon's Northeast-based Capitol Wrestling Corporation, then also affiliated with the NWA, also sometimes used the name in house show promotion). GCW, owned primarily by Jack Brisco and Gerald Brisco and booked by Ole Anderson, was the first NWA territory to gain cable TV access.
In 1982, Vince McMahon Jr. purchased his father's Capitol Wrestling Corporation. The CWC changed its name to the WWF and became the top promotion in North America, and GCW devised the name "World Championship Wrestling" in an effort to compete. In 1983, GCW changed the name of its television show (and thus its public face) to World Championship Wrestling since it was already starting to run shows in "neutral" territories such as Ohio and Michigan. Despite widespread opinion that booker Ole Anderson was horribly mismanaging the company, these efforts helped to keep GCW competitive against the WWF, as both promotions had secured TV deals and were trying to become national, as opposed to regional, entities. The change in name helped make GCW the top promotion once again, until the WWF was able to officially leave the NWA and create the show WWF All American Wrestling. The NWA, led by President Jim Crockett, countered by creating StarrCade in the fall of 1983, thus propelling it back to the top, but Vince McMahon again regained the lead with Hulk Hogan's dramatic World title victory at Madison Square Garden in January 1984, as well as the creation of the television show Tuesday Night Titans.
In May 1984, the Brisco brothers sold their shares in GCW, including their prime time slot on the TBS cable TV network, to Vince McMahon. However, GCW's core audience was not interested in the WWF's cartoonish approach, preferring a more athletic style. As a result, when GCW's faithful television viewers tuned into TBS on July 14, 1984 and saw WWF programming instead of the GCW wrestlers they were used to seeing, they were outraged, and sent many complaints to the network, demanding the return of GCW. This day has since gone down in wrestling lore as Black Saturday. Because of the fundamental difference between the WWF's product and GCW's fanbase, the WWF show was a ratings disaster. Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that, despite originally promising to produce original programming for the TBS timeslot, McMahon chose instead to provide only a clip show for TBS featuring highlights from other WWF programming, a move which angered network head Ted Turner and was a major factor in his decision to discontinue showing the WWF on his network. Luckily for Turner, Ole Anderson had refused to sell his shares in GCW to the WWF, and he teamed with fellow holdout shareholders Fred Ward and Ralph Freed to create Championship Wrestling from Georgia. Turner quickly secured a TV deal with the new promotion, as well as with Bill Watts' Mid-South Wrestling, and Southern wrestling fans were satisfied once again.
In May 1985, McMahon sold his TBS timeslot to Jim Crockett Promotions (owned by Jim Crockett, Jr.) under pressure from Ted Turner, who resurrected the World Championship Wrestling name (Turner Broadcasting had copyrighted it and prevented McMahon from using it). The WWF and Hulk Hogan, however, were now the superior figures of wrestling after the success of WrestleMania I, so the sale took place to successfully put the company in better shape. The new WCW, which was now a combination of Jim Crockett Promotions (Mid Atlantic Wrestling) and Championship Wrestling from Georgia, was now the top show on TBS, and helped make Jim Crockett Jr. the NWA President once again.
By 1986, Jim Crockett, Jr. controlled key portions of the NWA under the name Jim Crockett Promotions, including the traditional NWA territories in The Carolinas, Georgia, and St. Louis. Crockett merged his various NWA territories into one group, promoting under the banner of the National Wrestling Alliance (in fact, JCP virtually became synonymous with "the NWA"). A feud between Crockett and Vince McMahon's WWF sprang up, and both companies attempted to outmaneuver the other to acquire key TV slots. It was the WWF, however, who was able to become a big hit in St. Louis (and the rest of Missouri as well), which brought trouble to the NWA Central States. The WWF was able to become a hit across the country as well, as the feud between Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff appealed to a large audience. As a result, Bob Geigel became the NWA President once again.
In the same year, JCP also purchased Heart of America Sports Attractions Inc (HASA), which owned the rights to promote wrestling shows through several central states (Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa). HASA was known in the business as "the Central States territory," and ran a TV show called All Star Wrestling.
In 1987, JCP would enter into agreement to control Championship Wrestling from Florida (though JCP never bought that company), and Universal Wrestling Federation (which covered Oklahoma, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana), and which was not an NWA member; this helped make him NWA President once again. The Florida & Mid-South territories (along with those companies' rosters of wrestlers) were absorbed into JCP. Jim Crockett now owned NWA St Louis, the UWF, his own Jim Crockett Promotions, Georgia Championship Wrestling, Central States Wrestling, Championship Wrestling from Georgia and the CWF as well.
Crockett had almost accomplished his goal of creating a national promotion. Between his purchasing several NWA territories, World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas leaving the NWA in 1986 (and later merging with Jerry Jarrett's Championship Wrestling Alliance in Memphis to create the United States Wrestling Association) brand, and the once highly viable Portland territory going bankrupt (it closed in 1992), he was the last bastion of the NWA, and the last member with national TV exposure. Since it was all they now saw, many people began to believe that Jim Crockett Promotions was the NWA. Although JCP and the NWA were still two separate entities, with Crockett as NWA President, they were very much on the same page. The NWA was effectively an on-paper organization funded by Crockett, and allowed Crockett to use the NWA brand name for promoting.
With the large amount of capital needed to take a wrestling federation on a national tour, Crockett's territorial acquisitions had seriously drained JCP's coffers. He was in a similar situation to that of the WWF in the early 1980s: a large debt load, and the success or failure of a federation hinging on the success or failure of a series of PPVs. Crockett marketed Starrcade '87 as the NWA's answer to WrestleMania. However, the WWF-promoted Survivor Series on the same day. The WWF informed cable companies that if they chose to carry Starrcade, they would not be allowed to carry future WWF events. The vast majority of companies showed Survivor Series (only three opted to remain loyal to their contract with Crockett). In January 1988, JCP promoted the Bunkhouse Stampede PPV, and McMahon counter-programmed with the first Royal Rumble on USA. Both NWA PPVs achieved low buyrates and the resulting financial blow due to the low buyates both Starrcade and Bunkhouse Stampede were in many ways both the beginning of the end for Jim Crockett Promotions and the birth of WCW in which would take Jim Crockett Promotions' place. In addition, the decision to hold these events in Chicago and New York alienated the Crockett's main fanbase in the Carolinas, hampering their drawing power for arena shows in the Southeast.
In 1985, Crockett had signed Dusty Rhodes and made him booker for JCP. Rhodes had a reputation for creativity and authored many of the memorable feuds and storylines of this period and gimmick matches like WarGames. By 1988, after three years of trying to compete with Vince McMahon, and a long, drawn-out political struggle with champion Ric Flair, Rhodes was burned out. Fans were getting tired of the "Charlotte Clique" (Rhodes, Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Nikita Koloff among others), and the Dusty finish (and other non-endings for shows) had obliterated the once-profitable house show market. One of the last creative things Dusty Rhodes could do was create the first Clash of The Champions, on the night of WrestleMania IV, and gained a high amount of viewers- even over WrestleMania IV, for a whole quarter-hour- as the Ric Flair vs. Sting match continued to take place; and as an epic match, that also made Sting now a top player for WCW; However, this main event match ended long before the four-hour WrestleMania IV ended, and people soon afterwards saw Randy Savage win his first WWF title, and insured more victory for the WWF. By the end of 1988, Rhodes was booking cards seemingly at random, and planning at one point to have mid-card wrestler Rick Steiner defeat Ric Flair in a five-minute match at Starrcade for the NWA World Championship. At the end of 1988, Rhodes was fired by the promotion after an angle he booked where Road Warrior Animal pulled a spike out of his shoulder pad and jammed it in Rhodes's eye busting it wide open, despite a strict "no-blood" policy laid down by Turner after his recent purchase of the company.
WCW Under Ted Turner: The Early Years
To preserve the inexpensive network programming provided by professional wrestling, Jim Crockett Promotions was purchased outright by Turner on November 21, 1988. Originally incorporated by TBS as the Universal Wrestling Corporation, Turner promised the fans that WCW would be the athlete-oriented style of NWA.
1989 proved to be a turnaround year for WCW, with Ric Flair on top for most of the year both as World Champion and also as head booker. Flair had helped bring in Ricky Steamboat and Terry Funk, and his PPV matches with both were successful, financially and critically. Young stars such as Sid Vicious, Sting, Scott Steiner, The Road Warriors, Brian Pillman, The Great Muta and Lex Luger were given big storylines and championship opportunities.
Despite this influx of talent, WCW soon began working to gradually incorporate much of the glamour and showy gimmicks for which the WWF was better known. Virtually none of these stunts- such as the live cross-promotional appearance of RoboCop at a PPV event in 1990, the Chamber of Horrors gimmick and the notorious Black Scorpion storyline- succeeded. Behind the scenes, WCW was also becoming more autonomous and slowly started separating itself from the historic NWA name. In January 1991, WCW officially split from the NWA and began to recognize its own WCW World Heavyweight Championship and WCW World Tag Team Championship.
For more details on this topic, see Jim Herd. Both the WCW and the NWA recognized Ric Flair (who was by now no longer the head booker) as their World Heavyweight Champion throughout most of the first half of 1991, but WCW, particularly recently-installed company president Jim Herd, turned against Flair for various reasons and fired him just prior to the July 1991 Great American Bash PPV after failed contract negotiations. In the process, they officially stripped him of the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. However, according to Flair's autobiography, they refused to return the $25,000 deposit he had put down on the (physical) belt, so he kept it and took it with him when he was hired by the WWF at the request of Vince McMahon. Flair then incorporated the belt into his gimmick, dubbing himself "The Real World's Champion".
WCW later renegotiated the use of the NWA name as a co-promotional gimmick with New Japan Pro Wrestling, and sued WWF to stop showing Flair with the old NWA World title belt on its programs, claiming a trademark on the physical design of the belt. The belt was returned to WCW by Flair when Jim Herd was let go and he received his deposit back plus interest, and it was brought back as the revived NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
During the period that WCW operated with its own World Champion while also recognizing the NWA's world title, Flair would later leave the WWF on good terms and returned to WCW, regaining the title from Barry Windham in July 1993. Immediately, the other, now smaller, member organizations of the NWA began demanding that Flair defend the title under their rules in their territories, as mandated by old NWA agreements. The title was later scheduled to be dropped by Flair to Rick Rude, a title change which was exposed by the Disney Tapings, the months-in-advance taping of WCW's syndicated television shows at Disney-owned studios in Orlando, Florida. The NWA board of directors, working separately from WCW, objected to Rude, with WCW finally leaving the NWA for good again in September 1993.
However, WCW still legally owned and used the actual belt which represented the NWA World Heavyweight Championship (Rick Rude even defended it as The Big Gold Belt) but they could no longer use the NWA name. The title thus became known as the WCW International World Heavyweight Title (meaning the World heavyweight championship as sanctioned by "WCW International," a fictional organization made up of promoters from around the world, essentially their in-house version of the real NWA).
WCW realized that the title belt, because of its rich in-ring history and visual impact, was highly sought after and respected in Japan and as such created this fictional subsidiary dubbed WCW International to inject some credibility back into the belt. WCW claimed that "WCWI" still recognized the belt as a legitimate World Championship. For a short while, there were essentially two World titles up for competition in the organization.
Sting eventually won the WCW International Championship and lost the belt to then-WCW World Champion Ric Flair in a unification match on June 23, 1994 when the experiment was jettisoned. The Big Gold belt (or "Big Goldy") was then used to represent the lone World title in the company. It was used as such until WCW's closure in 2001. The belt (in a slightly altered design) is still seen today in WWE as the World Heavyweight Championship on their SmackDown! brand (previously on RAW). However, WWE considers it a separate title and WWE.com officially lists the title history of the World Heavyweight Championship as beginning with Triple H being awarded the belt by Eric Bischoff on RAW on September 2, 2002.
The Eric Bischoff era begins
The creative product of the company sank very noticeably in 1991 and 1992 under the presidency of Jim Herd and, subsequently, Bill Watts. There were signs of gradual recovery in early 1993 when former commentator Eric Bischoff was appointed as Executive Vice President of WCW. Bischoff, originally brought in as a secondary commentator behind Jim Ross after the AWA became defunct, was desperate to give WCW a new direction and impressed Turner's top brass with his confrontational tactics and business savvy.
Bischoff's first year running the company was considered extremely unsuccessful. Dusty Rhodes and Ole Anderson were still in full creative control at this point, and under their watch WCW presented cartoonish storylines as well as seemingly pointless feuds with little or no buildup (for instance, the "Lost in Cleveland" and "Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal" angles involving Cactus Jack and Sting respectively, as well as the "White Castle of Fear" and Beach Blast mini-movies).
The summertime saw the company's reputation take another hit due to a mishap at a live televised event. In 1993, Ric Flair returned to WCW from his WWF tenure, but was constrained by a no-compete clause from his WWF contract. In response, WCW gave him a talk show segment on its television shows called "A Flair for the Gold," in the mold of the old "Piper's Pit" segments from 1980s WWF programming starring Rowdy Roddy Piper. During a segment of the talk show on an August Clash of the Champions event building up the Fall Brawl PPV, WCW decided to introduce a "mystery partner" for the babyfaces, a masked man known as The Shockmaster. The Shockmaster (previously known as "Typhoon" in the WWF) was supposed to crash through a fake wall and intimidate the heels. Instead, he tripped through the wall and fell on his face on live television, inadvertently rendering himself a joke character (despite winning some matches).
Late in 1993, WCW decided to once again base the promotion around Ric Flair. This was seen as more or less a necessity, as prospective top babyface Sid Vicious tried to injure wrestler Arn Anderson with a pair of scissors four weeks before Starrcade while on tour in England and was fired. Flair won the title at Starrcade and was once again made booker.
Beginning in 1994, Bischoff declared open war on McMahon's WWF in the media and aggressively recruited high-profile former WWF superstars such as Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage to work for WCW. Using Turner's monetary resources, Bischoff placed his faith in established stars with proven track records. Because of their high profiles, however, Hogan and Savage were able to demand and get several concessions not usually allowed to wrestlers at the time, such as multi-year, multimillion dollar guaranteed contracts and significant creative control over their characters. This would later become a problem during subsequent years of competition with the WWF, as other wrestlers were able to make similar demands, and contract values soared out of control. Hogan in particular was able to gain considerable influence through a friendship with Bischoff. Another thing Bischoff may have failed to consider was the fact that many WCW fans (especially those who had followed the company since its NWA days) watched it as an alternative product to the WWF that focused on in-ring action as opposed to cartoonish characters and storylines. As such, these fans viewed Bischoff's signing of former WWF talent as an attempt to copy its success instead of remaining true to the idea of WCW being an alternative to the WWF.
Nevertheless, WCW's first major PPV event since Hogan's hiring, Bash at the Beach, saw the former WWF mainstay cleanly defeat Ric Flair for the WCW World championship. The two had worked for the WWF at the same time from 1991 to 1992, and a feud was teased between them, but the big-money match originally planned for WrestleMania VIII was changed to Flair/Savage and Hogan/Sid. When WCW delivered the match, the PPV drew a high buyrate by WCW standards due to mainstream intrigue and hype. Despite being a critical and financial success, the glory would not last long, as the Hogan/Flair feud was only a one-off match and the hoped for long-term effects on PPV buyrates and ratings did not materialize. Turner management came to this realization when they checked up on the state of the company in mid-1995. Hence, Bischoff called Turner and requested a private meeting, which he was granted.
In 1997, WCW entered its peak, largely due to the nWo storyline. During that time, the nWo feuded with the revived (and face-turned) Four Horsemen as well as returning WCW hero Sting (who now had a gimmick that resembled The Crow). The latter feud served to build up the Starrcade pay-per-view in December. When WCW delivered the Sting vs. Hogan match for the WCW World Championship, the PPV drew WCW's biggest buyrate and Bischoff was largely praised in the months leading up to this pay-per-view because of his refusal to "hotshot" (give away a big money PPV match before proper build up, causing a lesser buy rate) Sting vs. Hogan for the WCW World Title.
However, some wrestling fans consider this show to be the beginning of the end for WCW, even though WCW was dominating the WWF in the television ratings at the time. Hogan was heavily criticized for not doing a clean finish to the match, which confused and irritated fans who had waited over a year to see Sting take down the nWo. The finish actually involved a recently-introduced Bret Hart (who had refereed the preceding match between Bischoff and Larry Zbyszko for control of Monday Nitro) coming down to the ring after Hogan had supposedly won the match. Hart alleged that referee Nick Patrick had performed a fast count on Sting, and wanted to "make things right." Although, according to Eric Bischoff, in his book Controversy Creates Cash the count looked like a normal count. Bret Hart insisted the match continue (with himself as referee) in order to prevent Sting from being "screwed" just like he had been in the WWF with the Montreal Screwjob.
Vince McMahon strikes back
When Hart left the WWF after the Montreal Screwjob at the 1997 Survivor Series, it looked as though WCW was going to push the WWF right off the map. WCW seemingly possessed the biggest stars in the industry, such as Hogan, Savage, Sting, Flair, Hart, Hall, and Nash. In addition, the company also had credible midcard stars such as Chris Benoit and Raven, as well as an exciting cruiserweight division featuring high-flying competitors from Mexico (the luchadors) and Japan as well as the United States and Canada. However, things would not unfold as WCW had planned.
Popular opinion was that the Screwjob and the acquisition of Hart were deathblows for the WWF and major victories for WCW. The combination of a company screwing over a popular wrestler and angering many fans should have dealt a massive blow to the WWF and given WCW a great amount of hype to work with. However, after WrestleMania XIV in March 1998, Vince McMahon regained the lead in the Monday Night Wars with his new WWF "Attitude" branding, led in particular by rising stars "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, and Mankind. The classic feud between McMahon (who was re-branded as the evil company chairman) and Austin (who had been released by WCW in the summer of 1995 for not being marketable) captured the imagination of fans. The April 13, 1998 episode of RAW, headlined by a match between Austin and McMahon, marked the first time that WCW lost the head-to-head Monday night ratings battle in 84 weeks (since 1996). The WWF did not stop there – their ratings increased to unprecendented levels over the next two years. WCW attempted to counter this by dividing the nWo into the Hogan-led heel nWo Hollywood faction and the Nash-led face nWo Wolfpac faction, but many felt that it was a poor rehash of the original WCW vs. nWo storyline. Undeterred, WCW launched a brand new Thursday night show on TBS, WCW Thunder, in January of 1998.
WCW's next big attempt to regain ratings supremacy was by marketing ex-NFL player Bill Goldberg as an invincible monster with a record-breaking winning streak. Goldberg was incredibly popular from the outset, with chants of 'Gold-berg, Gold-berg' heralding his approach to the ring, but business still quickly fell off for WCW, especially as the list of stars ready to be destroyed by Goldberg grew shorter. One of WCW's last genuine wins in the Monday night ratings war was on July 6, 1998, when WCW aired the long-awaited World Title match in Atlanta between Hogan and Goldberg (which Goldberg won), on free television. This significantly increased the rating for the show, but only for that week. On September 14, 1998, WCW won the ratings war once again with a memorable moment that featured Ric Flair's return to WCW and the reformation of the legendary Four Horsemen. On October 25, 1998, WCW's Halloween Havoc PPV ran longer than the time allocated because of the last-minute addition of a Tag Team Title match. As a result, several thousand people lost their PPV feed at 11pm during the World Title match between Diamond Dallas Page and Goldberg. The following night, WCW decided to correct the fault by airing the entire match for free on Nitro and won the ratings war for the final time.
WCW slid into a period of extravagant overspending and what was viewed almost universally as creative decline, though the reasons and people responsible are still a matter of debate. One possible reason was the overuse of celebrities (such as Dennis Rodman and Jay Leno) to wrestle PPV matches. Another was that WCW's credibility was badly damaged by embarrassing product placement, like Rick Steiner trading barbs with Chucky the killer doll (which was roundly booed by the in-house audience on the live Nitro broadcast) in the hopes of generating interest in the 1998 film Bride of Chucky. Yet another possible reason was the fact that the top-level stars had no motivation to excel in the ring due to their long-term guaranteed-money contracts, only giving their utmost when it suited them to do so. What is known is that WCW programming slowly started to go downhill in quality, with people turning off their TVs or switching to WWF programming, and in reaction the company began to panic and tried to solve its problems by throwing money at a variety of personalities, a practice it could ill-afford to engage in. Many talents were reportedly signed simply to keep them from appearing on WWF television. At one point, WCW held over 260 individual performers under guaranteed contracts, and often paid many of them to simply stay at home and collect a paycheck.
At this time, Kevin Nash was in charge of booking the shows. After winning the World War 3 battle royal in November 1998, he went on to end Goldberg's winning streak and win the World Title on the StarrCade PPV just one month later. Then came the infamous "fingerpoke of doom" match between Nash and Hogan in January 1999. The match was originally advertised as a StarrCade rematch between Nash and Goldberg. As a result, the Georgia Dome in Atlanta was a complete sellout, with over 40,000 people watching live expecting to see the rematch. Throughout the broadcast the announcers hyped the main event as being the "biggest match in the history of our sport" and said that "unlike the other guys, we have a real main event." Instead, Goldberg was forced to forego his title match and was replaced by Hogan. Hogan knocked Nash to the mat by poking him in the chest with one finger and then pinning him, winnign the World Heavyweight Title and further damaging the credibility of it as a result. This outcome also damaged the credibility of the company as a whole, having failed to present the advertised match and using underhand tactics to sell out the arena for that night's telecast. On the same episode of Nitro, Tony Schiavone mockingly announced Mick Foley's WWF Title win, which ended up being counter-productive as many people changed channel to watch the historic victory and shifted the ratings for the night in the WWF's favor.
Also in 1998, The Ultimate Warrior, a former WWF star, was recruited by Eric Bischoff to feud with Hogan (Warrior's WrestleMania VI opponent). Their October 1998 encounter at Halloween Havoc was mostly seen as sub-par, and Warrior vanished soon after. The Ultimate Warrior also insisted on a number of elaborate and costly apparatuses such as a trapdoor in the ring, which badly injured The British Bulldog when he landed on it.
In addition, no matter who was in charge, WCW did not promote its younger stars to the company's top slots. Despite having many talented younger wrestlers like Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Billy Kidman, Chavo Guerrero, Jr., Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn, Raven, Booker T, and Rey Mysterio, Jr. on its roster, they were kept away from the main event scene. What was seen as WCW's poor talent decisions combined with the popularity of the new, edgy WWF Attitude Era, likely began WCW's rapid demise.
Bischoff was eventually removed from control of the promotion on September 10, 1999, after a failed push for the 1970s rock group KISS through WCW shows, and a storyline involving rapper Master P and The No Limit Soldiers. The "No Limit Soldiers" stable flopped so badly that the West Texas Rednecks heel stable that they were feuding with was cheered by the WCW's traditional southern fanbase). An announced "million-dollar contest" was later cancelled and a planned Nitro animated series was scrapped, as well.
Another factor that led to the demise of the WCW, which has largely gone unnoticed, is that unlike Nitro, the locations WCW hired for their PPV events had capacities much lower than could have been sold. WCW staged some of their biggest wrestling matches in arenas with only moderate capacity. For example, the much awaited encounter between Randy Savage and Ric Flair at the 1995 Great American Bash was scheduled at the Hara Arena, in Dayton, Ohio, which had a capacity of only 6,000 seats. Similarly, the match between Sting and The Giant for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship at the 1996 Slamboree took place at the Riverside Centroplex in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where only 8,000 seats were available. From a revenue perspective, WCW may have fared better if they had opted for bigger venues.
The Death of WCW
Bischoff was unexpectedly replaced by former WWF head writer Vince Russo and his colleague Ed Ferrara. Russo and Ferrera had been writers involved in the creation of the WWF "Attitude" era, but billed themselves as the brains behind the operation. WCW offered them lucrative contracts to jump ship in October 1999 in an effort to revitalize their own flagging product and weaken the product of the WWF. Russo and Ferrera tried to push the younger WCW talents straight away, and phase out aging stars such as Hogan and Flair. However, Russo was thought by many to be incapable of recreating the intriguing and cutting-edge TV he had produced while working for McMahon.
Russo and Ferrera struggled to gain approval for their near-the-knuckle ideas from WCW management, such as "Piñata on a Pole" matches between Mexican wrestlers. In late 1999, Russo and Ferrera revived the nWo storyline, this time with Jeff Jarrett and Bret Hart at the helm. They next targeted WWF announcer Jim Ross with a parody character called "Oklahoma," who was played onscreen by Ferrera (Ross suffered from Bell's palsy, and the character lampooned his resultant facial defects). Bad luck struck in December 1999 when Hart suffered a genuine (and ultimately career-ending) concussion at the hands of Goldberg, who severely damaged his own hand less than a week later while punching through a limousine window in Salisbury, Maryland as part of a storyline that was written by Russo. Russo himself became an on-screen character during this period, though one whose face was never shown on camera, in a manner similar to Doctor Claw from Inspector Gadget and the George Steinbrenner character from Seinfeld. Only his hand and the back of his chair were ever actually seen, as he called wrestlers into his office to receive their marching orders for the night.
Both Russo and Ferrera were suspended just three months later amid rumors that they wanted to make former UFC fighter Tank Abbott the WCW champion (Abbott, despite his legitimate fighting background, had little wrestling experience and had failed to connect with WCW audiences). Kevin Sullivan, who had been an on/off booker over the course of several years, was placed in charge in the interim. The new writing team attempted to appease the demoralized wrestlers and fans by making Chris Benoit the WCW champion at the Souled Out PPV in January 2000. However, because of the real-life personal issues between himself and Sullivan (Sullivan's wife had left him for Benoit), let alone that prior to the PPV he and a few other wrestlers demanded their releases from the company (due to their lack of being pushed to stardom as well as their similar hatred for Sullivan), Benoit handed the belt back right after winning it and the next day left WCW. He signed with the WWF along with his similarly frustrated friends Perry Saturn, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko. The four quickly became popular in the WWF as "The Radicalz."
On February 11, 2000, black wrestlers Bobby Walker and Harrison Norris and Japanese manager Sonny Onoo launched racial discrimination lawsuits against WCW, claiming that, as a result of their ethnicities, they had not been pushed, had not been paid as well as other wrestlers and personalities, and had been given offensive gimmicks. Some speculated that the charges of racism brought against WCW (and the resultant bad publicity for the company, which had been dogged by accusations of racism for years), were partially responsible for black wrestler Booker T winning the WCW championship later that year and his brother Stevie Ray being made a color commentator, with Ray himself acknowledging that it might have been a factor.
In April 2000, with ratings hitting new lows, both Russo and Bischoff were reinstated by WCW. They formed an on-screen union that stood up for the younger talent in the company (which they dubbed the New Blood) in their battle against the Millionaires Club, which consisted of the older, higher-paid, and more visible stars such as Hogan, Sting, and Diamond Dallas Page. Though initially well-received, the storyline quickly degenerated into yet another nWo rehash, with the heel nWo recast as the New Blood and the face WCW embodied in the Millionaire's Club. As well, the unorthodox and often controversial storylines continued. These included making actor David Arquette the WCW champion in order to promote a WCW-themed movie, Ready to Rumble; Russo himself winning the WCW championship in September 2000 (Russo, like Arquette, was not a trained wrestler); a botched June heel turn for Goldberg that greatly diminished his drawing power; and a shoot speech by Russo at Bash at the Beach 2000 aimed at Hulk Hogan which led to Hogan resigning and filing a defamation of character lawsuit against the company (which was eventually dismissed in 2002). Bischoff vanished once more in July 2000, and Russo was gone from WCW completely by late 2000, leaving Terry Taylor holding the reins.
Meanwhile, when Time Warner bought out Turner's cable empire in 1996, it also purchased WCW. Even though Turner was a big fan and faithful to the professional wrestling shows on his stations (a professional wrestling program had helped get Turner's very first TV station, WTBS, off the ground, and WCW was, in fact, the modern incarnation of the promotion that Turner had run on WTBS back in those days) regardless of whether it was losing him money, Time Warner did not share his loyalty, especially when accounts showed that WCW was losing between $12-$17 million a year because of its decline. However, Turner was still the single largest Time Warner shareholder, and WCW was supported at his behest. When AOL merged with Time Warner in 2000, Turner was effectively forced out of his own empire. The new AOL Time Warner finally had the power to auction off WCW, which they saw as an unnecessary drain on resources.
In late 2000, Bischoff and a group of private investors, calling themselves Fusient Media Ventures, inquired about buying WCW but backed out when Turner networks head (and The WB founder) Jamie Kellner formally cancelled all WCW programming from its TV networks. With no network to air its programming, WCW was of little value to Fusient, whose offer was dependent on the Turner networks continuing to air WCW programming.
On March 23, 2001, all of WCW's trademarks and archived footage was sold to Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc.
Acquisition by the World Wrestling Federation
A gloating McMahon (in character, but at least partly genuine) opened the last-ever episode of WCW Monday Nitro simulcast with RAW on March 26, 2001 with a self-praising speech. US Champion Booker T cleanly defeated the world champion, Scott Steiner, to become WCW's final World Heavyweight Champion, as well as its final US Heavyweight Champion. Sting vs. Ric Flair (won by Sting) was the highlight nostalgia match of the final broadcast, ending affectionately with a respectful embrace.
When Vince came on RAW after the Sting/Flair match to declare victory over WCW, Vince's son Shane McMahon appeared at the Nitro event, declaring that he had bought WCW. However, this was kayfabe and part of a WWF storyline that would have Shane leading the WCW Invasion of the WWF, which lasted from March to November 2001 and marked the end of WCW. Despite aborted attempts to run WCW-branded events (including a proposed Saturday night timeslot that later evolved into WWE Excess and then WWE Velocity, the WWF only ran a handful of matches on RAW and SmackDown! under the WCW banner.
The WCW logo used in the WWF during the 2001 Invasion storylineWhen the WWF bought WCW in March 2001, several top WCW wrestlers, including Flair, Goldberg, Kevin Nash, and Sting had high-priced contracts with AOL Time Warner that the WWF was unwilling to pick up. WCW was not seen as a powerhouse organization invading the WWF when most of their top stars did not appear. However, all of the above wrestlers except Sting eventually signed contracts with the WWF/E after the Invasion subsided.
List of WCW programming
Throughout its history, World Championship Wrestling (and its predecessor, Jim Crockett Promotions) has presented several wrestling programs.
WCW Monday Nitro (1995-2001)
WCW Thunder (1998-2001)
WCW Saturday Night, aka WCW Saturday Morning, Georgia Championship Wrestling, and World Championship Wrestling (1971-2000)
World Championship Wrestling: Sunday Edition (197?-1987)
WCW WorldWide, aka World Wide Wrestling (1975-2001)
WCW Pro, aka NWA Pro Wrestling and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling (1985-1998)
WCW Main Event, aka NWA Power Hour (1989-1992)
WCW Power Hour, aka NWA Power Hour (1989-1992)
WCW Prime (1995-1997)
WCW Clash of the Champions aka NWA Clash of Champions