Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
World Championship Wrestling
World Championship Wrestling or WCW, was a professional wrestling promotion that existed from 1988 to 2001. It was owned by Ted Turner, then AOL Time Warner. WCW was a former member of the National Wrestling Alliance as Jim Crockett Promotions.
In The Beginning : The NWA Years
Right up until the mid 1980s, pro wrestling in North America was grimy, bloody and earthy; regulated and controlled as a sport and as 'real' and legitimately tough as it could possibly be. Wrestling organizations, both live and on TV, were very much regionalized, restricting themselves to their immediate locality and sometimes state. Most stars usually worked exclusively in their area; a select elite band, usually high-drawing champions and personalities, wrestled in the different territories.
Vince McMahon and the WWF completely changed all of this in the early/mid 1980s by ruthlessly buying up several territories and forming a colourful touring troupe of 'sports entertainers' that would be seen and heard all over North America. McMahon wanted to create chiseled comic book heroes who told their stories to a rock n'roll soundtrack, gearing his product towards kids and families. McMahon's top draw of the era, Hulk Hogan even had his own Saturday morning cartoon on CBS and also guest hosted Saturday Night Live. Suddenly, McMahon's vision went into supernova on both pay-per-view and prime-time network television, with superstars such as Muhammad Ali, Cyndi Lauper, William Perry, Mr. T and Liberace all lining up to get involved.
Some of the hard-as-nails old-school fans and promoters hated all of this and resisted McMahon's millions, including the Mid-Atlantic promoter Jim Crockett . Crockett controlled key portions of the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance), McMahon's main competition in terms of size and starpower. A simmering feud between the two sprang up, which saw, amongst other things, McMahon bully cable companies into taking WWF specials over NWA shows.
On November 21, 1988, Crockett's firm was purchased outright by billionaire media mogul Ted Turner, the Atlanta-based owner of the cable TV newtorks TBS and TNT, among other interests. Originally incorporated by TBS as the "Universal Wrestling Corporation", Crockett's wing of the NWA was later renamed WCW, a.k.a. World Championship Wrestling. Turner promised the fans that the WCW way would be that of the NWA, i.e. decent, athletic, wholesome pro wrestling action free of dumb WWF-style posing, fireworks and mainstream-courting stunts. (Note: Turner did NOT buy up all of the NWA organizations, just Crockett's territories. Some NWA groups continued to produce shows, and still do today. See Jim Crockett Promotions for more on the pre-Turner history of WCW.)
1989 proved to be a huge year for WCW, with Ric Flair on top for most of the year both as World Champion and also as head booker/storyline writer. Flair drafted in two genuine legends in Ricky Steamboat and Terry Funk, and had amazing, all-time great matches on pay-per-view with both. Young, hot stars such as Sid Vicious, Sting, Scott Steiner, The Road Warriors, Brian Pillman, The Great Muta and Lex Luger were given big 'angles' (stories/feuds) and equally big championship opportunities. It seemed that WCW could more than get by on the quality of its actual wrestling alone, which was a department where everybody knew they had the edge over the WWF.
Ironically, WCW soon began working to gradually incorporate much of the glamor and showy Hollywood gimmicks that loyal NWA fans despised the WWF for. Virtually none of these stunts, such as the live appearance of RoboCop at a pay-per-view event in 1990, the 'Chamber Of Horrors' gimmick and the whole 'Black Scorpion' storyline, worked. Behind the scenes, WCW also slowly started separating itself from the historic NWA name and in January 1991, WCW officially split from the NWA and began to stand alone, recognizing its own WCW World Heavyweight Champion and WCW World Tag Team Championships.
Confusingly, both WCW and the NWA recognized Ric Flair, by now no longer head booker, as 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 pay-per-view show. In the process, they officially stripped him of the WCW World heavyweight championship, which by now had its 'own' belt, separate from the NWA one.
Except Flair had a legitimate claim to the ownership of the NWA belt. This is due to a longstanding policy of champions putting up a substantial deposit to carry the title belt from territory to territory. Thus Flair took it with him to the WWF, proclaiming himself on television to be "The Real World's Champion." The NWA belt actually debuted on WWF television before Flair, and was famously blurred out whenever Flair appeared on WWF television, but it was very obvious what he was carrying around.
WCW then decided to renegotiate the use of the NWA name as a co-promotional gimmick with New Japan Pro Wrestling, and sued the WWF to stop showing the old NWA world title belt on its programs, claiming a trademark on the design of the belt. The belt later was returned to WCW by Ric Flair for a sum estimated at US$30,000, and it was brought back as the revived NWA World Heavyweight Title.
During the brief, complex period that WCW operated with its own World Champion while also recognizing the NWA's world title, Ric Flair returned to the company and regained the title from Barry Windham in July 1993. Immediately, the other, now much smaller, member organizations of the NWA began rightfully demanding that Flair defend the title in their territories, as mandated by old NWA rules. The title was later scheduled to be dropped (lost) by Flair to "Ravishing" Rick Rude, a title change which was exposed by the months-in-advance taping of WCW television shows at Disney-owned studios in Florida. The NWA board of directors, working separately from WCW, objected to Rude, therefore forcing WCW to finally leave the NWA for good again in September 1993.
However, due to the Flair lawsuit, WCW still owned the actual NWA championship belt (Rick Rude even defended it as "The Big Gold Belt") but could no longer use the NWA name. The title thus became known as the WCW International World Heavyweight Title. WCW knew full well that the title belt, because of its rich in-ring history and visual impact was highly sought after and respected over in Japan and as such created a fictional subsidiary dubbed WCW International. WCW claimed that their subsidiary still recognized the belt as a legitimate World Title. Sting eventually won the WCW International title and lost the belt to then WCW World Champion Ric Flair in a unification match in May 1994.
The WCW title belt was dropped and the old NWA gold belt officially replaced it as the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. It was used as such until WCW's closure in 2001. The belt is still seen today in Vince McMahon's WWE as the World Heavyweight Championship on their Raw brand, but is not recognised as a continuation of the NWA or WCW lineages; rather, it is considered a separate championship. As stated earlier, the NWA still exists, with Jerry Jarrett's televised TNA providing high-profile exposure.
The Eric Bischoff Era
No matter how technically amazing WCW's action could be, it didn't make as much money as the WWF did. Things then creatively sunk very noticably in 1992 and 1993 with Jim Herd and then Bill Watts as president. Things began to slowly change after former commentator and AWA booker Eric Bischoff became president in late 1993. 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 Turner's top brass were more than impressed by Bischoff's arrogance and ambitious attitude.
Bischoff didn't disappoint, declaring open war in the media against Vince McMahon's WWF and recruiting high-profile, high-maintenance WWF stars like Hulk Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage in 1994. Using Turner's superior monetary resources, Bischoff put his faith in the established, WWF-made stars. One of the problems he didn't think about though was the fact that many hardcore WCW fans watched it for the fact that it wasn't quite like the WWF's cartoony world, and to many, especially old-school NWA mat wrestling fans, an overblown superhero such as Hogan represented the 'enemy'. He also focused far too much on short-term ratings and revenue patterns, as we shall see.
However, WCW's first major event since Hogan's hiring, Bash At The Beach, in July 1994, saw the former WWF mainstay defeat longtime WCW stalwart Ric Flair for the WCW Championship in a genuine 'dream match'. The pay-per-view drew a very high buyrate by WCW standards due to mainstream intrigue if nothing else, but the hoped-for long-term effects simply weren't forthcoming. Hogan was, to an extent, still a definite draw and celebrity, but was just not welcome in the diehard NWA towns down South, for example. He quickly had more influence, power and money in the bank than anybody else ever in the company thanks to his blossoming friendship with Bischoff however.
People were on to this, though: Bischoff and Hogan's bold steps didn't meet the expectations of Turner executives when they came to check up on things in mid-1995. Thus, Bischoff called Turner and requested a meeting. He got it.
Monday Night Wars
Bischoff's largest impact on the North American professional wrestling landscape was the launch of the weekly show WCW Monday Nitro in September 1995. In a top-level meeting, Turner asked Bischoff how WCW could conceivably compete with McMahon's WWF. Bischoff, not in his wildest dreams expecting Turner to comply, said the only way would be a primetime slot on a weekday night. Turner, impressed by Bischoff's candor, gave him what he asked for: a live hour on TNT every Monday night, which specifically overlapped with the WWF's current flagship show Monday Night Raw. This quickly expanded to two hours, and then later three. Bischoff himself was initially the host, alongside Bobby Heenan and Steve "Mongo" McMichael.
McMahon later admitted to being hugely bitter about Turner's decision to air Nitro live on Monday nights, saying that Turner's only reason for doing this could be to hurt and damage the WWF. Turner and McMahon certainly had something of a personal history: in the early 1980s, when McMahon began buying up local organizations in order to create a nationwide wrestling system, he took over Georgia Championship Wrestling, thus he was in the position of providing a Saturday night show for Turner's TBS station. Turner quickly grew tired of the garish, bright, personality-driven glitz of McMahon's ideas and was upset the fact that McMahon had gone back on his earlier promise not to dump second-rate stars and matches onto TBS. Turner therefore axed McMahon's show and turned to Jim Crockett to fill the Saturday night pro wrestling slot, eventually taking over Crockett as explained earlier.
By 1995, though, Turner, as sole head and owner of both TBS and TNT, was in full and complete control, and he could air Nitro whenever he wanted. The WWF was restricted though by having to deal with increasingly meddling executives at the USA Network. WCW Monday Nitro made its debut in September 1995 live from the Mall of America in Minnesota, and featured the surprise appearance of then-WWF wrestler Lex Luger (who had been working on a handshake deal with WWF after his most recent contract expired) on a week when Raw was off the air.
In the head-to-head ratings the following week, Nitro managed to convincingly defeat Raw, seeing WCW beat the WWF for the first time ever. For most of Nitro's first year, the ratings battle between the two promotions were close. In the end, Nitro ended up beating Raw in the Nielsen ratings for 84 straight weeks between 1996 and 1998.
Raw and the WWF in general was at a creative nadir from 1995 to 1997, thus helping WCW's meteoric rise. The WWF tried to vainly fight back in early 1996 with thie infamous "Billonaire Ted" sketches, which parodied Turner, Hogan and Savage in particular. Only when Stone Cold Steve Austin began to emerge and only when McMahon swallowed his pride and turned to a mouthy New York magazine writer and radio host called Vince Russo for writing help did the WWF begin to pick up steam.
Siphoning off the WWF's talent and airing Nitro on Monday night was not the end of WCW's less-than-honorable tactics to defeat the competition. In the early days, as Raw at that point was only live once every three weeks at the time, and as hours of upcoming shows would be taped in one arena on one night, announcers on Nitro would often give away the results of that week's Raw to keep viewers hooked on Nitro. Much later, with the WWF firmly back on top, this tactic backfired memorably on January 4, 1999 when WCW announcer Tony Schiavone was instructed by Bischoff over his headset to announce that Mick Foley, wrestling as Mankind in the WWF, would win the WWF world title that night over on the USA Network. He then sarcastically remarked, "That'll put a lot of butts in the seats!" Ironically, it actually did. Nielsen ratings for that night showed that almost immediately after Schiavone's comment, more than 600,000 viewers switched from Nitro to Raw, a true testament to Foley's work and the WWF's ever-growing popularity.
WCW vs. nWo
Everything changed in 1996, when WCW became the hottest promotion in North America. It did this with the groundbreaking WCW vs. nWo feud, masterminded by Bischoff, but based on an idea of two warring promotions that he had seen in Japan. The feud kicked off with Scott Hall, recently seen on WWF television as Razor Ramon, walking into the ring unexpectedly during the middle of a match, 'declaring war' on WCW. At the end of a Nitro episode a few weeks later, he was joined by Kevin Nash, another former WWF wrestler recently seen on WWF TV as Diesel. The two wrestlers named themselves "The Outsiders" and sent out a challenge to any three wrestlers on the WCW roster, against Hall, Nash, and their mystery partner. Many wrestling fans were confused, thinking that Hall and Nash were still WWF wrestlers. McMahon himself took notice and said during a Raw telecast that they were no longer WWF wrestlers. Hall and Nash's attitude similarities to their WWF characters also sparked a copyright infringement lawsuit against WCW by the WWF.
At Bash At The Beach '96, Sting, Lex Luger, and "Macho Man" Randy Savage took on The Outsiders but the third man never showed up for the Outsider team. When Hall and Nash began to get the upper hand, Hulk Hogan ran in to seemingly make the save for Team WCW. Hogan threatened The Outsiders but turned around and dropped his patented legdrop finishing move on Savage instead. The fans and the announcers went crazy wondering what was going on. Hogan had shockingly "defected" from WCW to the Outsider faction. In his post-match speech, Hogan revealed he, Hall and Nash were the "New World Order" of Professional Wrestling. The crowd was so incensed by Hogan's turn that many of them threw garbage at the ring, and within minutes it was literally covered with refuse. Bischoff was ecstatic, knowing that this meant the crowd was truly shocked by Hogan finally turning heel after years as a babyface.
Hogan, as a bad guy, leading the (fictional) nWo (or New World Order of Wrestling) faction in their attempt to "take over" WCW and run the WWF out of business was a compelling and original storyline. Fueled by this new scenario, WCW Nitro managed a string of wins against WWF Raw that lasted from mid '96 to early 1998, and included a popular feud between nWo leader Hulk Hogan and WCW leader Sting.
Vince McMahon Strikes Back
After WrestleMania XIV in March 1998, the WWF regained the lead in the Monday Night Wars with its new WWF Attitude brand, led in particular by new WWF stars The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Mankind. The classic feud between McMahon, re-imagined and re-branded as the evil company chairman character "Mr. McMahon" and Austin (who ironically had been let go by Bischoff's WCW in the summer of 1995) specifically caught fans imaginations. April 13, 1998, would mark the first time that WCW had lost the Monday night ratings battle in the 84 head-to-head weeks since 1996. WCW attempted to counter this by breaking up the nWo into the Hogan-led heel nWo Hollywood faction and crowd-favorite, Nash-led nWo Wolfpac faction, but many felt that it was a poor rehash of the original WCW vs nWo feud. Undeterred, WCW also launched a new Thursday television show, WCW Thunder, around this time.
WCW's next big attempt at ratings supremacy was marketing their ex-NFL newcomer Bill Goldberg as an invincible monster with a record-breaking winning streak. Goldberg was indeed incredibly popular from the word 'go', with the 'Gold-berg, Gold-berg' chant following him everywhere, but however 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 big genuine wins in the Monday night ratings war was in July 1998, when WCW gave a clear pay-per-view main event, the long-awaited World title match in Atlanta between Hogan and Goldberg, away for free on Nitro. By doing this, they indeed 'spiked' and inflated their TV ratings for a week, but flushed away millions of possible pay-per-view dollars in the process. On September 14, 1998, WCW won the ratings war 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" Pay-Per-View ended up running longer than the time allowed due to the last-minute addition of a Tag Team title match. As a result, several thousand people lost the Pay-Per-View feed at 11pm which was during the World Title match between Diamond Dallas Page and Goldberg. The following night, WCW decided to correct the problem by airing the entire match for free on Nitro and thus winning the ratings war for the final time.
WCW slowly slid into a period of extravagant overspending and creative decline; why this happened and who let it happen is a matter of debate among wrestling fans and historians. Some say the rot was mostly due to silly gimmicks such as employing Dennis Rodman and Jay Leno to wrestle pay-per-view matches; some say it was down to stale and pointless storylines from inexperienced bookers such as Nash; others say that because the top-level stars had no motivation to excel in the ring due to their long-term guaranteed-money contracts, they only turned on the style, and got to bed at a decent hour, when it suited them.
Silliness abounded: For example, as mentioned above, Nash, a popular and witty guy behind the scenes, ascended to the job of head booker. This was in the fall of 1998 and came with Hogan's all-important blessing. Despite being smart, physically imposing and quite popular with the fans, nobody really saw the then-39-year-old Nash as a genuine, top-level superstar any more; especially not with the year 2000 around the corner and hardworking mainstream stars such as The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin tearing up WWF rings nightly.
Nevertheless, Nash crafted storylines that were dominated by his own on-screen persona. After scripting himself to win a three-ring, 60-man battle royal in November 1998, he went on to end Goldberg's winning streak on pay-per-view just one month later. Then came the infamous 'fingerpoke' match with Hogan. The World Heavyweight Championship changed hands when Hogan prodded Nash in the chest with one finger, further damaging the perceived value of the title.
Also in 1998, The Ultimate Warrior, a former WWF star largely considered past his prime, was recruited to feud with Hogan. Their October 1998 encounter at Halloween Havoc was a total mess, and Warrior vanished soon after.
In addition, no mater who was pulling the strings, WCW notoriously loathe to promote their younger stars to their top slots, and despite having many talented younger wrestlers such as Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Billy Kidman, Chavo Guerrero, Jr., Eddie Guerrero, Scott Steiner, Perry Saturn, Raven, and Booker T on its roster they were kept away from the main event scene. It was probably a combination of all these things, combined with the massive popularity of the new, hip and edgy WWF Attitude era, that began to suffocate WCW.
Bischoff was eventually removed from power by the Turner higher-ups in September 1999, the last straws perhaps being a mystifying and expensive on-screen push for the stale rock group Kiss through WCW shows, and Bischoff's long-standing desire to put on a huge, outdoor rock n'wrestling concert on December 31, 1999.
David Arquette And The Death Of WCW
Bischoff's shock replacement was then-WWF head writer Vince Russo, who was simply not able to recreate the intriguing and cutting-edge television he once had under McMahon. Russo, and colleague Ed Ferrera , were the top (non-McMahon) writer for the WWF at the beginning of the Attitude era. WCW offered them lucrative contracts to jump ship in October 1999, in an effort to revitalize their flagging product as well as steal the WWF's much-trumpeted thunder. Russo and Ferrera admirably tried to push the hipper, younger talent straight away, phasing stars such as Hogan and Flair out of the picture, storyline-wise.
Russo and Fererra were soon predictably struggling though with the Turner higher-ups over their near-the-knuckle writing and ideas. They introduced an effeminate, possibly incestuous, tag-team and promoted 'Piņata-On-A-Pole' matches between Mexican wrestlers. They brought in their old WWF buddy Jeff Jarrett and revived the tired nWo concept with Jarrett and Bret Hart at the helm. They then targeted WWF commentator Jim Ross with a tasteless and dumb parody character called 'Oklahoma', actually played on TV by Ferrera. Amazing bad luck also struck in December 1999 when Hart suffered a genuine concussion at the hands of Goldberg, who then severly damaged his own hand less then a week later while punching a limo window through in yet another poorly thought-out Russo stunt.
Both writers were suspended just three months later amid rumors they wanted to make former UFC tough guy Tank Abbott , who made a dreadful pro wrestler, the company's champion. Long-time on/off booker Kevin Sullivan was then temporarily placed in charge. The new booking/writing crew attempted to appease the demoralised wrestlers and fans by making the long-suffering Benoit the World Heavyweight Champion in January 2000, but Benoit handed the belt back immediately and quit for the WWF, as did his frustrated friends Perry Saturn, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko on the very same day.
In April 2000, with ratings hitting new lows, BOTH Russo and Bischoff were brought back to the company in a last roll of the dice, and the pair formed an on-screen union who stood up for the younger, cooler talent who'd been held down for years by the establishment. But the silly storylines and controversies continued: Some of these include putting the World Title on actor David Arquette to promote a dreadful WCW wrestling-themed movie; Russo winning the World Title himself that September (he and Arquette were certainly not trained wrestlers); a botched heel turn for Goldberg that all but killed any buzz around him; and a televised Russo 'shoot' speech regarding Hogan that caused Hogan to quit the company and file a genuine deformation-of-character lawsuit. Bischoff vanished again in July 2000, and Russo was gone from WCW completely by late-2000, leaving Terry Taylor holding the baby.
Meanwhile, when Time Warner bought out Turner's cable empire in 1996, it also purchased WCW. Even though Turner was a big fan and blindly faithful to pro wrestling shows on his stations (which helped get Turner's very first TV station, WTBS, off the ground) regardless of whether it was losing him money, Time Warner didn't feel the same way; especially when accounts showed that WCW was losing 12 to 17 million US dollars a year during its sad decline. However, at the time, Turner was officially Time Warner's largest individual shareholder, and he kept WCW going at his behest. When AOL merged with Time Warner in 2000, a shellshocked and angry Turner was effectively forced out of his own empire, and the new AOL Time Warner union finally had the power to put WCW, which they saw as silly and a drain of valuable resources, on the auction block.
In late 2000, the unemployed Bischoff and a group of private investors, calling themselves Fusient Media Ventures, enquired about buying WCW but backed out when AOL Time Warner formally cancelled all WCW programming from its TV networks. With no network to air its programming, WCW wasn't worth a dime to Fusient, whose offer was dependant on Turner's old networks continuing to put WCW shows on the air. WCW, and virtually all its trademarks and archives, was then sold to Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. (which soon became World Wrestling Entertainment) for a paltry $7 million in March 2001. He didn't take on all the WCW wrestlers and staff though, passing over proven draws such as Goldberg and controversial announcers such as Mark Madden for various reasons. A beaming McMahon then opened the last-ever episode of WCW Monday Nitro that month with a gloating speech, simulcast with Raw. Sting vs. Flair was the nostalgic main event of the final broadcast.
Despite rumors of a WCW resurrection at the hands of McMahon, running seperate to the now the ill-fated Vince McMahon (WWF) vs. Shane McMahon/Stephanie McMahon (WCW/ECW) Invasion angle of March to November 2001 (a dull and one-sided rehash of the WCW vs nWo invasion feud several years earlier) was the definite end of the WCW.
Booker T and DDP were the two top WCW stars when the Invasion angle started. Booker still works for WWE and is on the SmackDown! roster. DDP enjoyed a less-than-stellar career in the WWF (WWE), first portraying a stalker and then a smiling man known as "Positively Page" (the title of his autobiography). He retired from WWE in-ring competition in 2002 and eventually left the company. He has since came out of retirement and is currently competing in TNA Wrestling.
Ric Flair now works for the WWE as a manager and mouthpiece for other wrestlers, in particular Triple H, and has done so since November 2001. He still wrestles occasionally as part of the stable Evolution.
Hogan, Hall and Nash all returned to the WWE together in February 2002 as the nWo, but the novelty very quickly wore off. None of the trio are currently under contract to WWE, although Hogan has recently been involved with the company after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Hall and Nash now work for TNA.
Russo worked with TNA on-and-off, and even briefly returned to the WWE in 2002. He retired from wrestling, became a born-again Christian and runs an online ministry.
Turner is no longer involved in pro wrestling. Neither are Hart and Sting. Both Hart and Sting have largely stepped away from pro wrestling although they are both still involved to a certain extent with various promotions given their legendary status.
Since July 2002, Bischoff has worked for McMahon in a non-creative on-air role as WWE Raw General Manager.
Since the demise of WCW, many fans have drawn their own conclusions to why the promotion failed. See: Death of WCW .
The recent hot-selling ECW DVD has prompted many fans to suspect a WCW DVD in the works. WCW shows and PPVs are still broardcast on various networks in various countries around the world. In the United Kingdom, WCW can still be seen on the Wrestling Channel .
|Championship||Final (Nitro) Champions|
|WCW World Heavyweight Champion||Booker T.|
|WCW United States Champion||Booker T.|
|WCW Tag Team Champions||Chuck Palumbo and Sean O'Haire|
|WCW Cruiserweight Champion||"Sugar" Shane Helms|
|WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Champions||Billy Kidman and Rey Mysterio, Jr.|
- List of professional wrestlers
- List of professional wrestling stables
- List of WCW Pay Per Views
- The Alliance
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