"If, as the saying goes, an infinite number of monkeys, given an infinite amount of time, could sit at an infinite number of typewriters and eventually write Shakespeare's Hamlet, then two of them, in a half an hour, could book Nitro and Thunder."WCW was once the second-most popular wrestling/sports-entertainment promotion in the United States (and even beat its chief rival, WWE, for a decent stretch of time). When you're that hot, you can do no wrong. But pride comes before a fall, and the sheer amount of terrible angles, nonsensical matches, backstage politics, bad financial decisions, bi-yearly fatalities, and appearances by Vince Russo led to a company worth $500,000,000 and backed by Ted Turner becoming, in a few short years, a hollow shell of a promotion bought by Vince McMahon for just $3,000,000. The rise and fall of WCW was so sudden that Figure Four Weekly and WrestleCrap co-wrote a book about it, The Death of WCW.
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- The WCW International World Heavyweight Championship. This "title" was created from the ashes from WCW's ill fated partnership with the NWA. When they broke up, the current NWA Champion, Ric Flair was stripped of the title, but retained the belt because WCW actually owned it. So "WCW International", a completely fictitious subsidiary, was created and Flair was recognized as it's World Champion (not to be confused with the actual WCW World Championship, held at the time by Vader). The whole thing was a mess and while the International title did have some top caliber champions (Sting, Flair, Rick Rude), it was mercifully ended in 1994 with a unification match with the WCW title.
- To promote the film Ready to Rumble, WCW allowed actor David Arquette to win their heavyweight title, keep it for a good clip of time, then turn heel (with the overzealous Tony Schiavone calling it "the ultimate swerve!!"). For those who don't feel like reading, Smeghead talks about everything that happend in Part 2 of his review for the aforementioned movie. So, to recap:
Jim Ross in 1998: BAH GAWD they killed him! As God is my witness, he is BROKEN IN HALF!
Vince McMahon in 1999: It's ME, Austin! It's ME Austin! It was MEEEEE all along, Austin!
David Arquette in 2000: SHAAAAAAAAAAADAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHP!
- Arquette's win would've been fine if they had reversed it the next week for not pinning the legal man. Arquette courageously entered the ring and awkwardly speared Eric Bischoff as Jeff Jarrett clobbered Diamond Dallas Page with the belt. This match was filled with tomfoolery and could hardly have been considered an athletic contest and rather more of a comedic skit. Arquette was given no legitimacy for the win. He spent the next two appearances apologizing to DDP (as DDP was the champion going into that match, meaning that Arquette had accidentally taken Page's title when he won), trying to give the belt back and generally acting like he was scared to death he might have to defend it in a match against actual wrestlers. But they actually ran with it, turned David heel, and had him purposely lose the title to Jeff Jarrett. The entire company was made to look like a joke in order to pop ratings and tie in with a movie that most fans (at the time) thought was worse than No Holds Barred. Even Arquette (a life-long wrestling fan himself) fought against it, since he knew it would annoy the fans, but he was contractually obligated. He quietly donated his paychecks to the families of Owen Hart, Brian Pillman, Bobby Duncum Jr., Brian "Mark Curtis" Hildebrand (all deceased), and Darren "Droz" Drozdov (paralyzed from the waist down following an in-ring accident), so at least some good came of it.
- After the match, Kanyon came out in an attempt to save DDP from a beatdown, only for Kanyon to be tossed off the second tier of the cage onto the entrance ramp. This was an amazing bump, close to Foley's in terms of awesomeness. It occurred in the final 10 seconds of the PPV, and there were zero replays of it. So, basically, Kanyon almost died for 7 seconds of footage. BONUS RUSSO POINTS for doing it in the same arena Owen Hart died in.
- Wrestling had been called out as "fake" numerous times by this point, and everyone knew it was a show. (That's Russo for you. Whenever anyone questions his ideas, his defense is always, "Why can't I do X? Wrestling is fake, so I should be allowed to do X.") Regarding his second point, being "memorable" doesn't equate to being good for short or long-term business. That's like saying that Pearl Harbor was good because hey at least it's memorable.
- Eric Bischoff himself held the WCW Hardcore Championship at one point. He gave it up a day later, but he defeated Terry Funk to win it in the first place.
- Amazingly, we had not yet reached rock bottom as Vince Russo, WCW World Heavyweight Champion (won from Booker T, no less) was soon to follow. Russo gave himself the title not long after he gave it to David, getting speared through a steel cage wall and winning via "escaping the cage" stipulation. The one good thing about Arquette and Russo's title runs were that they were mercifully short: Arquette held the belt for 12 days, and Russo only held it for a week. Russo did vacate the title, but still it's worth mentioning that after Goldberg dropped the belt at Starrcade 1998 there were 32 title changes in two years; Jerry Lawler himself would have to shake his head. And at least he traded titles with people who met at least two qualifications (athletic and over). Just for a example: Russo's friend, Jeff Jarrett, became a four-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion in the span of a month and a half. Ric Flair beats Jarrett (2nd reign) to win the title. One week later Russo strips Flair of the title and gives it back to Jarrett (3rd reign) on Nitro. Nash beats Jarrett to win the title on Thunder, the following Monday Nash hands the title to Flair who then turns around and loses it back to Jarrett (4th reign) the same night. The title changed hands five times in fourteen days.
- Of almost equal importance was the fate of the WCW World Television Championship. True, it was secondary silver in the championship hierarchy, but it had an uninterrupted history of over twenty-five years dating back to the company's NWA days, longer even than the WWE's own Intercontinental Championship title. Aside from that, the title had also served as a heat-building device in allowing heel wrestling champions to escape with it via a time limit draw of either 10 or 15 minutes from within a wrestling match. The title itself was unceremoniously abandoned on November 29, 1999 by Scott Hall, who literally threw it in a dumpster after he decided on-screen that it was not worth defending. Acts taken with the World Championship above reduced its value to that of scrap metal, but never before has a title belt been treated literally as garbage. It was fished out of the garbage by "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan a few months later and that he had defended it a few times on WCW Saturday Night, but the title itself would soon be deactivated following WCW's reboot.
- A few months before that skit, Chris Benoit was on FAN 590 (original call letters of CJCL, owned by Rogers Media; now titled Sportsnet Radio 590-The FAN) in Toronto and was asked if he thought that there was a conspiracy to destroy the company from within. He said, "It appears that way".
Part of the reason fans have so much nostalgia for WCW is that a lot of them never bought a single PPV. If they had actually spent money on any of the following PPVs, they'd probably be furious:
- The Great American Bash '91, which had the entire Baltimore audience switching back and forth between two reactions—sitting on their hands and chanting WE WANT FLAIR! (including during the main event) to protest Ric Flair's firing from WCW just days prior. Note that this was during the days of kayfabe and Flair was the biggest heel in the company. Flair, meanwhile, would join the WWF, taking the NWA World Heavyweight Championship with him (since he wasn't paid back the $25,000 deposit he put down on the belt when he received it for the first time). Flair kept calling himself the "Real World's Heavyweight Champion" to antagonize then-champ Hulk Hogan—but everyone knew it was meant for Jim Herd, who was running WCW at the time. The main event featured Barry Windham and Lex Luger in a cage, fighting for Dusty's old PWF belt with a plate bolted over that read WCW WORLD CHAMPION, since the new belt wasn't finished yet. It was capped off with the first of many unnecessary heel turns by Lex Luger.
- Hogan is actually the shortest of the Outsiders. Why do we bring that up? Well, because less than a year earlier, WCW was promoting him as a "giant" in the terrible World War 3 1995 PPV, with "a giant in each ring". They were originally supposed to have The Giant, THE YETAY! and Giant Haystacks as "Loch Ness" featured as the three giants (Giant Haystacks was a British wrestling legend who they brought in way past his prime in the Dungeon of Doom.) Something happened with the scheduling and Loch Ness couldn't do the show. Also, THE YETAY! was a giant flop at Halloween Havoc 1995 so he appeared as Super Giant Ninja. Hogan was only billed as a "giant" because they'd already been advertising the three giants on TV.
- Every Uncensored PPV installment. Historically the worst annual PPV in wrestling.
- The 1995 show featured such bouts like Dustin Rhodes vs. Blacktop Bully (Barry Darsow, also known as Smash/Repo Man) in a King of the Road match, which was a match taking place in an open air, moving semi truck full of hay. The winner would be the first one to ring a bell at the front of the truck. Other matches would include Meng vs. Jim Duggan in a karate match, Johnny B. Badd vs. Arn Anderson in a boxer vs wrestler match, and Hulk Hogan vs. Vader in a strap match where Hogan's title was inexplicably NOT on the line, and he defeated Ric Flair to win.
- 1996 featured a weird man-vs-woman match between Col. Robert Parker and Madusa (setting up the lame wedding skit with Col. Parker and Sherri Martel) and a boring street fight between The Road Warriors and the team of Booker T and Sting. Why is a title being defended on an "unsanctioned" show? Why is there a DQ finish? Why give 16 minutes to Ed Leslie, who only has about 2 minutes of ability in him? Why give a half-hour to Booker T/Sting and the Road Warriors, when the latter only have about 2 minutes of gas in them? Why give a half-hour to the comedy of errors that was the main event? All three could have easily had 5 to 10 minutes shaved off to make space to showcase some of the other undercard guys.
- The Sherri-Madusa-Colonel Parker love triangle. It all started when Parker got it in his head that what Sister Sherri really needed was a grey-haired, womanizing gambling addict to come sweep her off her feet. After suffering a blow to the head, the concussed Sherri developed feelings for the Colonel, and they were almost married in a drive-thru chapel. The ceremony was interrupted by Parker's other "fried pie", 4x women's champ Madusa [!], leading to a man v. woman match between Madusa and the Colonel. Not a bad match, but between this and Booker Unchained (see below), you're starting to see why Uncensored is viewed as the biggest farce of the calendar year for WCW.
- Most infamous of all, however, was the Mega Powers vs. the imaginatively-named "Alliance to End Hulkamania": Two of The Four Horsemen (Ric Flair and Arn Anderson), the Dungeon of Doom (Lex Luger, Meng, The Barbarian, The Taskmaster), Z-Gangsta (portrayed by the same guy that played Zeus in No Holds Barred), and the Ultimate Solution (Bane from Batman & Robin). The first 15 minutes were basically them on top a triple-decker cage (like Hell in a Cell), and they had to fight their way through trap doors to the ring. It's incredible because nobody at all (including the commentators) knows what constitutes an actual victory, and you can tell who the actors are because they have no idea how to sell. Hogan and Savage somehow go over ever heel on the roster. You could watch this match fifty times and still have no idea how they won...and one suspects they don't either. In a shoot, Kevin Sullivan said that this was the match which really killed Hulkamania. Hogan took a sabbatical, and about two months later The Outsiders appeared on Nitro.
Heenan: "THIS IS GREAT TELEVISION HISTORY! THIS SURPASSES A SUPER BOWL, A WORLD SERIES, ANYTHING YOU WANT TO NAME! THIS IS TREMENDOUS!"
- They introduced 2 new monster heels for the match, one of which was originally named Final Solution until they realized that was a term for the Nazis' plan to exterminate Jews.
- Roddy Piper's WCW run. The storylines made him look dumb, his replacement hip ensured all his matches were terrible via limited physical ability, and he worked with Hogan who didn't care about anything but avenging the minuscule number of losses he'd taken in WWF. Why was the Piper vs. Hogan main event at Starrcade '96 a non-title match?? A non-title match despite it having been stated on Nitro that Piper set the stipulations for the match himself. Had to be some serious Hogan shenanigans to lose-but-still-keep the belt in what is supposed to be the biggest match of the year. (They never state that it was a non-title match, which had some people believing that Piper won the title.) Souled Out was, in truth, nothing more than a 3-hour nWo promo. So, having the Souled Out PPV immediately after Piper had defeated Hogan at Starrcade '96 with Hogan himself still keeping the belt and continuing to reign supreme along with the added bonus of the nWo completely slaughtering most of WCW's wrestlers at the event itself was nothing more than just a gruesome victory lap for the bad guys.
- Souled Out '97 aka the tipping point of Bischoff's mania. Riding in on garbage trucks for 10 minutes, with no voice-over or music. Wrestlers in dad-jeans. All-black everything and the fish eye lens shots. Fake live bands. Eric Bischoff attempting to be cool. The "Miss nWo" contest. Jeff Katz and his silly questions. Poor Nick Patrick having to ref every match. Poorly-thought out production ideas ("let's interview people in front of giant speakers, hyuck!"). Calling Eddie Guerrero a "Mexican Jumping Bean." It was a neat idea. It did 170,000 buys which is the lowest WCW would do until 1999; not really a shock when you don't have a full card going into the show (also not surprising that Eddie and Syxx can't be bothered killing themselves in a ladder match for 5,000 people in Cedar Rapids). If you can find the video of "Bryan and Vinny" reviewing the show, it's thoroughly entertaining. Especially when it comes to the Miss nWo contest.
Dave Meltzer: Bischoff spent more time trying to get over that he knows karate and Scott Hall invented ladder matches than build drama into a damn good match [...] the show was about as much fun to watch as three hours of somebody masturbating. In fact, I'm not sure that isn't what we were watching.
- Starrcade '97. Many call the Fingerpoke Of Doom the beginning of the end, but it was really this match, and what followed it. If you can't make a decision this simple and easy, there's no way you compete with Raw. As much as the guys complained about being "held back" because of size and whatnot, the atmosphere did as much if not more to drive them out.
- No one was hotter than Sting in '97. It's why everybody is still a bit pissed he didn't go over Hogan clean at Starrcade. The 3 biggest stories in the history of wrestling came to a climax that night. Sting's redemption, nWo vs. WCW, and Bret Hart's first PPV since the most infamous night in wrestling history. That's the one night in his whole career that Hulk needed to take a clean loss. Hogan hits the big boot, the leg drop, and... wins with a perfectly legit three-count from Nick Patrick. Before the bell can ring, Bret Hart comes out to prevent an "injustice"; he should have come out before the match started (honestly, before the PPV even started, because this entire show was pretty damn bad). Bret becomes the impromptu referee for a match that is still continuing, and Sting wins—we think? Who approved this? How is this allowed? WHY? It made Sting look weak for losing clean to Hogan, it made Bret look stupid for saying it was a fast count, and it sank the post-WWF career of Bret Hart. All they had to do was have Sting win clean. That's it. WCW goes down in history as creating the greatest storyline of all time. (Don't think Hogan would consent to that, though.) Fans were chanting "Boring!" during the match. Maybe they didn't realize that this was the match of the decade.
- The story which gets told is that Hogan paid the ref off. In Patrick's words (PWInsider interview) he had one side telling him to count fast, and one telling him to count normally. We can assume the "sides" being Bischoff and Hogan. So to compromise he counted medium-fast. Add this to the ever-growing list of B.S. Hogan spews.
- On Flair's podcast, Bischoff claimed that Sting didn't come back in as good a shape as Hogan wanted (although adding he didn't have a tan is a bit much), so they had to improvise. Bischoff also alluded to the fact that Sting was fighting a bunch of personal demons at the time (drugs/alcohol/marriage) and wasn't all there mentally, hence him not contributing to the planning. Hogan had creative control and it looks like he was wielding it.
- The entire show was screwed up. Kevin Nash vs. The Giant didn't happen because Nash no-showed. (He was pissed that Hogan had refused to defend the belt for over a month.) Raven vs. Chris Benoit didn't happen because Benoit was hurt. Eric Bischoff vs. Larry Zybysko was a mess because the metal plate in Bischoff's shoe flew out early in the match, so everyone was left standing there like an idiot. Scott Hall attempted to do a run-in...only to receive a Sharpshooter from special referee Bret Hart. Hall tapped out, making Zybysko the winner. [???]
- Sting/Hogan had a rematch on Nitro which was cut off (on purpose?). It was never made clear, but it was intended a setup for Thunder, which was debuting the next week and would address the "title controversy". Then, Sting had his title stripped after Hogan complained to kayfabe then-commissioner JJ Dillon. They had another rematch at SuperBrawl, the second PPV of the year, for the vacated WCW title. It was the same thing all over again. Hogan dominated him, so even though Sting "won" the match, it felt like a fluke almost.
- It's quite odd that WCW tried to regain their lead by un-retiring someone whom WWE had already un-retired earlier, with little success: The Ultimate Warrior. From a needlessly-long intro packed with iconography stolen from Batman, to his paucity of in-ring skills. All that work poured into Warrior just so they could feed him to Hogan in a shitstorm of a match at Halloween Havoc '98. (Hogan won after a cheap run-in). Outside of a few funny moments, there's nothing to note. Hogan just needed to get his win back.
- Wikipedia: Hogan felt the contest was ruined by his botching a spot he himself devised, in which he was supposed throw fire at Warrior: Hogan instead lit the flash paper in his own face and legit burnt his mustache and eyebrows.
- Not only was it bad ("Minus Five Stars" according to Meltzer), but it ran long, robbing customers of an excellent Goldberg/DDP world title match as the main event. That replay is one of the highest rated Nitro segments, with good reason. DDP said it's his favorite from his WCW years.
- Also of note: They put a trap door in the ring for the Warrior to pop out of, and didn't tell the wrestlers. Davey Boy Smith took a bump on it and hurt his back so badly, he was hospitalized for more than six months with a severe spinal injury and a full-body staph infection (requiring a body cast). He was fired via the usual method, FedEx. While training to make a comeback in WWE, Smith became addicted to painkillers, which led to his death in 2002.
- WCW didn't exactly have the best track record with this sort of thing. Like the time when Kevin Nash was thrown through a "breakaway" wall, which was actually reinforced with beams, and bloodied in front of his young son. Or when when Mike Awesome powerbombed one of those Insane Clown Posse guys, and he slid off the top of a school bus. Or what about when they bought the wrong kind of tables, and Fit Finlay was whipped into it, and almost lost his leg? Yeah...plan your stunts better.
- Hog Wild / Road Wild. The whole PPV is bonkers. None of it makes sense. Up is down, black is white. The audience looks weirder than the wrestlers. The minorities, face or heel, all get booed. Big Sexy breaks the pro wrestling record for doing the absolute least amount of work possible. Jay Leno puts Hogan in a wrist lock.
- The PPV was conceived because Eric was (and likely still is) a huge motorcycle fan. It was held for four years in Sturgis, South Dakota to coincide with the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Great main event which the horrible crowd totally drains the life out of: Since it was held outside and with the ring surrounded by motorcycles, there was no gate, meaning they lost money every year. Add in that when your audience consists of hundreds of drunk bikers, many of whom didn't care about wrestling and only wanted to see people get hurt, to the point that they loudly cheered a garbage match between forgettable wrestlers Scott Norton and Ice Train. The rest of us are happy to get more Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko, while the bikers who got in free act like they'd rather shovel shit than watch these two guys wrestle a minute more. For that entire match they are either silent or booing. Not only was the best match of the night ruined, the bikers heaped racist abuse on Harlem Heat. Add in that for almost every bump, the bikers would rev their engines, meaning people who paid for the PPV couldn't hear the commentators. That Sturgis crowd was one of the worst in history.
- Not to mention the reason for the name change was the threat of a lawsuit by the Harley Owners Group. They couldn't even put on a PPV without getting sued.
- Spring Stampede 2000 is about as bad as it gets. It took place 6 days after the reboot, meaning that that all the storylines heading into the show had one night to build (except the Dustin Rhodes/Terry Funk feud, which for whatever reason was the only storyline to make it through the reboot). Since all titles were vacated, there were tournaments for the United States and Tag Team Championships, a tournament finals for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, a multi-man match for the Cruiserweight Championship with more wrestlers than time allotted, and a Hardcore Championship match. What fans ended up getting was a 14 matches show with only one match going more than 9 minutes. And almost every match had interference. There was also a "match" between Jimmy Hart and "Mancow" Muller, a horrible radio DJ based in Chicago who was/is ripping off Howard Stern. He was brought in solely as a ploy to sell more tickets, i.e., they promoted the hell out of WCW on his shows.
- 51-year-old Paul Orndorff (who had retired due to injury) was a surprise team member at Fall Brawl 2000. Old wrestlers doing one-offs aren't unheard of, but by this point you can see major atrophy (from his career ending injuries) on the right side of Orndorff's body, most notably in his arm. During an execution of a piledriver, he fell—paralyzed—to the mat, forcing Charles Robinson to call the bout early. It's announced later on in the PPV that he suffered a stinger, a temporary spinal injury. Wonder how many many people Russo injured when he was booker?
- New Blood Rising. If someome tries to tell you on Russo as a misunderstood genius, show them this show. The whole thing was just over-swerved.
- Lance Storm. He's clearly the most over active wrestler in the building, but he's booked like a cowardly heel. And then the next night he's booked as the babyface rebelling against authority? Made no sense and hurt his push. Lance was actually one of the most-over people in the company during that period (one of the few, actually), so of course Russo decided to try to re-hash the "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Dude Love gimmick where the rules keep changing to screw the face, and essentially had Lance lose 3 or 4 times in the same match, before winning by cheating—in Canada. (And Mike Awesome wasn't exactly setting the world on fire.)
- What's interesting is that Sting said in various interviews recently that after Owen fell, he declined to do the entrance from the ceiling anymore for a number of reasons, and yet here is Russo booking it again the very next year.
- By far the worst match of the night (and possibly the entire year) was the R.O.T.C (Rip Off The Camoflage) match between Stacy Keibler (then in her "Miss Hancock" gimmick) and Tylene Buck, who was then going by "Major Gunns" as part of the Misfits in Action angle. The backstory alone is ridiculous, as it's basically Stacy being a Clingy Jealous Girl over her then boyfriend David Flair. For whatver reason, David, despite having absolutely none of his father's charisma or general likability, was made out to be some kind of Chick Magnet, having had Daffney and Stacey fighting over him before this. This match came about because Major Gunns decided to give David mouth to mouth after his losing effort in a Cruiserweight title match against Chavo Guerrero Jr. (then going by Lt. Loco), Stacy attacked her during this and this setup the match at the pay-per-view. Right from the start of the match it's obvious these two had no idea what they were doing. Major Gunns clearly doesn't know how to take bumps, always making them look as fake as possible. By far her most embarrassing moments in the match is when Stacy irish whips her into the corner, whereby she slowly runs towards it and turns her back to the turnbuckle long before she gets to it. The match takes a turn for the worst when they make their way up to the stage where a pool of mud (naturally) just happens to be. We get the typical "hot babes mud wrestling" spot before the match takes a turn for the tasteless when Gunns kicks Stacy in the stomach, which Stacy keeps holding with a very worried face until it ends with Gunns winning. That's right, Russo tried to make a miscarriage angle out of what should've been just a stupid, fan service match. This obviously turned into a storyline which ended when, months later, Stacy returned with a baby carriage (the baby had apparently survived) which was revealed to be just a pile of pictures of Shawn Stasiak, who Stacy had seemingly dumped David for. Truly an abomination of both a match and a story.
- In one of the most famous wrestling blunders of all time, Fred Ottman, known to the wrestling world moreover as Typhoon/Tugboat, was the mystery partner in an 8-man tag team bout scheduled for WCW’s next pay-per-view, Fall Brawl: War Games 1993. His tag team partners were to be Sting, Davey Boy Smith, and Dustin Rhodes vs. Sid Vicious, Big Van Vader, and the tag team of Harlem Heat. So at Clash of the Champions '93, during Ric Flair’s LIVE Flair for the Gold segment, Sting said the infamous line… “Our partner is going to shock the world because he is none other than… The Shockmaster!” What happened next was THE most embarrassing moment in professional wrestling history:
- Pyrotechnics went off as the Shockmaster crashed through the wall, tripped over a board and fell flat on his face in front of a live audience, knocking off his purple sparkly Stormtrooper helmet in the process. Ottman snatched his helmet back on, jumped to his feet, and stood there waiting for a pre-recorded tape to play over the arena’s P.A. system, but it was clear the damage had been done. The whole time this is going on, Sid & Harlem Heat are trying desperately not to crack up on camera. Soon after this incident, WCW played him off as a stumbling buffoon until he was eventually let go from WCW.
- Russo briefly lost his job when he submitted Tank Abbott's name as WCW Champion. Turns out Abbott was a borderline psychopath. Check out that "Leather Jacket on a Pole" match at SuperBrawl 2000. Good God...that wasn't wrestling. That was Tank Abbott just mauling someone and then ending the match with a knife to the guy's throat and threatening to kill him. What kind of flake would nominate this guy as champion? (The camera cut away quickly, with Schiavone saying he was just going to cut off Al's beard. Al doesn't have a beard.) The worst part was, Big Al wasn't actually a trained wrestler. Tank Abbott tries carrying the guy up the stairs without using his hands, and the fall alone was savage. Big Al was lucky.
Angles and Gimmicks
- Jim Herd attempted to make WCW into a product similar to the WWF. His efforts led to several horrible gimmicks with short shelf lives, including: the bell-ringing tag team known as the Ding Dongs, lumberjack Big Josh (the late Matt Bourne, known as the original Doink the Clown), a comedic cowboy stable called the Desperados and an insane asylum patient called Norman the Lunatic (the late Mike "Friar Ferguson/Bastion Booger" Shaw). There was also an infamous attempt to Retool Ric Flair with a Roman gladiator gimmick named Spartacus (to which Kevin Sullivan had famously replied "while we're doing this, why don't we go down to Yankee Stadium and change Mickey Mantle's number?").
- Every time someone says "Russo wasn't all bad," someone else thinks back to Mike Awesome, who went from "Career Killer" to "Fat Chick Thriller," then randomly became a guy in a leisure suit who drives around a giant bus. (We also got to see Shaggy 2 Dope powerbombed on the top of the bus and then his body slide off, so at least there's that?)
- "Oklahoma", which consisted of Ed Ferrara dressing up as Jim Ross, complete with the Bell's palsy (and calling matches just by yelling things repeatedly). Many people within the company, including Ric Flair. were livid at Russo and Ferrara. You can actually hear Schiavone muttering "Oh, no...." with total sincerity. The first time Oklahoma came out was during Mayhem 1999, and he seemed beside himself the whole time the mockery was going on. Even Ed has since admitted that the whole thing was in horrible taste, and when Jim Cornette spat in his face, he admitted that he deserved it rather than retaliating.
- An attempt to restyle Harlem Heat as "The Posse". They were supposed to be convicts, but it was perceived as a slavery gimmick. They were managed by Col. Robert Parker, who played a sort of shrewd Southern business man who "bought" the services of wrestlers. A white southerner who looked like he stepped off the set of a bad Civil War epic leading two black men to the ring in chains, what could go wrong? Stevie was to be called "Kole" and Booker was to be called "Kane". This was tried at a house show and met with such vehemence that it never made it to TV. Note: Booker and Stevie did initially come out as Kane and Kole, just not with the slave gimmick.
- The infamous "Drunk Scott Hall" angle from 1998 is seen as this by many now, though the company didn't know the depths of Hall's disease before the mockery began. Lowlights included Hall juking and stumbling around like a Parkinson's patient (often while slurring promos), some very awkward "acting" from other wrestlers (especially Kevin Nash) and Hall "vomiting" all over Eric Bischoff. Hall's ex-wife went so far as to write an open letter on the subject.
- In 1999, legendary punk rock group The Misfits appeared on WCW programming for several weeks. Not to perform or promote their album, but to wrestle. Never mind the fact the fact that none of the members had any wrestling experience and were all approaching 40. They didn't even do anything but crawl around. Interestingly, the idea didn't come from any Executive Meddling, but from Vampiro, who was trying to build a career as an actor/musician outside of wrestling. He had originally asked them write his new theme song, but then pitched them actually being on the show to executives... Which seemed like an incredibly forced excuse for Vampiro to pal around with his favorite band. The group stopped appearing after bassist Jerry Only was injured during a cage match with "Dr. Death" Steve Williams.
- Originally, when WCW was brought by WWE, it was going to become a brand like SmackDown, which is why so much was invested in logos. VKM's original idea was to pit WCW and WWF against each other, despite owning both. The InVasion angle was meant to run through WrestleMania X-Seven and result in a brand split. Of course, the storyline was quite the turd and they ended up mercy-killing it at Survivor Series. The Alliance angle became the first of many victory laps on the corpse of WCW for Vince. Between that and Austin turning heel and joining the Alliance (even though Austin was fired from WCW via phone call), it was a woeful time to be a wrestling fan.
- Every WCW fan knows about the July 2, 2001 edition of Raw, where Buff Bagwell and Booker T were given the final 20 minutes for a match for the WCW Championship. The match really wouldn't look out of place on Raw today (except it was about 5 minutes longer than many of today's matches get), except that it effectively ended any hopes of a brand split. People were chanting "boring" within the first minute. It's been that said Vince was completely on board with running both brands, but in the middle of that match, Vince decided it would never work and said so. WCW died right then; WWE threw away millions on that spur of the moment choice (though it's not the first time they've done that). What's weird is Bagwell wasn't a terrible wrestler, and he did a house show prior to this. Bagwell claims that the guys in the back, Jim Ross especially, were deliberately sabotaging him. Buff's made some erroneous claims before...but he makes a fair point that they could have held the match in Atlanta. Vince wanted to see a neutral crowd reaction instead of the bias from Ted Turner's home. The crowd in Washington was not having it.
- The InVasion was dead in the water without Goldberg, Sting, the nWo, etc. The WWE didn't handle it well, and they'd spent so many years telling us that WCW was inferior and that their talent was washed-up; not worthy of competing in the WWF. And the truth is, the talent who came in weren't on that level. It was a bunch of mid and lower card guys "invading" the biggest wrestling company of all time. They couldn't do anything about the guys who decided to sit out their contracts (AOL paying them millions of dollars to sit at home and do nothing). Can't really blame any of them, even if it was short-sighted.
- DDP has said in shoots he planned to sit out his WCW contract like everybody else, but Vince pitched him on headlining SummerSlam vs. Rock for who was the "real" People's Champion. Then he ended up taking a 50% paycut so he could job to Taker's wife. Apparently he gave Vince a giant hug upon being hired, which is what sealed his fate. (You can't even grab him to say "Ladies first" without consequence; just ask Titus O'Neil.)
- The first Nitro of 1999 opened with absolutely nothing of importance in its first hour (due it not being in direct competition with WWF). As soon as Raw went live, Goldberg was arrested and charged with "aggressive stalking" towards Miss Elizabeth. Originally, it was going to be rape, but Goldberg had nixed that idea. The storyline was that Goldberg was scheduled to face Kevin Nash in a rematch for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and that Goldberg himself being unexpectedly arrested had ended up putting the entire match at risk of being cancelled, so could Goldberg make it back in time to participate? The unintentional comedy here was that every time we cut to this storyline, the announcers mention the police station is just across the street from the arena. This also marked the night where Hogan, returning from his yearly football vacation, was to announce his running mate in his bid to become President of the United States. This never happened, and instead Hogan decided that if Goldberg couldn't make it, he would face "that spoon Kevin Nash." Then... this is it. The injection point. After a bit of gesturing, Hogan poked Nash in the chest and Nash took what would be the biggest bump in his career. Hogan covers Nash, wins the belt, and reforms the nWo again. As they're celebrating, it's revealed that Goldberg has been released and arrives at the arena (from the police station across the street) in a car?! The logical thing to do here was have Goldberg (who came out to a massive pop) lay waste to everyone and exact justice, which is what he began to do (and the people lit up for it), but then, of course, they buried the ever-loving crap out of Goldberg and everyone took turns humiliating him (taze him, spraypaint him, handcuff him to the corner, etc). You can pretty much be certain Nash and Hogan had a hand in the booking that night—after ripping off a massive house with the Fingerpoke of Doom while the competition is kicking ass and taking names on the other channel. It was also fitting Hogan orchestrated his revenge to regain the world title at the Georgia Dome—the same place Goldberg beat him for the title six months prior.
- If you watch the Fingerpoke of Doom segment, it wasn't just that they ripped off 40,000 fans in the Georgia Dome who wanted to see the Goldberg vs. Nash rematch. Also in this episode was Bischoff's attempt to reset the company to 1997, so they give away the Raw main event. The next morning it's revealed that at the exact moment fans were told to not change the channel, around 100,000 homes switched to Raw.
- In the summer of 2000, WCW began advertising something that would happen at The Great American Bash pay-per-view that would "change the face of professional wrestling forever". What it turned out to be was turning Goldberg heel. Goldberg was the top draw at the time, and the massive loss to his credibility didn't benefit the company at all. Goldberg dragged his feet from start to last, and whenever it came time to do anything heelish (as much as could be expected of him, anyway), it paled in comparison to some of the stunts the nWo pulled, so fans weren't inclined to start booing. When Goldberg suffered an injury, the whole thing got cut short, and when he returned he was back to being a face.
- Not the worst match on the list, obviously, but you won't find a match which violates the tenets of pro wrestling to this degree: A three-way match between Nash, Scott Steiner, and Goldberg. It was to be the semi-main event of New Blood Rising. As the announcers geared up for the match, they were audibly confused about not knowing who was going to "go over". And no, the part isn't us editorializing about Goldberg; that's what the announcer actually said. Then came what seemed to be the finish, as Nash preparted to powerbomb Goldberg for the victory. But Goldberg did something totally unexpected by (try to follow us here) not letting himself be powerbombed. The announcers were in shock, immediately blasting Goldberg for being so unprofessional. Goldberg then stomped off, leaving the other wrestlers to turn and look at each other for a bit... until the commentators signaled them to "improvise", and they wrestled each other. This is like if Luke Skywalker had refused to climb in an X-Wing, said, "Fuck you, George", and then the TIE fighters began to shoot at each other. Read more about it in detail here at WrestleCrap.
- Goldberg lost a no DQ tag match to Buff Bagwell and Lex Luger, with the stipulation that if he lost, he'd have to retire. On the following episode of Nitro, the wrestlers "laid to rest the career of Goldberg": a coffin filled with Goldberg's book, an actual spear and an actual jackhammer. Not a bad segment overall, but it goes on for over a half hour in a two-hour show. Luger, Bagwell, Nash, Jeff Jarrett, Ric Flair, Road Warrior Animal, the Steiners, DDP and Ernest "The Cat" Miller just talking on the stick. No action whatsoever. Mind you, this is all of three months before Vince bought out WCW for mere pennies.
- South Carolina was a recipient of the infamous Sting vs. Bret Hart match in October 1998. The "match" took place entirely in the back, displayed on the Titantron, and with a screwjob finish to boot. The audience rightly booed it, and many of them likely never paid $40 to see Nitro again. A shame because Columbia was a stronghold for WCW when it was still the Mid-Atlantic NWA region. Oh, and despite what Schiavone said (from under his flat rock), there would be no U.S. Title changing hands that night.
- In the 90s, Schiavone was an adequate, if not good, commentator with a habit of irrational exuberance and calling just about every move he didn't know a "sidewalk slam" or a "face jam". But as WCW began to fall apart, so did his commentary. Part of it was an edict from WCW to make the commentary "more spontaneous": they never allowed them to see the pre-taped segments, so they would then not know how to sell them and resort to verbal diarrhea. Left to his devices, however, Schiavone was uniquely bad all on his own. He proclaimed every episode of Nitro to be "the greatest (moment/night/event) in the history of our sport!". He also proclaimed just about everything "the most shocking SWERVE ever" after Russo came in, which eventually became a Trope of its own. He was also pretty unprofessional: He wouldn't tell other commentators, or at least Brain, what was happening, as though 'knowing' somehow made him more important. It's mentioned in Heenan's book.
- The year started out strong, but 1999 is a landmark in people's perception of WCW changing for the worse. The back end of '98 saw some missteps as well, but in 1999 with no streak, Schiavone sending hundreds of thousands of people to the WWF product, and a bunch of nonsense WWF imitation, fans began to tune out in droves. But even with that, their ratings (which had consistently trailed WWF since summer '98) remained strong for the next couple of months. It was Kevin Nash's horrific booking week-after-week which led to the 1999 ratings free fall. Meltzer provides a week-by-week account in the Observer, it's really something to read.
- WCW stands for World Championship Wrestling. But on March 8, 1999, Nash had the brilliant idea to not book any wrestling matches for the first hour of Nitro. You read that right: He truly believed wrestling matches were passé, and that people would pay to see him and his friends banter and have a relaxing time for 60 minutes. You want a war, Vince? YOU GOT IT! (Raw slaughtered Nitro that night.)
- The Kevin Nash gauntlet match on the June 5th Nitro in 2000. It's floating around on YouTube. They must have been running long that night, because Nash squashed THE ENTIRE NEW BLOOD STABLE (about a quarter of the roster) in quick succession, eliminating some without physically touching them. He didn't even bother to pin them; the ref slaps the mat as soon as one of his opponents is down. This segment took less than five minutes to play out.