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), but it made so many mistakes that WrestleCrap
and Figure Four Weekly were able to write a book about the company's downfall (The Death of WCW
The sheer amount of terrible angles, Gimmick Matches
, backstage politics
, Vince Russo
's booking, and horrendous business decisions 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.
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- 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 as part of one giant Shocking Swerve (with overzealous announcer Tony Schiavone branding it "the ultimate swerve"). This was the angle that cemented booker Vince Russo as being certifiably insane amongst wrestling fans. Even Arquette protested it, since he knew it would infuriate the fans, but it was in his contract. Arquette also quietly donated the paychecks he received during his WCW tenure 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).
- As bad as David Arquette as WCW champion was, it was only the second most idiotic championship reign in WCW history — second only to Vince Russo's. Yes, Russo gave himself the WCW Championship not long after he gave it to Arquette. Unlike Arquette, he felt absolutely no regret for doing it and could've stopped it from happening at any time because he was one of the bookers. Vince Russo is, to this day, one of the most despised figures in wrestling. Imagine that.
- 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. Although to be fair, even he didn't have the ego of Vince (Russo and Mc Mahon) to make himself the world champion of the company he was booking.
- Of almost equal importance was the fate of the WCW Television title. 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 WWE's Intercontinental title. It was 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, but he never defended it again before the belt itself was deactivated.
- There's WCW's Great American Bash 1991 PPV, which had the entire Baltimore audience switching back and forth between two reactions—sitting on their hands and chanting "WE WANT FLAIR!" (especially during the main event) to protest Ric Flair's firing from WCW just days before the event. Flair, meanwhile, would join the WWF, taking the NWA World Heavyweight Championship with him (because he wasn't paid back the $25,000 deposit he put down on the belt when he received it for the first time) and calling himself "The Real World's Heavyweight Champion" (a Take That aimed at then-WWF champ Hulk Hogan and at booker Jim Herd, who was running WCW at the time).
- Uncensored 1995 and 1996. The entire concept of the PPV was that it would be an unsanctioned show where gimmick matches that wouldn't be on any other show would take place. The 1995 show featured great bouts like Dustin Rhodes vs Blacktop Bully (Demolition 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 the Doomsday Cage match, where Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage would defeat 8 men from the Dungeon of Doom and Four Horsemen inside of a 3 tiered giant cage.
- Spring Stampede 2000 is about as bad as it gets. It took place 6 days after the reboot. This meant that that all the storylines heading into the show had one night to build, except the Dustin Rhodes/Terry Funk feud which for some reason was the only storyline to make it through the reboot. Since all titles were vacated, there were tournaments for the US and Tag Team Championships, a tournament finals for the WCW Championship, a multi-man match for the Cruiserweight Championship that had more men than minutes 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. Almost every match had interference and there was also a match between Jimmy Hart and radio shockjock Mancow Muller.
Angles and Gimmicks
- The Shockmaster, a wrestler whose career literally ended in seconds. For weeks, a mystery man had been built up as the difference maker in a huge WCW feud. During the mystery man's introduction on a WCW pay-per-view, The Shockmaster broke through a wall (he was big and strong, see?)...and tripped over a two-by-four some stagehand nailed to its edge. He fell on his face and his purple glittery Stormtrooper helmet fell off, revealing Fred Ottman, aka Tugboat or Typhoon. The angle (and Ottman's career, and the crowd's applause) ended right then and there. Ric Flair and Davey Boy Smith had to flee the stage to keep from corpsing; only Sid Vicious could keep any sense of composure during it all.
- Russo and Ed Ferrara's angle of "Oklahoma", which consisted of Ferrara dressing up as a parody of Jim Ross complete with BBQ sauce and mocking JR's Bell's palsy (and calling matches just by yelling things repeatedly), was a completely tasteless gag that nobody thought was funny; many people within the company (including Ric Flair) were outright pissed that Russo and Ferrara would do something so utterly crass. You can even hear Tony Schiavone utter a legitimately shocked "Oh, no." the first time Oklahoma came out during Mayhem 1999, and he seems beside himself the whole time the mockery is going on. Even Ed Ferrara has since admitted that the whole thing was in horrible taste. When Jim Cornette slapped him across the face, he admitted that he deserved it rather than retaliating.
- The famous attempt to play Booker T and his brother Stevie Ray as what appeared to be slaves (they were called "The Posse" and supposed to be convicts). 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, as the image of two black men in shackles led to the ring by Col. Rob Parker (a rich white Southerner) raised way too many red flags. 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, with no help whatsoever from Real Life Writing The Plot. Lowlights included Hall collapsing and stumbling around the ring (often while slurring promos), some very awkward "acting" from other wrestlers (especially Kevin Nash) and, of course, Hall "vomiting" on Eric Bischoff. Hall's ex-wife went so far as to write an open letter on the subject, which says something regardless of Hall's more recent problems.
- It seems ironic that WCW tried to regain the lead in the Monday Night Wars through one man whom WWE had reused earlier with limited success, The Ultimate Warrior. Warrior's stint in WCW did not go well, from a needlessly long and confusing introduction dashed with various motifs blatantly stolen from Batman to his lacking in-ring skills, fans were treated to a show that was goofier than ever. The climax was a notoriously bad match between Warrior and Hulk Hogan at Halloween Havoc 1998, which Hogan won after a cheap run-in. Just to make things that little bit worse, Warrior had a number of perks and high pay hardly matching his lax workload in his contract. Also of note is that Davey Boy Smith badly injured himself on a trap door that Warrior used to enter the ring, was hospitalized for more than six months with a severe spinal injury and a full-body staph infection (requiring a body cast) and was later fired via Fed Ex. While training to make a comeback in WWE as a result, Smith developed an addiction to painkillers that caused his death by heart attack in 2002.
- 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 drawing wrestler and top face in the company at the time, and the massive credibility loss from their thing that would change the face of wrestling forever being a simple heel turn didn't help the company at all. As an added bonus, Goldberg had hated the idea of turning heel and dragged his heels as much as he could when it came to doing anything actually heelish, and the fans weren't inclined to start booing him anyway. When Goldberg suffered an injury the whole thing got cut short, and when he came back he was back to being a face.
- Jim Herd was the president of WCW during the early part of the 1990s. He had no previous experience with wrestling, and despite Flair being a world-famous World Champion, was convinced that Flair was too old to draw. First he tried to retool Flair into a Roman gladiator named Spartacus (to which Kevin Sullivan famously replied "while we're doing this, why don't we go down to Yankee Stadium and change Mickey Mantle's number?"). Then he simply fired Flair. The problem? Flair was WCW World Heavyweight Champion at the time. And since he had put down a $25,000 deposit on the belt, which WCW did not refund to him after he was fired, Flair decided he owned the physical title belt. He then showed up on WWF television with the WCW belt. Flair went on to be promoted as "The Real World Champion" by heel manager Bobby Heenan and work a great (and financially successful) program with Hulk Hogan. WCW, on the other hand, was devastated by the loss of their top draw and their inability to find anyone to replace him. At the nadir, fans were ignoring the actual matches and chanting "We Want Flair". Herd would eventually resign in disgrace.
- In the 1990s, Tony Schiavone was an adequate, if not good, commentator with a pair of bad habits in irrational exuberance and calling just about every move he didn't know the name of either a "sidewalk slam" or a "face jam". But as WCW hit the skids and management began to fall apart, so did Schiavone's commentary. Part of this was due to the Enforced Method Acting that WCW used on the commentators to keep their commentary "more spontaneous" - they never allowed them to see the pre-taped segments, so they would then not know how to sell them and make stupid comments. However, Schiavone was bad enough on his own. He proclaimed every episode of Nitro to be "the greatest (moment/night/event) in the history of our sport!", for which he (and the phrase) was mocked mercilessly by smarks and marks alike. He also proclaimed just about everything "the most shocking swerve ever" after Vince Russo came in. This went over even less well, and was so mocked it became a Trope of its own.