Literature: The Death of WCW

Those in charge of the company never predicted that things would turn out this way, and that was perhaps the biggest irony of all: for a company that took pride in fooling its fans and even its employees, it was WCW itself that got the ultimate swerve.

The Death of WCW is a book released in 2004 about the professional wrestling promotion World Championship Wrestling. It's written by WrestleCrap contributor RD Reynolds and figure4online.com radio host/dirt sheet writer Bryan Alvarez.

Basically an offshoot of WrestleCrap, the book is an in-depth exposť on how WCW went from a floundering business in the late eighties, to the most-watched show on cable TV in 1997 (skyrocketing to the world's most successful wrestling promotion in the process), to becoming little more than a laughingstock and folding in 2001. Not surprisingly, the authors tend to blame the questionable booking decisions of Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff, and the egos of Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and a few other backstage personalities.

Ultimately, though, the finger points at Time Warner management for pulling the plug on the company just as it was starting to show signs of life (i.e. Stacey Kiebler's 42" legs) again.

In January 2013, RD and Alvarez announced on f4wonline.com that a revised and expanded tenth anniversary edition would be released in 2014 in hardcover and e-book formats, expanding on some of the WCW-related topics that the original book missed such as the Wolfpac.

This book contains examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Kevin Nash was apparently very popular amongst his fellow wrestlers, even while he was booking their burials.
    • Yet he rejected being awarded the WCW World Heavyweight Championship at Souled Out 2000, because he feared being lynched by the locker room.
  • Bad Boss: Or "General Failure", if the metaphor holds. WCW had an unsavory stipulation in its contracts which cut its employees' pay by half if they took time off to mend injuries. As the book points out, this is virtually unheard of in sports entertainment. And, of course, it put intense pressure on workers to return to duty before they were ready, probably explaining WCW's rep for rampant pill addiction. Three wrestlers died in the name of the Monday Night Wars, and that's not counting others who succumbed later...
    • Bret Hart was offered chances to appear on live television...if he agreed to perform the kind of lame stunts that took his brother's life, because Bischoff was going to beat Raw if it killed him. Or, preferably, other people.
  • Butt Monkey: Ric Flair is the Ophelia of the book, enduring a battery of insults from WCW Creative — most of them in his old stomping ground of the Carolinas — before finally losing his ever-loving mind on live TV, allowing Piper to have him (kayfabe) sectioned to an asylum. In 1998, Flair and his Horseman were reconstituted on Nitro and hyped as a major-league threat to the nWo. Flair probably noticed how well all the other old guard wrestlers were being treated by Bischoff and expected a major push like he had had in the WWF. That assumption turned out to be wrong. Bischoff is a Hogan fan, you see, and was influenced by him throughout every aspect of promotion, storylines, and booking matches. Unsurprisingly, Flair started being treated like yesterday's garbage, always losing matches, being put in ridiculous skits and promos (once being buried alive and another time attacking Hogan in drag), and made fun of over his age/alcoholism/debt. In short, they tried to completely bury the guy who had carried WCW on his back until Hogan came along. Bischoff even went as far as to threaten that he'd sue Flair into bankruptcy just for missing one show that he wasn't even booked on.
    • The book doesn't even delve into how Flair first recommended Eric for the job.
    • invoked The humiliations only ramped up once Russo took control (in 2000), thanks to his love of meta commentary: The Nature Boy is one of the few wrestlers in history to be literally buried two times (this time in the desert!) as well as figuratively. And yet, let it never be said that Vince is without mercy. Ric was pulled from a Charlotte, NC show and replaced with the one wrestler even more hardcore than he: Terry Funk. (You don't get more redneck than Terry Funk.) Ric was spared the humiliation of getting wrecked in his hometown again, as he was still buried 'somewhere in the desert', so Funk got wrecked in his place.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Bill Busch, Vince Russo, Eric Bischoff, or, at the very least, Incompetent and Egotistical Corporate Executive. Jamie Kellner also gets some flack for being the Turner executive that ultimately cancelled WCW, though it's hard to blame him when the company was losing $67 million a year on a product no one seemed to like.
    • The authors of the book have firmly stated that they believe the reason for Kellner cancelling WCW wasn't due simply to the loss of money (especially considering that WCW was actually beginning to rise from the ashes when Kellner came in) but due simply to the fact that he hated wrestling in general. Even if ratings shot up overnight and WCW became a billion dollar business, it still wouldn't have pulled in the demographic that he wanted. He's known for this kind of thing, after all; This is the same man who cancelled Animaniacs, Freakazoid!, Road Rovers, and Histeria, and had Pinky and the Brain retooled when they were pulling in critical acclaim and strong ratings, but not from their supposed demographic.
  • The Corrupter: "Career politicians" Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash.
  • Crying Wolf: WCW management tried to shoot, swerve, and work the wrestlers so often that many believed WCW's sale was also a work... until they stopped receiving paychecks.
    • How many times had Hogan "stormed out" and quit? How many times had Flair had a "violent heart attack" and died? It doesn't help that WCW shoots were often being re-written while it was on the air live.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Used frequently, especially when the writers are pointing out stupidity in the booking, angles, and business practices. For example, Goldberg couldn't make it back to the arena in time for the main event after his infamous arrest, even though the police station was shown to be across the street. The authors suggest "Perhaps the crosswalk light was broken".
    • To illustrate why Russo can't shoulder all the blame, we get a re-telling of Big T's class-action lawsuit against Booker T for the rights to the letter "T"; a match that "would have been the main event on any episode of Sesame Street anywhere." This booking catastrophe aired a year before Russo's hiring.
    • Hogan eventually stopped bothering to synch up his annual vacations with WCW's storyline, "though he did manage, in the span of two minutes, to say the word "brother" five times, "dude" four times, and "Jack" twice."
    • David Arquette was set loose on Thunder in spring of 2000. In typical Russo fashion, he was introduced feuding with Jeff Jarrett despite the pair having never shared a stage before. The authors conclude that Jeff must have seen Ready To Rumble and was so mentally scarred by the experience that he immediately drove to Arquette's house, stuffed him into his car, drove him back to Orlando and tortured him in a basement.
  • Deal with the Devil: Ted Turner, and to an equal extent Eic Bischoff, were money marks who wanted a piece of WWE's audience, but lacked any fundamental understanding of how to promote and book a wrestling show. Enter three witches industry veterans, led by Hogan, who convinced Bischoff that Hogan was responsible for the WWF's profitability in the late eighties and could help WCW reach an equal if not greater degree of success. All they asked in return was for some creative control and no-cut contracts. An overeager Bischoff handed them contracts at once, while Turner outsourced responsibilities to his close associates, who only told him what he wanted to hear.
  • Demoted to Extra: Despite his immense popularity (and the huge paychecks WCW wrote for him), Bret Hart floundered in WCW after his arrival due to poor booking. Goldberg was buried after his initial rise to the top by Hogan and Nash's backstage pull.
    • In perhaps a foreshadowing of this, Vince McMahon allegedly told Hart that if he ever went to WCW, they wouldn't know what to do with him. Which is pretty much exactly what happened.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Benoit was let go from the company before he could drop the belt, remaining the WCW Champion. Those backstage who were skeptical of the firing were told that Benoit was a "vanilla midget" who never drew a dime. Guerrero, Malenko and Saturn were each granted unconditional releases, as well. You can probably tell where this is going. Despite being midcarders most of their WCW careers, the Radicalz (a.k.a. the "Vanilla Midgets") were main-evented on RAW, drawing a 6.59 rating to Nitro's 2.79. They all became huge stars in the WWF (well, not so much Saturn and Malenko, but still).
  • Disaster Dominoes: The burial of Goldberg (NOT READY, BROTHER.) and his demotion to heel, lighting the fuse on a stick of dynamite that was World Championship Wrestling.
    • Separate pages (a rebuttal?) suggest it was actually Hogan v. Sting at Starrcade '97 which was the shape of things to come. The one notable thing Sting did in the remaining four years, apart from the final episode of Nitro, was appearing with David Arquette in that accursed movie.
  • Distant Finale: The 2014 edition contains several "Lessons Not Learned" interludes in which mistakes made by WCW were later emulated by WWE and TNA, and ends on an epilogue that catalogues the missteps made by TNA over the years.
  • Drunk with Power: Goldberg was the last obstacle to Hogan's dominance of the WCW card. Flair was little more than a "tackling dummy" by this time (according to Hunter in interviews), and Nash was willing to do anything Hogan asked of him. As a result, Hulk oversaw Goldberg's kayfabe "arrest" on stalking charges (it was supposed to be rape, but Goldberg said hell no), and roped Nash into the now-infamous match in Atlanta.
    • In fact, a lot of Nitro's faceplants came about from bookers screwing the wrestlers to show them who's the boss. Unfortunately, after viewers balked at so many of their favorites being benched, by 1999 that impulse had metastasized into a desire to mock the fans and make them squirm as well.
  • The End... Or Is It?: This book points out a lot the things that have befallen TNA.
    • In 2010, TNA seemed to be trying to cram all six years of the Monday Night Wars into one season of Impact. Right down to Warrior/Winter in the dressing room mirror!
  • Feigning Intelligence: Turner Broadcasting only put up with Bischoff and his cronies because of their insider knowledge of the wrestling business, something which Turner pointedly lacked. Bischoff was finally removed from power in the Autumn of 1999, following a disastrous 9-month losing streak. Unfortunately, Turner still couldn't make heads or tails of the business, and turned to a seasoned WWF booker, Vince Russo, as their savior. Each of Bischoff and Nash's eccentricities — false advertising, emphasis on comedy sketches over wrestling, out-of-nowhere swerves, the dominance of heel wrestler stables, wanton destruction of luxury cars, promos designed to put the bookers/announcers over, an absence of non-white wrestlers on the card, and a failed fusion of 80's absurdity with 90's "grittiness" — were amplified and multiplied by Russo's booking. This must have baffled the suits in Atlanta.
  • Follow the Leader: WCW tried (and failed) to emulate WWF Raw as close as possible after it started beating Monday Nitro in the ratings war (which was ironic, since Raw had been following the lead of both ECW and WCW to get to that point).
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted : Turner Broadcasting took a huge gamble on entrusting Bischoff, a young and hungry executive, with the purse-strings to Turner's personal fortune and a two-hour Prime Time slot. Bischoff abused the privilege by greatly overspending on set redesigns for the nWo, lavish meals for himself and his inner circle, on-location shoots in tropical islands (with war boats and helicopters, no less!), and huge salaries for non-wrestling talent.
  • George Jetson Job Security: With Bischoff gone, the company falls into complete chaos. You see, Bischoff at least had a keen understanding of what the viewers wanted; more often than not, he ignored them, or recklessly overspent and underpaid, all in service to his myopic battle with the WWE. Russo, a self-professed wrestling fan and expert on the smark psyche, did not have the faintest idea what the viewers wanted. Nash, who quietly took control of WCW after Russo's dismissal, fared little better. Kevin Nash's brilliant idea to save WCW was to put the belt on—hold onto your butts—Kevin Nash! Understandably, Bischoff and Russo were summoned back to clean up his mess.
  • If I Can't Have You: WCW fans turned their backs on Hogan when he debuted in 1994; that was the end of Babyface Hogan and the start of destruction for WCW. Hulk Hogan won't ever change. He'll constantly try to force fans to watch him.
  • Incompetence, Inc.: The whole book is about WCW's string of bad management: from the Napoleonic Bill Watts, to the self-promoting Dusty Rhodes, to the nepotistic Jim Herd, to the budget-fleecing Eric Bischoff, to — Hell's last circle — Vince Russo.
  • Insistent Terminology: There was actually a period of time when the word "foreign" was banned from Turner networks. This led to foreign objects being referred to as "international objects".
  • Ironic Echo: Whereas the dedication in the original book reads "To Hunter and Steph", the dedication of the 2014 edition is "To Dixie and Bob".
  • Leslie Nielsen Syndrome:invoked Kevin Nash's mission to "prove" that the actual matches in pro wrestling were passe. His hour of no-wrestling did a 2.4 in the ratings; in an era when Raw and Nitro were regularly pulling two to three times that on average, that's abysmally bad. A full-page splash of Nash (dressed like some nightmarish hybrid of Carnac the Magnificent and the comedian Sinbad) jokingly hints that his dream all along was to make people laugh.
  • Lord Error-Prone: RD & Bryan theorize that Bischoff slowly went crazy while battling the WWE dragon. At the start of the war, Bischoff knew exactly which buttons to push to embarrass McMahon; but by 1999, Eric was "completely unglued" and no longer the killer he had been.
  • Mis-blamed: Invoked. The authors argue that the "guaranteed contracts" that so many blame weren't the reason WCW went under. As they argue, wrestlers had guaranteed contracts even when the company was making tens of millions at its peak, and were probably under-paid. They only were perceived to be over-paid once ratings fell, the result of horrible booking decisions, the reluctance to push new talent, and general behind the scenes chaos.
  • The Moral Substitute: Bischoff thought that WWF's edgier product would get them in trouble with sponsors and that WCW would be better off staying more family friendly (TV-PG rather than TV-14) and capitalizing once WWF's troubles began. He was technically right. It just took a few years longer than he thought it would, and by the time it happened, WCW was long gone and owned by WWE.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Despite Bischoff's extravagant tastes, he lowballed Chris Jericho and others when they threatened to defect to the WWF, and passed up several opportunities to enhance revenue — for what reason, no one is exactly sure, but apparently because they weren't his ideas, and he didn't want to share credit for winning the Monday Night Wars.
  • Pet the Dog: As much as the authors clearly dislike Vinnie Ru's booking, they go out of their way to say he's a human being who was genuinely putting his health, and even his life, on the line in WCW's later days, if foolishly. They even say his booking strategy is great for a short while, it's just that things fall to pieces the longer the angle goes.
    • The authors also clearly don't like Bischoff, but give him credit for the initial nWo idea, and talk about Bischoff's attempts to comfort Bret Hart after the death of his brother Owen.
  • Photo Op with the Dog: The authors insist Kevin Nash lost to Rey Mysterio Jr to improve his standing among the other wrestlers and to bolster his image as a "company man". Nash also agreed to job to Hogan, with spectacularly-bad results.
    "The scene was the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, home of the now-legendary Hogan versus Goldberg bout. The date was January 4, 1999. And, as Bischoff had hoped, WCW truly revolutionized the wrestling business on this date."
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Flair couldn't get a whole lot of momentum in Bischoff's regime, despite still being the de facto face of WCW and a crowd favorite. This stagnation is caused by producers and corporate sponsors who did everything they could to keep Hogan happy, thinking that if they could lure away WWF's top talent, then everybody would flip channels to Nitro. Kevin Nash stayed above the fray by doing as little as possible, a philosophy which has paid big for him.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: It happened from time to time, such as Bret Hart's career-ending concussion.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Bischoff, as portrayed, is blinded by his vendetta against Vince McMahon. He managed to get in some good shots at the WWF, namely by spoiling their pre-taped matches at Nitro's live events — though one claim in particular, that Foley winning the title on a competing channel was sure to flop, ended up biting him on the ass.
    • Applied to none other than Vince McMahon in the end. In a decision RD Reynolds has clearly never forgiven him for (seriously, just go read WrestleCrap), after Vince hyped up the so-called " InVasion" on his show... he proceeded to book it as a glorified squash match, with the WWE faction completely dominating the pathetic WCW/ECW crew. Adding insult to injury, the sole purpose of the angle was to put Shane McMahon over. To be honest, this is standard procedure whenever workers from rival promotions came crawling to Vince for work. With Bischoff in the mix, it comes as even less a surprise; Vince had endured so many insults and bald-faced lies from Nitro over the course of six years that payback was inevitable. The difference is this: the initial InVasion PPV drew a $10 million gross. The WWE could have multiplied that figure with virtually no effort. —But that would mean admitting that the WCW had contributed earnings and creative capital to the WWE. Inconceivable. Impossible. Before long, Vince had convinced even himself that the InVasion workers were clowns who couldn't draw, and that's why their companies failed.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Hall, Warrior, and Savage come out of it mostly unscathed, though the book barely mentions them. Hogan's buddies each brought havoc wherever they went, but their influence on angles or the production process was minimal.
    • Savage gets some stick for his Roid Rage and general unprofessional-ism, including swatting Torrie Wilson's face on live TV. His brother Lanny remained under a $75,000 a year contract for doing...not much really. Apparently they planned to put him TV but forgot, and he kept on drawing money.
    • Hall got his just desserts in a WrestleCrap entry ("The Final WCW Title - Fitting That It Started With a Trash Can"), a literal eulogy for the World TV belt. The Crap in question is the promo of Nash and Hall playing hoops with the belt, and Hall lobbing it into the "net" — a trash can. The insinuation being, both men giddily awaiting the death of the company they draw money from.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Steiner broke the mold by persuading WCW management to help elevate him. He accomplished this by being really huge and carrying a gun, which resulted in the biggest push WCW had seen in years.
  • Skewed Priorities: Jesse Ventura's gubernatorial run was a deep wound for Hogan, now forced to watch an industry rival achieve something he had always wanted to do. He immediately turned around and announced his (first of many) campaigns for U.S. President and turned Nitro into his personal vehicle of self-promotion. The actual matches became something of an afterthought.
    • Nitro and Thunder's matches in 1998—and beyond—were all booked with the aim of unseating Raw in the ratings war, something that only Bischoff seemed to care about. To elaborate: as smarks know, a wrestling company makes a lot more money if they save the biggest and best matches for pay-per-view. That's not to say that you shouldn't put good matches on free TV, but the big money is in the PPVs. Bischoff, however, was so fixated on the numbers that he often booked PPV-quality matches for Nitro. This might have been good for ratings, but it didn't help convince people to shell out money for the pay-per-views. Why pay to see a world title match between two of the company's top stars when you know you'll see one on free TV sooner or later? Ted Turner did the math and yanked Bichoff off the air for a full year.
    • An excellent example of this was when he had Goldberg beat Hogan for the World Championship on an episode of Nitro. Sting and DDP also faced off for the World Championship on Nitro.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: According to the book, Bischoff had little regard for his rural audience, so he booked each of their house shows to be exactly alike. At first, fans were overjoyed that honest-to-God title changes were happening in their town. However, once they got wind that Bischoff never acknowledged those matches on live TV (the wrestlers just traded wins back and forth), they voted with their remotes.
    • Not included in the book: The Carolinas were also a recipient of the infamous Sting v. Hart "match" in October of '98.
    • This was another factor working against Flair. As a representative of the Southeastern US, he embodied everything that Bischoff was trying to distance the company from; however, he still enjoyed good heat and a loyal fanbase from the the Jim Barnett days, so WCW had to convince viewers otherwise. For you see, he had a southern drawl and was getting old and it made him an eyesore and... sound familiar?
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: This is cited as one of the causes of WCW's downfall. Creative control and backstage power were granted to a handful of wrestlers (such as Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash), stonewalling innovation when the company very badly needed to push new talent so to compete with the WWF. Even white-hot WWF acquisitions like Bret Hart couldn't get airtime. Most of these guys spent the prime of their careers toiling away as midcarders, being squashed by the nWo, or in Bret's case, cutting promos in his house and nursing PCS.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else: Part of the humor of the book comes from Vince Russo doing business almost exactly like Bischoff. Except Russo is not a cutthroat businessman, or putting together some kind of Grand Design; he's just a Grade-A nut.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Bischoff and Russo had a rude awakening when their benefactor, the extravagant and absent-minded billionaire Ted Turner, merged with the granite-faced accountants of AOL Time-Warner. The Powers That Be sent a memo which read like Eric Bischoff's worst nightmare come alive: he was now on a budget.
  • Unperson: Bischoff became this for a period of time when he was "reassigned" (sent home) following WCW's sharp decline in ratings.
  • Updated Re-release: A tenth anniversary, revised and expanded edition was released in 2014 in hardcover form.
  • We All Live in America: In true stupidity, Bischoff decreed that Rey Mysterio needed to get with the program and stop wearing a mask (in the United States, non-heels who hide their faces are viewed as cowardly), which did Rey's luchador career no favors. In Mexico, it is an act of shame to surrender your mask, and some masked luchadors insist on being buried in them when they die. Even worse, merchandising took a serious hit, as WCW discontinued sales of their top-selling Rey masks.
    • Aside from not believing in heels or faces, i.e the entirety of what professional wrestling is built around, Russo gave an interview where he said no Japanese or Mexican wrestler would ever get over in the United States, because Americans don't want to see them. This was just before he became head writer for WCW, a promotion with a significant number of Japanese and Mexican wrestlers who were absolutely livid.
  • While Rome Burns: They couldn't resist name-dropping this in the opening to Chapter 7 (The Ultimate Swerve!), as the Monday Night Wars draw to a confused and confusing close. You can probably guess who is supposed to be Nero in this analogy.
  • Writer on Board: Granted, the point being made here is the whole story, but it does have a little judgment to give in addition to detailing events.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: A few too many jabs were aimed at Ric Flair during the nineties (which he considers the nadir of his career), particularly at Carolina shows where the company could have capitalized on his monstrous hometown popularity. By the time of Nitro's cancellation, Naitch was drained of hype, flat out of juice, and out of shape from being sidelined for so long.

Alternative Title(s):

The Death Of WCW