World Championship Wrestling (WCW) is a defunct professional wrestling promotion
that operated under the corporate umbrella of Turner Broadcasting (a Time Warner company after 1996) from 1988 until 2001. They're most notable for doing something that nobody else in the business had done before, or has done since: namely, they, as former WCW president Eric Bischoff
famously put it, beat the World Wrestling Federation
at their own game for 84 weeks in a row. Naturally, this success didn't come right away.
WCW started as a regional promotion, Jim Crockett Promotions (which was affiliated with the National Wrestling Alliance
). The "World Championship Wrestling" name was used in various forms by various promotions affiliated with the NWA. When Ted Turner purchased JCP, the company began using the WCW name full-time. Turner was bought out by Time Warner in 1996; WCW's association with the NWA was dissolved in 1991 (and fully ended in 1993), which resulted in the NWA's World Heavyweight Championship becoming a WCW belt, as WCW owned it (the "Big Gold Belt", as it came to be known; it is now known as the WWE World Heavyweight Championship).
In the promotion's early years as WCW, it was horribly mismanaged and badly written by people who had no idea what wrestling fans wanted to see, and devised stunts and gimmicks intending, but failing, to capture the glamor and flash of the WWF - like a live appearance by RoboCop
at a pay-per-view event, or the infamous Black Scorpion
storyline. Jim Herd, a former TV station manager and Pizza Hut executive with no experience in the wrestling industry, ended up making the biggest mistake in the company's early years when he asked Ric Flair
to drop the "Nature Boy" persona, shave his head, and take up a gladiator gimmick. On top of that, he wanted to move Flair, the company's biggest draw, away from the main event, and he wanted Flair to drop the WCW World Title to Lex Luger
(Flair refused, because he wanted to drop the belt to Sting
). This led to WCW officially firing Flair prior to the Great American Bash in summer 1991. Flair jumped to the WWF, taking the Big Gold Belt with him (since WCW didn't return the deposit he'd paid on it, he felt he didn't have to return it). Herd was fired not too long after this. Unfortunately, he was replaced by "Cowboy" Bill Watts, who, among other poor decisions, made top-rope moves illegal, severely restricting some wrestlers' movesets.
Watts was replaced by Eric Bischoff in 1993 (whose promotion from announcer
to Executive Vice President
of the company led announcer Jim Ross
to leave WCW and join the WWF, a decision that very few would question these days). Bischoff eagerly set about trying to build the promotion into a juggernaut, and he did so by poaching away the WWF's biggest names with lucrative contracts (all backed by the money of Turner Broadcasting) and pairing them with both old WCW/NWA mainstays and the hottest young talent that they could lure away from a fledgling upstart promotion by the name of Extreme Championship Wrestling
. He also started populating the roster with international wrestlers through working arrangements with Mexico's AAA
promotion and New Japan Pro Wrestling
(mainly high-flying "cruiserweights" like Ultimo Dragon
, Rey Mysterio Jr
, and Eddie Guerrero
). Bischoff took the fight right to the WWF's front doorstep, asking Turner (who owned WCW as well as the TBS and TNT networks, which aired WCW programming) to give them a timeslot right alongside the WWF's Monday Night Raw
. Turner relented, and WCW debuted Monday Nitro
in 1995; Bischoff decided to take advantage of the timeslot by airing the show live every week and, in several instances, giving away the results of WWF shows which were often taped weeks in advance.
WCW's fortunes didn't really pick up, however, until they came up with an idea that was as simple as it was brilliant. When Scott Hall
and Kevin Nash
(Razor Ramon and Diesel in the WWF) defected to WCW, people wondered if they were actually under contract to WCW or if they'd been sent by the WWF to "invade" the promotion. Bischoff ran with this and labeled Hall and Nash "The Outsiders", booking it as though they were looking to destroy WCW from the inside out. But they weren't alone: leading up to the 1996 Bash at the Beach pay-per-view, Hall and Nash teased a "third member" of their group. At the event, the Outsiders (and their "third man") were booked to face Lex Luger, Randy Savage
, and Sting, but the Outsiders chose not to reveal their third man just yet, leaving them in a 2-on-3 situation. During the match, Luger was incapacitated, leaving it as a 2-on-2 match; eventually, Hulk Hogan
came out to the ring, looking as if he was going to aid Sting and Savage. Instead, he turned on them
, thus revealing that he was the third member of the group. From this moment, and Hogan's now-famous post-match promo, the nWo
Naturally, fans were shocked.note
Hulk Hogan (now calling himself "Hollywood" Hogan) had been the Superman
of pro wrestling for over a decade. He was the colorful, muscle-bound superhero who told kids they could do anything as long as they trained, said their prayers, took their vitamins, and believed in themselves. How on Earth could they play him as a villain? More and more fans tuned in to watch as the entire promotion went to war, the soap opera wheel being abandoned as WCW's entire roster all found themselves in the sights of the ever-growing nWo. The fans must have liked what they saw, since the WWF began hemorrhaging viewers while WCW swept them up. WCW even temporarily displaced the WWF as the biggest wrestling promotion in the world (as partially stated above, Nitro
in the ratings for 84 straight weeks, thanks mainly to the strength of the nWo angle). There was even a point where the WWF was seriously looking at bankruptcy. This period, known as the Monday Night Wars
, resulted in the biggest success for the professional wrestling industry in years, as the nWo angle for WCW, and the WWF's answer in the Attitude Era
, led to a huge surge in popularity (and financial success) for both promotions in the late 1990s.
Unfortunately for WCW, their success didn't last. As the WWF reinvented itself with a new darker and edgier
image lifted in part from ECW, WCW kept milking the nWo for all it was worth. The group was originally planned to dissolve after Starrcade 1997, where WCW mainstay Sting defeated Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Instead, the group split into two factions (the "original" nWo, led by Hogan, and the nWo Wolfpac, led by Kevin Nash), which feuded with each other throughout 1998. Things were looking up, though. WCW not only managed to secure a second major show in Thunder
, but it was building up a new megastar in Goldberg
. Booked as a near-invincible human wrecking machine, Goldberg's undefeated streak became legendary. His biggest victory was during the Nitro
on July 6, 1998, where he defeated "Hollywood" Hogan for the World Heavyweight Championship; while the match helped give WCW its last major ratings victory against the WWF, it cost them potentially millions in pay-per-view revenue. 1998 also saw several other bad moves by the company that led into its decline, such as several pay-per-view matches with non-wrestlers (including Jay Leno and Karl Malone) and The Ultimate Warrior
's short WCW tenure (which culminated in one of the worst matches ever as he faced "Hollywood" Hogan at Halloween Havoc 1998). Their biggest mistake, however, was yet to come.
At Starrcade 1998, Nash defeated Goldberg for the the World Title, which also ended Goldberg's undefeated streak; two weeks later on Monday Nitro
, Nash and Hogan were scheduled to have a match for the World Title, but instead, Nash took a poke to the chest from Hogan and sold it like he'd been shot with a cannon
, laying down for Hogan. After the pinfall, the two nWo factions reformed and ended up beating down an enraged Goldberg, who had been kept out of the arena for most of the show by nWo trickery. This incident came to be known as the Fingerpoke of Doom; in addition to the main event swerve, announcer Tony Schiavone, per Bischoff's orders, revealed prior to Nitro
's main event that Mick "Mankind" Foley
would be winning the WWF Championship on a pre-taped edition of Raw ("That's gonna put some butts in the seats, heh.")
, which led to over half a million viewers changing the channel
, because fans wanted to see the well-liked Foley win the championship. The incident ended up turning many fans away from WCW and towards the WWF (you can read all about the incident, and its impact on both WCW and the WWF, on That Other Wiki
Following the Fingerpoke of Doom, WCW tried desperately to reinvent itself. After several botched attempts to cross-promote musicians such as KISS
and the rap group No Limit Soldiers in 1999, Time Warner took control of the company away from Bischoff and brought in former WWF writers Vince Russo
and Ed Ferrara (who had built themselves up as the "brains" behind the Attitude Era). Russo and Ferrara tried to turn the image of the company around, but they were met with several setbacks, including Bret Hart
suffering a career-ending injury at the hands (or, more accurately, foot) of Goldberg - who then accidentally injured himself during a backstage segment on Nitro
two weeks later. Less than three months after they'd come into the promotion, Russo and Ferrara were suspended, and Kevin Sullivan
was placed in charge of the promotion's booking. This change led to several wrestlers wishing to leave the company. In an attempt to appease these wrestlers, Chris Benoit
was booked to win the World Heavyweight Championship at Souled Out 2000. However, this didn't do enough to appease them, and Benoit gave the belt back, leaving WCW and signing with the WWF the very next day; Perry Saturn
, Dean Malenko
, and Eddie Guerrero followed Benoit, and all four debuted on Raw
two weeks later as "The Radicalz".
WCW eventually reinstated both Russo and Bischoff, and the duo "reset" the company
in April 2000, splitting the company into two factions: the "New Blood" (younger, newer stars) and the "Millionaires' Club" (older stars such as Nash and Hogan). Unfortunately, this was perceived as a rehash of the nWo vs. WCW feud, and many fans never got it. Unorthodox, illogical, and just plain stupid angles continued as WCW degenerated into so bad it's horrible territory, with the final straw for many fans being the crowning of actor David Arquette as the company's world champion. After Time Warner merged with AOL and discovered that WCW had become little more than a colossal money pit (and Turner was no longer in a position to protect the promotion), they started immediately cutting budgets. Eventually, WCW found itself on the chopping block, and it was ultimately sold to the WWF in early 2001 (weeks before WrestleMania X-Seven
) at what amounted to fire-sale prices just days before the final Monday Nitro
. With both WCW and ECW (which had gone out of business just a couple of months prior) in their back pockets, the WWF was left as the lone major professional wrestling promotion in the United States.
Following the company's sale, the WWF made tentative plans to revive it as a wholly separate "promotion" that was still covered by the WWF umbrella. Unfortunately, following the appearances of WCW midcarders on WWF programming, these plans were scrapped, and the "InVasion" angle was born. After the angle ended, WCW stuck around in name only as the company's titles were all eventually unified with their WWF counterparts, ending with the unification of the WCW and WWF Championships at Vengeance 2001 into the WWF Undisputed Championship. Ironically, the man who unified the titles was the first major WCW-to-WWF defection during the Monday Night Wars: Chris Jericho
(who defeated both The Rock
and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
in the same night - in back-to-back matches, no less! - to unify the two titles).
While WCW is often talked about in a joking manner by marks and smart marks alike, many choose to remember the memorable moments and genuine superstars that the company produced right alongside the company's low points. In 2004, a book titled The Death of WCW
, highlighted the failure of the company in its last years.
By the time WCW closed down, they had the following Championships:
WCW: 1988 - 2001
- WCW World Heavyweight Championship. It was defended on WWE programming until it was merged with the WWE Championship to become the Undisputed WWE Championship.
- The WCW Cruiserweight Championsip. It was defended in WWE before its retirement in 2008.
- The WCW United States Championship. It is currently being used in WWE.
- The WCW World Tag Team Championship. Were defended on WWE programming, and later retired when merged with the WWE (World) Tag Team Titles
- The WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship. After WWE's purchase of WCW, this was the only title to be abandoned and never be defended on WWE programming.
- Where the Big Boys Played
Tropes associated with WCW: