Wrestling: WCW

WCW: 1988 - 2001 — Where the Big Boys Played

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 (and failing) to capture the glamor and flash of the WWF: such as 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 (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 was born.

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 defeated Raw 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 nWo "Hollywood", led by Hogan, and nWo Wolfpac, led by Kevin Nash), which feuded with each other throughout 1998—fitting for the era, but not very scintillating to watch. 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, lying down on the mat. 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 fan-favorite 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."), essentially inviting over half a million viewers to change the channelwhich they did. The debacle 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 slid into a resigning self-parody, 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 hushed tones by marks and smart marks alike, many choose to remember the classic moments and genuine superstars that the company produced in its heydey. A 2004 book titled The Death of WCW leans heavily on the former, chronicling the company's struggles in the eighties and (temporary, alas) resurgence as it entered the new millennium.

By the time WCW closed down, they had the following Championships:
  • 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 one of two titles to be abandoned and never be defended on WWE programming.
  • The WCW Hardcore Championship. Much like the Cruiserweight Tag Team titles, after WCW closed, it was also abandoned and never be defended on WWE programming.


Tropes associated with WCW:

  • Amazon Brigade: WCW had two women's championships, though they were rarely showcased on television and almost exclusively defended outside of the United States, mostly in Japan (just like in AWA) so most viewers just saw Nitro Girls and nWo Girls, who were mostly there to dance for the crowd during the commercial break.
  • B Show: Thunder and WCW Saturday Night (the latter was originally WCW's flagship program before Nitro).
  • Bat Deduction: Used to explain Sting's face heel turn in a truly amazing hype video.
    • In a nutshell someone in a white hummer tried to run over Kevin Nash. On a different show Sting was seen coming out of a black hummer. So Sting must have been the one who ran over Kevin Nash.
  • Bat Family Crossover: Regarding its "farm leagues", such as the Heartland Wrestling Association, which one could say remained as a remnant of WCW after it went under.
  • Cardboard Boxes: There were always plenty of them backstage for someone to be knocked into. Clangy poles were also featured, which served no other purpose than to be knocked down and make noise (at least the boxes could be justified as emptied of equipment used during the show).
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: The Four Horsemen, Lex Luger and the nWo were all subject to this. Especially when it involved Sting.
  • Continuity Reboot: A rare in-company example of this took place in April 2000.
    Dave Meltzer: The changes in Nitro remind me of putting a nice, fresh coat of paint on a house that had just been hit by a Tornado.
  • Crushing Handshake: Played with at WCW Bash at the Beach 1998. Stevie Ray faced Chavo Guerrero, Jr., with the stipulation that if Chavo didn't win the match, he had to face Eddie Guerrero in a "loser gets their head shaved" match immediately following. Chavo, wanting to be fresh for the next match (and really wanting to get to Eddie after weeks of abuse at his hands) offers Stevie a pre-match handshake and immediately taps out once a shocked-looking Stevie takes his hand. Chavo would proceed to lose to Eddie and shave his own head, then try to shave Eddie's head while shrieking, "WE CAN BE TWINS, EDDIE!"
  • Cuckoolander Commentator: DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAVE PENZERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
    • The voice of WCW, Tony Schiavone. It was like listening to Cave Johnson call the match. He's also the one who suggested putting the belt on Arquette (as a joke), so thank him for that.
  • Darker and Edgier: The Bischoff era is the Trope Codifier as far as pro wrestling goes. A lesser emphasis on gimmicks and costumes (even Flair is wearing civvies), and an "all-shoot" booking style. The B-show, Thunder, went further with a bare-bones ring (no neon, just steel grey).
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!:
    Tony Schiavone: That's gonna put some butts in the seats!
    • Once again, Bischoff's obsession with tearing down the WWE backfired on him here. Much earlier, Bischoff had made Vince s**t bricks by spoiling pre-taped WWE matches at his own live events. Where he miscalculated on Jan. 4, 1999 was that Mankind was no Shawn Michaels. To put it another way, Mick was the underdog garbage wrestler, the long-shot contender. Fans were less likely to tune into Raw before Tony's comments. Even Russo, crazy and meta as he is, would have warned Bischoff not to do this.
  • Expy: Glacier for Sub-Zero.
    • Mortis also seemed to be a combination of Reptile and Scorpion, and Wrath's entrance attire was somewhat Shao Kahn inspired.
    • Arachnaman was such a blatant Spider-Man ripoff that Marvel Comics threatened legal action, and the character was quickly abandoned.
  • Face-Heel Turn: When Hulk Hogan joined the nWo. It is one of the most memorable and well done turns in wrestling.
  • Fake Band: The West Texas Rednecks (which included Minnesota native, Curt Hennig). Despite being pushed as heels against Master P's No Limit Soldiers, they were cheered anyways and actually received airtime on Southern radio stations.
    • 3 Count, a parody of the boy band phenomenon.
  • Fingerpoke of Doom: The trope namer. Kevin Nash laid down for Hulk Hogan after receiving a gentle poke in the chest, effectively making Hogan the World Heavyweight Champion again, as well as mocking the audience.
  • Giving the Sword to a Noob: David Arquette, World Champion. Long story short, then-champion DDP rashly accepted a tag team challenge from Jarrett, with the added stipulation that whoever got the pin would take the belt. You can see where this going. DDP rescued Arquette while he was being brutalized by Jarrett in the basement and made him his partner. By all rights it should have gone to DDP, but Deputy Dewey just happened to get the pinfall on Jeff, becoming World Champion through a fluke win. David desperately tried to relinquish the title, but DDP continued to rope him into no-holds barred matches and then dragged his unconscious form over his opponent for the "pin".
    • Heel Face Mole: Later, it was revealed the Arquette ("the world's GREATEST actor!" — Schiavone) had been a plant all along, conspiring with the Millionaire's Club to put the belt back on Jarrett. In a now-infamous promo, he turned heel on the crowd and also jeered that—get this—the entire $24 million production of Ready to Rumble was A WORK designed to lure DDP to a Los Angeles film set and befriend him.
    • Had this been a Cruiserweight title, the whole incident would be lost to the mists of history, another sketch comedy match involving the jobber division. But such an angle would have involved, say, Vampiro kidnapping David Arquette and Rey Jr. coming to save him. Russo's aim for this storyline was to maximize publicity, not fill time.
  • Heel-Face Revolving Door: Bret Hart for his entire WCW career; arguably a pretty good reason why he couldn't get over as well as he did in the WWF.
    • Lex Luger, 1998-99.
    • Ric Flair. Full stop.
    • Everybody had this problem in the Vince Russo era.
  • Hostile Show Takeover: The nWo existed to take over WCW and make it their own playground. They had some amount of success at this; they took over Nitro on two separate occasions, and put on their own pay-per-view event once.
  • Incompetence, Inc.: This had always been present to some degree. But WCW from mid-1999 until the bitter end took this into new heights. For the year of 2000, WCW managed to lose $80 million. This is what lead to WCW getting sold to main rival the WWF for about $3 million. The reason for the shortfall is very simple: profits and buyrates were way down, but the annual budget stayed at the same level as WCW's peak in 97-98.
    Jay Hunter: Yes, it's time to go to the roof of COBO Hall. Someone'll end up in the Detroit River, an impossibility as the building is surrounded by a parking lot — unless you have a catapult, of course. But I don't think they sprung for one.
    V1: They sprung for everythin' fuckin' else! Monster trucks, helicopter shots, Harley-Davisons. One bein' squished, one bein' given away... [blows raspberry] This company is well on its way to going out of business.
    Jay: BLANK CHECKS, BROTHER.
  • Insistent Terminology: Bischoff insisted on the term "Cruiserweight" instead of "Light Heavyweight" because he felt the latter made the smaller wrestlers seem less important.
  • Insult Backfire: How many times has this actually killed a company? WCW might well be the first when they revealed that Mick Foley would win the WWF Championship, which caused over half a million fans to switched over to Raw after WCW insulted him.
  • It Will Never Catch On: THOSE CRUISERWEIGHTS CAN CRUISER-WAIT, BROTHER.
    • Among the various people that WCW thought weren't worth a main event push were "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, Triple H, and Rey Mysterio, Jr. All of these guys became celebrated world champions when they went to WWE. WCW also let Jim Ross go because they thought he wouldn't go over well with mainstream America. Whoops.
    • Hell, they screwed up with the guy who would become The Undertaker. Uhm... how the hell do you do that? He was practically the image of everything people wanted in wrestling at the time. After toiling around for a few months as unremarkable mid-card heel "Mean" Mark Callous, he gave his notice, went to the WWF and never looked back.
    • Inverted with Bret Hart: He had caught on in the WWF, but WCW didn't have a clue what to do with him. Hart was even warned about this by Vince McMahon after giving his notice and Hart realized almost immediately after he debuted that McMahon was right.
    • In fact, this and the shocking swerve are the two main reasons why WCW went out of business in the first place.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: At its height, WCW had over 240 wrestlers on its roster. Unlike most examples, though, only perhaps half of them were ever actually seen on television. This was both a deliberate plan and a grievous error on WCW's part. Part of their plan on competing with the WWF was to buy up competing talent for the sole purpose of keeping them from signing with the competition. While some were given spots on WCW programming, most others (mostly C-List Fodder) simply got to lay back and collect paychecks while "working" under a non-compete agreement. Unfortunately for WCW, even this plan got away from them, as the sheer number of wrestlers became unmanageable on a week to week basis. At the time, wrestlers were paid on a per-show basis, whether or not they actually worked on that show. Attendance was taken by signing your own name in on a clipboard. A fair number of genre savvy workers, knowing full well that WCW didn't have any intention of actually using them, simply stayed at home and had friends of theirs on the roster sign in their names in their place.
    • There were also many who would still travel in a full-time schedule on the company's dime without working any matches. Only in 2000 did they start to only fly out any talent who were actually regularly being booked.
  • The Movie: Ready to Rumble, as much as fans would rather not acknowledge this.
  • Non-Indicative Name: On March 8, 1999, Kevin Nash had the brilliant idea to not book any wrestling matches for the first hour of Nitro. This, predictably, lead to Raw slaughtering Nitro that night.
  • Parts Unknown:
    • Various members of the Dungeon of Doom including "The Taskmaster" Kevin Sullivan, from "The Iron Gates of Fate" and The Zodiac (Brutus Beefcake), from "The Land of Yin and Yang".
    • Masked wrestler Blitzkrieg, who had a brief run in 1999, from "The Cosmos".
    • The Patriots (Firebreaker Chip and Todd Champion), from "WCW Special Forces".
    • The Yellow Dog (Brian Pillman under a mask), from "The Kennel Club".
  • Power Stable: Four Horsemen (the Ur Example), New World Order (and its various spinoffs), and the New Blood.
  • Remember the New Guy: Related to the enforced method acting during the late 1990s and 2000s, WCW would sometimes debut new wrestlers or teams with no debut vignettes or promos, just as though they expected everyone to already know who they were and what they were about. Even David Arquette was introduced by feuding with Jeff Jarrett, whom he had never met. Later he explained that Arquette greatly offended him by not inviting him to star in the movie — despite Jeff joining WCW well after it was filmed.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: "Where the big boys play." But look at the adjective: play. We're not here to play!
    • Kevin Nash has professed to be many things, but never claimed to be an English major.
    • The nWo didn't have room for the Nature Boy since, well, Bischoff sort of already was their Nature Boy—updated for the edgy nineties.
  • Spiritual Successor: TNA, both in some good ways, like the early focus on the X-Division / cruiserweights, and bad, like the heavy emphasis on kayfabe-breaking storylines and constant turns. It was also founded to replace WCW in the first place.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Nitro was originally supposed to be this, according to Matt Randazzo. The idea was, by going head-to-head, WCW would screw up so badly that Turner would be forced to pull the plug on it. It only took them six years.
  • Squash Match: An example of both Tropes Are Not Good and Tropes Are Not Bad. The abundance of squash matches on WWF programming lead viewers to jump ship to watch WCW, which mostly showcased competitive matches. WCW did use squash matches to create its top draw, Goldberg, though.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: Bischoff was put on the spot when asked what WCW needed to turn the tide by Turner. After some nervous stammering, he blurted out the first thing that came to mind: a Monday night time slot to compete head-to-head with RAW.
  • Take That: Especially during the Monday Night Wars. Notably, revealing who would win the WWF matches and then tearing strips over their wrestlers, which in Mick Foley's case led to the insult backfire to end all insult backfires.
  • Unperson: The VHS release of Slamboree 2000 sports a big picture of Jarrett and DDP. Arquette is not pictured or even mentioned on either side of the box.
  • Unrelated Brothers: Subverted with the Steiner Brothers and Harlem Heat.

Alternative Title(s):

World Championship Wrestling