World Championship Wrestling or "WCW", was a professional wrestling promotion that existed from 1988 to 2001. It was owned by Ted Turner, then AOL Time Warner. WCW was a former member of the National Wrestling Alliance as Jim Crockett Promotions.
WCW (World Championship Wrestling) was purchased by billionaire media mogul Ted Turner in 1988 from then National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) President Jim Crockett, which were several different NWA territories, after Vince McMahon refused to sell Turner the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). Turner then named it NWA World Championship Wrestling. See Jim Crockett Promotions for the pre-Turner history of WCW.
WCW slowly started separating itself from the NWA name and in 1991 became its own organization removed from the NWA banner. WCW and NWA both previously recognized Ric Flair as World Heavyweight Champion but WCW stripped Flair of the WCW title when he left for the WWF. The NWA continued to recognize Ric Flair as their champion for a short while afterwards, and Flair even wore that belt on WWF TV, proclaiming himself "The Real World's Champion". WCW then decided to reuse the NWA name as a separate entity and sued the WWF to stop showing the gold World Title belt on its programs and return it to WCW. Turner's promotion won and brought in the gold belt as the NWA World Heavyweight Title - a separate but equal championship to WCW's. While WCW/NWA was cross-promoting with Japan's New Japan Pro Wrestling, "Ravishing" Rick Rude won the NWA title. The NWA board of directors, who at the time were responsible for selecting the NWA Champion via a vote, didn't accept Rude as champion, so the two separated once again. WCW owned the championship belt (Rick Rude even defended it as "The Gold Belt") but could no longer use the NWA name, thus the title became known as the WCW International World Heavyweight Title. WCW knew the title was heavily sought and promoted in Japan and as such created a fictional subsidiary of itself dubbed WCW International. WCW claimed that the subsidiary still recognized the belt as a World Title. Sting eventually won the WCW International title and lost the belt to then WCW World Champion Ric Flair, who had since returned to WCW, in a unification match. The WCW title belt was dropped and the gold belt replaced it as the WCW Championship.
At the time, the promotion was, by most measures, running a clear second to Vince McMahon's WWF (now World Wrestling Entertainment [WWE]).
WCW Under Eric Bischoff
WCW's fortunes began to change after former commentator and AWA booker Eric Bischoff became WCW President. Bischoff, originally brought in as a secondary commentator behind Jim Ross after the AWA became defunct, was named WCW president about three years later after the firing of "Cowboy" Bill Watts. WCW was desperate for a new direction and was impressed by Bischoff's ambitious attitude.
Bischoff didn't disappoint, declaring open war against Vince McMahon's WWF and recruiting high-profile WWF stars like Hulk Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage in 1994. Using Ted Turner's superior monetary resources, Bischoff put his faith in the WWF-made stars. WCW's first major event since Hogan's hiring, Bash At The Beach '94, saw the former WWF mainstay defeat longtime WCW stalwart Ric Flair for the WCW Championship. The pay-per-view drew a very high buyrate by WCW standards.
While this was a bold step for Bischoff, it didn't meet the expectations of Turner executives after a year. Ratings and financial performance were still poor when Hogan and Savage weren't on the show, and as WCW was dependent on their star power, they enjoyed lighter work schedules, huge guaranteed salaries, and other perks. The WWF was still the most successful bottom-line promotion in North America.
Monday Night Wars
Bischoff's largest impact on the North American professional wrestling landscape was the launch of the weekly show WCW Monday Nitro. In a meeting with Ted Turner, Turner asked Bischoff how WCW could conceivably compete with McMahon's WWF. Bischoff, not in his wildest dreams expecting Turner to comply, said the only way would be a primetime slot on a weekday night. Turner, impressed by Bischoff's candor, gave him what he asked for: two hours on Monday night, which specifically overlapped with the WWF's current flagship show Monday Night Raw. McMahon later admitted to being bitter about Turner's decision to air Nitro on Monday nights, saying that Turner's only reason for doing this could be to hurt the WWF. Turner, head and owner of the TNT and TBS cable networks, could air Nitro whenever he wanted whereas the WWF was restricted by having to deal with the USA Network. Nitro made its debut from the Mall of America, and featured the surprise appearance of then-WWF wrestler Lex Luger (who had been working on a handshake deal after his most recent contract expired) on a week when Raw was off the air. In the head-to-head ratings the following week, Nitro managed to defeat Raw, seeing WCW beat the WWF for the first time ever.
Siphoning off the WWF's talent and airing Nitro on Monday night was not the end of WCW's less-than-honorable tactics to defeat the competition. As Raw was only live every other week at the time, announcers on Nitro (including Bischoff himself), which was live every week, would often give away the results of that week's Raw to entice viewers to watch Nitro instead. This backfired memorably in 1998, however, when WCW announcer Tony Schiavone announced that Mick Foley, wrestling as Mankind in the WWF, would win the WWF world title that night, then sarcastically remarked, "That'll put a lot of butts in the seats." Nielsen ratings for that night showed that almost immediately after Schiavone made the comment, more than 500,000 viewers switched from Nitro to Raw, a testament to Foley and the WWF's popularity.
For most of Nitro's first year, the ratings battle between the two promotions was close.
WCW vs. nWo
Everything changed in 1996, when WCW became the hottest promotion in North America. It did this with the groundbreaking WCW vs. nWo feud, masterminded by Eric Bischoff, but based on an idea of two warring promotions that he had seen in Japan. The feud kicked off with Scott Hall, recently seen on WWF television as Razor Ramon, walking into the ring unexpectedly during the middle of a match, 'declaring war' on WCW. At the end of a Nitro episode a few weeks later, he was joined by Kevin Nash, another former WWF wrestler recently seen on WWF TV as Diesel. The two wrestlers named themselves "The Outsiders" and sent out a challenge to any three wrestlers on the WCW roster, against Hall, Nash, and their mystery partner. Many wrestling fans were confused, thinking that Hall and Nash were still WWF wrestlers. Vince McMahon himself took notice and said during a Raw telecast that they were no longer WWF wrestlers. Hall and Nash's attitude similarities to their WWF characters also sparked a copyright infringement lawsuit against WCW by the WWF.
At a WCW pay-per-view special named Bash At The Beach '96, Sting, Lex Luger, and "Macho Man" Randy Savage took on The Outsiders but the third man never showed up for the Outsider team. When Hall and Nash began to get the upper hand, Hulk Hogan ran in to seemingly make the save for Team WCW. Hogan threatened The Outsiders but turned around and dropped his patented legdrop finishing move on Savage instead. The fans and the announcers went crazy wondering what was going on. Hogan had shockingly "defected" from WCW to the Outsider faction. In his post-match speech, Hogan revealed he, Hall and Nash were the "New World Order" of Professional Wrestling. The crowd was so incensed by Hogan's turn that many of them threw garbage at the ring, and within minutes it was literally covered with refuse. Bischoff was ecstatic, knowing that this meant the crowd was truly shocked by Hogan finally turning heel after years as a babyface.
Hogan, as a bad guy, leading the (fictional) nWo (or New World Order of Wrestling) faction in their attempt to "take over" WCW and run the WWF out of business was a compelling and original storyline. Fed by this new scenario, WCW Nitro managed a string of wins against WWF Raw that lasted from mid '96 to early 1998, and included a popular feud between nWo leader Hulk Hogan and WCW leader Sting.
In late 1997, Bischoff even went as far as attempting to rebrand Nitro as nWo Nitro one week before their flagship pay-per-view Starrcade.
End of the nWo
After WrestleMania in 1998, the WWF regained the lead in the Monday Night Wars with its new WWF Attitude brand, led by new WWF stars The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Mankind. In particular, the classic feud between Vince McMahon, re-imagined as the evil company chairman character "Mr. McMahon" and Austin (who ironically had been let go by Bischoff in 1995). April 1998, would mark the first time that WCW had lost the ratings battle in the 84 head-to-head weeks since 1996. WCW attempted to counter this by breaking the nWo into the Hogan-led heel nWo Hollywood faction and crowd-favorite nWo Wolfpac faction, but many felt that it was a poor rehash of the original WCW vs nWo feud.
WCW's next attempt at ratings supremacy was marketing newcomer Bill Goldberg as an invincible monster. Goldberg was popular, however business still quickly fell off for WCW, while the WWF was on the rise. Its last big win in the ratings war was in mid-1998, when WCW gave a clear pay-per-view main event, the long-awaited title match between Hogan and Goldberg, away for free on Nitro.
The WCW slowly slid into a period of decline; why this happened is a matter of debate among wrestling fans and historians. Some say it was mostly due to stale storylines, others because the top-level stars had no motivation to excel due to their long-term guaranteed-money contracts, and still others because WCW was loathe to promote younger stars, despite having many talented younger wrestlers such as Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Billy Kidman, Chavo Guerrero, Jr., Eddie Guerrero, Scott Steiner, Perry Saturn, Raven, and Booker T on its roster. It was probably a combination of these, combined with the massive popularity of WWF Attitude.
"Wheel Chair Wrestling" became a popular mocking nickname of WCW, since it seemingly never promoted younger talent beyond the midcard, and if it did, scripted those wrestlers to lose to its older, main event stars. Many of those younger talents ended up jumping to the WWF.
Bischoff was eventually removed from power in 1999.
WCW After Bischoff
While Eric Bischoff would return for a brief stint in 2000, his replacement, former WWF head writer Vince Russo, was not able to recreate the intriguing television he once had under Vince McMahon. Russo, and former WWF colleague Ed Ferrera, was the top (non-McMahon) writer for the WWF at athe beginning of the Attitude era. WCW offered them lucrative contracts to jump to WCW, in an effort to revitalize their product as well as steal the WWF's thunder. Unfortunately, Russo and Fererra struggled with Turner higher-ups on their writing content causing some of the most tasteless and absurd gimmicks and storylines in the history of the business. Some of these include putting the World Title on actor David Arquette to promote a WCW wrestling-themed movie, Vince Russo winning the World Title himself (he and Arquette were not trained wrestlers), and Ed Ferrera doing a misogynistic parody of WWF announcer/head of talent relations Jim Ross.
When Time Warner bought Ted Turner's cable empire in 1996, it also purchased WCW. Even though Turner was faithful to pro wrestling on his stations (which helped get Turner's first station, WTBS, off the ground) regardless of whether it was losing him money, Time Warner didn't feel the same way; WCW was losing 12 to 17 million dollars a year during its decline. However, at the time, Turner was Time Warner's largest individual shareholder, and kept WCW at his behest. When AOL merged with Time warner in 2000, it finally had the power to put WCW on the auction block.
In late 2000, Eric Bischoff and a group of investors, called Fusient Media Ventures, attempted to buy WCW. Vince McMahon was rumored to have bid on WCW but Fusient backed out when AOL Time Warner cancelled WCW programming from its networks. With no network to air its programming, WCW wasn't worth anything to Fusient, who had relied on Ted Turner's old networks to continue to put WCW on the air. WCW was then sold to Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. (which soon became World Wrestling Entertainment) for a reported $7 million. Despite rumours of a WCW resurrection at the hands of McMahon, the ill-fated WWF vs. WCW Invasion angle (a rehash of the WCW vs nWo feud several years earlier) was the end of WCW.
Eric Bischoff now works for WWE in a non-creative on-air role as WWE Raw General Manager.
This is a list of the champions as they were at the end of the last Nitro on March 26, 2001.
- The Seven Deadly Sins Of WCW (http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=20020722154905.06776.00000082%40mb-fc.aol.com&oe=UTF-8&output=gplain)
- When did Nitro JUMP THE SHARK?? (http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&selm=20010422221832.25059.00000347%40ng-cv1.aol.com)
- AmIAnnoying.com: WCW - World Championship Wrestling (http://www.amiannoying.com/(iajsmv55cym0x4551ugsut2h)/view.aspx?ID=8550)
- "WCW Monday Nitro" (TV-Series 1995-2001) (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0185130/combined)
- Forbes.com: Body Slammed (http://www.forbes.com/ceonetwork/2004/12/17/1217bookreview.html)