Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Guest Post - WCW: 10 years later

This is a Guest Post, courtesy of Chris Wilson of, who wanted to look back at WCW on the tenth anniversary of WWE's purchase.

It happened ten years ago today. March 23rd 2001: the death of World Championship Wrestling. The landscape of sports entertainment changed forever.

It was difficult to digest at the time, particularly as Tony Schiavone billed the last broadcast from Panama City as a ‘season finale’. Like most fans I expected WCW back on air within weeks, finally under the control of someone competent in Vince McMahon. But it was never meant to be. One could speculate the many reasons why – I just choose to blame Buff Bagwell and leave it at that.

(Razor's note: in Chris Jericho's new book, he confirms that it was indeed Buff Bagwell that killed any chance of WCW becoming its own entity under the WWE umbrella)

In hindsight, the company died at the right time. Its legacy had already crystallized.

Although WCW as a name began in 1988, history tends to concentrate on 1995 to 2001. The Monday Nitro days. Nitro did more to the wrestling industry in five years – both positively and negatively – than Monday Night Raw has in eighteen. It transformed wrestling from a dry infomercial for the next pay-per-view into a live episodic spectacle with fast paced action and twists so shocking, you’d be a fool to miss it. Nitro dragged sports entertainment kicking and screaming into relevance, away from the cartoony villains and goody two-shoes morals into an edgy, realistic product.

I salivate thinking about the great moments from the early years. From Lex Luger’s arrival on the first episode of Nitro, to the New World Order takeover (Kevin Nash throwing Rey Mysterio like a lawn dart and all), to Sting lurking mysteriously in the rafters for sixteen months before his ultimately controversial-for-the-wrong-reasons match with Hulk Hogan at Starrcade 1997.

At its peak, Nitro was a force to be reckoned with that benefited everyone involved. Can you imagine a crowd these days so into a show that they go nuts for Yoshi Tatsu’s finisher? Back then, they’d react to Dean Malenko’s Texas Cloverleaf like the second coming of Christ.

What’s amazing from a personal point of view is how those experiences were retrospective. I first got the TNT channel in June 1998, several months into the company’s spectacular nosedive. With the exception of Goldberg’s famous title win against Hogan in the Georgia Dome, and Ric Flair’s emotional return as the Four Horsemen reformed – the show had become stagnant and, more importantly, uncool.

The problem was WCW Nitro only existed to counter-program the WWF. It had worked, once for 84 weeks in a row, but there was no contingency in place for a reverse in fortunes.

They panicked. They brought in The Ultimate Warrior, had more versions of the nWo than there are possible combinations on the lottery, and put Ric Flair in a mental hospital. They emulated the WWF to a cringe-worthy degree. Compare Steve Austin with Kevin Nash in 1999. Austin sprayed Vince McMahon with beer. Everyone loves beer. It’s a great moment as the audience wished they were Austin and McMahon at the same time. Months later, Kevin Nash sprayed Randy Savage with sewage. Nobody likes sewage. Well, apart from the characters in Ready to Rumble. Why watch an imitation when you can see the real thing on the other channel? When Vince Russo turned up to do what he does best, the viewers had switched to the WWF for good.

The crucial aspect in WCW’s downfall was how the WWF had become a pop culture juggernaut. Absolutely nothing could have been done to prevent or end their rise. The tired smark argument that perhaps if WCW had pushed their younger talent over Hogan, Savage, and Nash? Time has proven that while the likes of Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, and Booker T were deserving of a main event spot, in terms of popularity they were no Steve Austin or The Rock.

People are quick to dismiss WCW’s contribution to the wrestling world even though its effect is still felt today as the WWE and TNA misinterpret the WCW model to an increasingly negative effect. PPV buyrates are down the toilet as too many big matches are given away on Raw and Smackdown. Why pay $60 when you can see great, heated matches like The Miz versus John Morrison and CM Punk versus John Cena for free? Why else did most main event matches on WCW TV end in a no-contest or DQ? So you were forced to spend money to see a better outcome.

Meanwhile, TNA’s problem is they want to be WCW so badly; I’m surprised they haven’t brought back Disco Inferno yet. Oh... wait.

There are so many people associated with WCW’s downfall in TNA now; it’s impossible for them to do anything different. To quote Albert Einstein: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results." Nostalgia is very powerful. It skews perception. I watched WCW as a child when Nitro and Thunder were desperately poor, yet I love those shows now because it reminds me of happier times. TNA only seems to exist as a place where those in charge relive happier times. It’s quite sad really.

But while they mourn by blowing millions of dollars on a miserable, extremely unlikeable vanity project, I’ll just say this – I miss you WCW, but you’re definitely better off dead.

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  1. What did Chris Jericho say about Bagwell being the one that killed the entity of WCW returning?

  2. Good writing Chris Wilson.