Pizza Smut: WCW’s Jim Herd Era

jimherd

Brian Damage

Ask any fan of the NWA/WCW about Jim Herd and you are almost guaranteed to get a few eye rolls, winces and derogatory comments. Who was Jim Herd? What did he do? Why was he so bad? So many questions to answer, so let’s start from the beginning…

After Ted Turner bought out Jim Crockett Promotions in 1988, Turner assigned his head of Turner TV distribution…Jack Petrik to become WCW President. Petrik, not knowing all that much about the wrestling product and close to retirement, hired his good friend Jim Herd to become WCW Executive Vice President. Jim Herd would run the day to day operations of WCW, while Petrik handled all the finances.

Before his WCW gig, Jim Herd was an executive of the national pizza chain…Pizza Hut. What made Jack Petrik think Herd was capable of running a wrestling company? Previous to being a Pizza Hut exec, Herd was a TV station manager in St. Louis that aired pro wrestling. Seriously! So this was WCW’s upper management…Jack Petrik who was ready for retirement and Jim Herd a former station manager turned pizza boss turned professional wrestling honcho.

herd

Jim Herd had no real experience in the wrestling industry, so to assist him with ideas, he established a booking committee led by Dusty Rhodes. At the time, there was legitimate heat between Dusty and Ric Flair (Who was also part of the committee) Jim Cornette, Kevin Sullivan and Ole Anderson were also involved to varying degrees with creative. Ultimately, however, the final say on angles, storylines and gimmicks came from Herd.

herd1

Jim Herd was responsible for bringing in a youngster by the name of Steve Austin. He also hired Eric Bischoff formerly of the AWA to be a possible replacement for Jim Ross as a broadcaster when negotiations between the two parties started to dissolve. His reasoning for signing Bischoff? ‘He was young and looked good on camera.’ Who knew that a few years later…Eric Bischoff would have Herd’s job and fire Steve Austin?

Stunning_Steve_Austin_-_Steve_Williams_13

Jim Herd also brought in Ricky Steamboat that led to some of the greatest wrestling matches in pro wrestling history with Ric Flair. Unfortunately, he was also the man who sent Steamboat packing from WCW when he refused to meet Steamboat’s asking price on a contract and take a demotion on the roster.

Jim Herd was one of…if not the first person to introduce pyro on a wrestling show. Herd also wanted to utilize Turner’s news outlet CNN to advertise and cover WCW matches. Turner execs refused…yet covered the WWF on the night of Wrestlemania…the same night WCW held a Clash of Champions.

Jim Herd signed Mark Calaway (The future Undertaker)…but admitted he didn’t know what to do with him as a character…because “Calaway never smiled.”

markmean

Before Eric Bischoff became notorious for signing away WWF talent…Herd has claimed he had the same idea. As a matter of fact, he had a meeting with Randy Savage at his home…but couldn’t seal the deal because he claims that Jack Petrik (His boss) was really tight with the check book. Money issues became a common theme throughout Jim Herd’s tenure as WCW’s leader. He would low ball wrestlers and try to sign them on the cheap…perhaps knowing that Turner wasn’t going to pony up the money.

His battles with Ric Flair became legendary…not for the good reasons either. He once asked Ric Flair cut his trademark long blonde hair, ditch the sequined robes and wear an earring. When Flair’s contract was up for renewal, Herd offered him less than half his current pay and demanded Flair lose the title to almost every night. Eventually Flair had enough and bolted WCW with the world title in hand for the rival WWF.

barber

He drove off Jim Cornette after Cornette became sick and tired of being blamed every time a gimmick, storyline or house show didn’t work or didn’t draw. The Road Warriors quit WCW as well, citing constant changes to storylines without notice. Stan Hansen quit after refusing to be a part of a comedy angle. He also let Sid Vicious walk and join the WWF…citing…’Sid was a head case and if the WWF wanted to deal with that…good luck!’

According to guys like Flair, Jim Cornette and others…Jim Herd began going outside the booking committe for ideas. He would chat away with friends and former old timers like Lou Thesz to garner ideas. Not only undermining his employees, but pissing them off as well.

He started cleaning house with all the old guard from the old NWA/Jim Crockett era. His ideas were more “Sports Entertainment” driven than wrestling oriented. His theory was that every wrestler needed some type of gimmick to attract fans…..even the jobbers. Let’s take a look at just a few…

The Ding Dongs

DingDongs1

Norman the Lunatic

norman

The Desperados

DingDongs1

Big Josh

bigjosh

PN News

pn

The end came for Jim Herd in 1992, when he had a falling out with his head booker Dusty Rhodes. Apparently, Herd felt that Dusty was undermining his authority and trying to position himself for Jim Herd’s job as Vice President. A meeting was set up between Jack Petrik, Jim Herd and Dusty Rhodes. Jim gave Petrik an ultimatum…”Either Dusty goes or I go…” Jack Petrik accepted Jim Herd’s resignation that day. Not before Herd got one last parting shot for the American Dream. According to Jim Herd, he told Dusty…”You couldn’t book your way out of a paper bag” and stormed off.

While Jim Herd’s legacy is marred by failures and ineptitude…who’s really to blame? The man with no experience Jim Herd or the man who hired the Pizza Hut executive out of friendship…Jack Petrik? Choose wisely…because they certainly didn’t.

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Pizza Smut: WCW’s Jim Herd Era

  1. Jim Herd wanted to change Ric Flairs gimmick to making him Spartacus with earnings. Probably like Vince M had Harley Race,Randy Savage, and Booker T. Did that work for Vince& WWE? why yes. Flair’s gimmick was old as nature boy & Spartacus or The King gimmick would have worked. As much as I liked the 4 horsemen & Flair the gimmick got stale by the time they hired Jim Herd. The guy had limited money to sign stars from other promotions, but he did push Mark Calloway & Steve Austin. He came up with pyro effects & was to far ahead if the old heads in WCW.

    Like

  2. I guess Herd did have a FEW positives, he intro’d the pyro which is all WWE has used for the last 19 or so years, he brought in Austin and Calloway, and also Bischoff. What he did with them is another story, but he at least acquired them and they got their feet wet on a national level (I know Bisch was coming from AWA, but it was the third string company by that point, whereas NWA was the second string, so he moved up a level). In the overall scheme, a bad business move to bring Herd in, but from a glass half full standpoint, he did a few things interesting/semi – right.

    Like

  3. Herd was unqualified and over his head to be sure. Having said that, his reputation hasn’t been helped by the likes of Flair and Cornette (and it’s fair to say both of those men are considered far less reliable sources than they were a decade ago) constantly trashing him years later. Much of what they and other critics have pinned on Herd–Robocop for example–came from on high, including Petrik. There are some figures from wrestling (Bischoff who Herd has jabbed over the years, Jim Ross) do have kind words for their old boss to be sure. Herd was in a bad position to be sure and he didn’t help matters any. It seems he went after the children’s market, trying to compete with WWF there, and failed to make a dent. He’s not alone in that of course. If criticism of Herd boils down to “why isn’t he Vince McMahon” (boo hoo…he didn’t make Calaway the Undertaker but then nobody else besides Vince did either) than throw in every promoter from the last 35 years with him. Herd is probably treated too harshly after all these years and the good ole boys with the book didn’t help. Herd deserves a D/D+ grade instead of the instant F we have given him for years.

    Like

  4. Pingback: Icons of Wrestling #46 – Big Josh | Ring the Damn Bell

  5. Pingback: A Fractured Fairy Tale: WCW’s Oz | Ring the Damn Bell

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.