What if I told you, a well known and mostly respected promoter (Jim Crockett Jr.) and a young ambitious mind (Paul Heyman) were collaborating on starting a major national wrestling promotion….Would you be interested? Yes? No? It may sound all too good to be true…but it did in fact happen…way back in 1993.
Jim Crockett Jr. was the president of JCP (Jim Crockett Promotions) and served as NWA president for several years. In 1988, he sold all major interests of JCP to Ted Turner who went on to form what we all know as WCW (World Championship Wrestling) After he sold off his assets to Ted Turner…Crockett remained briefly in a sort of consulting role until 1991. After serving out his exclusive no compete claus with Turner’s WCW…the wheels began to turn for Crockett to once again launch a major national wrestling promotion to compete with both the WWF and WCW.
He began enlisting former WCW and WWF talents to fill out his roster and backstage personnel. One name in particular was a former manager named Paul Heyman who worked as Paul E. Dangerously. He had just been fired by WCW under less than desirable circumstances filled with accusations and lawsuits. It only made sense to bring Paul on board as head booker in this new venture.
Heyman was also moonlighting as a special consultant to a small Philadelphia based promotion called ECW (Eastern Championship Wrestling) Jim Crockett was going to work alongside Heyman and Tod Gordon to exchange talent with ECW all the while still working under the NWA banner. The National Wrestling Alliance at the time was trying to make a comeback of their own and was going to use Crockett’s new promotion as one of its flagship companies much like JCP was for years.
The promotion would be named the World Wrestling Network with the logo and name being trademarked by Paul Heyman in April of 1994. The concept would be an ambitious one…especially by early 1990’s standards. The promotion would be broadcast via the internet and would be shot exclusively in HD. Just think, high definition broadcast didn’t come until 1997 and TNA which streamed their company online initially started in 2002. The WWN was truly ambitious and ahead of its time.
The first WWN show took place on July 30th, 1993 in Fort Hood, Texas to a crowd of over two thousand fans with a gate close to $20,000 dollars. It was a positive sign that this upstart promotion could succeed. The next taping..however…was scheduled the next night in Austin, Texas…but was cancelled perhaps to fine tune the product. The next taping wouldn’t take place for another seven months.
On February 28th, 1994….the WWN invaded Vince McMahon’s home territory of New York City with a taping at the Hammerstein ballroom inside the Manhattan Center….the same venue where the WWF’s Monday Night Raw was initially held. (Raw was taped in the Grand Ballroom) The crowd was believed to be not as strong as it was in Texas just a few months prior. Former WWF stars like Jake Roberts…Road Warrior Hawk…The Convict aka Nailz(Kevin Wacholz)…Bob Orton Jr combined with ECW talent like Public Enemy..Tommy Dreamer…Sabu and Tasmaniac (Taz) were all on hand for this show.
Since tapes of this show are extremely rare and hard to find…I had the pleasure to talk to a wrestler who competed that night…Tom Casola aka ‘The Kodiak Bear.’ He wrestled Terry Funk and the Harris twins during the night….
Brian: How was the atmosphere…from both fans and wrestlers in the back?
Kodiak Bear:– Fanwise – wrestling fans are wrestling fans. The are there to see action; their favorite stars and be entertained. They were pleased with most matches; slept threw some. .. Worker-wise: everyone was into it because this was a chance (really a hope) to be in a major federation – especially for the veterans. Remember: while us independent (newbies) are eager to be discovered and make tons of cash – the veterans are more hungry to get back to a status and/or pay scale they were once accustom to. For many veterans all they know and/or could do is wrestling. Most independent guys at least had some sort of a “normal’ job so there wasn’t really anything to lose.
Brian:Did you think it would succeed..or what was the feeling after the show?
Kodiak Bear:– We all hope it would succeed (like most other federations). They was hope/idea they would do it again. However after you’ve done stuff like this for a while, you kinda know it’s a long shot. For me, I was just honored to have worked with Terry Funk. Of course I lost, but I was honored that he “put me over” by listening to me and doing what I called without hesitation. Plus I took a piledriver from him (my first) and it couldn’t have been nicer.
Brian: Was the pay any good? Did you get paid or was it one of those…”check is in the mail” type of deals?
Kodiak Bear: I truly don’t remember about the pay, but I believe I got paid. Back then, pay was better than nowadays, and (believe it or not) being on TV “jobbers” you got a decent payday (either side of $200.00)
As it turned out….Kodiak and the rest of the roster went on to other gigs and promotions because the WWN never had another TV taping after the NYC one. So what happened?!? Word has it that Crockett and Heyman began butting heads over the creative direction of the promotion. Crockett wanted to keep it a simple old school style of pro wrestling where as Heyman wanted to modernize the wrestling action. The creative differences between Crockett and Heyman and Tod Gordon proved too much and soon changes were being made.
It what seemed like a swap of head bookers…Eddie Gilbert quit ECW with the promises from Crockett to creatively control the WWN….Paul Heyman would leave the WWN to replace the departed Gilbert in ECW. Other problems arose when the NWA headed by Dennis Carluzzo, became frightful that the NWA world champion would be used exclusively with Crockett’s WWN. Jim Crockett Jr did the exact same thing when he had Jim Crockett Promotions. That led to a falling out with Crockett and the NWA and soon…the World Wrestling Network…was no more.
Jim Crockett Jr would attempt to book smaller shows in Dallas, Texas under the NWA banner but eventually just faded away from the pro wrestling business. Eddie Gilbert went on to Puerto Rico where…sadly..he passed away from a heart attack at age 33. Paul Heyman as head booker wound up screwing over the NWA with the infamous Shane Douglas throwing the NWA title to the ground and creating Extreme Championship Wrestling.
Who knows what could have been with the World Wrestling Network. It was certainly innovative from a production standpoint and with time…might have been something special. Alas, the WWN became just another failed attempt to challenge the WWF.