Friday 23rd March 2001, WWE announces the purchase of WCW from AOL Time Warner. Monday 26th March 2001, the final episode of WCW Nitro airs on TNT. This was never intended to be WCW’s last show; WWE’s plan was to re-launch the company in June of that year on TNN – the network on which WWE Raw was broadcast at the time. As we all know, this did not happen. However, WCW also had another potential future, not under the WWE umbrella. In fact, this alternate future already had a PPV pencilled-in. WCW’s ‘Big Bang’ never actually happened, but I wonder what it would have been like if it had?
Fusient Media – fronted by on/off WCW president Eric Bischoff – boldly announced the purchase of WCW back in January 2001, before a deal was actually finalised. Long story short, WCW was owned by Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) which sat under the larger umbrella of Time Warner. In January 2001 Time Warner merged with AOL. From this moment WCW’s days were numbered.
Enter Eric Bischoff with his Fusient Media group. They wanted to buy WCW, but required AOL Time Warner to maintain a minority interest in the company in order to broadcast WCW shows on TBS and TNT, at least until Fusient could find a new network. All sounds fair enough, right? Well, turns out the new man in charge at Time Warner had other plans. Jamie Kellner decided that WCW had no future on his network beyond March 26th (although an episode of WCW Worldwide was shown in syndication on April 1st). Thus, Bischoff and Fusient had until this date to secure a new TV deal in order to promote WCW’s new home to viewers. Meanwhile, the news that WCW was facing cancellation found its way back to WWE (WWF at the time) who quietly entered negotiations with AOL Time Warner in early March. Having been devalued significantly due to its pending cancellation, WWE purchased WCW three weeks later with some change Vince McMahon found in his jacket pocket.
Even if Bischoff had found an alternate network for WCW, Nitro on March 26th would still have been WCW’s last show for a while as no further WCW events – Nitro or otherwise – were scheduled afterwards. That is except one. Bischoff had foreseen that there would likely be a gap between switching networks, thus had pencilled-in a PPV for May 6th in Las Vegas entitled ‘The Big Bang’. The sub-heading for this show would be ‘The Creation of the New WCW’.
It is safe to assume that with this show WCW would once again try to re-launch itself, as it had attempted to do so under Vince Russo and Bischoff the previous year. That said, as an existing brand with established stars, WCW would not exactly be starting from scratch. For clues towards ‘The Big Bang’, and WCW’s hypothetical future, let’s consider the last ‘real’ episode of WCW Nitro, from March 19th 2001…
This show was broadcast the day after WCW’s final PPV, Greed, at which WCW Champion Scott Steiner successfully
defended his title against Diamond Dallas Page. To start Nitro there was a mocking memorial promo dedicated to DDP, with the tag line “another one bites the dust”. Steiner had already defeated and/or shelved Sting, Kevin Nash, Sid Vicious and Goldberg. As well as being top heel and WCW Champion, Steiner was also the crown jewel in Ric Flair’s Magnificent Seven stable. This “elite” group also consisted of Jeff Jarrett, Lex Luger, Buff Bagwell, Rick Steiner and Road Warrior Animal. Magnificent, eh?
On the show, Steiner exchanged words with US Champion and number one contender to the WCW Title; Booker T. At the mid-way point of Nitro, Booker introduced Eric Bischoff, who was on the phone. Yeah, he literally phoned it in! Bischoff informed everyone that next week’s “season finale” of Nitro would be a “night of champions” i.e. every title would be defended. So, the headline encounter would of course be Booker vs. Steiner in a title vs. title match. This was obviously Bischoff getting his shit together before WCW took a hiatus.
Elsewhere, Ric Flair and Jeff Jarrett’s feud with Dusty and Dustin Rhodes spilled over from Greed. I’m honestly not sure what these guys were fighting over, with on-screen CEO, Flair’s natural adversary being on-screen Commissioner Ernest ‘The Cat’ Miller. In the show closing segment, Dusty and Dustin forced The Nature Boss and Double J to kiss Dusty’s ass. No, not a direct WWE rip-off this time; Dusty had a donkey with him…
A new storyline was budding within The Magnificent Seven. Lex Luger was found having been attacked from behind. All members of The Magnificent Seven had been attacked in such a way over the last few weeks, apart from Rick Steiner. Thus, Buff – along with Animal and Luger – pointed the finger towards Rick as the man responsible. Rick wasn’t happy and stormed off in the huff. Personally, my money would have been on the guy with the camcorder. You see, Buff employed a guy with a camcorder to document something, for some reason. This guy always seemed to get the scoop on these stories. Basically, the WCW version of GTV, only there is a physical guy holding the camera.
Disco Inferno, with new best bud Mike Sanders, cut a promo on his old best bud Alex Wright. The dancing dickhead was facing Jason Jett – aka EZ Money from ECW – who was only a few weeks into his WCW career. Jett scored the win to extend his unbeaten run to 3-0. So Jett left one promotion on the brink to join another one…
Shane Helms – aka The Hurricane – was in the midst of a solid push, with his newly acquired Cruiserweight Title. Oddly, he was a babyface but was still doing his popstar gimmick, only without the rest of 3 Count. Not the kind of thing a predominantly male fan base warms to. Chavo Guerrero – who Helms defeated for the title – interrupted the champ’s match with Kidman. Cruiserweight Tag Champs Elix Skipper and Kid Romeo also interfered, with Rey Mysterio Jr. making the save.
Again, we got another feud carrying over from Greed. Bam Bam Bigelow had another crap match with Sean Stasiak. Stacy Keibler showed the most promise of anyone involved. Afterwards Stasiak (the heel) issued a challenge for a rematch, with Bam Bam (the babyface) accepting but only with a stipulation; if Stasiak loses then Bam Bam gets to tattoo him! In a mark of total shitness, Stasiak won the rematch the following week…
Shane Douglass attacked Rick Steiner during Steiner’s match with Konnan. When Steiner fought back Hugh Morrus came out to get him too, although he may have been making the save for Konnan. As far as I understood it Rick Steiner was a heel, so this angle confused the hell out of me…
Team Canada (Lance Storm and Mike Awesome) set their sights on The Natural Born Thrillers’ Tag Titles. The latter being the team of Sean O’Haire and Chuck Palumbo.
And finally, Kanyon continued his feud with M.I. Smooth – aka Ice Train. For reasons I cannot fathom, Ernest ‘The Cat’ Miller and Road Warrior Animal also got involved.
So that was the last ‘real’ Nitro, without WWE involvement. On the surface it seems fairly easy to figure out what ‘The Big Bang’ PPV card might have looked like. The problems begin when we consider the top names on the top contracts. If WWE didn’t pay to acquire the guaranteed contracts of Steiner, Flair, Nash, Goldberg, Sting etc. then surely Fusient Media might have found paying those sums of money hard to justify too? I guess that would depend on their TV deal. So with no deal in place at the time of this show, one has to assume that the March 19th Nitro was booked under the assumption that these big names would not feature at ‘The Big Bang’.
So, The Big Bang and surely Booker T would have entered as Champion. WWE didn’t want to pay for Scott Steiner,
so surely Fusient would not have either. His opponent? Well, for me that’s obvious; DDP. The show was to be called ‘The Big Bang’, it was to be held in Las Vegas, DDP’s contract was not as lucrative as others and he was a pal of Eric Bischoff. He was also a big name and fan favourite, just what you need to get punters on side after a reboot.
All elements of the Dusty/Dustin vs. Flair/Jarrett feud were discarded by WWE, however Jarret was also pals with Bischoff and surely you can’t have WCW without Flair? There’s surely a power struggle angle to be run here between Flair and Dusty. Some cash might have been splashed here, to get these names on board.
Shane Helms vs. Chavo Guerrero, or some kind of scramble match, makes sense. This match would depend upon the next suggestion, although Helms should really be retaining in any Cruiserweight Title match…
Tag Team Cruiserweight Champions was overkill, although only just created so they may have remained a feature. There was plenty mileage in a return match between Romeo/Skipper and Kidman/Mysterio. The only question is Mysterio’s contract. Without Mysterio then surely the Cruiserweight division would not be strong enough for tag and singles titles?
Further down the card is harder to piece together, as the undercard guys come much cheaper. Lance Storm and Mike Awesome were going along nicely as Team Canada and a natural fit for Tag Team Champions, The Natural Born Thrillers. After that, it’s names out of a hat.
While the tagline for this PPV was to be ‘The Creation of the New WCW’, I just can’t make my imagination stretch to seeing Jason Jett vs. Shane Helms in the main event. Still, despite being a four time WCW Champion in our timeline, Booker T was still a fresh enough face at the top of the card to suggest a significant change. There would also have to be a loyalty to some of the old guard, it’s what fans expect and it makes them feel comfortable. This is why I have suggested Flair and Dusty, wrestling through younger proxies when necessary. DDP and possibly Sting would be good to hold onto too. While some old boys would have benefitted a ‘new’ WCW, a complete removal of the nWo guys would surely indicate changing of the guard. Given their massive contracts this would likely have been a necessity.
So while I can’t imagine ‘The Big Bang’ actually creating a new WCW, I would suggest that it very well could have tidied up the old one.