Brian Gravagna, Benjamin Trecroci and Jamie Lithgow
It’s quite remarkable, when you think about it, that after all this time talking about wrestling – since 2012, in fact – and all the Top Five articles since then, we’ve never looked at the Top Five WCW mistakes. What a topic and what a wealth of options available. So let’s go.
5. The lack of push for new talent
This is an obvious choice because they certainly had a plethora of new, young and fresh talent to choose from and build around. The problem was WCW’s short-sightedness in allowing young talent like Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and others get that rub from established veterans. Without new main event talent getting created and pushed, WCW eventually grew old and stale.
4. Goldberg’s Streak Ended By Kevin Nash
Let’s face it, one of WCW’s biggest things at the time was Bill Goldberg and his undefeated streak. While his streak was captivating fans interest, it also made whomever would inevitably end it a star as well. Instead of choosing a young up and coming talent to end it, they chose Kevin Nash. Nash didn’t need the rub nor did fans want to see it.
Plus, the way that it ended with Scott Hall’s outside interference made things worse. It killed whatever momentum Goldberg had and he was never the same after.
3. The Botched Starrcade Main Event Between Sting and Hollywood Hogan
I have already covered this particular match in greater detail in a separate article. It has to make this list simply because of the monumental build they put into it and for it to end the way that it did with Hogan pinning Sting almost cleanly. It made their top star Sting look weak and newcomer Bret Hart (who protested the clean finish) look foolish. If it was done right, this could’ve been the WWF’s death knell.
2. Vince Russo Joins WCW
When I first found out that Russo was joining WCW, at the time, I really felt the WWF was in serious trouble. Not only was Russo thought to be the creative genius behind the WWF’s successful Attitude Era but Russo also knew when certain WWF stars contracts would be expiring. What it eventually turned out to be was one of WCW’s biggest mistakes ever.
Vince Russo without the editing filter of Vince McMahon was allowed to run rough shod and WCW quickly turned into an absolute crap show with numerous “On a pole matches”, titles being tossed around without any real meaning or purpose and the mega push of his buddy Jeff Jarrett.
1. Ted Turner Sells His Media Empire to Time Warner
This had to be the single biggest mistake by Ted Turner because he was a billionaire who 1. loved professional wrestling and 2. hated Vince McMahon. Those two reasons combined allowed Ted Turner to spare no expense to putting McMahon and the WWF out of business. Once he sold all of his assets, the more corporate structure of AOL Time Warner saw nothing but a wrestling company that was suffering financial losses.
There was no love, passion or knowledge for the business and therefore was an easy decision to cut its losses and sell WCW to Vince McMahon.
5. Raven’s Flock
We just passed the 20th anniversary of Raven’s re-debut in WCW on the same night of Curt Henning showing up and it seemed like Raven was going to be an impact player. He formed the Flock and they had some real talent with guys like Perry Saturn, Billy Kidman, Scotty Riggs, Sick Boy,etc. They would usually center on one victim like Chris Benoit but would never cross paths with the NWO. It always seemed like a natural fit that they take on both WCW and NWO.
4. NWO 4Ever
The NWO will forever be my personal favorite faction but the group that most fans think about ran from mid-1996-98 not some half-assed Barry Windam led crew on Thunder in 1999. They probably should’ve ended it with the formation of NWO Wolfpac but it kept going and going and just became a club for friends to hang out with and collect checks.
3. Thunder becomes the second weekly show.
Name me three memorable episodes of Thunder, yeah I’ll wait… Monday Nitro was three hours and we all know that is a lot to take on every week so what did WCW do they added two hours to weekly programming. At first it sounded like maybe it could be an interesting scenario where maybe it would give ample to guys forgotten on Nitro but instead it was just the B- roster that would show up and go through the motions.
2. Bret Hart
One of the single biggest controversies involving one of the biggest superstars took place a month earlier and everyone knew that Bret Hart was coming to WCW and how did they bring him in? J.J. Dillon announced him as a special referee for Eric Bischoff’s match vs. Larry Zbyszko match at Starrcade ’97. It was so anticlimactic and really made Bret seem like just another new guy instead of the incredible star he was in ’97. He had some moments here and there in WCW winning the title twice but overall it was a mess from day one.
1. Sting/Hogan Starrcade 1997
Ugh. The build to this was amazing, for over a year the Sting didn’t talk and completely changed his look and character. It was all leading up to his match with Hulk Hogan at the biggest show of the year and what happened? To this day, nobody is really sure. The match itself wasn’t very good and the end was a disjointed hot mess with Nick Patrick, Bret Hart and likely Hogan’s Creative Control Card. It wasn’t over as they had ANOTHER match the next night and they messed that up too by cutting off the finish. Sting should’ve won clean as a whistle at Starrcade to finally overtake the evil NWO for WCW.
5. Booking Sting To Make Quick Getaways In His Abseiling Rig
Hardly the biggest mistake WCW made, but from watching Nitro in 1997 for ‘Meanwhile In WCW’ this kind of shit really does make you want to laugh, which is the exact opposite of what we’re supposed to do with the Sting character. There he’ll be, fighting the nWo and kicking ass but when the numbers get too much he’ll escape in a flash by getting hoisted back up to the rafters from where he descended, like Batman. Sounds cool, but in practice you have to factor in Sting not wishing to die. He has safety checks to make and signals to give before going anywhere, which take precedence over selling punches and kicks for Buff Bagwell and Vincent.
4. Not Using Breakaway Glass
Most people are aware that Goldberg missed a large chunk of 2000 due to a very serious, and very nasty, arm injury he suffered in a spot where he put his hand through a car window. This was not Goldberg going into business for himself, this was pre-planned hence the black tape all over his fists during the segment. He was even given a metal bar, which he concealed, for assistance. Alarm bells! If he needs a metal bar for help then putting your top babyface’s fist through a window is maybe not a good idea?! Shockingly, WCW had asked performers to perform this stunt previously. In 1997 DDP made heavy weather of kicking in Macho Man’s Limousine window, while wearing cowboy boots to protect his ankles. Thankfully Page escaped without injury, unlike Goldberg. Yet, in the WWF, Marty Jannetty safely had his head launched through Brutus Beefcake’s shop window years previously. Did nobody in WCW think about sugar glass?!
3. Letting Ric Flair Go To The WWF With The World Heavyweight Title
Long story short, Jim Herd was in charge of WCW in the early 90s and for some reason he didn’t like his biggest and most recognisable star; Ric Flair. Thus, it will come as no surprise to learn that Herd fired The Nature Boy when the opportunity arose. Problem being, he did so while Flair was the World Champion, and right before he was due to defend his belt against Lex Luger at the 1991 Great American Bash. This – and the fact that Flair had paid a security deposit on the belt and thus had a legitimate claim over its ownership – is the reason why ‘big gold belt’ showed up the WWF in 1991 and why when Lex Luger defeated Barry Windham at the 1991 GAB he was presented with a random belt from Dusty Rhodes’ private collection instead of the World Heavyweight Championship.
2. WCW Thunder
I’ve been reading the Wrestling Observer from 1997 to compliment my ‘Meanwhile In WCW’ series, and every so often there will be mention of a potential second prime time show on TBS that everyone in WCW is dead against, but the folks at TBS want due to the popularity of Nitro on TNT. All the fears people have that I’m reading in the Wrestling Observer turned out to be true. The talent and staff were stretched too thin, the creative team couldn’t keep up and it was just a terrible idea that WCW were not ready for and could not cope with.
1. “That’ll Put Butts In The Seats”
The phrase uttered by Tony Schiavone upon revealing that Mankind aka Mick Foley would win the WWF Title on Raw that night. Following this announcement on Nitro – which Schiavone was instructed to make – scores of viewers turned over to Raw. If you look at the ratings from this time period they would also suggest that a large number of these fans never returned to watch Nitro, that night or ever again. Ouch, way to know what’s hot and what’s not with your competition lads.
You can read all previous ‘Top Five’ pieces here.