Throughout the history of pro wrestling bookers and promoters have always tried to come up with new, creative and innovative ideas to generate interest in their product. Some ideas have not only succeeded…but flourished. Others were DOA from the get go. Then there are those ideas which initially were innovative but, for various reasons, faded away. Those are the focus of this latest series of posts titled ‘Great Ideas That Didn’t Last’.
In August of 1998, professional wrestling was hotter than it had ever been before. Ratings were huge, pay per view buy rates were skyrocketing and attendance for shows were at an all time high. It was all in part to the infamous Monday Night War between the WWF and WCW. NBC saw the way pro wrestling became a pop culture phenomenon. They wanted to do business once again with pro wrestling.
Remember, NBC once did big business with Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation in the mid to late 1980’s. The deal with the WWF faded away after the wrestling explosion during that era wore off. This time, however, NBC decided to approach the WWF’s rival World Championship Wrestling. There were a number of reasons why NBC chose WCW over the promotion they were already familiar with in the WWF. First off, WCW had Hulk Hogan under a contract.
To the peacock network, Hulk Hogan was still a recognizable and marketable personality. Secondly, NBC was in no way enamored with the WWF’s new direction. It had become far more adult themed and risque with the birth of the Attitude era. It wasn’t family friendly like WCW seemed to be at that point, so NBC approached WCW and Eric Bischoff. A deal between the two was agreed upon in principle.
Word got back to Vince McMahon who tried to step in and break the deal off, alas NBC was not interested in WWF’s content. They also didn’t have Hulk Hogan. The specials were planned to take place in Las Vegas. One would air on Valentines Day to go head to head with the WWF’s planned pay per view St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1999. There were also plans for another live network special to air in April to go head to head with Wrestlemania 15.
Lastly, a special was planned to take place on New Year’s Eve of 1999. It would air from 9pm to 12 midnight and have the new year rung in with WCW! There are those who believe the real reason why the infamous “Finger poke of Doom” took place in January, was to get the title back on Hogan for the preparation of the NBC specials. Some rumored main event matches for the NBC specials included, Hogan defending the WCW world title against Goldberg on Valentine’s Day and Hulk and Macho Man Randy Savage reuniting the Mega Powers to face off against Scott Hall and Kevin Nash in April.
While Eric Bischoff and the booking committee were coming up with ideas for their first exposure on a major national network, things were changing behind the scenes at Turner broadcasting. The man Bischoff reported directly to Dr. Harvey Schiller now had to answer to a committee of Turner executives. With the NBC specials fast approaching, Bischoff had to run things by Schiller, who then had to go and ask the committee for final approval. According to Bischoff, when the subject of the NBC deal came up, the committee nixed the deal.
Bischoff not wanting to lose this golden opportunity for WCW, tried stalling with NBC which, in turn, pissed them off. NBC was expecting pro wrestling and instead were getting a run around from Bischoff. The time slots were already approved and green lit. NBC had severe holes in their line up to fill because the NBA (which aired on NBC) was in the middle of a lock out. Bischoff would claim in his autobiography that he was the one that killed the NBC deal. According to Dave Meltzer and other sources….Bischoff was fighting for that deal until the bitter end.
The exposure alone would have propelled WCW to a whole new audience. It was a deal that Bischoff and WCW desperately needed. Unfortunately for him and the promotion, the NBA ended their lock out and basketball returned to the NBC line up. NBC who had soured on WCW due to all their run arounds no longer had that burning desire to air pro wrestling. Both sides, when questioned, continued to say all the right things. They both continued to state that WCW would air on NBC…with shows airing in the summer of ’99. It never happened.
The deal was all but dead once the NBA returned to NBC. The specials which would have given WCW so much exposure was no longer a possibility. In retrospect, who knows if those NBC specials would have helped WCW gain an upper hand on their WWF rivals. Sadly, the fans of WCW were robbed of potentially amazing shows. Then again, WCW was starting to slip in late 1998, early 1999. It was still an idea that could’ve been huge and turn the tide for them.
You can read all previous ‘Great Ideas That Didn’t Last’ pieces here.