The latter years of WCW were so riddled with mistakes you could write a book about it – in fact, there is one – with money blown left, right and centre and the same superstars booked at the expense of hotter and younger talent. One of the most (in)famous drains of money was spending on KISS, and that’s the focus of today’s piece.
It has already been well established that by 1999, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was no long the pro wrestling juggernaut it once was. Younger stars were being overlooked in favor of older, more established stars of yesteryear. The ratings were declining, attendance figures for live events were dwindling and pay per view buy rates were decreasing monthly. That of course, didn’t stop Eric Bischoff from trying new ways to get mainstream attention back on his product.
Seemingly every week on Monday Nitro or a pay per view, some different celebrity was being pranced about on television. Whether it was Dennis Rodman and his off again on again wife Carmen Electra or the band Megadeth, rapper Master P or the Insane Clown Posse, Bischoff used them to spark interest back into WCW. More often than not, the celebrity exposure failed as fans wanted to see new stars and solid in ring action. Despite all the negativity, it didn’t stop “Easy E” from trying harder to secure the next big get in the world of Hollywood and elsewhere.
Enter the Hall of Fame rock band KISS. According to one of the leaders of the band Gene Simmons, after KISS performed at Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami, Florida, he asked for a meeting with Vince and Linda McMahon. Simmons initially pitched the idea to the WWE of having a bunch of wrestlers look like members of the band. The McMahons were interested, but wanted a piece of the merchandising and licensing rights to the KISS characters. Being the shrewd businessman Gene Simmons was/is, he took that same offer to Eric Bischoff and WCW.
Bischoff allowed Simmons to retain all rights to the characters and promised Simmons that the KISS character would have a guaranteed main event match on pay per view. He also paid the band $500,000 dollars to perform one song on Monday Nitro. The KISS Demon debuted on August 23rd, 1999 on Monday Nitro after KISS played their song ‘God of Thunder.’
The KISS Demon, originally portrayed by wrestler Brian Adams, was booked to begin a long feud with Vampiro. The two would battle each other for months, which would ultimately culminate on pay per view on Friday December 31st, 1999. The original idea for the pay per view, according to Bischoff, was from his boss, Dr. Harvey Schiller. Schiller suggested hosting a big show on pay per view on the final year before the new millennium. The event was to be called ‘New Year’s Evil’ and would be a three hour show. It was to take place at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devil Stadium has a capacity of about 70,000.
According to Eric Bischoff, the concept would have been half concert and half wrestling show. For instance, KISS would preform a song on one half of the field and then on the other half would be a wrestling ring where there would be a match and keep flipping back and forth. The culmination of the show would be a main event match between the Demon and Vampiro. Bischoff said the match would end at approximately 11:59 PM (Although it wasn’t clear if that would’ve been for the east coast or the west coast.) Eric Bischoff hinted that the ending of the New Year’s Evil show would have been like the world was coming to an end (playing off everyone’s Y2k fears) with lots of lights and pyro to ring in the year of 2000.
The show sounded grand and elaborate but, alas, New Year’s Evil never happened. It was being reported at the time that many WCW wrestlers and staff were against the idea of working on New Year’s Eve and even threatened a walk out if it went down. The reasoning behind the failure to pull this extravaganza off had many parts to it. First off, this was 1999 and by that time KISS’ nostalgia act was three year’s too late. While still a top rock band, the popularity of their tours were waning. Secondly, during the Monday Night Wars, a concert is not what most wrestling fans wanted to see. When KISS played a song on Nitro to debut the Demon, viewers turned away in droves.
In September of ’99, WCW management had seen enough of losing money and removed Eric Bischoff from power. The pay per view idea was scrapped and the Demon disappeared for a couple of months only to reemerge as Dale Torborg instead of Adams who hated the gimmick to begin with. While on paper, it may have seemed like a brilliant marketing ploy to get KISS and WCW in bed together, the end result was far from their expectations.