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Welcome to a special edition column by Mr. Tito exclusively here at LordsofPain.net / WrestlingHeadlines.com. Recently, I wrote a column titled “13 Reasons Why” the WWE Has Declined Since the Year 2000 that I wrote following me viewing the Neftlix show, “13 Reasons Why”. After binging that show, I used the theme of that show in which a teenager commits suicide but leaves 7 tapes with 13 recorded sides to suggest blame for why she killed herself for a theme. I acted like I had 13 sides of cassette tapes to explain why the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has declined since its peak during 2000.
Great reaction to that column and I thank you for the response… But many were like “where is WCW?” or “where is Eric Bischoff?” Well, the column was about how WWE declined from its peak year of 2000… So we were discussing 17 years of activity and mistakes. By 1999, WCW became a non-factor versus the WWE and during 2000-2001, they were in zombie mode. The fact that WWE absorbed WCW also comes into play and WWE, themselves, totally botched incorporating WCW into their product from 2001 and beyond. Furthermore, as I said before, WCW was dead during 1999 and wasn’t competition for WWE by the end of that year. It would be more up to TNA and Ring of Honor during the 2000s to present themselves as viable competition instead because both weren’t on the brink of dying like WCW was from 1999-2001. WCW didn’t cause WWE to lose its peak viewership and attendance numbers from 2000 to 2017. That’s a fact.
However, speaking on World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and the “13 Reasons Why” theme… I began thinking of doing another column using that theme on WCW’s death as a promotion. With WCW closing during March 2001, many columns and even books have been written on WCW’s destruction. Many have tried to explain WHY the company that DOMINATED the wrestling scene from 1996-1998 quickly fell apart from 1999-2001. Many, many theories out there…
Here’s my theory on WCW’s death and let me use a National Football League (NFL) analogy… During the 1990s after the NFL Salary Cap was installed, several teams were crafty with their player salaries to get under the cap through renegotiations of deals, signing bonuses, and other tricks. Specifically, the Dallas Cowboys to maintain their dominant momentum after the Jimmy Johnson early 1990s years and then the San Francisco 49ers who loaded up on free agent veterans to win during 1994. Both did whatever it takes to sign Deion Sanders to help them win… In the years that followed, both teams had to make major financial choices to remain under the Salary Cap and it cost both teams winning additional Super Bowls. While the 49ers remained competitive by nice findings of Terrell Owens, Jeff Garcia, and others, the Cowboys struggled for a long time.
In my opinion, Eric Bischoff employed the SAME “Win NOW, Pay Later” strategy with World Championship Wrestling (WCW). He used Ted Turner and Time Warner’s money to sign high priced free agent veteran wrestlers to allow WCW to finally overcome WWE as the #1 wrestling promotion in the world. Bischoff’s key signings were Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Lex Luger, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash who each had mileage in the business but were also older in age as well (Nash barely had 7 years in the business). Hulk Hogan brought in many other former WWE wrestlers of the 1980s to fill the midcard. Meanwhile, Bischoff was OK with letting Steve Austin, Triple H, and Mick Foley go… The signings of Hall & Nash proved to be extremely successful and for the next 2 years from 1996-1998, WCW was on top… But eventually, the veterans wore out their welcome and Eric Bischoff had NO PLANS to elevate the next younger tier crop of wrestlers to the top. He kept on pushing Hulk Hogan to the top.
BUT, Bischoff’s “WIN NOW” strategy isn’t fully to blame… There were factors that surrounded his decision making that caused the wheels to fall off the WCW bandwagon quickly. Remember, WCW wasn’t his company… He became the executive producer during 1993 and wasn’t spending his own money. Ted Turner and Time Warner were the ones providing him the blank checks to do whatever it takes to become the #1 promotion. In order for Bischoff to lure free agents, in addition to money, Eric had to make certain concessions like Creative Control (Hogan) or granting “Favored Nation” clauses in contracts (Hall & Nash, which causes automatic matches to other wrestler salaries). Then, when WCW became successful during 1996-1998, Time Warner Incorporated began wanting greater control over the WCW product and its marketing. Eric Bischoff wasn’t without his enablers, but the fact that his short-term decisions allowed WCW to become #1 shouldn’t be ignored.
That’s my overall opinion of what happened to WCW… Eric Bischoff tried a “WIN NOW” strategy in favor of the short-term but ignored the long-term. Meanwhile, the Corporate environment and the concessions given to wrestlers drove nails into the coffin. But I also believe Bischoff lacked the supporting wrestling minds around him that the WWE had to manage their company. Vince McMahon had the benefit of Pat Patterson, Gerald Brisco, Jim Cornette, Bruce Pritchard, and Jim Ross to help guide him in making key creative decisions or changes while restocking the WWE with the right talent for years to come. Bischoff lacked the infrastructure and compensated for that weakness through spending Turner/Time Warner money. Then, after Bischoff left during 1999, everything fell apart backstage between talent relations and creative. All hell broke loose and the many creative risks taken during 2000 threw gasoline on the burning fire from 1999.
I’m attempting to write this column as a “One-Stop” about World Championship Wrestling (WCW)‘s decline while making it fun through the “13 Reasons Why” themed format. By the way, I finished the book based on the Netflix show as I was in the process of reading it when writing the WWE column. So, I can hopefully recreate that atmosphere of a “dead” WCW creating 7 tapes with 13 sides recording trying to explain the 13 persons/entities that helped cause WCW’s death.
Hello, boys and girls. World Championship Wrestling (WCW) here. Live and in stereo.
No return engagements. No encore. And this time, absolutely no requests.
I hope you’re ready, because I’m about to tell you the story of the WCW’s life and its destruction through 2001. More specifically, why WCW died. And if you’re reading this column, you’ve helped enable one of the reasons why.
I’m not saying which tape brings you as a fan into the story. But fear not, if you’re reading this lovely column, what you’ve enabled will pop up… I promise.
Now, why would a dead promotion lie?
The rules are pretty simple. There are only two. Rule number one: You read. Number two: You pass it on. Hopefully, neither one will be easy for you.
13 REASONS WHY – World Championship Wrestling (WCW) EDITION
#13 – Jamie Kellner It’s hard for me to put you on the first tape, Mr. Kellner. After all, the growth of the TBS and TNT channels since 2001 actually validates your decision. But the fact of the matter is that YOU cancelled WCW programming from both TBS and TNT during March 2001. From the AOL and Time Warner merger, you emerged as the executive overseeing what used to be “Turner Broadcasting”. It was YOUR decision to no longer air WCW programming, period. Had you kept WCW around, the promotion could have been purchased and maybe with time under new ownership, you could have began collecting on the money lost during 1999-2001. But no, your decision caused AOL/Time Warner to cut its WCW losses and caused them to pay out big WCW contracts for years like Sting, Ric Flair, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Bill Goldberg while eating all other debts incurred. The TV programming cancellation scared off any investors who wanted to buy WCW and allowed Vince McMahon & the WWE to buy WCW’s brand and video library for under $5 million. Jamie, you did your job as an executive and ridding AOL/Time Warner of WCW was “best for business”… But it’s a fact that your decision to cancel WCW from TNT/TBS lead to its official death when nobody but WWE showed any interest to purchase.
#12 – Sting Many are asking why the Stinger has his own tape? After all, he’s the most loyal WCW wrestler of all time. You never left since Bill Watts’s promotion merged into NWA/WCW during the late 1980s. For you, it’s about what you DIDN’T do… Given that you’ve been with WCW forever, you were the veteran. Guys like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Lex Luger, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall were able to waltz in and dictate terms of how WCW was creatively displayed. You, as a longtime veteran, should have been more vocal about what they wanted and raised absolute hell when they did any injustice to any other wrestler including yourself. With that fast count issue from Starrcade 1997, you should have raised absolute hell backstage and even confronted Hulk Hogan about what was clearly sabotage. You should have taken control of that locker room when other wrestlers tried to impose their will… Nope, you just stood on the sidelines and let the ship sink. Dress up in red and join the NWO Wolfpack? Why not, you said! You looked ridiculous in red facepaint and it killed all momentum built from 1997 that reinvigorated your character.
#11 – Bret Hart Many may ask how you have your own tape, Hitman? Well, you did join WCW at its peak through Starrcade 1997… But you deserve your own tape due to the butthurt that you endured for what the WWE did to you in 1997. Instead of “sticking it to them” by positively adding yourself to WCW, you were depressed and acted as if Eric Bischoff screwed you, not Vince. From many accounts from wrestlers who knew you both in WWE and WCW as well as WCW management, your mind was elsewhere. It’s as if you wanted to be in the WWE for the rest of your life… Oh, you signed a 20 year contract with WWE during 1996? Oh… Well… Still, there was tons of heat and momentum following the Survivor Series 1997 screwjob and WWE/Vince McMahon owned all of it. You were the victim of that screwjob yet all you could give WCW was a former version of yourself… Then, you had a resurgence during late 1999 under Vince Russo where he actually pushed you strong as WCW Champion. Your response? Start ripping Russo in your paper columns during 2000 for the booking. Not only did you disrespect the booker in WCW who was favorable to you (Russo), but you exposed the business. You ate too many sour grapes in WCW at a time when you could have stuck it to the cruel WWE.
#10 – Jeff Jarrett You were just a free agent signing that followed Vince Russo but you weren’t exactly the big drawing superstar that you were hyped to be. In fact, you never were… The “Double J” gimmick was awful anywhere it went and the Andy Kaufman ripoff gimmick didn’t fool anyone. Somehow, everyone suggests that it was YOU that made that “wrestling against women” storyline successful but by mid 1999 when WWE was peaking, anything could get over. The fact is that you took the exact same character (minus wrestling women) to WCW and didn’t get over. From the time you arrived during late 1999 through the end in 2001, WCW tried and tried to push you as a legitimate World Champion or contender. It never drew… You weren’t the “Chosen One”, Jeff… You were a glorified midcarder whom WCW overpushed and when you push the wrong guy at the top, down everyone’s throats, it will cause declining numbers. Oh, you’re a 6-time champion in TNA? How did that promotion do again?
#9 – Bill Goldberg Most of 1998 was fun, yes… In fact, you may have saved WCW from a quicker decline during that year. However, why you deserve a tape is the fact that you never improved in WCW since 1998. After you won the WCW Title from Hulk Hogan during July, it was all downhill from there… WCW probably made you champion too early but competition forced that hand. The problem afterward is that you did NOT improve as an in-ring wrestler. Sure, the DDP match at Havoc was great and later, so were the matches with Sting… But those workers were carrying you. You never took personal steps to improve your in-ring work thus being unable to carry yourself well as champion. It showed when you joined WWE during 2003 and struggled to do basic things in the ring. And it showed during 2016-2017 when the WWE had to actually hide your in-ring weaknesses. As 2016-2017 will show, you had all of the personality and charisma to succeed in the business but it was your inability to evolve as an in-ring performer that destroyed your drawing ability in WCW. WCW needed new stars to carry them into the next century and not always rely on the old veterans. Oh, and don’t do stupid decisions like punching out Limo windows with your fist.
#8 – Kevin Nash Like Sting’s tape, I’m scolding you for what you DIDN’T do… Let’s say it now… The true “draw” of the New World Order stable was Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. Fact. If you watch Hogan’s drawing power through early 1996, it was in severe decline. The coolness of the Outsiders without the WWE filter holding them back made Nitro begin to defeat RAW during mid 1996. The heel turn of Hulk Hogan put it over the top and brought in many older fans who were shocked that their childhood hero was now a villain. But Hulk Hogan didn’t wrestle houseshows, the Outsiders did… You also made personal appearances on behalf of WCW/NWO, Hulk Hogan rarely did… Big Sexy, which was a great name that helped enhance you as a likeable personality, should have used his star power to push Hogan around backstage. Your contract was big enough to dictate that! But to make matters worse, you became part of the Creative Team during late 1999. Why didn’t you suggest that the “Fingerpoke of Doom” against Hulk Hogan was a bad idea? How about recycling the NWO for the third time? Why didn’t you speak out more between 1999-2000? As you’ve come to admit from shoot interviews, the money was great… But you could have made more with a thriving WCW again and you could have received credit for keeping the ship afloat. And you should have stood up to Hulk Hogan. That kind of courage could have saved WCW from many bad decisions that he’d make, but we’ll get to him later on his own tape.
#7 – Kevin Sullivan The great idea man of the Creative Team. As I listen to shoot interviews regarding Kevin, the word “genius” is often associated with him. Granted, I wouldn’t call anything about the Dungeon of Doom and its pure & utter chaotic nature about it “genius”, but it served its purpose. When Vince Russo arrived during late 1999, Kevin Sullivan was very much opposed to him and resisted him as lead writer. Then, when injuries following Starrcade 1999 piled up and were going to affect the card for No Souled Out 2000, Sullivan pounced. Sure, Russo’s idea of having Tank Abbott become WCW Champion was out there, but Russo’s first run during late 1999 stabilized what was a declining 1999. Russo pushed Bret Hart and Chris Benoit hard at the top and at least made things interesting. 1999 was a booking mess that merited WCW management’s need for a new creative mind… Then, you helped push Russo out the door by early 2000. And who then became WCW’s Lead Writer? YOU, Mr. Sullivan. This tape is about YOU. WCW Nitro’s ratings averaged around 3.2 under Vince Russo while your February/March 2000 ratings stand at barely 2.7. Your creative decisions made things worse! On top of that, you could not compromise with wrestlers Perry Saturn, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, or Dean Malenko. Had you fought harder FOR THEM and convinced them that you would have creatively used them, WCW’s roster could have had depth. But nope, you showed no resistance and let those 4 wrestlers join WCW without any no-compete. And then, your poor booking paved the way for Vince Russo’s return later during 2000…
#6 – Vince Russo Others would have you higher in their tape decks, but I actually feel bad for your tenure at WCW. You went from a highly organized structure at WWE with a talent relations division (under Jim Ross) that gave you great resources to work with to an organization in complete chaos that wasn’t replenishing talent throughout the roster. And I believe that your tenure in WWE began to burn you out as booking in the WWE during 1999, particularly for the midcard, was very chaotic. Just look at how unstable the Intercontinental Title became. Seems that you peaked at Wrestlemania 15, which I consider a creative masterpiece, and then hit a wall… Better yet, I’ll defend your late 1999 booking. You finally used Bret Hart correctly, you began pushing some younger stars to the top, and you had bad injury luck at the end of your first WCW tenure. I wasn’t too crazy on the New World Order reunion, but I did like how you mixed it up with different stars compared to the NWO of early 1999 that was a retread of the past to prop up Hulk Hogan once again.
HOWEVER – Your WCW return during 2000 was a disaster. Mr. Russo, you cannot defend making actor David Arquette become WCW Champion, Mike Awesome as the “Fat Chick Thriller” or “That 70’s Guy” after you stole him as ECW Champion, making yourself become WCW Champion, or the Bash at the Beach 2000 debacle with Hulk Hogan. And those are just the high level booking issues of your second WCW tenure… You had 2-3 hours of Nitro and 2 hours of Thunder to fill weekly! Your obsession with somehow creating your own Survivor Series 1997 screwjob while attempting to become an authority figure like Vince McMahon broke the will of WCW to ever come back from the dead. Your booking was the final nails in WCW’s coffin. Your initial “Title Reset” and Young vs. Old storylines, which many liked at first, brought WCW back to near 3.0 in the ratings but as the year wore on, it was trending towards 2.0. It was enough viewership loss to cause Executives emerging from the AOL/Time Warner merger to believe that WCW programming was no longer worth carrying on TBS or TNT. While WCW may have had fewer resources than your tenure in WWE, the fact is that your creative decisions gave the WCW Title to yourself/David Arquette while making a complete fool of yourself and WCW at the Bash at the Beach 2000 event.
#5 – Time Warner Inc. Your recent performances in the Superhero movie genre, alone, deserve a tape for anybody… Seriously, Superman and Batman are iconic figures and Christopher Nolan handed you great momentum with the Dark Knight series. Then, you have CNN in the Cable News world… Yikes. With that being said, maybe how you handled WCW should have forecast the mishandling of DC Comics films or CNN? First and foremost, along with Ted Turner, you at first handed Eric Bischoff blank checks to freely sign any wrestler he chose. But where was your Legal Department reviewing those contracts? Seriously, did you not see the concessions made to Hulk Hogan and Hall/Nash? Hogan had pure creative control and % claims to any gate, merchandise, or Pay Per View revenues. Meanwhile, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall had “favored nations” clauses in their contracts which allowed them to match any incoming WCW free agent signing with their salaries. What did you expect to happen with that? Once WCW became a hit during 1996 and began generating profits, all of your executives began swooping in by shoving more television Standards & Practices down the Creative Team’s throats because you didn’t want to risk losing those profits. WCW became too safe and sanitized through 1998 and it hurt them compared to the aggressive and risky WWE product that was catering towards teens and adults. Also, WCW began to put their brand on all types of merchandise to overexpose themselves… I believe the split NWO brands of 1998 and the reunion of 1999 had some influence by Time Warner.
You merged with Ted Turner through October 1996 and it almost seems as if the company had to begin to show losses during 1999 for you to begin to panic about WCW. Then, you put whatever stooge was available to oversee WCW and the television products and that led to a revolving door of people running WCW’s management and creative teams. Pure and utter chaos… Then, you merged with America Online (AOL) just as the Dot Com Bust was beginning to pound the economy. The difficulties of that merger caused greater scrutiny on divisions of Time Warner that were struggling. WCW was one of them and by March 2001, the executive put in place of television (Jamie Kellner) opted to cancel WCW programming. You had a golden goose with WCW during 1996-1997 that if managed more properly, it could have continued to make profits and become more appealing as an entity to be sold. Instead, you cut your losses during March 2001 and foolishly sold to the WWE for under $5 million. Seriously, have you seen how much the WWE has enjoyed using your NWA/WCW video library on the WWE Network?
#4 – WWE/Vince McMahon The ironic thing is that your 1996-1997 success actually “saved” this company and made it an absolute competitive threat. However, WCW, your bad decision making during 1997-1999 made the WWE an appealing option once the WWE began rolling. Funny thing is that the WWE took many former WCW entities like Jim Ross, Mick Foley, Triple H, Sean Waltman, and Steve Austin and turned them into important parts of their turnaround. In fact, Steve Austin’s heated departure from WCW fueled him to eventually become “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, possibly the strongest drawing wrestler in a 3 year period of all time. You awoke Vince McMahon, the promoter who had zero fear of slitting the throats of territory promoters during the 1980s… Better yet, you took all of his older stars to pave the way for newer ones to rise. The “Attitude Era” was an environmental change not just for the television product, but the backstage and creative environment as well. Suddenly, WCW was appealing for the likes of the Giant (Big Show) and Chris Jericho to join during 1999 which were backbreaking free agent losses for WCW. Then, Benoit/Saturn/Malenko/Guerrero during early 2000. Worse yet, WWE became more appealing for former amateur wrestling greats like Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, and Shelton Benjamin to join and Jim Ross built a developmental system that would lure any younger up & coming talent join WWE rather than WCW. Furthermore, your playing around with Corporate money convinced WWE to become a corporation itself… WWE now had the financial resources to compete and help drive the final nails in your coffin, WCW. To see Vince McMahon bragging on your final WCW Nitro that he BEAT YOU has to hurt… The fact that WWE can still make money off of your past video library and wrestlers like Goldberg should hurt worse.
#3 – Hulk Hogan Excuse me, “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan in WCW. First and foremost, I don’t blame Hogan for wanting to maximize his earnings potential. If Ted Turner and Time Warner want to throw piles of money at him, good for Hogan. If Eric Bischoff wants to give a wrestler a creative say in the overall WCW product, then good for Hogan. I highly doubt that any wrestler would ever turn that down and I’m sure most employees would take any perk handed their way, too. And I’d argue this… Hogan’s joining of WCW during 1994 was a nice shot in the arm to help make WCW legitimate on a larger mainstream scale and his heel turn at Bash at the Beach 1996 was absolutely epic. His heel character during 1996-1997 was terrorizing and deplorable, and I mean those as compliments.
But it’s what you did with that power that earns you this tape. First and foremost, your performances in WCW Pay Per Views as WCW Champion were forgettable. Just bad match after bad match. Everyone would get exciting over some NWO storyline or the return of a legend like Roddy Piper yet the matches wouldn’t deliver… This was made worse during 1998 when wrestling fans wore thin on you as champion… However, the creative decisions that you specifically made over your character need to be owned by yourself. Specifically, what happened at Starrcade 1997 and the first WCW Nitro of 1999. That “fast count” on Starrcade 1997 against Sting? Please… That was a joke and KILLED and entire year’s worth of hype for that Sting vs. Hogan match. Then, while I commend you for putting over Bill Goldberg, you reportedly only did that to win in the rematch. While that rematch didn’t happen, what we had instead was an embarrassment to the wrestling industry. Goldberg was “arrested” and caused Kevin Nash vs. Hulk Hogan on the first WCW Nitro of 1999. Gee, guess who became WCW Champion again? And with a finger poke to Kevin Nash’s chest, too… You were a terrible WCW Champion during early 1999. Nitro was hovering between 4.0 to 5.0 in the ratings and by mid-year 1999, mid-3.0s consistently and heading downward. Your dominance as WCW Champion and keeping others out merits you as one of the destroyers of WCW. Thankfully, you helped make up for your bad WCW decisions by having a nice run in the WWE (besides that Shawn Michaels match).
#2 – Eric Bischoff Listen, you deserve your props for getting WCW to the top. You had a vision to improve WCW’s television product and to aggressively pursue big stars to be featured on your shows. You were a “breath of fresh air” at a time when WCW was stuck in the past and refused to modernize, particularly following Bill Watts’s 1992 year. As noted in LordsofPain.net’s 2017 Hall of Fame induction, you forever changed the business possibly for the better. Ever single pro wrestler should kiss your feet by the way you introduced guaranteed money to the business and pushed Vince McMahon to change the industry. Challenging the WWE on Mondays with WCW Nitro created compelling television for much of the late 1990s for wrestling fans along with airing LIVE shows with actual non-jobber wrestling matches. Eventually, your free agent signings kicked in as Kevin Nash & Scott Hall’s “invasion” angle put everybody on notice while the raid of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) built a prestine midcard that carried Pay Per Views with marginal Hulk Hogan matches.
But as alluded to above, your tape is about how you built up WCW to last during the SHORT-TERM with nothing to show for it on the LONG-TERM. Your older veteran wrestlers had a shelf life of a few years and by 1998, they were looking really old. You had Bill Goldberg but if the match was go longer than say 5 minutes, he was exposed as inexperienced. Worse yet, there was ZERO succession plans of the younger wrestlers to begin replacing the older wrestlers for the top spots. In fact, your big contracts to the veterans cemented them there and kept everyone out. Giving creative power and promised World Title runs in the veteran contracts ensured that. Furthermore, there was a lack of a developmental system for future talents. YES, you had the WCW Power Plant and they had fine trainers there… But the recruitment of talent wasn’t there. You didn’t exactly have a VP of Talent Relations in place to build the stars of tomorrow. Everything was riding on these overpaid veterans to always draw… What if they got hurt or the fans began turning on them?
You deserve a tape for riding the coat tails of Hulk Hogan, specifically… You gave him unchecked Creative power and you never flinched, never questioned it. You continued to believe in Hogan even as the fans were yelling at you to “STOP” during 1998 and 1999. You completely botched the Sting vs. Hogan match and later tried to blame it on Sting’s substance abuse for why that match was booked that way. Really? Nick Patrick counted slowly because of Sting’s substance abuse? And then reuniting the NWO to start 1999 with Hogan fingerpoking his way to the WCW Title. Everything great that you did with WCW Nitro from 1995-1998 is often erased by the way you ENABLED Hulk Hogan to rule WCW without question. Hogan’s creative decisions were BAD for pro wrestling and you turned a blind eye. Sure, he did great during 1996-1997 with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, but what explains 1998? 1999? How did WCW make so much money from 1996-1998 and then began losing lots of it during 1999-2000? Besides Goldberg, who fizzled quickly, who else blossomed as a Main Event star from 1998-1999?
With Bischoff, he built WCW to WIN NOW in the SHORT-RUN while not caring about the LONG-RUN. What else would explain letting Steve Austin, Mick Foley, and Triple H walk out the door just before his grand free agent expansion? The funny thing is that the fear of loyalty to Bill Watts caused a push to terminate Jim Ross from WCW. Jim Ross would join WWE, help sign those 3 superstars to the WWE roster, and build a depth of talent that caused a new boom period for the WWE. You also had a “can’t miss” guy in the Giant (Big Show) that you misused from 1997-1998 and let him get grossly out-of-shape. Chris Jericho STILL going strong through 2017 proves what a foolish maneuver it was to marginalize Jericho during 1998-1999 to let WWE have him. Raiding ECW and Mexico gave you tons of talent to work with and develop for tomorrow but you took all of that for granted. That, or you just didn’t have the right management guys around you… Instead, you had veteran wrestlers telling you how to run a wrestling promotion. You were a mark for your boys and that’s evident by your late 1996 joining of the New World Order yourself.
You aren’t the #1 cause because your ideas were successful for WCW and until the very end, you fought for WCW to stay alive… I admire that. But mistakes were made on your part that harmed the long-term health of WCW and turned it into a financial mess. The guy that hired you earns the top tape…
#1 – Ted Turner “Billionaire Ted”, you are on the last tape side to review… First and foremost, THANK YOU for saving Jim Crockett Promotions and keeping NWA/WCW alive. Furthermore, TBS was a great station to host wrestling even if it was always starting 5 minutes late. You gave Eric Bischoff financial resources to buy his way into becoming the #1 promotion in the land. Your success in the Cable industry speaks for itself.
BUT… As the primary owner of WCW until the 1996 Time Warner merger and acting as an operating manager of that company until the late 1990s wore on, you made some drastic mistakes that killed your WCW company. First and foremost, everything before Eric Bischoff‘s promotion in 1993 was a disaster. For Bischoff’s first 2 years, he aggressively cut back on costs to salvage the damage done by the likes of Bill Watts, Kip Frey, and Jim Herd. For the latter 2, they were corporate stooges who had no idea how to run a wrestling company. You were convinced by a nice presentation made by Eric Bischoff to give him the steering wheel of the company despite Bischoff having no such experience as a manager of a wrestling promotion. That showed because of some of the veteran contracts that Bischoff signed where Creative Control, Favored Nations, and promised World Title shots were granted. Where was your legal review of those, Ted? You applauded the Hulk Hogan signing of 1994 but you ignored the fine details of that contract that gave Hogan virtually everything.
Mr. Turner, you ignored the simple concept of “no man is an island”… Always dependent on 1 guy to run the company whereas as you could see in the WWE during the late 1990s, it had a defined management structure of experienced guys (Ross, Patterson, Brisco) who could advise Vince McMahon as needed. What did Eric Bischoff have? Oh, that’s right, wrestlers performing every night telling him how to run the WCW promotion.
Where were those JOB EVALUATIONS of Eric Bischoff, Ted? Were you so blind that Bischoff followed trainwrecks of Herd/Frey/Watts running the company into the ground that Bischoff looked great versus them by comparison? Granted, he did turn things around by 1995 with the creation of WCW Nitro and also the 1996 creation of the New World Order… But how much money did that cost you??? Furthermore, the wrestlers that Bischoff specifically bought during 1996 were guys that completely failed in WCW in the past. The Diamond Studd (Scott Hall) and Master Blaster Steel/Oz/Vinnie Vegas (Kevin Nash). Those great talents were working for you at a much cheaper rate and you just let them go to WWE. Then, in order to get them back, you allowed Eric Bischoff to sign Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to large contracts with a “favored nations” clause that matched their salaries to any new WCW signing. What kind of sense is that? Where’s your legal team to review that contract? Were you so intoxicated to finally beat WWE/Vince McMahon that you purposely overlooked such details?
And then just handing WCW off to Time Warner to bloat and mismanage… Actually, that’s probably a good thing because it protected your money now that your former assets were incorporated into Time Warner. Still, you oversaw things through the late 1990s before getting pushed out as Time Warner began reorganizing itself and seeking to merge with other entities.
The fact is that all business activity conducted through 1996 was on your Turner watch and the years that followed had you overseeing WCW through the Time Warner lense. Eric Bischoff directly reported to you on WCW matters and it totally enabled his free agent signing spree that put bad contract terms in place. Your enabling of Bischoff and blank checks given to him caused the seeds to be planted of WCW’s demise. Like Bischoff, you were intoxicated by Hulk Hogan when it was other free agent signings (Hall & Nash) and a lucky creative idea (New World Order) that caused the boom. Plus, wrestling was actually in a down period from the 1980s… You were essentially growing from the bottom and taking whatever fans WWE had left or neglected from previous years.
You signed the checks and were supposed to review/manage your direct reports. All you saw was the short-term financial gains of Bischoff’s management and failed to understand the long-term implications. You should have kept a better eye on things and after decades televising wrestling events, you seemed to still not understand the business.
After hearing these tapes, Mr. Turner, I’m sure you’ll wipe the tears from your face with the $2 billion+ dollars that you have in the bank.
So, now you know….
THE LAST WORD
I hope that you enjoyed this special edition column… Comments are welcome below.
By the way, this column was NOT paid for by Netflix or the author of the book, 13 Reasons Why. If I got paid to write (my net earnings for this column remain $0.00, voluntary), then you’d see me hawking more products. Simply put, it was just a Netflix series that I binged through and it seemed like a good theme to review declines or deaths of promotions. Consequently, I have read the book “13 Reasons Why” and it’s pretty good… I actually prefer the Netflix series over the book just because the 13 episode show which were 1 hour a piece could expand upon the storytelling. For example, the main character, Clay, listens to the tapes in 1 night within the book whereas he’s listening to them over the course of a week or weeks and its agonizing him (has to deal with others on the tapes, real time). Both are worth catching, in my opinion.
SO JUST CHILL… ‘TIL THE NEXT EPISODE!
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