Wednesday, March 21, 2007

WCW's downfall

I only realized a moment ago that I never shared what I thought of the piece we read for last Thursday I believe, the one that outlined the downfall of Dub-C-Dubya. I started to read the piece with only a mild curiosity, thinking, perhaps arrogantly, that I already knew the overall reasons for the failure of this company to win the Monday night war. I've read countless interviews with former WCW wrestlers, I watched about a year of WCW before it went under, I've heard the stories, I watched the DVD... what more could I get out of it?

A lot more. A whole lot more.

I was reading the piece while simultaneously working with some friends on physics, trying to multitask. But I found the piece so hilarious that it was hard to focus on what my friends were trying to solve. It's so hard to wrap my mind around the fact that this wasn't trying to be funny, but it was just recounting what WCW truly did in trying to compete with Vince. Did they really think some of what they did would really hook in their viewers and keep them? I couldn't help but show my friends what I was reading, and even though none of them watched wrestling, they thought it was hilarious too. I find that simultaneously funny but sad, that non-fans even see how absurd WCW was being and yet they couldn't see it themselves at the time.

I think the part I found most absurd was the bit on the Ultimate Warrior. Coming in and disappearing in a cloud of smoke? I never saw that but it sounds so corny, I think if I saw it I would crack up laughing. It reminded me of Hurricane in WWE, who would "fly" in and out of scenes backstage, accompanied even by the "whooosh" sound when he'd "take off" or arrive. But that was so obviously for comedic purposes, whereas I'm not sure the same could be said for WCW's treatment of the Warrior. I especially loved the part when Warrior got locked in a steel cage and he couldn't escape, even though he had been reappearing and disappearing in his cloud of smoke right beforehand. If that's not a slap in the face of the fans watching, to think they're now supposed to believe that Warrior couldn't escape, I don't know what is.

I found myself cringing while reading the part where Chris Jericho got locked out of the arena and how poorly they prepared for the segment, mostly due to the fact that I'm a huge fan of his. I think instead of paying for a Warrior double to appear in a cloud of smoke, more emphasis should have been placed on Jericho and on the other stars that WCW had that were carrying the workload. That was the one glaring thing I noticed while reading this piece, was that after saying how horrible the main event of some pay-per-view was, there'd be a part that would say "... with the exception of the Chris Jericho/Dean Malenko/Chris Benoit/Rey Mysterio/etc match, this show was horrible." These guys all eventually left WCW, even though Rey stuck it out longer than did the other three I named. It's hard to fathom that Eric Bischoff, the man who made the Cruiserweight Division fun and exciting and challenged the WWE's notion that you had to be big in size to be successful, this same man didn't see the value of bringing those stars up to his main event.

In my mind, there were two huge reasons why WCW fell apart in the end. First being what I just said, that the "undercard" was kept as that - a mere undercard, even though the likes of Jericho, Benoit, Mysterio, and Eddie Guerrero became legit main eventers in the WWE. WCW focused way too much on Hogan, and that's another thing. Hulk Hogan has to be one of the swarmiest people I've ever read about that was involved in wrestling. He did nothing to help WCW overcome its struggles, only wanting his own fame and glory and not caring at all that he was main eventing years past his prime while there were young and talented guys hungry for the chance to show what they could do. Nope, it's all about the dollar to the Hulk.

The other reason wasn't necessarily a lack of focus on Bischoff's part, but more like the wrong kind of focus. He was onto something huge with his new ideas, specifically the nWo, but he dropped the ball bigtime by becoming way too obsessed with the ratings. He was content if he won a particular night even though his show was horrible, which just shows that he had a one-dimensional approach to his show. He had Bret Hart join his company right off the heels of one of the most, if not the most controversial ending to a match ever with the Montreal Screwjob, and he did nothing with Bret? Talk about dropping the ball, that's a severe understatement. If Bischoff had put that same tenacity to win the Nielson ratings battle into say, bringing up new talent and building new and fresh storylines around his already established ones, who knows how the war might have ended. Maybe we'd be watching Monday Nitro right now instead of Raw... or maybe this was inevitable from the very beginning.


Luis Tenorio said...

As I posted before, I only saw that last pathetic episode of WCW. I cannot believe the mistakes that the writers at WCW would make. Running the nWo storyline for almost two years. It became a joke. When thinking of the nWo, you thought of that club that had everyone in it. It held down so many people. I remember the WWE joking that WCW was the place where the old people wrestled. I can go on about the mistakes and the ridiculous things that WCW did. Here is one classic example.

See, it just got ridiculous. Then there was the Fingerpoke of doom incident. It was not corny stuff but just out right stupid. These kinds of things spit in the face of the fans. It was almost as if WCW was trying to tell people that we know what you like, you don't.

Anonymous said...

I think the most hilarious (and yet, depressing) thing about the WCW as it declined is through all these ridiculous spots, including the Warrior nonsense, they were making more money and breakign ratings records all the time. The fans bought it. Maybe they kept watching to see if WCW would actually turn around, or maybe they were laughing at the show rather than with. Again, I never saw WCW while it was still airing, but part of me hopes that all those millions of people were laughing *at* this dribble (eg the Jericho segment), instead of actually buying into it.

Sam Ford said...

That whole book is highly worth reading, and there was some intention at being hilarious because Bryan Alvarez is quite a funny guy, but all they had to do in this case was report the facts. (By the way, the author actually linked to our blog recently from his Web site.) I recommend those of you who enjoyed this one chapter buy the whole thing, as it covers the rise and fall of WCW in great detail.

What is important to note is that 1998 was one of the biggest years in WCW--they were winning the ratings war for the first several months and were still doing very well by the year's end, and wrestling was much bigger in 1997 than it was in 1998 for both sides. This was the rise of Goldberg as a major star, etc., etc. Yet you could already see the seeds being planed for WCW's ultimate demise.

I agree that the Warrior stuff was beyond terrible (as was thinking people would want to pay money to watch Jay Leno wrestle as a face against Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff), but I think the most ridiculous move of all was the part where WCW would announce their attendnace as LESS than were actually in the building.

At Wrestlemania III, the wrestling lore is that 93,173 people were in attendance to watch Hogan slam Andre. What a specific number! Must be true. In actuality, reports are attendance was more like 78,000, still a huge number, but WWE knew how to pile to the number and create an even bigger legacy. At least WCW thought they were being creative with the Warrior stuff. I cannot for the life of me come up with one reason in the world they would under report their own audience in a world where it is well-known everyone in wrestling exaggerates every number by adding to it...That just says so much.

Sean York said...

Yep I love it when people openly talk about something they have never seen for more than 5 minutes..It makes their arguments soooo strong!

The reason WCW worked is because it was live, unpredictable, had high production values and a good mix of established stars and new talent who could work.

The reason it went wrong were many and varied. The fact they won the war so easily early on meant they stopped trying. The Ego's of Eric, Hogan and Nash. Time Warner changing the rules. WWF Attitude kicking off. ECW. The list goes on and on.

What does annoy me is people who never watched it buying the crap that it was so bad. Maybe for the last year or so, but before that WCW was on fire and doing mega business. Like ECW, WCW changed the way WWE does things to this very day. But they say the vicotr does write the history...

Sam Ford said...

Sean, you make some compelling points about WCW, but I think you mistake the class' collective take on WCW quite a bit. There is no doubt WCW did a lot to change the industry, as you'll see discussed in several posts. This was in response to an essay just about the year 1998, which was simultaneously one of WCW's most successful years and the beginning of their downfall.

1997 was the year they could do no wrong, building to Hogan and Sting, the nWo still at their height. 1998 was when they were still riding that wave, but the dumb moves started running.

So, keep in mind that these comments are JUST directed at 1998 in WCW, the year in which the company simultaneously featured some of the best wrestling on television and some of the worst storylines and main events anyone has ever seen.

As for your other assertion, I would say that WCW was pretty weak before the launch of Nitro, that Ntiro really started to take off mid-1996 and that the wave hit its highpoint creatively in 1997. You are really talking about a really influential year-and-a-half in the industry, no different than how mid-1997 and 1998 drove WWE's popularity for years to come.

In WCW's case, I would argue that the wheels were already coming off the wagon in 1998, meaning that all those significant changes--which I would by no means underplay--came from primarily a two-year time span.

Shine said...

The down fall of WWE’s and Vince’s Worst Night mare
I have been a wrestling fan for many years I have watched both WCW and WWE for many years. It’s very interesting to see and read what people blame the down fall of WCW on. Sure there were few things WCW did that they should have not done or could of done better on. However at the end of the day WCW did not fail because of EGOS, HOGAN, ERIC or any talent and story line It failed due to the political and b.s of AOL TIME WARNER merger. Anyone that looks at wrestling like Eric and Vince due they realize at the end of the day it’s a business. Yes Vince and Eric had different views on what kind of business their companies are but they both saw it has a huge business.

AOL Time Warner:
We can start and the merger or before the merger where Warner wanted to add the second TV show (thunder) or starting to sensor what WCW did or even better having to answer to people that don’t even know what WCW stood for. Now Vince always had to answer to Vice WCW and Eric had to answer to people on board of directors. Imagine this you have an idea you idea has to get filtered a million times before it gets to the top for approval and by the time it gets there due to Size and Nature of AOL Time Warner it had to be reduced to a FAMILY FRIENDLY idea. Now WWE was going wild and crazy with DX and Austin at the same time and it’s easy to say they were not Family Friendly. WCW had something that was working for them Things like nWo to High flying guys like Rey, and they did things to shock the world. Say what you want about Hogan (or now in WWE Triple H) people say they controlled everything but at the same time why is it that fans or so called Wrestling insiders forget what they have done for the business. Yes Hogan has an EGO yes HOGAN had creative Control but if he was as bad as people complain about why is it that he turned Heal to Join nWo, why is it that he dropped the belt to Goldberg? Anyways what enough about the talent back to Time Warner, If Eric was allowed to continue doing what he was doing like he was doing it WCW would of been better then WWE. There is no questions WWE is how it is because of ERIC and WCW there is no question WWE changed how they did things and story lines because of WCW others wise Triple H would still be the rich boy character, Austin wouldn’t be drinking beer on T.V. and you can be positive there would be no such a thing is D-X.

WCW was onto something but due to Politics and B.S at AOL and Time Warner merger it made them fail. The final Nail in the coffin was A) Eric getting fired B) the introduction of WCW Thunder .

Sam Ford said...

I agree that WCW deserves credit for doing many things to revolutionize wrestling in 1996 and 1997, and the careers of many current WWE major stars (Jericho, Rey Misterio, Finlay, etc.) are directly owed to their WCW exposure.

On the other hand, the book that some of these posts are based on is worth a look, because it details how the company squandered all that momentum. You should check it out, if you haven't already.

Re: Hogan/Goldberg, there is a theory out there about how that match was actually very selfish on Hogan's part, as his attempt to capitalize on a major crowd in front of Turner bigwigs and still look like the main star of the show, with a promise that he'd eventually get the title back in return, although that didn't end up happening.

Shine said...

I haven’t read the book but I will definitely look into it. I look at WCW as a business not as a wrestling company because it was never a wrestling company in the eyes of the people that ran it. It was always an “Entertainment” company. Now with that being in the mind at the end of the day to People above Eric it was all about profit profit profit. It had nothing to do with the stories anymore. If you look at when WCW started to be bad in the eyes of viewers it fall in the time line of the finally merger between AOL and Time Warner. What this merger did was it basically made the people that knew what they were doing with WCW loose control.
You almost guarantee it that WCW would have still been around if that merger never took place. Sooner or later WCW would have started to push talent like Y2J or rey. Because Hogan was getting old Nash couldn’t last more then 10 minutes in a match and Hall well we all know what a sad story that is. WCW was starting to push guys like Goldberg (and yes people say Hogan might have done it for selfish reasons but it doesn’t matter at the end of the day it made Goldberg a Super star if not a mega star). They gave rey some main events. Sooner or later WCW would have started to use their midcarders as main eventers due to the fact their top guys were getting old. You think WWE planned for the ROCK, or Austin to be loved like they were? No it was s total accident hell even DX was an accident because of what Shawn did one week on T.V. The point I m trying to make is WWE Attitude ERA is based on the nWo attitude. We do what we want when we want. WWE Attitude Era really started in mid 1998 when WCW was starting to loose control of it own operations to Time Warner people. What I find funny is the talent that talk about WCW being bad in late 1998 and 1999 all jumped to WWE and made it main event like 4 years later. The same talent would of made it on top of WCW but WCW had way more Talent then WWE at the time. The only real super stars in WWE were Austin and Rock. WCW had Hogan, Savage, Nash, Hall, Flair, Sting and the list goes on. It was hard for them to push the mid carders at the time; however they would have pushed the midcarders when they had to.
I mean Rey i hate to say it was given the huge push due to the fact that eddy passed away. He always had talent but WWE was not interested pushes him until eddy passed on. There is alot more I can get into but i’ll leave it for my next reply.

Sam Ford said...

I agree with parts of everything you say. The corporate mentality did hurt WCW, but many would argue that was in place before the merger, as some of the early-1990s Turner interventions would prove. I don't think it's true to say Austin and Rock were WWE's ONLY stars, as there was Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, Undertaker, Kane, Sid, Ron Simmons...I was not a big fan of Russo and much of which happened in that era, but one thing WWE was particularly good at in 1997 and 1998 was playing each character up well. WCW had way more in-ring talent than WWE, but they had about four times more wrestlers than they had anything to do with, so that you had capable guys showing up on Worldwide who you never saw on the main show, to the point that it was ridiculous. FInlay is a great example...

Re: Rey, there had been talk of giving him a push of that magnitude before Eddie ever died, actually, and his popularity had swelled tremendously at that point, before they ever made it "about Eddie." In fact, I feel that it was that decision to tie the Rey push into Eddie's death that hurt Rey's momentum.

As for WCW, I agree that many WWE movements are owed to the nWo storyline and more broadly to the Nitro format of unpredictability and marquee matches. But, what do you make of the argument many others would make that WWE Attitude and the nWo both are really borrowing from some of the writing and storylines of Paul Heyman in ECW?

Shine said...

I don’t agree with that theory. ECW of the charts and well it was like the last Territory of Wrestling. No more NWA, AWA WCCW and so forth. It was where wrestlers would go to developed and ship out to the big leagues WWE and WCW.
They never had the best story lines they just had the shock value. So WCW and WWE might of got the “Shock value” from them but that’s about it. Paul E dengersly aka Paul heyman was a smart person and knew the business he worked for WCW in the pasts but on his own he ran a territorial style of wrestling. Like i said WCW and WWE might of got the shock value from ECW but ECW was simply put the minor leagues of wrestling.

Sam Ford said...

Tazz himself calls ECW the last semi-major territory, and I think it's a compelling argument. They just weren't big enough to make it on a national stage but not small enough to go under the radar of the big companies.

I think Paul's point was that, much like start-ups get bought out and have their ideas influence media conglomerates, ECW fed some of the creative direction of the edginess of the nWo, dX, Stone Cold, etc.

I was not particularly and still am not a fan of ECW, but there's no doubt its existence did cause a lot of talents and a style of telling wrestling stories to get noticed.