The Death of WCW Paperback – Nov 1 2004
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This detailed tell-all of the demise of the former top pro wrestling company World Championship Wrestling explores the colorful personalities and flawed business decisions behind how WCW went from being the highest-rated show on cable television in 1997 to a laughable series that lost 95 percent of its paying audience by 2001. Behind-the-scenes exclusive interviews, rare photographs, and probing questions illustrate with humor and candor how greed, egotism, and bad business shattered the thriving enterprise. Wrestling fans will devour the true story of this fallen empire, which in its heyday spawned superstars such as Sting, Bill Goldberg, and the New World Order.
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Through interviews with many of the stars and other participants we'll see how WCW used the WWFs long-time strategy of raiding its rivals talent rosters as they systematically stole nearly every major star that the WWF had in the 80's and early 90's: Hogan, Savage, Nash, SCott Hall, Bret Hart, Ted DiBiase, Sean Waltman, the Nasty Boys, Ultimate Warrior, and more. The eventual "turning" of Hulk Hogan and the creation of the NWO led to WCW winning the Monday Night ratings war with the WWF for over 80 consecutive weeks.
Riding high, WCW will soon collapse under its own weight. Soon, big, guaranteed contracts given to wrestlers take their toll on WCWs budget as guys like Nash, Hogan, Hall, and Hart would be injured for months at a time. WCW leaked money like a sieve, tossing about millions to bring in celebrities like Dennis Rodman, Jay Leno, and Karl Malone, and trying to make wrestlers out of people like Jerry Only of the Misfits.
Meanwhile egos clashed as the powerbrokers like Bischoff, Hogan, and Nash controlled everything and kept younger wrestlers down. Fights backstage and no advancement would eventually lead many younger stars like Chris jehrico, Chris Benoit, and Eddie Guerrero to jump ship to the WWF.
Small cracks became large fissures. WCW brings in Vince Russo to do the booking leading to some of the greatest embarrassments in the history of wrestling with Hogan lying down on the mat to lose and actor DAvid Arquette becoming WCW champion. Add to that, WCW could find no answer to the WWF's two hugely popular stars: Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock.
It would all lead to a company that was once worthy tens of millions being bought by Vince McMahon for a fraction of that and opening up the last Nitro show announcing the purchase of WCW.
Many of these details are quite well known but the interviews are great and its amazing the way even years later some of the parties involved still refuse to accept any blame for WCWs downfall. Excellent Read!
What immensely frustrated me, however, was that almost no effort was made to provide sources for the voluminous amounts of information presented. While there is a very short bibliography at the end of the book listing a handful of sources organized by chapter (which probably do not account for most of the information in the book), no indication is given as to which pieces of information came from which source. To me, this is a major issue because the wrestling industry is rife with unfounded internet rumors, and it's important for the reader to be able to distinguish documented facts from unfounded rumors or speculation.
For example, the authors make numerous allegations about WCW's financial status at different points throughout its history with no citations or any other indications as to where this information purportedly came from. In his book, "Controversy Creates Cash," Eric Bischoff lamented the fact that internet writers often made unfounded and inaccurate claims about WCW's profits and losses since the company's information was proprietary and was allegedly unavailable to anybody outside of WCW. Of course, Bischoff could be lying through his teeth, but there's no way to tell (at least from this book) because Alvarez and Reynolds give us no way to determine where their figures came from.
In addition, the book is replete with allegations of conversations and happenings that occurred backstage with, again, no citations provided to allow the reader to verify any of it. This became especially frustrating when the authors wrote about promoters' and wrestlers' INTERNAL motivations for certain actions. The authors write about these internal thought processes as if they were mind-readers. Hulk Hogan got the worst treatment, as he was frequently accused of internally plotting to put his own interests above those of WCW. A notable example occurs on page 139, detailing what allegedly led to the July 6, 1998 match between Hulk Hogan and Bill Goldberg:
"As the date drew near, Hogan, the wily veteran, came up with a plan. Aware that all the Turner bigwigs would be at the show, he offered to take Goldberg on in a non-title, non-televised match in which Goldberg would get the win and and send the folks home happy. All the company execs, seeing the huge house, would obviously assume that Hogan drew it, and his standing as WCW's top dog would be cemented."
How do the authors know this was Hogan's motivation and thought process? Did they interview him? Did they rely on his book or something else that he wrote? Not according to the bibliography. In the bibliography, the only sources listed for the chapter on 1998 were a Prodigy Chat with Eric Bischoff CONDUCTED IN 1997 and a personal interview R.J. Reynolds conducted with Bobby Heenan (which is also listed as a source for the chapter on 2000). Since the Heenan interview is never referred to in the text of the book, it's entirely unclear which pieces of information (if any) actually came from that interview. Even assuming that Heenan provided the authors with information about Hogan's "plan", at best that's hearsay about another individual's internal thought processes from somebody who may or may not have an axe to grind. The reader is left to wonder whether Hogan's "plan" is a documented fact, the result of hearsay from Heenan (or somebody else), or completely unfounded speculation by the authors.
That's just but one example of the unfounded allegations that arise throughout the whole book. In sum, while this book is an immensely enjoyable read, the facts presented in it, other than what we saw on our TV screens, simply are not reliable. And that is a shame.
When Eric Bischoff's idea to bring in Scott Hall and Kevin Nash from the WWF came about, no WCW management was for sure if it would save the ratings. It did just that. WCW became the mainstream wrestling product for most wrestling fans, as the N.W.O. changed wrestling forever. But, just as it was normal for WCW to do, they ran the N.W.O so long that it became stale. But rather than drop them, they continued the run, which eventually led to the likes of Scott Norton, Buff Bagwell, and even Virgil joining the group. Bad idea.
Also, the backstage situation was nothing short of a disaster. No one liked anyone. When you run a successful company, everyone wants to be the number one guy. Which is exactly why in the late 90's, the WCW World Title began to change hands on pretty much a weekly basis. Also, we can't forget one of the most memorable title reigns ever brought about by Vince Russo, and his idea was for........himself to become WCW Champion. Probably not good business there. Neither was the idea to have actor David Arquette win the WCW Title and beat two legitimate contenders, Jeff Jarrett and Diamond Dallas Page.
It becomes obvious in this book that there is more than one person to blame for the death of World Championship Wrestling. Vince Russo, Eric Bischoff, Dusty Rhodes, Lex Luger, Hulk Hogan, Goldberg, Jeff Jarrett, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and even David Arquette had vital roles in situations that led to the company folding.
For any former WCW wrestling fan, this book is an absolute must-read. This is one of the greatest wrestling books I have ever read, and it shows just how bad things can get in a company in a downward spiral. Some of the things you read in the book will be so completely absurd, that you would think some of these things weren't possible. But, it's true. And that is why WCW is no longer in business.
Sure, it's hard to predict the future and hindsight is always 20/20 but c'mon! The people in charge of WCW (Turner, Bischoff) couldn't see that their numbers were dropping faster than spit off the Empire State Building?? Russo's fluke "crash TV" booking worked in the WWF for a stort time, (as expected from an armchair booking smark)however it proved disasterous for WCW. David Arquette as WCW Champion? Rehashing the pig's blood thing from 1976 horror flick "Carrie?" What was WCW thinking when they hired him? They did... and he made no improvments (just turned WCW into a cheap imitation of WWF/E's worst programming; 2 minute matches, too much backstage drama, a dash of sleeze) so they fired him or sent him home... WITH PAY! OK, maybe they learned... Nope, they brought him back, TWICE! THEN they make the dazzling deduction that they lost nearly $80 million in 2000! Nash not learning from his big ego and horrible booking killed the heat of many newcomers (Lance Storm, Sean O'Haire, Mike Awesome...) in 2000 that really could've helped turn the promotion around. They wouldn't have pulled off BIG miracles but they were definitly the start of the future WCW needed to turn itself around. He even booked himself over established workers like Booker T, Jeff Jarrett, and even Ric Flair. And people wonder why Benoit, Guerrero, Malenko, and Jericho went to greener pastures in the WWF? Hey, they're the "vanilla midgets" right Big Kev? The other "Kev" would be Sullivan...
Eric Bischoff DID try and turn WCW around by focusing more on what distiguished WCW from other promotions; the Cruiserweight division. Alot of the geezers were showcased less and less (even though I had to look at Luger longer than I wanted to)and he even tried desparatly to purchase WCW, but alas... By 2001, it was too little TOO LATE! AOL/Time Warner had seen enough and pulled all wrestling off of TBS and TNT forcing an already reluctant Fushient (Bischoff's investors) to back out and ultimatly lead to the sale of WCW for a mere fraction of what it was to a drooling Vince McMahon. Poor Bischoff... His dream of crushing Vince McMahon came to an abrupt end. But, it was expected from a guy who tried to turn around the dying AWA by having teams of grown men fight over a raw turkey in an empty gymnasium...
In the epilogue I relived McMahon dancing on WCW's gravesite by booking that horrible WCW Invasion in 2001. Great workers like Booker T and (my fave) Lance Storm had to lay down for WWF's jobbers to the stars. They weren't even booked as a threat to what could have been bigger than the nWo invasion of WCW back in '96. You did it Vince, you've beaten your competition! But you still had to get your revenge on a promotion that you now OWN squandering potential millions in the process. Now what do you have? A dwindling fanbase, a promotion that lost it's trademark name, and practically booked by your son in-law...
Who killed WCW? It was definitly the 4 guys pictured on the cover along with many supporting players (Kevin Sullivan and Brad Seigal come to mind). Eric Bischoff: had a dream that was alomst realized. But dirty tactics (giving away the WWF's results), an inflated ego, and bad decissions (the ridiculous spending of Ted's money) lead to him now working for the guy he tried to destroy. Hogan and Nash: two inmates that were allowed to run the assylum. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutly. Cost too many talented workers to be buried and lose credibility and fans to just lose interest altogether. Vince Russo: an overglorified wrestling smark who chose to make his WCW tenure a personal vendetta against his former promotion by doing angles that made sense to no one but himself and his peers. And the loss of over $80 million sure didn't help! I would've added Vince McMahon's face to the cover as well because he really could have done something special with WCW and made millions in interpromtional specials that fans of both WCW and WWE could've enjoyed for years to come. Instead he chose to stroke his own ego and spit on the grave and bury any of its talent that came over in the buy out...
Perhaps the book should have been titled "The Death of Wrestling in the Main Stream." Again, a great and accurate read. Definitly more so than that WWE produced Monday Night Wars DVD. RIP WCW, you are missed! Especially the man who brought it to new hieghts in the 90's who never wrestled for WWE; STING!
I did have a number of beefs with this book, mainly pertaining to how it was written. For one, and this may be a personal thing, but I like my non-fiction books to have a serious tone with a strong sense of neutrality and not giving unwanted opinions. This book has very clear tones in it to the point where it starts to get annoying at times. I don't care for a book that gives opinions of how good a match was (saying things like Match A sucked, Match B sucked, which are totally subjective) nor do I think it's right for them to criticize the Undertaker/DDP angle by saying that DDP's real wife was hot while Undertaker's wife was a "Horse Face." Just tell me the story and let me form my own opinions.
Speaking of opinions, there's no real reason to read the last chapter of this book, as it is just a long diatribe of how the WWF screwed up (in their opinion) the WCW/ECW invasion angle. It comes across as very fanboyish and something that a 16 year old wrestling fan with too much free time on their hands would write. It criticizes the McMahons for getting involved in the angle (something I had no problem with) and the lack of major stars on the WCW side (as if the WWF didn't try to get all the big WCW stars to participate.)
I do understand that the things I listed as faults could be viewed as positives for other readers, so if a book with bias and attempts to be witty appeals to you, and you want to know the story of the downfall of WCW, then odds are you will be very satisfied. Conversely, if you appreciate a more serious tone and you are on top of your wrestling knowledge (especially during the Monday Night Wars) then this book offers very little. I do not regret purchasing this book, but if I had to do it again, I likely would have abstained.