August 26, 2009
The Rise and Fall of WCW – Disc One
It’s pretty fitting that this would be my first wrestling DVD documentary I’ve ever reviewed.
Jim Crockett Jr. talks about his father who started Jim Crockett Promotions down in the Carolinas in 1933 in a territory that would later border the McMahons territory lines in Washington DC. While Jim Crockett Sr. was a member of the NWA board and associated with promoting wrestling cards, he also promoted boxing exhibitions, roller derby, Harlem Globetrotter shows and any form of entertainment that would sell. Vince McMahon calls a “pretty good guy” from what he’s heard.
When Jim Crockett Sr. passed away in 1973, his sons Jim Jr. and David took over the territory. Jim Crockett Jr. was looked to as the boss since he was successful with handling the talent, which led to him becoming the president of the company.
Jim Crockett Jr. proved to be quite a successful leader and helped make the Mid-Atlantic territory huge. Several different bookers throughout the ’70s and early ’80s are mentioned for helping make it a success – namely George Scott and Johnny Valentine.
And with the ’80s comes the advent of cable television. They put Ted Turner over for changing the way wrestling companies did business on TV because instead of relying on local syndication, certain wrestling companies like Georgia Championship Wrestling could be seen nationwide.
They back up into the 1970s and mention JCP bringing in Johnny Valentine, Wahoo McDaniel, and most importantly Ric Flair as the biggest draws of the Mid-Atlantic territory at the time.
The success of the Mid-Atlantic territory would soon become the #2 highest money grossing wrestling territory in the U.S. – right behind the WWF, which brought a lot of the major stars to come into the territory and make it better.
They skip ahead to Flair’s first NWA world title run. David Crockett mentions that at the time, when your territory’s biggest star is the NWA world champion, it makes your territory the world champion territory.
Onward to Starrcade 1983, which was Dusty’s idea and an idea that Jim Crockett Jr. carried out to a huge success. Jim Jr. talks about shutting down I-40/I-85 split right outside of Greensboro, but I highly doubt that’s true.
Magnum TA, the Rock N Roll Express, and Nikita Koloff – all young stars that Jim Crockett Promotions turned into superstars of the ’80s.
Now we come to Black Saturday on 7/14/84. Vince McMahon buys Georgia Championship Wrestling’s 2 hour time slot out from under the owners of the territory so the WWF could be on both the USA Network and TBS. What Vince did according to Mike Graham, he paid Turner $500 grand and promised two hours of wrestling every week, so Turner calls GCW’s part owner Jim Barnett and tells him he’s out of the deal. Well, the NWA audience used to watching every Saturday night at 6:05PM did not enjoy the much slower and tame WWF programming whatsoever. Of course Vince tends to think that there was some “political strings pulled” when it was just the NWA audience rejected the change and called WTBS to complain and put their wrestling back on the air. It even says that in the PWI article shown! Anyways, Jim Crockett Jr. pays Vince a million bucks for the time slot, meaning Vince made a $500,000 profit, which helped pay for WrestleMania.
Once Jim Crockett Promotions owned both the Florida and Georgia territories, it meant more great talent coming onto the program, which meant better ratings for their two-hour Saturday night program. With the house shows started doing excellent business and the ad revenue piling up, Jim Crockett Promotions decided to do some shows in out west with of their newfound nationwide exposure thanks to cable TV.
Magnum TA discusses his rise to fame and mentions the plans put in place for an NWA world title run. Of course those plans were cut short due to his car wreck.
At one point, Jim Crockett Promotions was a 25-million dollar company, which was HUGE in the ’80s. Gross dollars, of course. With all that money came irresponsibility. Buying jets, yachts, and spending an extravagant amount of money eventually put the company $5 million in the hole.
What ended up happening was Ted Turner buying out Jim Crockett Promotions. Newspaper cutouts say that the sale could be worth more than $10 million. The agreement also stated that David Crockett would still produce and announce, which lasted for 2-3 weeks. The biggest problem with Ted buying out the company was that even though he loved wrestling, he didn’t micro-manage it.
Turner made Jack Petrie president of the company. One time Jim Jr. went off on Petrie, which meant Crockett Jr. was out of the business altogether.
Now that WCW had Turner’s money backing them up, the talent felt they could do no wrong. Michael Hayes puts over WCW for making a star out of Sting. Magnum TA recalls the Steamboat-Rude ironman match from Beach Blast ‘92 for being one of the best matches he’s ever seen. Barry Windham reflects back on all his time limit draws with Ric Flair. Awesome, awesome stuff. Ricky Steamboat credits Ric Flair for making him a national star in their amazing three match series in 1989. Hayes says that while the in-ring product was very good, the management behind it sometimes nullified the progress.
In comes Jim Herd. He’s deemed as the Pizza Guy by Dusty Rhodes for being a Little Caesars executive prior to coming to WCW. He’s credited with coming up with the idea of the Ding Dongs. Jim Crockett Jr. straight up told him that the product stunk. JR gives Jim Herd a break by saying that the man came into a company that already had a deficit problem and he wasn’t smart enough to get a certain amount of money for putting tons of hours of weekly first-run programming on the air from Turner.
So WCW hires Ole Anderson to book the company. Nobody has anything good to say about him. Teddy Long calls him the worst booker of all-time. Well, I think that’s kind of a stretch. The biggest problem they were having at the time was that the Turner execs were always pulling out bookers when they didn’t turn the company around in a very short span of time.
Onto the days of guaranteed contracts. It made it hard for the bookers to get the workers to do what they wanted them to because they got paid the same whether they performed or didn’t show up to the arenas at all.
What WCW needed at the helm was a wrestling person to run the company and not another suit who had no idea what they were doing. Mike Graham agrees that the only wrestling person who had a shot to run WCW was Bill Watts. Regardless of the guaranteed contracts, Bill Watts took WCW back to basics by slowing down the pace of the wrestling with a more rough style that Dr. Death and Terry Gordy made famous, which made it somewhat boring to the fans.
During his brief time at WCW, he managed to cut the deficit down from $8 million down to $400 grand. However, he grew tired of spending most of his time having to defend himself against the Turner executives and left the company.
Eric Bischoff becomes the WCW VP under WCW President Bill Shaw. Bischoff worked differently than any of the other VP’s before him – he listened to the talent. Mike Graham recalls a story where Bischoff asked him how he could improve the company. Do some TV tapings at Universal Studios where they pay us to put on shows, give away less Clashes for free, have more PPVs, and sign Hulk Hogan are Mike Graham’s suggestions. JR recalls Jim Herd having phone conversations with Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage trying to get them to come to WCW during his tenure.
In late 1993 during Bischoff’s first year of running the show, WCW gets into the groove of signing ex-WWF branded people who still had something to offer, says Arn Anderson. Bobby Heenan and Gene Okerlund are shown. The very next year, WCW signed Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage.
Onto Eric’s conversation with Ted Turner that ended up launching Nitro so they could compete with the WWF. With the very first Nitro, Vince McMahon finally saw WCW as “real” competition with the immediate jump of Lex Luger, which set the bar for the ground-breaking live show as opposed to Vince’s taped Monday Night Raw show.
Since Raw is taped, it allowed Bischoff to bury and give away the results on *his* show. Of course WWE can’t mention Nitro without mentioning that.
Onto the arrival of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash in May 1996. Vince couldn’t match Turner’s guaranteed contract deals, so they decided to jump ship and make a large sound with the nWo invasion angle. They even mention the lawsuit the WWF filed against WCW for trademark infringement even though WCW never used the names Razor Ramon or Diesel. The lawsuit proved unsuccessful for the WWF because you can’t sue a company for using two guys that have a following as a certain character, as Harvey Schiller mentions.
So Hulk Hogan turns heel and the nWo faction was as hot as white fire running roughshod all over WCW. Bischoff’s plans were to make the nWo a separate company and have the two companies compete against each other, which is an exact take off on an angle done in New Japan.
While the nWo was hot, the introduction of the international cruiserweights made the wrestling so amazing and groundbreaking in the US. Bill Goldberg says he really really enjoyed the cruiserweights.
Bischoff wants to take all the credit for creating Goldberg, but he says he can’t. Goldberg says he was considering signing with the WWF, but decided to go with WCW at the eleventh hour and started training at the WCW Power Plant. Goldberg made his Nitro debut on September 22, 1997, by beating Hugh Morrus in no time.
During the apex of WCW in 1997 and 1998, they were offering something for everybody whether it was the Nitro Girls, Goldberg, the nWo, Sting, Ric Flair.
Onto WCW Thunder. Everything was going well and they were beating Raw every week, so WCW decided another two hours of primetime wrestling was a good idea, which was just complete arrogance on Bischoff’s part, says Jericho.
WCW starts bringing in celebrities, which is what the WWF was doing way back in the ’80s. Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, and Jay Leno were all the major celebs brought in to do PPV main events, which led to a lot of mainstream network television publicity. JR says while bringing celebrities into wrestling can be a good thing, you can’t have a standup comedian like Jay Leno putting Hulk Hogan in an armbar. THANK YOU!
Bill Goldberg finds out about his title shot against Hollywood Hogan while watching Thunder from his house on the following Nitro on July 6, 1998. Big Show mentions how Bischoff was too concerned about beating Raw in the ratings every week instead of gaining a huge buyrate on PPV, which is why they gave away the Goldberg-Hogan title match on Nitro.
Fast forward to Halloween Havoc 1998 when the main event gets cut from the live PPV broadcast because nobody bothered to tell the cable providers that they were going past 11pm, which caused the cable companies to reimburse their customers who paid for the show.
Kevin Nash ironically takes the head booker position around this time, so he books himself to beat Goldberg. Nash will tell you that he wasn’t booking around the time of Starrcade 1998, but then he never tells you who was. Nevertheless, Goldberg’s streak was over.
We see the return of Hollywood Hogan and the infamous “Finger Poke of Doom” incident where Hogan touches Nash and he sells it like he just got whacked with a ton of bricks to basically give Hogan the WCW world title belt and to reform the recently bland nWo back together. Right after the title switch, Goldberg gets beaten down and buried and never ever fully recovers.
The Giant, Chris Jericho, and the Radicalz (Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero & Perry Saturn) were growing increasingly tired of the glass ceiling they could never get past. Giant and Jericho would both leave for the WWF in 1999 and became huge stars. The Radicalz left for the WWF in January 2000 and instantly became main event level players.
In comes Vince Russo. He was hired on the basis that he resurrected the WWF, but Russo had McMahon watching over him. He had nobody watching over him in WCW. Goldberg says he hated everything he did. Arn Anderson mentions the conspiracy theory of McMahon firing Russo knowing that WCW would pick him up and then Russo would destroy the company from within.
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They show David Arquette pinning Eric Bischoff in a tag match to win the WCW world title in an unbelievably awful situation. JR ~ “David Arquette is an entertaining guy. But I mean, WCW champion? I don’t think so.” David Crockett is speechless. He is without speech.
We skip ahead to Bash at the Beach 2000 where Jarrett lays down for Hogan. Russo throws him the WCW world title belt and Hogan goes off on him for it. That leads to Russo’s “shoot” on Hogan.
Mike Graham says Jeff Jarrett broke 6,000 guitars and never drew a dime. Awesome.
When AOL merged with Time Warner, Turner was taken completely out of the picture. The problem with that was as it pertained to WCW, Ted Turner was the only reason WCW was even on TBS or TNT. AOL/Time Warner wasn’t going to fund a company that was losing money, which leads to the WWF buying them out.
Bischoff says he never watched the final episode of Nitro – because he couldn’t. In a surreal moment that I will never forget, was switching between Raw and Nitro and seeing Vince McMahon on both programs announcing to the world that Vince has WCW in his hands. Shane McMahon shows up on Nitro and says that he owns WCW.
Ric Flair says that WCW needed to be shut down a year earlier. He says he was embarrassed to be a part of it. I’m sure he didn’t mind cashing the paychecks though.
Vince says he never felt any ego boost by finally defeating a company that nearly put him out of business. I have a REAL hard time believing that.
The only thing the performers were concerned about with the demise of WCW was that there was no longer anywhere else to work. Of course, David Crockett was upset because it meant the end of his father’s company – yet he was pleased it was Vince McMahon who bought it instead of a non-wrestling person.
In the end, all the major players end the documentary on a positive note. No matter how they really feel about WCW, everyone there made some good money and without that company, there are certain guys who may not have been as big of a success in the WWE without time spent in WCW.
Lost in Cleveland (Cactus Jack Vignette): It was Dusty’s idea. He says he always wanted to direct movies and since Ole Anderson couldn’t do anything with Cactus Jack, Dusty decided to make a mini movie series with him. Dusty says he was spending 100 GRAND A DAY in production. Anyways, what in fact happens is, Cactus Jack leaves WCW after taking a powerbomb on the concrete at the hands of Vader and becomes a mentally unstable hobo in Cleveland. Those vignettes were pulled off the air pretty quickly.
Bill Watts Defends Himself: This guy is always defending himself. He wasn’t fired over the racism thing. He covers his track record for being one of the few promoters to start pushing African Americans at the top. Guys like Ernie Ladd, Junkyard Dog, and Ron Simmons as the first-ever African American world champion. The “some idiot” he mentions is Mark Madden, who writes a letter to Hank Aaron saying that Bill Watts is a racist. By that time, Bill Watts tells WCW president at the time Bob Dhue that he’s done. So yeah. In case you people didn’t know.
Spam Man: Dr. Harvey Schiller says that Spam Man was an idea for a wrestling character that some marketing guy came up with, which was rejected by Spam because they replied saying that they work at a higher economic level than WCW. If Spam thinks t is too good for wrestling, then who does it appeal to? Hilarious.
The Origin of Goldberg: He wanted to be called “The Hybrid” instead of Goldberg because he felt it didn’t fit well with his persona, so he got stuck with his last name. The Spear? During a dark match with Manny Fernandez, he gave Manny the Spear. The Jackhammer? Malenko did it from the top rope in Japan. Clips are shown of Goldberg giving the Giant the Jackhammer after some practice earlier in the year on the 7 foot 2 inch Reese. Goldberg says he used to have long hair when he played football. He got tired of it and shaved it off – destroying the myth that it had something to do with trying to look like Steve Austin. The tattoo? He always wanted one and didn’t like anything he saw in this tattoo shop, so the tattoo artist freehand the design on his tricep. That’s nuts. Who came up with ‘Who’s Next?” Some producer from “The Love Boat” gave it to him. OH MY GOSH. That ruins it forever. Too bad “Does anybody need a drink?” was already taken.
Bischoff Gives Away Raw Results: Of course Bischoff isn’t sorry for what he did – he’s a competitor and wanted to put the WWF out of business. Vince plays the passive aggressive victim because at the end of the day, he’s the winner.
Final Thoughts: It’s hard for me to really enjoy a documentary like this because I’ve soaked up as much WCW information as a person ever should. None of it was all that interesting to me since I had heard it all before, but for those who weren’t wrestling fans in the ’90s should definitely check it out to better understand why WCW is important. It’s real difficult to condense this big of a timeframe in just over 90 minutes and give everything the amount of time it deserves, but it’s certainly well done. There’s actually very little WWE bias and I mean, why would there need to be bias here when WCW is obviously defeated. Only a few of Vince’s quotes are hard to swallow, but that’s per usual for these documentaries of his retelling of history. As a Cliff’s Notes version of the history of WCW, it’s a definite thumbs up documentary. Onto disc #2!