It’s hard not to miss WCW just a little bit. Even if Vince McMahon and the rest of the WWE brass would never admit it, WCW had them on their heels for quite a while and forced them to come up with a better product. WCW is responsible for ideas like War Games and a dedicated cruiserweight division. Their best ideas are still being used today, and their worst ideas are still being used as a case study in how not to book a professional wrestling organization. Even at their worst, WCW usually offered something quite exciting that no other wrestling company could.
Through the good and the bad, though, there was always darkness. At the end of the day, WCW’s failures can be traced to the company’s inability to contain their worst habits and ever really grow up as more and more money came in. While WCW was able to hide some of these darkest secrets for a time, the fall of the company meant that every little dark and dirty secret they hid was suddenly dragged out into the light kicking and screaming. These are the 15 dark secrets about WCW you had no idea about.
15 WCW Was Unbelievably Racist
There have been so many claims of racism in professional wrestling over the years that you’re probably immune to the mere mention of them at this point. The very word has probably lost some meaning. However, you need to believe us when we tell you that WCW was quite possibly the most racist professional wrestling promotion ever. Even if you look past stories like the creative team’s desire to book Harlem Heat as wrestling slaves - yes, that happened - you're left with more serious allegations regarding how WCW held many non-white wrestlers back over the years. They fired most of their Mexican talent at once with no reason and treated visiting Japanese talent so poorly that they basically burnt every bridge with the company. It’s no wonder they were sued by nearly every minority wrestler that worked with them as part of a class action lawsuit.
14 Wrestlers Would Try to Hurt Each Other For Real (And Often Weren’t Punished)
You can’t expect people who work together to always get along. Anyone who spends that much time together is bound to experience differences. However, these differences don’t usually add up to much more than a few verbal disagreements. That wasn’t the case in WCW. The history of that company is filled with instances of wrestlers physically attacking each other without anyone getting punished. There are even times when wrestlers tried to kill each other. For instance, Scott Steiner once tried to blind and maim DDP over a backstage disagreement involving Paige’s wife. No real punishment was doled out. Arn Anderson was stabbed by Sid Vicious with scissors, and Sid wouldn’t have even been fired if several wrestlers didn’t threaten to walk out of the company.
13 Substance Abuse in WCW Was off the Charts
You may remember that WWE has gotten into quite a bit of trouble over the years regarding drug use. From steroids to recreational drugs, there have been many WWE stars over the years that have gotten into quite a bit of trouble over matters related to their drug use. However, WWE never quite had the kind of problems that WCW did in that respect. Those who worked for WCW will tell you that the backstage areas were usually filled with wrestlers popping pills or doing coke in plain sight. WCW just didn’t care. As for steroids...well, you can just take one look at Scott Steiner’s transformation and figure out how they felt about that. At the end of the day, WCW just never bothered to keep their wrestlers under control.
12 Eric Bischoff Stole the nWo idea from Japan
Eric Bischoff wants you to believe that he was the guy that turned WCW around. In a way, he has a point. Before Bischoff, WCW was in dire straits. Not long after Bischoff took over, they slowly started to turn their first real profit in years. Part of the reason why WCW did so well under Bischoff was because of the success of the nWo angle. Again, Bischoff wants you to think that was all his idea, but it’s not quite true. His grand design came about not too long after a company in Japan ran a very, very similar “invasion” angle that echoed the nWo story quite closely. Now, there is no way to prove that Bischoff just stole the story from Japan, but you may notice it was one of his only good creative ideas.
11 WCW’s Power Plant Training Facility Was a Huge Rip-Off
In some ways, the WCW Power Plant was actually quite innovative. No other major promotion had ever dreamed of starting a training facility devoted solely to developing the next generation of wrestlers. You may notice that WWE stole that particular idea with the Performance Center. However, like so many things in WCW, the Power Plant turned out to be a good idea executed unbelievably poorly. With the exception of guys like Goldberg, the Power Plant barely produced anyone that would go on to be a WCW star. By many accounts, that’s because the Power Plant was little more than a way for WCW to exploit some wrestler’s hopes out of a little cash.
The training there was quite poor - Bret Hart stated that wrestlers weren’t taught to really protect each other - and the costs were high for very little chance at success.
10 Bischoff Spent Millions of Dollars on the Dumbest Things
We already talked about how Bischoff wasn’t the creative genius he’d have you think he is, but it must also be said that he was a pretty awful executive to boot. Basically, Ted Turner gave Eric Bischoff access to his considerable personal wealth and let him run wild. Most of the time, Bischoff spent company money on his lavish lifestyle. For instance, Eric loved to have expensive sushi dinners with “clients” that were usually just Hulk Hogan and his friends. He would also spend quite a bit of money so that he and the nWo could arrive in limos to most shows. That’s nothing compared to the time that Bischoff spent millions getting musicians like Master P and Kiss to play live shows at WCW Nitro.
9 WCW Screwed Bret Hart Out of His Insurance
Just because Bischoff and other executives loved to spend money freely doesn’t mean that they always took care of their wrestlers. You’ll hear a ton of stories about how WCW wrestlers received big money contracts - we’ll have a few of them for you in a bit - but the truth of the not everybody received such beneficial treatment. Consider Bret Hart. Yes, Hart received a big money contract from WCW - one of the largest ever at the time - but when Hart suffered a career-ending injury, WCW didn’t exactly have his back. It turns out that Hart put out an insurance policy on himself that WCW disputed in court when it came time to collect. Apparently, they felt he was trying to take advantage of them.
8 Eric Bischoff Hated Rural Wrestling Fans and Treated Them Poorly At House Shows
No, we’re not done with Eric Bischoff quite yet. One other thing you have to understand about Bischoff was that the man let fame go to his head way, way sooner than it ever should have. It wasn’t long before he saw himself as a corporate bigwig who was better than most. One strange way his attitude manifested himself was when it came to booking rural house shows. See, Bischoff didn’t think much of rural wrestling fans. He only cared about the big cities. As such, he would often run the same show time and time again from small town to small town. Some of these shows even featured title changes that weren’t acknowledged on television. Eventually, fans realized what was going on and stopped turning up to shows.
7 WCW’s Human Resources Department Was A Joke
WCW wasn’t always the best run company in the world, but they were still a major company. That means that they had many of the same departments and overhead that regular companies had. For instance, WCW had a human resources department that talent were told to visit if they ever had any complaints about conduct. Some years after WCW’s demise, a small mountain of recorded - and ignored - complaints to WCW’s HR department were uncovered. It seems that WCW’s human resources department was formed just so the company could avoid the legal headaches of not having one.
Some of the more shocking complaints involve foreign wrestlers and female performers being constantly bullied and harassed backstage. Any one of the complaints the company received would have gotten most employees fired.
6 WCW Ran a Scam Hotline For Years
Anyone who watched WCW around the time of the Nitro era will no doubt remember the company’s various plugs for Mean Gene’s information hotline. According to all the adverts, anyone who called into this hotline would get all the inside information. All you needed to do was pay anywhere between $0.99 to $1.50 per minute. Anyone who remembers these hotlines from back in the day will recall that they were usually designed to keep the caller on the line as long as possible.
In the case of WCW’s hotline, Mean Gene would often feed the callers outright lies in order to keep them glued to the phone. Sometimes, he would also tease supposedly major news that he wouldn’t deliver on. For instance, he once teased the death of Ric Flair and took in thousands on the resulting calls.
5 The Company Forced Their Wrestlers to Participate in Dangerous Stunts
WWE has been criticized over the years for their independent contractor policies that allow them to “employ” wrestlers who don’t actually get to enjoy the full benefits that most full-time employees receive. As bad as they are about that - they are pretty bad when it comes to employee rights - that’s nothing compared to the complete lack of respect WCW had for their employees. Alongside the usual lack of benefits, WCW would often make their stars participate in dangerous stunts with little to no training or safety. British Bulldog’s career was jeopardized when he was body slammed on a faulty trap door. Goldberg almost bled out when he tried to punch a “fake” window that was actually real. Numerous wrestlers were injured by everything from junkyard equipment to horses because of poorly-planned gimmick matches.
4 Hulk Hogan Screwed Many Wrestlers Out of Money
Hulk Hogan was the best and worst thing to ever happen to WCW. Hogan’s arrival and subsequent heel turn helped result in WCW’s most lucrative years ever. He was the driving force behind their success. He was also the guy that helped burn the company to the ground by way of his political backstabbing and poorly planned creative ideas. While most people know that about Hogan, fewer people are aware of just how greedy Hogan was.
Chris Jericho once insinuated that Hulk Hogan convinced WCW to give him a certain portion of the money made from merchandise featuring other wrestlers. Jericho once bought a piece of merch featuring him and saw the receipt read “Hulk Hogan.” Hogan’s contract demands also forced WCW to cut down on other people’s contracts.
3 Randy Savage’s Brother Was Employed by WCW for Five Years (And Never Wrestled a Match)
Not too long ago, wrestling fans everywhere got to enjoy reading through the paperwork behind some of WCW’s biggest contracts. This paperwork revealed that WCW signed top guys like Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash to some absurdly large contracts. As ridiculous as they were, they were nothing compared to the contract that Randy Savage’s brother, Lanny Poffo, received in 1995. It seems that part of Randy Savage’s agreement to sign with WCW came with the stipulation that the company also had to sign his brother.
Ultimately, Lanny Poffo was under contract for five years with WCW and didn’t wrestle a single match. During that time, he was supposedly making about six figures a year. Apparently, WCW planned to actually use him at one point, but decided against it at the last minute.
2 Most of WCW’s Booking Was Done at the Last Minute
There are many stories out there regarding Vince McMahon’s fondness for changing storylines at the last minute. While not all the instances of him doing that were necessarily called for, the best thing you can say about those late alterations is that they usually aren’t done unless strictly necessary. WCW, though, basically made last minute changes the new normal. Everything from house shows to major PPVs were always being booked at the absolute last minute. There were many times when the talent didn’t really know what was going to happen in a match until the referee told them the ending mid-match. WCW’s fly-by-night booking style may just be the thing that sunk the company at the end of the day.
1 WCW Lost Around $60 Million During Its Last Year
When WCW finally turned a profit following the success of the nWo angle, they managed to make so much money that they made up for years and years of loss in just 12 months. Make no mistake that the company was hugely successful from about 1996-1998. After that, though, WCW started losing more money than you can possibly imagine. Understand that it takes a concentrated effort to sink such a successful company so fast. While it’s rumored that WCW was always doomed from the moment that the AOL/Time Warner merger was announced, that doesn’t change the fact that the company lost somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million during the year 2000. There is no way that any company was going to keep them afloat following losses like that.