In the late 1990s and early 2000s, WCW stood right alongside (and sometimes exceeded) WWE as the most popular wrestling promotion in the world. Bankrolled by Ted Turner, and airing on Turner’s prominent cable networks, TNT and TBS, WCW earned serious traction. Fans tuned in the millions to watch the promotion's weekly show, Monday Nitro, at its peak. Today, only major shows like WrestleMania and the Royal Rumble can fill stadiums of wrestling fans. There were points at which WCW packed stadiums for their regular TV product, like the Georgia Dome episode in which Goldberg challenged Hulk Hogan in the main event. Moreover, there was a point in time when WCW had all-time legends like Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Sting and Bret Hart all on the payroll, appearing at the same time and interacting in various dream matches.
A lot has come out about WCW since WWE bought it out in 2001. The company had a great deal of political dissent in its locker room, odd decision making at times, and people in positions of power who quite arguably did not belong in those capacities. Beyond all of that, WCW was the home to some downright disturbing incidents. People got disrespected, ripped off, hurt, or even wound up dead on account of what happened behind the scenes, or sometimes right under the fan’s noses.
While WCW achieved success based on stories that made them appear chaotic and violent, little could fans know how closely this image reflected what was going on backstage. This article looks back at 15 particularly disturbing backstage secrets from WCW.
15 Hulk Hogan Took Liberties With David Flair
In the late 1990s, WCW brought in Ric Flair’s son, David, to work as an on-air personality and eventual wrestler. David had never been trained to wrestle, and thus was learning on the go, and generally protected to not over-expose how little preparation he’d had.
On a 1999 episode of Monday Nitro, the plan came together that the father and son would win a tag team match, and afterward Hulk Hogan would build heat for himself and the now by coming down to lay a beating on David, including whipping him with his weight belt.
According to Ric and David, the plan was to take a lash or two, but Hogan decided on his own to deliver way more shots—over a dozen in total. David got badly bruised and Ric held enough of a grudge against Hogan to remember and discuss the incident in his book that came out five years later, To Be The Man. The only good to come out of the incident may have been that David didn’t complain at all, and as such earned respect from management and the other wrestlers of the day.
14 Sid Vicious Stabbed Arn Anderson
In 1993, Sid Vicious was second only to Big Van Vader in the heel pecking order, and it’s been widely reported that the company planned to turn him face to ultimately challenge Vader for the WCW Championship, most likely culminating at December’s Starrcade show. Things took an unsettling turn, though, when Vicious got into an argument with Arn Anderson at a hotel bar in Germany.
A variety of shoot interviews report that the argument centered on Ric Flair. Vicious criticized him as an old man who earned too much money and got too much of a spotlight. Flair’s real life close friend Arn Anderson stuck up for The Nature Boy and threw a beer in Vicious’s face. Accounts vary, but some suggest he went on to threaten Vicious, too.
Things spilled upstairs as the two got into a full-fledged physical altercation. Vicious claims that Anderson introduced a pair of scissors into the situation and stabbed him first, but it was Anderson who left the brawl with the more serious stab wounds. In the end, both men returned to the ring before long and neither man pressed charges, but Vicious did lose not only his big push, but his job with WCW.
13 A Bad Spot Nearly Cost Goldberg His Arm
In a poorly planned Nitro segment, Goldberg was sent in hot pursuit of the nWo, and particularly budding rival Bret Hart. The drama culminated in Goldberg punching out a car window. There are varying accounts floating around about exactly what was supposed to go down, ranging from that the window was supposed to be gimmicked using sugar glass to break easily and cleanly, to that Goldberg wasn’t actually supposed to break the window, or that he was supposed to have a weapon to do so.
Regardless, Goldberg cut a huge gash in his arm for the spot, lost a lot of blood, and needed to go to the hospital immediately afterward for emergency care. He would be out of action for months as a result of the incident.
12 The Big Stars Stole Merchandise Revenue From The Little Guys
A number of WCW alumni have spoken about not making much money from merchandise in WCW, including Kevin Nash who claimed to have hardly made a thing despite his prominent position in the company. In his book, A Lion’s Tale, Chris Jericho offered up anecdotal evidence for part of what might have been going on, and why so few guys saw much, if any returns for merchandise that bore their likeness.
Jericho claimed that he bought one of his own WCW action figures, and the receipt showed that he’d bought a Hulk Hogan toy. While it’s unclear if this was an intentional situation or an error, and if the issue was limited to that store or if the scope were worldwide, the suggestion seemed clear that even on this lowly level, WCW may have organized for bigger stars to profit off of the little guys’ efforts.
11 Poor Communication Caused The British Bulldog A Career Ending Injury
When The Ultimate Warrior showed up in WCW in 1998, WCW elected to empower him with mystical abilities, including showing up out of cloud of smoke rather than making a more conventional entrance from the back. This included an appearance at the Fall Brawl PPV, for which there was a trap door built into the bottom of the ring to facilitate his surprise entrance.
According to a variety of reports, no one told The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith about the trap door, and thus he had no reason to steer clear of it or brace himself for an unusual bump. The accident nearly paralyzed him, sending him into the hospital for months. He’d never wrestle for WCW again, though he did make a brief return to WWE after he had partially recovered.
10 Sean Waltman Sprayed Paint On Fans
In Kevin Nash’s shoot interview discussing 1997 WCW, he made mention of a legal issue he and WCW ran into. Nash was hit in the head with a rock on his way to the arena, identified the teenage fan responsible, and had security toss him out. The young man’s family lawyered up, before the matter was settled out of court.
In the interview, Nash revealed what he suspected really started the incident—that his nWo partner Sean Waltman had filled up a squirt gun with blue paint and sprayed it onto fans. Waltman’s choice was, at the least, irresponsible, and quite arguably dangerous should the paint have gotten in anyone’s eyes or mouth. Fortunately, the one fan throwing a rock and the fall out seemed to be the worst result of the situation.
9 Bret Hart Was Initially Denied His Insurance Payout
In his book, My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling and various interviews, Bret Hart has discussed the career ending kick to the head he took from Goldberg in WCW. Hart filed with his Lloyd’s of London disability insurance. Unfortunately, the company had felt as though a number of other wrestlers gamed the system in recent years, collecting huge payouts when they may not have actually been hurt (or at least not as badly as they suggested).
Hart opined that the matter became an insulting legal ordeal, particularly for a wrestler of integrity who had worked through injury before, and was now facing a serious head injury. Though Hart would eventually wrestle again, it wasn’t for nearly a decade and only under very protected circumstances that saw him avoid any serious bumps or blows to the head.
8 Shane Douglas Caught Ric Flair In A Lie
Shane Douglas and Ric Flair have a now infamous war of words. Douglas blasts Flair as both overrated and dishonest as a person. Flair has dismissed Douglas as a guy who was never a star and is just trying to get famous off of Flair’s name.
Interestingly, according to Douglas, the beef started when Douglas was a young up and comer in WCW and specifically sought out Flair for advice and feedback on his matches. Flair agreed to watch Douglas and offer his insights, but when he gave Douglas the same generic praise a number of times, Douglas got suspicious.
The upshot was Douglas quizzing Flair about a specific sequence in one of his matches, only for Flair to nod along and offer the same brand of general compliments. The trick was that the sequence hadn’t actually happened so Douglas knew that Flair both hadn’t taken the time to watch him and was lying to his face.
7 Scott Steiner Went Into Business For Himself
When Scott Steiner moved up to the main event scene in WCW, one of the defining elements of his character was that he was outspoken. Steiner could be foul mouthed and sometimes nonsensical, but his rants generally did entertain the crowd.
At one point, however, Steiner really went into business for himself, cutting a promo that attacked Diamond Dallas Page. Rumors abound about the personal nature of the promo resulting from a backstage beef in which Page’s wife Kimberly wrongfully accused Tammy Sytch of drug use, and Steiner wanted to stand up for Sytch. Regardless, DDP took what Steiner said very personally and confronted Steiner when he got backstage. As one might expect, the bigger Steiner, with his amateur pedigree, got the better of that physical exchange, purportedly nearly gouging Page’s eye out.
6 Eric Bischoff Disrespected Ric Flair
The conflict between executive vice president and creative head Eric Bischoff, and top wrestler Ric Flair is well documented. Rather than a singular incident leading to strife, Flair reported in his book To Be The Man about a number of insults over time. Issues included contractual disputes like Flair asking for time off to attend his son’s amateur wrestling tournament, only for Bischoff to call him into work at the last minute and for a relatively unimportant spot that Flair really wasn’t needed for.
One of the other infamous incidents that a number of wrestlers have spoken out about, though, saw Bischoff dress down the entire locker room, including Flair. Bischoff reportedly claimed that no one on the roster besides Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper had ever drawn a dime. The claim was insulting to a lot of guys, but particularly disrespectful toward Flair who had been a main eventer of comparable stature for over a decade.
5 Hulk Hogan Burned His Eyebrows Off
While The Ultimate Warrior’s arrival in WCW grabbed headlines, there are many ways in which his tenure with the company did not work out. He debuted by cutting a rambling, incoherent promo that lacked much of the energy that had made him a megastar in WWE. His appearances to follow were generally less than stellar—hokey for the magic tricks that WCW attached to his character like showing up only to Hogan in a mirror or appearing out of a cloud of smoke, not to mention that his actual wrestling performances were OK at best.
Things came to a head when Warrior had a showdown with Hulk Hogan at Halloween Havoc 1998. The result is widely considered one of the most embarrassingly bad matches of either legend’s career. The final straw was Hogan attempting to throw a fire ball at Warrior. Hogan struggled with the flash paper, creating an awkward pause in the match, before the paper lit in his face and singed off his eyebrows.
Eric Bischoff improvised a new finish, distracting the referee so Horace Hogan could help Hulk pick up the win. Just the same, the fireball accident goes down as a particularly sad, disturbing finish to a terrible match and angle.
4 The Top Guys Talked Goldberg Out Of Working With Chris Jericho
According to Chris Jericho in his first book, A Lion’s Tale, he had high hopes about working with Goldberg in WCW. Jericho didn’t have any illusions about beating the ascending main eventer. The two guys were in totally different positions with company, and a win for Jericho wouldn’t have made any sense. He did, however, enjoy working a heelish angle in which he’d repeatedly call out Goldberg to fight when he knew Goldberg wasn’t in the building. Jericho envisioned the angle culminating in the two meeting in a match that Goldberg would win decisively. For Goldberg, it would provide a short sub-angle for his winning streak, to add some extra flair en route to bigger things. For Jericho, the angle would give his character some extra exposure and definition, so hopefully he could continue his own, slower, forward momentum.
Based on Jericho’s account, bigger names like Kevin Nash got in Goldberg’s ear, warning him against working a program with Jericho because it would make him look weaker to be associated with a smaller star. Jericho felt wildly disrespected, and while the angle did pay off in the compromise of Goldberg spearing Jericho, but not in-match, the backstage result was far more interesting. Years later when the two worked in WWE together, Goldberg and Jericho got into a scuffle that culminated in Jericho clamping on a front face lock and surprisingly getting the better of the exchange.
3 Management Made Bobby Heenan And Other Broadcasters Get Changed In Bathrooms
Bobby Heenan has been vocal about his dissatisfaction with his time working as a color commentator with WCW. His complaints have included the disorganization of the company and how plans were created or changed on the fly. He’s also noted that there were times when Eric Bischoff withheld information so announcers could legitimately act surprised. One of the most infamous upshots of this tactic was that Heenan actively speculated if Hulk Hogan was joining The Outsiders at Bash at the Beach before he did so, thus removing some of the shock value when Hogan actually did. Heenan was also furious when Brian Pillman grabbed him, because “The Brain” was frightened about his surgically repaired neck, and famously walked off from the announce table mid-broadcast.
You can add to that list of absurdities the way in which announcers were treated at shows. Heenan spoke in more shoot interviews about them not getting locker room space, and instead being sent into public restrooms to change. He went so far as to note that he had fans actually walk in on him while he was getting dressed, because no one even thought to close off the public areas while talent was getting ready.
2 Scott Hall And Kevin Nash Ruined The Locker Room Atmosphere
When Scott Hall and Kevin Nash showed up in WCW after their WWE runs, their arrival marked big changes for the on-screen product. WCW embraced a grittier style and the nWo became the dominant force for the company to book around for most of its remaining years. Things changed backstage, too. Rumors have abounded about Hall, Nash, and Hulk Hogan being both influential and controlling over the product’s creative direction.
In a podcast interview with Steve Austin, The Big Show directly addressed the matter. He claimed that when he first started, the WCW locker room atmosphere was very relaxed and social. He explained that when Hall and Nash came back, they introduced a sense of competition and paranoia among talents about big changes and who might lose their spots.
1 The Renegade Committed Suicide After WCW Released Him
In 1995, Hulk Hogan began touting that he’d introduce “The Ultimate Surprise” to have his back against the top heels. That verbiage and a series of promos hinted heavily that The Ultimate Warrior was on his way to WCW. While Warrior would show up for the company three years later to feud with Hogan, in 1995, a bait and switch was underway. Hogan unveiled The Renegade—a musclebound young wrestler with hair, face paint, and in-ring mannerisms that were all similar to Warrior.
Unsurprisingly, fans didn’t get behind the green, knockoff wrestler. Though WCW pushed him at first with a number of wins, including beating Arn Anderson for the TV Championship, before long the company gave up on his big push, and he became a lower card guy who lost most of the time for the years to follow, before WCW released him.
The Renegade purportedly suffered from depression, and the trajectory of his WCW career sent him spiraling. At the age of 33, he shot himself, ending his life mere months after the company let him go.