Wrestling fans who grew up in the late 1990s were able to have their choice on Monday nights. While WWE broadcasted Raw is War, they were certainly in a ratings war with World Championship Wrestling’s Monday Nitro. Both promotions were willing to put everything they could to one up each other in the now famous Monday Night Wars.
From May 1996 to April 1998, Ted Turner’s WCW found themselves ahead of Vince McMahon’s WWE. Sometimes, WCW had doubled up WWE. But near the end of the streak, the WWE started to build momentum with the rise of their stars in Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and Triple H.
The WCW would then lose ratings until they eventually closed their doors in 2001. While the WWE was improving in their program’s quality, WCW found themselves getting worse. Part of it was letting certain wrestlers who would leave WCW and become big stars in WWE. Another part of it was a collection of poor creative decisions made in an effort to massage egos and promote celebrities.
Having someone famous from pop culture go into a wrestling show to get a spot here and there is something WWE has done. But sometimes, WCW went a little too far by allowing certain people to not only win matches, but also championships. Through the late 1990s and into the 2000s, the bad booking decisions only increased, which led to the shift in momentum that allows WWE to eventually win the Monday Night War.
15 Scott Hall Being Drunk
Wrestling fans have known for years that Scott Hall has had a drinking problem. While most employers would want to try to help limit an employee’s addiction, WCW went with a different approach. Make it a gimmick and have Hall act like a drunken buffoon on WCW television. Hall was given what appeared to be mixed drinks in the middle of his matches and he also puked onto Eric Bischoff while looking like a fool.
Booking Hall into this kind of gimmick certainly had lasting effects on someone who would become dependent on alcohol and other substances. ESPN did a short documentary that showed how the one-time major star in pro wrestling would continue to fall down the abyss of substance abuse; which was linked to a number of DUI related charges.
14 The Yet-Tay!!!
WCW had a number of failed characters that have fallen so far into obscurity, they’ve become synonymous with the word “botch.” One faction that a number of failed characters was The Dungeon of Doom that often debuted a number of goofy characters. While it did provide a launching pad for The Giant, now known as The Big Show, it also brought us The Yeti. Or as lead announcer Tony Schiavone called him, The Yet-Tay.
The so-called Yeti appeared at Halloween Havoc in 1995 was portrayed by Ron Reis and looked more like a reject from The Mummy Returns. The worst part was The Yeti deciding to double bear-hug Hogan with The Giant. It looked awkward to watch as The Yeti essentially looked like he was having a seizure while hugging Hogan.
13 The Dungeon of Doom, in General
Between 1995 and 1997, there were times when watching WCW felt like one of those 1980s cartoon superhero shows. The Dungeon of Doom was a faction that felt so much like a group of tryout rejects trying to join the Legion of Doom to fight the Super Friends. Kevin Sullivan would follow a voice that turned out to be The Master, who made Sullivan the Taskmaster. As Sullivan attempted to rid WCW of Hulk Hogan and Hulkamania, he recruited an army of goofy gimmicks.
While it did see established wrestlers like Vader and Meng, the group also had the former Avalanche become The Shark and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake become Zodiac. There were a number of other members who would essentially become jobbers to Hogan in WCW like Loch Ness and Braun the Leprechaun. It did show The Giant’s debut, but he would find success well after The Dungeon of Doom would finally failed away.
12 Kevin Nash Ending Goldberg’s Streak
Growing up a wrestling fan in the 1990s, Goldberg was easily one of the most popular pro wrestlers that younger fans connected with. It made his eventual loss to Kevin Nash feel devastating at the time. But there were a lot of issues with the fact that Nash was the one to end Goldberg’s undefeated streak at Starrcade in 1998. It was during this time that Nash was in control of the creative department in WCW.
Aside from the obvious conflict of interest, the way Goldberg was booked to lose the WCW World Heavyweight Championship felt like a poor excuse to have Nash win. Having Scott Hall run in with a taser to stun Goldberg certainly dampened Nash’s credibility as champion; which was already under fire from the fact that he had creative control.
11 Brawl in a Horse Stable
Wrestling brawls have been taken from the squared circle to a variety of locations. Bars, boiler rooms, kitchens and empty arenas. WCW has often put matches in some odd places, including a brawl that took place on a flatbed truck (in reference to Dustin Rhodes vs Blacktop Bully in King of the Road Match in 1995). But there are some places that should never be considered, like inside a horse stable.
During a May 2000 episode of WCW Thunder, Terry Funk took on Chris Candido in a hardcore match that left the arena and went across the street to a barn. The final moments saw Funk deliver a piledriver on Candido. This spooked a live horse that would subsequently kick Funk in the head. Apparently, no one thought to remove the live animals from where they planned the action. Or at least replace it with an animatronic prop.
10 Firing Steve Austin
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin became one of the biggest stars in WWE’s Attitude Era in the 1990s. Part of that was fueled by his termination from the WCW in 1995. Many fans have often criticized WCW for letting someone go who became a big star that ended up on the right side of the Monday Night War. However, the full story actually feels more like a lack of communication that shouldn’t have happened in the first place. This was revealed in a 2014 episode of The Steve Austin Show: Unleashed podcast.
Eric Bischoff was a guest and explained back in 1995, he wanted Tony Schiavone to let Austin know the interest of remaining on the active roster to keep the character alive. Schiavone called and got Austin’s wife, hearing Austin in the background say he wasn’t there. This led to the domino effect that led to Bischoff firing Austin. The Texas Rattlesnake admitted that was likely in the “clusterf****” environment that WCW was.
9 RoboCop at WCW Capital Punishment
Even the best intended decisions by a creative team can still fall flat. The sequel to RoboCop was about to be released and WCW had a marketing strategy that involved the 1990 pay-per-view Capital Punishment. At this time, the Four Horsemen were in a feud with a group called “The Faces,” which stemmed from Sting being kicked out of the Horsemen for accepting a world title match. Sting would be locked into a small cage that happened to be there conveniently by the Horsemen.
This led to RoboCop to come out into the arena to make the save. Slowly, he made his way towards the ring to chase off the Four Horsemen. RoboCop then walked over to the cage and pulled off the door to free Sting. Considering how RoboCop moved in a, well, robotic, manner, the spot looked extremely tacky and forced.
8 Sting “Mauled” By Dogs
Speaking of terrible moments that fans criticized was during WCW’s Great American Bash pay-per-view in 1999. Sting was involved in a one-on-one match with Rick Steiner that went outside the ring. The two would go the backstage area where Sting was suddenly on the floor surrounded by others as Scott Steiner sent two Doberman Pinschers. One coincidentally started biting only where Sting was holding a towel.
It ended with Scott releasing a Rottweiler. Fans have since pointed out a number of issues with the backstage segment; like how it was obviously pre-taped before the event. Then there are moments like how Scott was near the end of the hallway in one frame and then in the next he’s bringing down the Rottweiler. Terrible camera edits and noticeable changes between Sting and a stunt double made this a terribly executed spot.
7 Chucky Haunts Rick Steiner
At least when RoboCop made an appearance at Capital Punishment in 1990, he actually did something of substance. Sure it was terrible, but it wasn’t as bad as a taped promo used to do an exchange with live wrestlings in the arena in an effort to promote a new movie. It was during a time when WCW was trying to remain ahead of WWE. So in an effort to do something different, they had the doll Chucky have an exchange with Rick Steiner and “Mean” Gene Okerlund.
In the weeks leading up to the October 1998 episode of Nitro, fans would hear the laugh, who they thought was linked to a new wrestler. Instead, Chucky interrupted Rick Steiner’s interview regarding an upcoming match with his brother Scott. Chucky taunted both Rick Steiner and Okerlund before telling fans to check out his upcoming movie, “The Bride of Chucky.” It was an awful marketing ploy by WCW that felt like a waste of time.
6 Fingerpoke of Doom
It’s no secret that the biggest stars of professional wrestling usually get preferential treatment. The aftermath of that kind of action from company officials can lead to a product that becomes criticized by fans. Hulk Hogan was set to return to WCW in January 1999. Kevin Nash was just coming off ending Goldberg’s undefeated streak to claim the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Their rematch had to be called off after Goldberg was involved in a kayfabe investigation.
Hogan would step into the challenger role. As both men circled each other, Hogan poked Nash in the chest. Nash would fall to the mat and be pinned for the three count. While it was essentially a heel move to reunite the New World Order, many felt that the Fingerpoke of Doom actually hurt the value of the WCW’s top title. It also went up against a Foley/Rock title match that Tony Schiavone had spoiled on air, resulting in WCW losing the ratings battle that night. They never won one again.
5 Not Booking Chris Jericho vs. Goldberg
Long before The List of Jericho was born in WWE, Chris Jericho was known for having a list of all of the moves he could do during an episode of WCW Monday Nitro. The thing is that he was able to back that up with being one of the best technical wrestlers on the WCW roster. Jericho had the kind of personality that made him stand out from the rest of WCW’s Cruiserweight Division.
Jericho would have a number of promos where he attempted to call out the undefeated Goldberg. These moments were entertaining except for one small problem. The match never happened. It felt more like Jericho was being used to promote WCW’s powerhouse without giving fans a proper payoff in the end. It was one of the examples of how WCW limited Jericho’s glass ceiling, one that he easily broke when he came to the WWE.
4 Goldberg Going Off-Script
It’s one thing to blur the lines between reality and kayfabe. WWE has often done this successfully. WCW never had that kind of track record. Mostly because their definition of “blurring the lines” seemed to be a lot different. In the New Blood Rising pay-per-view in 2000, WCW booked Goldberg, Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner in a match for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
The announcers seemed to not know who was going to go over in the match and Vince Russo said on the broadcast that the finish would see the right man win. The match saw Goldberg get out of Nash’s Jackknife Powerbomb and leave the arena. WCW would then claim that Goldberg went “off script.” Seriously, they did an entire commercial promoting that there was even a script. While many fans were aware about wrestling being scripted, it’s preferable to not have the actual show point it out. It sort of ruins the whole experience of trying to suspend your disbelief.
3 Vince Russo as World Champion
The year 2000 was probably a big reason why fans started to tune away from WCW. For one, there were 25 times the WCW World Heavyweight Championship changed hands (this includes times the title was vacated). A big trend was someone winning the championship before someone like Vince Russo vacated the title and giving it someone like Jeff Jarrett. A number of reigns lasted less than 10 days.
On a September 2000 episode of Nitro, Booker T was in a steel cage match with Vince Russo, who wore a football helmet and pads. Just as Booker T was going to leave the cage, Goldberg came out and speared Russo through the wall of the cage and allowed for Russo to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. It was another awkward title victory that ended with another vacation of the championship.
During the height of the Monday Night War, it was common to see WWE and WCW have parody character’s based on one of their opponents. Sometimes, it was in good humor. Like the creation of Gillberg, who lost as many matches as Goldberg had won in the late-1990s. But WCW wasn’t able to do the same by having Ed Ferrara portray “Oklahoma,” obviously based on WWE announcer Jim Ross.
During a “Pinata on a pole” match (yes, that really happened), Steve “Dr. Death” Williams debuted with Ferrara taking over play-by-play as Oklahoma. Ferrara’s portrayal made fun of Ross’s voice and also imitated a face to mock Ross’s well-documented Bell's Palsy condition. What’s worse is that Oklahoma defeated Madusa for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship in January 2000; a reign that ended when it was announced he exceeded the division’s weight limit.
1 David Arquette As World Champion
WCW has always been guilty of having celebrities come into their ring and get over. Some have brought a lot of positive attention to the promotion. Other times, like this one, was met with a lot of criticism. The reasons actor David Arquette was involved with any kind of WCW storyline was to promote the 2000 movie Ready to Rumble - which featured a number of WCW wrestlers. After getting involved in a match, Arquette was booked to team with WCW World Heavyweight Champion Diamond Dallas Page of a 2000 episode of Thunder.
In their match against Eric Bischoff and Jeff Jarrett, the man who got the pin would win the title. While Jarrett took care of Page, Arquette speared Bischoff and was the first to make a pin cover. Thus, the referee awarded Arquette the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. This may not have been the first undeserving person to hold the big gold belt, but it was worst.