Looking at the overall history of WCW is to see a slew of incredible mistakes made over and over again. They were truly riding high, on top of the wrestling world and seemed ready to put WWE down once and for all. But the combination of ego, backstage battles and bad product undid them as they went from the top of the business to out of business in just a few years. It’s still a sign of how no one is truly too big to fail and misjudging your fanbase can be a dangerous thing. WCW just felt so secure with Turner’s backing and money that they never gave thought to what would happen when they lost both and that ended up killing them.
There are so many issues with this company, so many mistakes made. This is the promotion that had Bret Hart handed to them on a silver platter and did nothing with him. The company had so many chances to turn it around but ignored them and showcased how many major moments occurred that led to their success but also their failures. Like so much in wrestling the “what if” game is a major one and WCW offers so many options, things that could have shifted the company majorly, maybe their survival but also perhaps their fall earlier. From the day they were bought by Turner, WCW had slews of key turning points and it’s fascinating to imagine how things could have been different. Here are the 15 biggest “what if?” moments in that company’s history and showing how wrestling can take turns you never expect.
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15 There Was No Fingerpoke of Doom
Frankly, it’s amazing WCW didn’t blow Goldberg’s streak sooner given their track record. He was still the biggest guy they had as 1998 closed, the fans on his side, the Streak going high and WCW should have used that. Instead, of course, Nash booked himself to beat Goldberg at Starrcade and end the Streak. That might have been salvaged if not for the now-infamous “Nitro” of Nash dropping the title to Hogan and the reforming of the tired NWO. Take that away and WCW begins 1999 on a much better note, Goldberg and Nash having a feud with Goldberg winning, Hogan staying out of it and the company continuing without the stigma of that Fingerpoke. It might have still ended the same but the Fingerpoke was a moment that shifted the War forever and without that, WCW might have put off their collapse longer and Goldberg not treated as crappy as he was.
14 Hogan Was Not The Third Man
It really took a lot for Bischoff to talk Hulk Hogan into turning heel in 1996 as Hogan was so comfortable as the mega-star face for so long and hated to let it go. True, it worked out majorly but you can easily imagine Hogan not wanting to let go of his standing as the big crowd hero and refuse to do the turn. Without him, the New World Order wouldn’t have been anywhere near as effectiv. Hall and Nash were great but it was Hollywood Hogan that let them take off.
The question is if Sting would have gone along with being the third man instead, which would have been intriguing but hard to imagine him in the role. Plus, Hogan as the hero would have shifted so much and unlikely the NWO would have grown the way it did which had both good and bad effects for the company. Had Hogan not gone along with this turn, it’s probable WCW would have never rose to such huge heights and thus a different wrestling landscape.
13 Sting Leaves
On his recent documentary, Sting said the key reason he never jumped to WWF was their intense road schedule as he preferred being with his family. WWE made plenty of offers and he was tempted more than once, the biggest being 1992 when Bill Watts was cutting everyone’s pay. Had Sting left, it would have been a huge blow as most everyone agrees he was the heart of the company in that time period. You can imagine Vince using him as a major star in 1993 and onward and he might have done well there. However, harder to imagine him in a WWE ring so much as WCW and Sting just went so well together. Robbing that would have taken away a key quality that made WCW, for all its faults, so watchable and the company never the same.
12 Russo Doesn’t Arrive
Vince Russo did not kill WCW but he sure as hell helped put them into the coffin. The company had been in trouble but then Russo came along to crush them with idiotic storylines, insane presentation, ruining kayfabe and David Arquette as champion. It’s a bit much to say WCW would still be around without him but you cannot deny that without his influence, the company would have avoided tons of horrific stuff that killed off audiences and fan interest and put them in the hole they never dug out of. We could have been spared a lot of stuff and might well have helped WCW survive a couple more years as fans would be more than happy to erase all the horrors of Russo and how he helped sink WCW even further.
11 Austin Isn’t Fired
It’s the termination that changed the course of wrestling history. Steve Austin had superstar written all over him, fantastic on the mic and terrific in the ring. In WCW, he’d been on the rise as TV, U.S. and tag team champion, clearly ready for bigger things and Flair set to elevate him with a feud in 1994. That was marred when Hogan took over and soon Austin was dropping the U.S. belt to Jim Duggan, injured and while at home rehabbing, was fired. It drove Austin in his anger to ECW and WWE and the rest is history.
It’s questionable how he would have risen in WCW under Hogan but it’s impossible to imagine Austin failing to become a star and main eventer with all the goods he brought to the table. The effects on WWE without their mega-star would have been big and Austin could have avoided his neck injury to continue as a great worker. WCW would have certainly benefited just having Austin around if no other reason than keeping WWE from grabbing the guy who would push them to the top.
10 Sting Won Clean at Starrcade '97
It’s still astounding that after a year and a half of perfectly building up Sting against Hogan at Starrcade ’97, WCW dropped the ball with Hogan clearly dominating Sting, only for a cheap finish to give Sting the belt. Whether it was Hogan’s ego or Bischoff’s misjudgment, it happened and set WCW back majorly. Had they been smarter and given fans the logical sight of Sting crushing Hogan to win the belt cleanly, WCW could have delivered a major blow against WWE. It wouldn’t have been a fatal one perhaps but still a huge thing and WWE would have needed longer to bounce back while WCW would continue to use that momentum into 1998. Had they just stuck the landing to this epic set-up, WCW could have begun 1998 in glory rather than begin the first steps to their ultimate demise.
9 Flair Doesn’t Leave in '92
It’s still argued how much was being fired and how much was leaving on his own but in 1991, Ric Flair was gone from WCW just a week before their Great American Bash PPV after a huge blow-up with Jim Herd. He was jumping to WWE fast with the title belt to kick off an ugly legal mess and the PPV was a disaster with fans chanting “WE WANT FLAIR” constantly. Keeping Flair would have made the next two years in WCW a lot better, him giving a rub to Luger, sticking around as the top act and the company could avoided a lot of trouble.
It’s questionable how Flair and Bill Watts would have gotten along but it would have been a major thing for him to remain around, maybe with a new Horseman and avoiding a lot of the bad stuff for WCW in that time frame. It also means that he and Hogan coming together in 1994 would have been an even bigger deal to push WCW higher and maintain his power as the real backbone of the company.
8 Hall and Nash Stay in WWE
It was truly jarring when Scott Hall and Kevin Nash left WWE in 1996. Despite some rough stuff, the two were still two of the biggest names in the company and both giving verbal agreement to deals before jumping to WCW to begin the New World Order. Their staying would have changed WWE majorly with feuds with Michaels and others and would have affected Steve Austin’s rise. More importantly, without the New World Order, WCW would never have gotten to the massive heights they did.
Maybe we could have gotten the Hogan heel turn but not as effective without the Outsiders and thus WCW not as popular. It would have spared us Nash’s terrible booking and backstage politics so as with so much of this list, the bad of WCW would have been offset with some good that might have allowed them to avoid such a terrible fall.
7 Sting Doesn’t Blow Out His Knee
Coming off a terrific 1989, WCW was ready to take off in 1990 with the plan for Flair to drop the title to Sting and then help craft him as the next mega-star. But at Clash of the Champions X, Sting blew out his knee in a cage fight and was out for months. Flair had to feud with a face Lex Luger as business faltered and then Ole Anderson was made head booker. When Sting did get the belt, Ole gave him garbage like the Black Scorpion that ruined what should have been a top feud.
Without that injury, Sting gets the belt and with Flair’s help, decent challengers (he and Luger could have had an amazing feud) and thus truly become the huge guy for the company earlier. In so many ways, WCW’s downfall could be traced to that injury and without it, their fortunes might well have improved.
6 Tony Schiavone Is Made Head of WCW
When Bill Watts was fired as head of WCW in early 1993, most assumed Tony Schiavone would take over as he was a long-standing WCW veteran who worked well with the guys. Instead, it went to Bischoff and we know the rest. Schiavone getting the job might have been interesting. He would have kept WCW to its roots and not making as big splashes, smarter with money and such. While this would have improved the ring workrate and such, it wouldn’t have done as great with the business, with Bischoff having made daring moves like creating Nitro and signing Hogan. It's unlikely Schiavone would have done the same.
So while WCW would have kept the status quo under Tony, it wouldn’t have risen to such heights although he probably would have avoided the same ego-driven mistakes that ruined WCW as well.
5 Hogan Doesn’t Arrive
Many WCW fans believe Hulk Hogan arriving was the day the true WCW died. Coming in with control and his ego and old running buddies, Hogan turned WCW into the very sort of cartoonish antics they’d long been the antidote to. Had Hogan not come to WCW, 1994 would have been different as Flair was doing great as champion and was ready for a feud with rising star Steve Austin. WCW would have continued to offer a different product, not as big, but more popular with marks than WWE’s flashy affair.
Of course, without Hogan, it’s doubtful Bischoff would have had the clout to get “Nitro” and thus a lot of the War changing. It would have led to a lower presence for WCW but many fans would prefer that over the ego of Hogan wrecking so much of the company in the end.
4 Crockett Doesn’t Sell in 1988
For all his many faults, Jim Crockett understood the wrestling business and better suited to figuring out what fans wanted. The people who took over WCW on behalf of Turner did not, beginning the long and slow slide to ending the company. Crockett had made several mistakes like overspending and going into areas he wasn’t ready for like New York. Had he been smarter and luckier (from Magnum TA not being injured to giving Luger the NWA title), Crockett might have been able to hang on longer and put off the need to sell for a while.
He might still have gone under due to his ways but even a couple of years would have majorly affected WCW, not as much capitol but maybe a bit better in booking and still maintaining their loyal southern base. He probably would have still sold against Vince but putting that off for a year or two would have affected a lot in the wrestling world.
3 Vince Goes to Jail
This might seem to affect WWE more but make no mistake: If Vince McMahon had been found guilty in the federal trial in 1994, WCW would have been changed drastically. While it may be a bit much to say WWE would have gone out of business, without Vince, they would have lacked a lot of the vision and drive that forged their identity and you can imagine a lot of guys willing to jump ship for a Turner paycheck.
WCW could have gotten an influx of talent to offset Hogan’s arrival and built themselves up more. WWE would still have been around but not as effective without Vince although Linda would still have done her best to keep things on track. Without Vince, the War would have been a whole lot different and WCW could have benefited from that nicely.
2 There Was No Monday Night War
When Ted Turner bluntly asked in a meeting how to compete with WWE, Bischoff blurted out a prime-time show opposite RAW, thinking it would never happen and was stunned when Turner gave it to him. Yes, Nitro was a success taking it to Vince and without that (or, at the least, on a different night), things would have been different. The Network series on it has guys noting that without the War, it would have taken a lot longer for both companies to let go of the cartoon character and antics of the time and affected slews of careers.
We might still have gotten the jump of talent back and forth but not quite the same without the shows going head-to-head, with WWE still in the lead but WCW hanging in there. However, it might have robbed us of the Attitude Era and a prime piece of wrestling history that fans prefer to remember.
1 Bischoff Buys It
In early 2001, as things went horribly, Bischoff decided to work with a group called Fusinet to buy WCW, making big plans to trim the fat and push newer guys to get it going. However, it was ruined by two things: First, Fusinet got a good look at the books and realized the mountain of debt they’d be taking on, scaring them off. Second, TNT canceled Nitro, leaving WCW without any TV to sell themselves on, so Vince was able to swoop in and get them for essentially pennies.
Had Bischoff managed to buy WCW after all, the effects would have been something unique. True, the company was still in bad shape but it’s forgotten how things were starting to improve a bit with a push for cruiserweights again. Bischoff could have been smarter and known he needed a fresher start for WCW and even with a lowered presence still had a fanbase to use. It would have no doubt helped invigorate WWE at the same time and Bischoff might also have gotten some of the guys from ECW when it went under like RVD. It would have kept WCW going, perhaps even still in business today and most can agree that for all their faults, the company surviving longer would have been a great thing for the business as a whole.
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