Wrestling fans who are just coming of age may not realize it, but there was a time when the WWE didn’t have the stranglehold it now enjoys over the wrestling business. In fact, they actually trailed their number one competitor in the ratings for an amazing eighty-four weeks in a row, which means that they were actually the number two company for more than a year. For those that are unaware of it, the company that trounced them at their own business was WCW. World Championship Wrestling was on top of the world yet through mismanagement, bad business deals, and an inability to make new stars they would close their doors before too long. Such an amazing reversal of fortunes is not something you see every day and from the day they went out of business we’ve been interested in assessing what went so wrong, which inspired this list.
In order for someone to be considered as a possible entry, they need to have had a clear impact on the company from the inside. As such, people like Vince McMahon, The Rock, or Steve Austin, all of whom were major cogs in strengthening the company that helped run WCW out of business, were not looked at in the slightest. Aside, from that, anyone involved in any facet of the business could find their name included here.
18 Everyone Who Jumped Ship
A grab all for the long list of wrestlers who saw the writing on the wall and got out of dodge, there is no doubt that WCW’s product was severely damaged by bleeding so much talent. The Big Show, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, William Regal and a large group of others made the leap during the height of the Monday Night War. Additionally, there are many other pivotal WWE wrestlers who changed their allegiance prior to WCW’s golden age. For instance, people like Steve Austin, Mankind, Vader, Brian Pillman, and even the voice of the WWE, Jim Ross, all could have been making WCW a better place. While we certainly can’t blame them for their business decision, there is little doubt that losing so much talent had a huge impact on WCW’s quality going down the drain.
17 Buff Bagwell
We all know it, if the internet was a hive mind, and sometimes it feels a little bit like one, the consensus would be that Buff Bagwell wasn’t very good. A long-time member of the nWo, a group that many became excessively sick of, he was even named a part of the nWo elite which ensured he stood front and center during some of the group’s worst months. Then he broke out on his own and was involved in some of the company’s worst storylines, especially all of the times his mom somehow became involved on WCW’s television. Any photos of Judy Bagwell as WCW Champion are perfect symbols of everything that went so wrong with the company. However, there is another specific reason why Buff needed to land on this list.
When the WWE bought out their competition, they initially intended to keep the banner going in one form or another. Their first foray in that attempt was when they booked WCW to take over the main event of Raw one week. In that moment they chose Buff Bagwell and Booker T. to compete and the match was so atrocious, due to Buff’s inability to go at the time, that all the plans to keep it separate were abandoned. While a WWE booked version of WCW may have sucked as badly as their version of ECW would years later, they never had a chance to ruin it because Buff got to it first.
A perfect symbol of the horrible business deals that helped drag WCW through the mud, KISS main evented an episode of Nitro, and it truly sucked. Maybe you’re a huge fan of the band, which meant you loved the segment, but it wasn’t what wrestling fans tuned in to see. Furthermore, that one-time appearance would leave behind The KISS Demon, a wrestler who was an utter failure. An unsuccessful character and one-time main event would have been but a footnote but the money it cost WCW in the process was insane. While exact figures of the losses incurred vary, as nobody has a copy of the books, it is agreed upon that KISS made millions of WCW in the mix which was a major problem for the company. Especially when you consider the bevy of talent cuts that happened in the coming months which stripped the company of talent and fans of people they enjoyed.
15 Mark Madden
We know what you’re thinking, how could a color commentator who spent a relatively short time in WCW’s long tenure on our television be so detrimental? Simple, in our opinions people really underestimate how important commentary actually is to the quality of a show, and Mark’s run was a perfect example of how it can hurt. Perpetually obsessed with making inside references in order to make himself look like the coolest guy in the room, he did little to make the people in the ring look good. He was also involved in some awful incidents where he was beaten up by wrestlers in storylines, including somewhere his shirt was ripped off. It seemed clear that the writers thought it was hilarious to humiliate him in this manner due to the fact he was overweight and this is emblematic of their attempts to entertain themselves instead of fans.
14 Kevin Sullivan
When The Radicals made the jump to the WWE, a lot of people believe that the heart and soul were ripped out of WCW, and we’re among those that hold that opinion. Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn, and Dean Malenko were workhorses that could always be depended upon to have entertaining segments and matches. So, what led to such a large tandem of WCW’s most talented workers leaving all at the same time? When Kevin Sullivan took the reins of WCW creative once again, they all felt like it was a harbinger of doom for their careers and wanted out. When your appointment to the creative team is enough to inspire a mass exodus, that alone is enough to warrant a place here, but that is not all. Kevin was also responsible for some of the goofiest segments in WCW history, including his tenure as the leader of The Dungeon of Doom and the Faces of Fear.
13 Scott Hall
The man that a lot of people point to as the one that began the Monday Night War when Scott Hall made his first appearance on WCW it marked the beginning of the nWo angle. The storyline that made many people really take note of what WCW was doing, it had lots of people questioning the reality of what was happening. So, how could he be included amongst the people listed here? He stopped caring. It has been stated that one of Hall’s best friends, Sean Waltman was fired from WCW in an attempt to get to Scott and Kevin Nash, and while that is reprehensible their reaction was just as bad. Paid a great deal of money to perform, Hall still went out but clearly stopped caring. No longer nearly as entertaining as a result, his attitude was seen as cancerous by many and seemed to spread among many others in the company which made WCW television seem lackadaisical.
12 Tony Schiavone
We already mentioned in our entry on Mark Madden how important good commentary is for a wrestling company which means that Tony Schiavone, the lead person on the team for many years, was integral. Unfortunately, the skills he showed in his early years seemed to be missing for several years before the company came to an end. While it is hard to blame the man after innumerable creative shifts, nonsensical storylines, and constant upheaval became the order of the day, the fact remains he was a drag on the show. Even Bobby Heenan, the man that most see as possibly the best color commentator of all time, had negative things to say about the man, saying he “did not like wrestling”. Seems to us like that is a major stumbling block if you want to be good at wrestling commentary.
11 Kevin Nash
Remember the Scott Hall entry? Ok, take everything that we said about that man and apply it to Big Kev. While it would be a lie to pretend like Nash wasn’t talented in some aspects of the business, he was very charismatic and quick on his feet whenever a mic was in his hand. He would go on to hurt WCW, however. In charge of the booking committee for a time, his run in control took place in 1999, a year in which the ratings continued to slip further and further. While you can’t lay all of the blame on his lap, considering the odd system he had to work within, the fact that he continues to defend the finger poke of doom to this day points to why his creative run was a major problem.
10 Jim Herd
A man that is just about universally maligned by most of those who worked under him during his WCW tenure, it seems abundantly clear that Jim Herd never understood the business. Yet despite that, this former Pizza Hut executive was put in charge of running WCW’s day to day business. While there were some positive moves that he made, such as hiring Steve Austin, Ricky Steamboat, and the man that would become The Undertaker, there were many more changes he made that sucked. Completely disrespecting Ric Flair, he wanted him to pierce his ear, cut his hair, and change his name, which led him to jump to the WWE which took away one of the company’s biggest stars. He then went on to create some of the worst gimmicks ever, including The Ding Dongs, Norman the Lunatic, and PN News.
8 Ed Ferrara
The writing sidekick of another man anyone who knows WCW’s history is likely expecting to see later on this list, Ed was a writer for the WWE before signing with the competition. Someone who boasted about his importance in the rise of WWE during the Monday Night Wars, there was good reason to hope that he would have a hand in rejuvenating WCW which had clearly begun to falter. Instead, he was involved in the introduction of crash TV to the company which meant that storylines began to move a mile a minute and in a lot of cases made little to no sense. Also introduced as an on-air performer, he portrayed Oklahoma, a character that was a vicious and unlikeable parody of the much beloved Jim Ross. An atrocious character that was universally hated, he was never entertaining in the slightest, one-note, and virtually unwatchable.
6 Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan was the man in professional wrestling for years on end. The flag-bearer in the WWE, when he signed with WCW in the nineties it showed that the company was ready to compete for the first time. Furthermore, when he became the nWo’s third man it gave the upstart group the credibility it needed to become arguably the most hated faction in wrestling history. While everything was on the ascent things seemed great but the problem was the sheer amount of power Hulk wielded in the back. Given creative control to a degree that shocked many observers of the business, it has been said that virtually ever major segment had to be run through him even when he wasn’t involved. From the accounts of several people who were in charge of creative in the company, Hulk would force them to make changes constantly which was a major reason why the storylines often became illogical and messy.
5 Vince Russo
David Arquette as WCW World Heavyweight Champion, Vince Russo as WCW World Heavyweight Champion, and weekly title changes all took place under this man’s tenure. He also booked himself to verbally dismantle Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair at various points. Then there was the myriad of largely forgotten and ridiculous storylines that he wrote. He booked Goldberg so that in the storyline he wasn’t willing to follow the script and lose matches, which underscored all matches being preplanned. He booked wrestlers in pole matches where they had to climb up and retrieve Viagra and in the case of Juventud Guerrera, a Mexican wrestler, a piñata. We could just keep going and going, listing more and more of his awful ideas but take our word for it, this guy made WCW a laughing stock.
4 Ted Turner
When Ted Turner bought WCW from the Crockett family it forever changed the business and eventually led to the rise of the company and the competition that led WWE to change the way they did things. Willing to open up his checkbook, he let big money contracts be issued which led to WCW putting together one of the best rosters that have ever existed in the history of the business. Then he agreed to the AOL-Time Warner merger which caused him to lose a large portion of his immense fortune and more importantly for the purposes of this list, all power in the company. No longer a voice that mattered, he was incapable of giving WCW the opportunity to pull itself out of the nosedive it was in.
3 Jamie Kellner
A name that only the most passionate wrestling fans will recognize, Jamie Kellner was the chairman and chief executive officer of the Turner Broadcasting System in 2001. When WCW was in the midst of a negotiation with Fusient Media Ventures, a group that was working towards buying the company and planned to keep it running, Mr. Kellner made a pivotal decision. Purportedly, somebody who did not like wrestling, he opted to cancel all WCW programming on the stations that were under his control. No longer carried on national television, Fusient saw no value in the trademarks for them any longer and they pulled out of the deal as a result which opened the door for WWE to buy it.
1 Eric Bischoff
Even we can’t believe that Vince Russo wasn’t our top pick for this list but as awful as his storylines were Vince never had the level of control Eric did. In charge of pretty much every facet of WCW’s day to day business, in fairness there were others who he reported to, he made a series of business decisions that ultimately doomed the product and the company.
The deal with KISS we mentioned earlier, Eric made that happen because he loved the band. An avid biker, he was also in charge when the pay-per-view Road Wild was created which was different because it was put on in front of bikers in the open instead of a typical crowd. As a result of happening in the public instead of an arena, WCW lost all ticket sales. He also amassed an immense roster who were paid no matter what and large portions of it weren’t used which meant people were paid for nothing. The most egregious example, Lanny Poffo was paid for years and never appeared. In fact, his decisions led to the company losing fifteen million in 1999 and sixty million in 2000. While Jamie Kellner ultimately canceled WCW had they not been hemorrhaging money we severely doubt that would have been allowed.