Looking back at the history of WCW, it is easy to see the bad way too much. It’s been said so many times that the key issue wasn’t how this company went under, it’s how they managed to last as long as they did. Their sad collapse notes how the sins of so many years came up, the lack of control, letting the talent call their shots and idiotic presentation. Basically, the legacy of WCW has been how not to run a wrestling promotion and its history a disaster. The WWE has produced countless documentaries outlining all of WCW’s mistakes and wrestling pundits are quick to point out all of the company’s gaffes.
That is a shame as the company did make a lot of good stuff work. Indeed, in some cases, WCW actually made a few things work that WWE never could and while so many of their ideas blew up in their face, some actually worked out. WCW had a good audience for a while for a good reason, as they were able to make things gel before the bad stuff sunk in. Here are 15 things WCW actually did a good job with and should be credited more to remind you why fans are sad this company eventually went under.
15. The Loose Cannon
Much of this was Brian Pillman, but WCW had to be credited for letting it run as it did. How much was their own idea is debatable; Eric Bischoff claims he helped come up with it but many believe Bischoff was conned like everyone else. Still, it was a big deal in 1996 for Pillman to suddenly be breaking character in the ring, calling Kevin Sullivan “booker man” in a match and attacking Bobby Heenan live on air. It kept up in the locker room, guys truly worried Pillman was losing it and WCW pushing him as more a wild card.
It did backfire on Bischoff when Pillman got him to give his release to “sell the act” and once he had it, Pillman bolted for ECW. However, the event gets notice for a fascinating mix of reality and kayfabe, blurring the lines amazingly that would play into wrestling in the future and to even try something so daring is to WCW’s credit.
14. Nabbing from ECW
Paul Heyman is still ticked at this but acknowledges it was the right thing for WCW to do. By 1995, ECW had established itself as a fantastic promotion with its violence but balanced by great workers. WWE was still doing rather cartoonish stuff at the time but WCW realized the ECW guys could offer something unique. And so, Bischoff pulled out the checkbook to get Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio, Public Enemy and others. Many would carry titles and establish themselves as great workers for WCW and push Nitro up with their battles.
True, trying to emulate ECW’s style with the “Uncensored” shows backfired but grabbing all that talent they did put WCW into the realm of great ring work rather than spectacle to make them stand out more. Even Heyman acknowledges the genius Bischoff showed to pilfer ECW like this.
13. Sting vs. Hogan
The focus of Starrcade ’97 is on how badly WCW dropped the ball in the end. However, the company has to be credited for the fantastic build they had for this match. It was the perfect setup as Sting, the hero of WCW, was ready to take on the evil Hogan for the title. Sting changed his act to the “Crow” look that boosted him up for fans and made the build bigger. Amazingly, WCW took their time, letting it go months as Sting lurked in the rafters, occasionally attacking the nWo but for the most part, never talking and freaking Hogan out.
The tension was terrific, the anticipation high and it pushed the company to new heights. True, they ended up blowing it with Hogan getting a clean win before it was restarted, but the way the company managed to make a feud work for a year without a single match is a tremendous accomplishment, especially in an era of short attention spans.
12. Clash of the Champions
For the most part, despite all his experience, Jim Crockett could never make much headway against WWE. The combination of overspending and Dusty Rhodes’ bad booking hurt business business so much and his initial PPV forays were disasters. But Crockett did strike hard with the very first Clash of the Champions show in 1988. Set against the bloated WrestleMania IV, the show (headlined by a Sting/Ric Flair main event) was a fantastic event that was a huge ratings hit.
For the next decade, WCW kept the Clash up, giving fans a two hour prime time event every few months that was a big deal. This was before monthly PPVs or major shows, so to see titles change hands and major events occur for free was really notable for the time. In many ways, the “Clash” paved the way for Nitro and RAW and gave WCW a nice push.
11. Pushing WWE More
Vince McMahon has always said that the Monday Night War was the time he felt the most alive. Yes, he was ticked WCW was going after him like this but Vince also obviously relished the challenge and he hit back hard. Indeed, WCW helped shape the game of WWE as many workers have noted without the War, wrestling would be stuck in the cartoonish antics of the early 1990s.
It was the need to adjust that led to the rise of the Attitude Era, pushing the envelope more and taking a chance on younger guys. As much as he may hate to admit it, WCW’s attacks on Vince led to WWE changing themselves up majorly and that may be the ultimate legacy of the company, as it helped shape the wrestling world as we know it today.
10. TV Title
The World title was the main event, the US belt for good workers but the TV title added a nice spark to the company. They weren’t the first to use it, of course, but WCW’s is the most famous and it was fun to see it defended on regular shows. It was a good way to spark up the mid card and was made to be a big deal so when a guy won it, he was over quite well.
It was a good way to give the rub to a guy who may not have been meant for the upper heights of the card but still deserving of some recognition. The feud for it between Chris Benoit and Booker T helped make Booker a singles star and it was still a nice thing even in the company’s later days. When they promoted it well enough, WCW made their TV title a great thing to push the show more.
9. Themed PPVs
Some complain about how Bischoff pushed WCW to do a PPV every month, leading to the over-saturated market we know today. However, before him, WCW was doing a nice job introducing some PPVs with good themes to them. The Great American Bash was in July for a patriotic feel; Halloween Havoc had some cool decorations while Fall Brawl was home to War Games. Even some of the one-off PPV shows had a good theme like Chi-Town Rumble in Chicago, Capitol Combat in Washington D.C. and Hog Wild around the Sturgis Rally.
Yes, Uncensored was a disaster but was still notable for trying an ECW-like PPV and some of the other shows had some good themes to them. You can see that rubbing off on WWE with their “In Your House” cards and WCW should be credited for making the shows more unique, something fans wish WWE could do more of today.
8. Heel Authority Figure
Today, the idea of the evil boss is commonplace in wrestling but WCW really was the first to make it work. As the New World Order took power, they seemed to flaunt so much stuff with no one standing in their way. Finally, Eric Bischoff, who had come out as running WCW instead of just being an announcer, revealed he was working with the NWO all along. Bischoff was great, acting up as this smarmy and arrogant jerk who used his power to give the nWo all they wanted and pushed the heels.
It was really Bischoff’s usual persona taken to the tenth level which is often the best way to push a guy in wrestling. You can even see a bit of his act in Vince’s later “Mr. McMahon” character although Bischoff made the mistake of living the gimmick too much, acting more like a running buddy to Hogan and Nash than their boss which led to mistakes. However, Bischoff did introduce an aspect of the business that’s become commonplace since, which deserves attention.
Bill Goldberg was one of the greatest cases ever of catching lightning in a bottle. Slow at first, he began to catch on with fans with his build, his look and the way he destroyed opponents with ease. Soon, fans were chanting his name and WCW realized they had something special. They quickly came up with the “undefeated record” to enhance him and gave him an awesome pyro entrance. As it got bigger, they pushed him more as U.S. champion and then World champion as well and the fans were flocking to follow his bouts.
True, they made mistakes like giving the match with Hogan away on free TV and giving Goldberg a lack of serious challengers. Not to mention how it all ended with his streak broken too early.
However, the fact that WCW took a chance on this newcomer to build him into their biggest star in 1998 was amazing and it’s still one of the best pushes for a monster worker ever that the company should be credited for.
WWE has always tried to replicate a Goldberg type push with big guys, but they could never match what WCW did with Goldberg.
6. War Games
It may well be the greatest gimmick match of all time. Two rings side by side, covered by a massive cage with a cover, a sight unusual before Hell in a Cell. Guys entering one by one with the object to brutalize your opponent as much as possible. Once everyone is in, it becomes a battle until someone submits. The War Games was an instant hit when it debuted in 1987 and was a fantastic way to cap off some epic feuds. The smarter bit was WCW realizing how special it was and making it an annual event.
It was the centerpiece of Fall Brawl, making that show more unique and the various battles raging inside were always something to see. True, there were some duds (1995 comes to mind) but the sight of eight to ten guys brawling it out like this was astounding and made the battle a must-watch. Many still demand it be brought back as it was a match that made WCW shine.
Of all the many stars of the 1990s, Sting was one of the few who never jumped ship. He felt a loyalty to WCW and wanted to stay no matter what. More than once, Vince threw plenty of money for Sting to jump ship and more than one WCW guy has stated “If he did, we were finished.” Instead, Sting stuck with WCW, even taking pay cuts, to keep the company up. They rewarded him with main event runs, as he was incredibly popular and truly the icon of the company. That was shown in the brilliant bit of him taking on the “Crow” act and a new persona, something that would have crushed someone else but Sting made it shine wonderfully.
Even when Hogan was shoving his power around, Sting was always the guy for WCW and the fans recognized it. The way the company pushed him (merchandise and more) made him the man fans always associate with WCW and how well the company utilized such a true icon.
4. Lighter Schedule
When asked why he never went to WWE, Sting would often say it was because he’d heard of that company’s insane schedule. WCW offered guys a much easier time of it and kept them closer to home. The company never strayed too far from their southern roots, keeping to those areas and helping guys out. Their schedules would be boosted up more by the War, wanting more dates and times but still not the breakneck type of WWE where you were literally going to about 10 cities in a week.
It gave guys a chance to calm down a bit and not cause many travel messes (which could happen a lot in longer international trips) and allowed WCW to keep to the southern base that made them a success in the first place. It gave guys more time with families to help ground them a bit and a better appreciation for what they would do in the ring. WCW wasn’t as obsessed with grinding guys as much as WWE did, a nice bit of heart from the company.
It’s unlikely WWE will ever follow a similar work schedule that WCW had.
An episode of the “Monday Night War” series is devoted entirely to the cruiserweights and WWE actually giving massive props to how WCW made this division work. The company was brilliant in picking some of the most talented young workers from Japan and Mexico and boosting them to prominence. It was often said fans tuned into Nitro for the big main eventers but stayed for the cruiserweight action, enjoying the great high flying and grappling. Rey Mysterio, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho and slews of others were able to show their stuff in this division to ride high.
The Mysterio/Eddie Guerrero Halloween Havoc 97 match is still a classic and the fantastic action provided many a smaller worker a chance they never would have gotten otherwise. The cruiserweights were key to the success of WCW in the War and the company gave smaller guys a chance to set them apart from WWE, whose undercard was laughable at the time.
It remains an amazing irony that arguably the most ineptly run promotion in history managed to make an invasion angle work with only two guys while WWE failed with an entire company years later. Nabbing Scott Hall and Kevin Nash was already a coup, but Bischoff followed it up with the brilliant idea of presenting them as “Outsiders” with their WWE personas so fans thought this was a real attack. Having them tearing up with attacks was great (the sight of Rey Mysterio hurled like a lawn dart was amazing) but what really elevated it was the addition of Hulk Hogan turning heel.
They broke the mold as heels but fans cheered for them as well and their promos of wild black and white videos were like nothing ever seen before. Adding in more members to make them powerful and Bischoff himself joining them made the nWo a super group like none seen before. It would implode eventually but WCW still managed to make it work for their greatest success and boost themselves to amazing power.
1. Monday Night War
When WCW got their own Monday prime-time show in 1995, most thought it was going to be a disaster. To tackle WWE straight on, on their own turf, it seemed a totally bad idea and no one thought it would actually work. But Eric Bischoff became the first man to really take it to Vince on his own terms and did a brilliant job of it. Giving away pre-taped RAW results, nabbing Lex Luger for a surprise appearance, providing major matches and twists, it was must-watch TV.
Bischoff was determined to drive WWE down and actually pulled it off thanks to the New World Order elevating them to major heights. True, this obsession with ratings led to major problems down the road but the reason this conflict became a War was because of how Bischoff was so determined to take Vince down. He came closer than anyone else ever has.
The talk always seems to be how inept WCW became, while their accomplishments are often overlooked. The bottom line is, WWE and wrestling fans, have a lot to be thankful for from WCW.
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