How do we measure success? The obvious answer to that question pertains to monetary gain. However, success is not only attributed to wealth. The definition varies as there are those who believe that success is merely a state of mind; that the poorest of the poor can live a successful life if their destitution is a chosen path and not a state of hapless circumstance.
While success is often earned, it can also be attained through sheer luck and/or physical appearance. Take a look at the Kardashian family, a clan of talentless reality stars who are worth a fortune and have somehow become the most famous family in America. People enjoy beauty, drama, and stupidity. Can you believe that poets were once considered a major part of mainstream culture? How did it come to this?
Going back to our primary point: success = money. There is no other way to measure success in the world of professional wrestling. Without the money there is no product. Wrestlers are paid to make the company more money by way of ticket and merchandise sales. In the modern world of wrestling, the biggest money maker is John Cena. In the past it was Superstars like Stone Cold Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan. No matter the generation, there is always a cash cow.
Throughout the 1990s – particularly the middle part of the decade – World Championship Wrestling would find great success when competing against WWE during the famous Monday Night War. The success of WCW at this time can be credited to a number of people and things that helped make the product a standout promotion.
The following article will examine all that was WCW during its glory years. The good times prior to the fall and well before the company felt the chills of finality rushing up its spine.
These are the top 20 aspects of WCW that made it successful:
20. The Evolution of the Product
Eric Bischoff has stated on multiple occasions that when first taking over WCW, his focus was to take the Southern out of the product and provide WCW with a more national feel. Thus, making the product attractive to Northern wrestling fans.
This was a great move as WCW did in fact feel like a Southern territory wrestling promotion more so than a product that could touch base with wrestling fans in all markets all over the United States.
19. The Underdog Effect
Everybody seems to love a good underdog story. The filmmakers in Hollywood are obsessed with the concept of the one(s) who nobody believed in making good and breaking through a success on the otherside.
When WCW first stepped into the ring (pun intended) with WWE, they were clearly the underdog promotion. WWE had already been established and was operating on a global level.
Therefore, the will of the underdog would have to shine through and help find that sought after wrestling success.
18. Strayed From Tradition
In the very early stages of WCW, the promotion remained true to the traditions and values of the NWA; which was essentially the mother of WCW. However, much like every teenager rebels against their parents, WCW would stray from traditions.
Suddenly, what was once frowned upon in professional wrestling was now the norm. WCW was the first mainstream wrestling promotion (ECW was not a member of the mainstream wrestling society) to really step away from wrestling traditions forcing WWE to follow suit in the process.
17. The Rebel Brand
Those who were born and raised on WWE and never really experienced any other forms of professional wrestling were all of a sudden turned on to this new weekly product. They didn’t have to watch Monday Night Raw, they now had a choice.
And in a weird way, changing the channel to Monday Nitro was a rebellious move. The WWE had provided years of entertainment to wrestling fans – especially those in the North East – and now a new brand of wrestling was available to watch and enjoy.
16. Going Live
Monday Nitro was introduced to the wrestling world on September 4th, 1995. The new program came out guns a-blazin’ that night in Minnesota and WCW made it crystal clear on night one that they had come to take over and defeat WWE.
Meanwhile, much of the WWE programming of the time was pre-recorded; which had always worked well in the past but with the new competition going live each week, there was a drastic need to change the formula.
Live wrestling will always draw better than recorded.
15. Gave Away Results
Keeping with the live aspect of WCW, an opportunity would present itself to Eric Bischoff that was deemed immoral by many in the wrestling community. However, Bischoff was going to do whatever he had to do to win.
With Monday Night Raw already recorded, Eric Bischoff would – on live television – give away the results of WWE programming. Thus, the weekly channel surfer would have no reason to switch over to WWE.
This foul act would of course blow up in Eric Bischoff’s face when he decided to give away the result of Mick Foley winning the WWE Championship.
14. Sense of Realism
Every adult wrestling fan (hopefully) understands that wrestling is fake, another scripted program with an unconventional deliver. However, WCW knew how to blur the lines between reality and fiction.
For example: the perceived WWE invasion of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash in 1996 had even the smarks (wrestling fans who are interested in the backstage aspects of wrestling) second guessing for a while.
This sense of realism was ever-present in WCW throughout the Monday Night War.
13. The Cool Factor
While WWE were still relying on tired old concepts and silly cartoon-like characters, WCW were providing fans with an entirely new outlook on professional wrestling. Things over in WCW seemed more sly; more sleek.
There was a cool factor at play in WCW and for a while it was making WWE look like a geeky little product that couldn’t adapt with the times. WCW tapped into the popular culture of the ’90s and made something happen.
Let’s not discredit ECW and its contribution to wrestling’s cool factor but WCW had more eyes on their product.
12. Wanted to Watch
Once WCW began to overtake WWE in the rating battle, it was hard to ignore their product. Even the die-hard WWE fans would occasional switch from Raw to Nitro before feeling their McMahon sham and switching back.
Bottom line here: WCW made you want to watch their programming. You didn’t want to miss the action and no matter how hard you tried to resist, your hand eventually reached for the remote.
11. Fearless Feel
From the rise of WCW to its eventually fall, one thing remained constant. There was always a certain type of fearlessness associated with the product. Whether they were doing good or doing bad, WCW were balls-to-the-wall.
This would sometimes lead to great things for WCW while other times, disaster. Nevertheless, one must respect a promotion that so viciously attacked the professional wrestling system without regard of consequences.
This approach may have caused more internal damage than harm to WWE but WCW would always come out and go down swinging.
10. The State of WWE
During the 1980s, WWE had reached a new peak in popularity. Hulkamania was running wild, WrestleMania was fresh concept, and The Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection was brining WWE and MTV together for mainstream success.
However, the WWE product would eventually grown stagnant. The colorful characters were no longer as impressive to the gloomy generation of the 1990s. This is where WCW would enter and provide the new generation of angst-ridden fan a darker version of professional wrestling.
9. Familiar Faces in Unfamiliar Places
Something WCW sorely lacked during its existence was the ability to create mega-stars. While they certainly did their part in making the audience aware of new mid-card talent, the main event was reserved for a particular breed.
This breed would consist of a number of former WWE Superstars. The ghosts of WWE’s past were repackaged and provided a second life in WCW. Ultimately, this would bring along longtime fans of certain individuals. Thus, more viewers.
When former WWE talent began showing up in WCW, there was a sudden surge of unpredictability added to the promotion. There was always the guessing game of who would show up and when would they appear.
This concept also holds true to ECW talent. While not making as big an impact as the WWE Superstars who decided to jump ship; it remained interesting to see who would show up wrapped in barbed wire like a demented gift from ECW.
One of the more forgotten aspects of WCW’s success came from its smallest competitors. The guys who did not look like the main event stars but could blown the main event out of the water in terms of pure wrestling ability.
The Cruiserweight division provided North American viewers with some of the most talented wrestlers from all around the world. This was the kind of action you could not find on mainstream wrestling programming until WCW would introduce the innovative style to the audience.
6. The “War” Within
While WCW went to war with WWE – in what was an actual battle – they would also go to “war” with a foe from within: the New World Order. The concept of splitting the organization was intriguing to fans who thoroughly enjoyed the internal battled that was taking place in WCW.
This concept had been done previously in Japan but had not been seen over in North America. Therefore, the storyline was fresh (until it went too far and grew stale) and maintained the attention of WCW fans who were then choosing sides.
5. The Rise of Goldberg
The 174-0 undefeated streak of Bill Goldberg (debatable number) stands as one of the most impressive records in all of professional wrestling. The likelihood of a WWE Superstar in this day and age achieving such a number is slim.
Goldberg grew organically on the WCW audience and the more people he smashed the more interested people became. Week after week fans would tune in to catch up on Goldberg’s streak, keeping tabs at home and playing along with WCW creative as they built Goldberg into the next WCW World Heavyweight Champion.
4. Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan couldn’t save TNA and there are a couple of reasons behind that: first, Hulk Hogan is no longer that relevant in the wrestling world; people have moved on and the Hulkamaniacs grew tired off following Hogan as he limped along. Second, TNA cannot be saved. The product is terrible and will never compete with WWE.
However, when Hulk Hogan decided to sign with WCW back in 1994, there was still major drawing power left in the Hulkster. They may have turned him Hollywood but he was still Hulk Hogan underneath that black and white. Love him or hate him and regardless of personal opinion, there is no denying the impact Hulk Hogan had on the success of WCW.
3. Ted Turner’s Money
Ted Turner wanted to compete with Vince McMahon and then “kick his butt.” Turner would get his wish for a while. In fact, WCW would defeat WWE in the Monday Night ratings for eighty-four consecutive weeks.
“Billionaire” Ted would essentially provide WCW with a blank cheque that allowed for big name talents to join his promotion under guaranteed contracts. In turn, the money spend would provide WCW with top-name soldiers that would join the war against Vince McMahon and WWE.
2. New World Order
The New World Order storyline that consumed WCW for a number of years remains one of the greatest angles in the history of professional wrestling with the group itself sitting right up there along side the greatest factions of all time.
WCW took a bold chance and presented wrestling fans with a story they hadn’t seen before and the fans began to love this new direction. Aside from television ratings, merchandise was moving off the shelves in a hurry.
1. Eric Bischoff
Some are harsh critics while others sing his praises. No matter which side you stand, the success of WCW can be attributed mainly to one man: Eric Bischoff. The man who had the guts to challenge every aspect of the industry.
Eric Bischoff took hold of WCW and ran it into primetime. WCW was no longer something people watched on Saturday evening, it was now a major Monday night program. All of this thanks to the vision of Eric Bischoff.
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