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THE RANT: What Killed WCW?

Posted By James Walsh on 04/17/17


Recently, a sports website stated, with certainty, that the "Finger Poke of Doom" episode of WCW Monday Nitro confirmed the demise of the company.

I just don't agree with this.

The "Finger Poke of Doom" was an angle on a continually changing storyline. WCW was out of ideas and through Kevin Nash's idiotic idea to end Goldberg's streak, even their cash cow post-nWo glory was damaged goods. The nWo had lost its luster with the advent of the Wolfpack because it over-saturated the market. The Manhattan Clam Chowder nWo is popular, the New England Clam Chowder nWo are bad guys, and the WCW guys are... Well, they're just lame.

"The Finger Poke of Doom" was an attempt to reboot the nWo as a united heel faction with, in theory, Goldberg to be the guy to finally take them down.

In the end, unwillingness to compromise resulted in a continued 2 nWo front with only lesser names clearly not part of the big picture in the black and white and the black and red are now bad guys which is absurd because everyone knows there isn't anything bad with Manhattan Clam Chowder. But, nearly every major guy in the red nWo got hurt including Lex Luger, Scott Steiner, and Hulk Hogan while Scott Hall was battling demons.

WCW died for more than just an angle that was not carried out well. Hell, if poorly carried out angles could kill a company, WWE would have died thousands of times by now. Unfortunately, they won the war and as such can hide their multiple past failures and continued failures because history is written by the winners. But, history is remembered by those who lived it. And, I damn sure remember it.

So, what killed WCW?

That is such a loaded question. I'll simplify it for you. I could write a book on this. In fact, myself and a former co-host submitted a rough draft of a chapter of a book on the subject to a publisher once. Instead, I'll just say this.

WCW closed because of:

- Huge contracts made for talent not even utilized. At one point, WCW had 80 wrestlers all making high 6 figure salaries. Of them, only 20 were involved in any meaningful way on the show.

- Bad story telling. The nWo was awesome. Hulk Hogan turning heel and the Scott Hall and Kevin Nash invasion was incredible. The unrolling of the nWo story was incredible. The feud with Hogan and Sting, while drawn out, was incredible. The finish? It was a disaster. And, creatively, after Starcade 1997, virtually everything that followed with the exception of the Russo era, was poorly written or poorly carried out. There were awesome moments with high spots and huge pops. And, Goldberg picked up the slack to a lagging nWo. But, it was a sinking ship creatively and no one would address the issue.

- The WWE's ratings spiking with adult content. There was more butt crack on WWE TV than on the toilet seats at the Astrodome. Do you want to watch a show handcuffed to standards and practices or a show that would probably be rated R or NC17 if it were a film? Be honest.

- The Time Warner/AOL merger. Because of the above success of the WWE, AOL/Time Warner could not fathom why their newly acquired wrestling show couldn't do as well in the ratings while maintaining the standards and practices that were choking the life out of the product.

I want it noted that I do NOT blame Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Randy Savage, or anyone else for the demise of WCW. Bischoff made big mistakes with the contracts that ultimately resulted in a negative bottom line. But, his acquisitions also caused the spike in WCW's global awareness with the advent of Nitro. Hogan brought a legitimacy to WCW that was not there before to the mainstream fan and while he may have had some ego moments of his own, his overall performance in WCW raised the expectations for WCW and helped things like Nitro become a reality. His heel turn made the nWo angle work and for the first year and a half, it was extremely profitable. The final year or so? Well, the whole show was creatively bankrupt.

Kevin Nash was a terrible booker. But, it takes more than bad TV even for a sustained period of time to kill a juggernaut. It was the AOL/Time Warner merger that put the bullet in WCW's head. Nash was a contributing factor. But, he didn't cause it. Anyone who says he did is a buffoon.