A fascinating independent chronicle of the fall of WCW pro wrestling.
I don’t know if it was because I was purely a WWF kid, but the few times I tried to watch WCW programming in the UK, it just didn’t click.
Sometime in late 1997/early 1998 I will have happened across it on TNT; best known to people my age as the channel which began at 7pm when Cartoon Network went off the air.
The colour scheme in the ring was entirely black and white, and various people I recognised – among them one Hulk Hogan – were strutting their stuff and not actually doing much wrestling. I don’t recall seeing a single wrestling match during this time; in fact, I wasn’t even sure it was actually a wrestling show but for all the various archetypes they had; entrance themes, big strong men and commentators not describing the action properly.
When Channel 5 showed it in about 2000, there was plenty of wrestling to go around – the only problem was that none of it made any sense. Having got back into the WWF when it came to Channel 4 at this time, the differences were clear: the WWF had great production values, young talent, well-defined characters and logical storylines; all sorely lacking from what I saw in the WCW product of the time.
I’ve managed to piece together what exactly happened to turn the WCW from a cultural giant in the mid-90s to the absolute shambles of a company it became at the turn of the millennium, but reading The Death of WCW by RD Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez has more than filled in the gaps.
The 10th anniversary edition has been revised and expanded to include more quotes from the people involved, as well as the story of what has happened in the years since WCW was swallowed up by Monday Night War enemies the WWF in 2001 – and the cautionary tale of some of the same mistakes which are being made by TNA to this day (whose future is still not 100% safe according to some sources).
The book as a whole outlines the success of the old Jim Crockett Promotions during the late 1970s and 1980s; the move into a rivalry with Vince McMahon as the two then-biggest companies redrew their boundaries are prepared for war, as well as how a young producer named Eric Bischoff made some key strategic and financial decisions to give WCW more than an edge during the mid-90s – one of which was the addition of former WWF stars Scott Hall and Kevin Nash.
What follows in the pages of this book is the story of how WCW went from being atop the wrestling mountain thanks to Hall/Nash being the origins of the phenomenally successful NWO, to shedding viewers and box office like they were going out of fashion through bad booking, dodgy contracts and no sense of continuity or playing to the crowd; using inside stories, gossip and cold hard numbers to tell a very entertaining story of the at times bewilderingly logic-free decisions which caused the downfall of WCW.
Reynolds and Alvarez combine great wrestling journalism with great storytelling and plenty of humour to produce this fine work. It’s essential reading for wrestling fans, no two ways about it.