Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Rebooking WCW 1998

WCW in 1998 was the year it all went horribly wrong. The undercards were awesome, nothing but great booking all over the place. Even underneath the very top guys the booking was tremendous. It was where it counted that things went screwy with unbelievable results.

The undercards featured Chris Jericho as a heel, classic feuds with Rey Mysterio, Juventud Guerrero and Dean Malenko. Raven and the Flock, featuring Perry Saturn most prominently. Booker T branching out from tag teams, and Chris Benoit and Kanyon and Eddie Guerrero and Steve Regal having great matches all over the place.

Above them you had Scott Steiner going heel and solo, Buff Bagwell right behind him ready to become a major player, DDP getting over to huge levels and even winning the world title the next year and guys like Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Curt Hennig, The Giant and Lex Luger who maybe were on the decline but were still huge top order stars who for the most part could still go.

But everyone remembers it being a terrible year. Why is that? Well it's all about the top of the card. For starters, Hulk Hogan was the top guy all year, and 1997 was clearly the peak of the Hollywood Hogan run. It had been two and a half years since his heel turn, the story had peaked, Sting had come out of the woodwork and beaten Hulk for the title, only for shenanigans to screw up the seemingly inevitable title run. Goldberg came shooting out of nowhere and briefly became one of the top two stars in the business and won the title, only to be relegated to second fiddle. Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Syxx-Pac had seemingly turned face with the Wolf Pac, only to see it dumbed down with Luger and Sting, their former enemies, joining up along with a bunch of others.

And then there was Bret Hart. Bret came in on fire after the Montreal screw job, well not only did they not even book shows in his home country of Canada, they booked the man as if they didn't even want him coming to work. After his initial memorable angle and match with Ric Flair, which in hindsight was far and away the peak of his WCW run, he was turned heel a couple of times, had a later run in an NWO version, had a great match with Benoit, got a concussion and never wrestled again. An ignominious fate indeed.

Here's what they should have done. Clearly the guys at the tippy top on the face side should have been Sting, Bret Hart and Goldberg, with DDP taking over the Lex Luger role as second from the top baby and Luger and Flair still up there.  Hogan jobbing to Goldberg should have been the absolute end of that character, and in between, doing another job to Sting wouldn't have hurt, and at least an angle with Bret Hart seems unavoidable in retrospect.

So what do we need, DDP, Scott Steiner and Buff Bagwell need to be going over big names and establishing themselves, Goldberg actually got it all work out perfectly for him so he's fine. The obvious candidates to really get Steiner over is to book him with Sting on top, Bagwell could feud with Randy Savage and Ric Flair and Lex Luger and beat them all. Bret could have worked against the Wolf Pack continuing the Kliq vs Bret Hart deal from WWF. Booker T was coming up pretty quick too.

So many easy options, by the end of 1998 you could have had Sting beating Scott Steiner for the belt, Bret Hart could have finally got his match with Hulk Hogan and Goldberg could have been the hottest guy in the promotion without the belt. They should have kept that belt away from Goldberg, wasn't much to do with him once he was the man.

You go into 1999 planning on having Scott Steiner as top heel and a match with Goldberg set for Starrcade and Sting and Bret Hart on the way down the ladder.

The Death and Death of WCW (review/summary)

Here's what I get from Bryan Alvarez' book Death of WCW that was just re-released deluxe edition style. I didn't live through this era so it's been interesting reading the history of the business as it developed.

So you've got WWF and five or so other major promotions, one, the AWA, was independent of the NWA, another Memphis Wrestling, run by Jerry Jarrett, had nothing to do with WCW until the absolute very very end of the story, you got WCCW over in Texas, and then you had these three NWA affiliates:

Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling, owned by Jim Crocket, booked by Ole Anderson
Georgia Championship Wrestling, also booked by Ole Anderson, airing on TBS doing huge business
Mid South Championship Wrestling, owned and booked by Bill Watts, and airing briefly on TBS and reputedly the best of the bunch.

Mid Atlantic had the biggest stars, Ric Flair & Dusty Rhodes. Georgia had Ole's good booking and great wrestling action and Gordon Solie on commentary, and Mid South had the best creative episodic television as well as great action.

Georgia Championship Wrestling is a show on TBS, changes it's name to World Championship Wrestling, gets bought by WWF and canned, Ted Turner brings it back under another name, then brings in Mid South, then when Mid Atlantic buys World Championship Wrestling back, cancels Mid South and the Championship Wrestling from Georgia shows and goes with what was essentially Mid Atlantic.

So the show that was originally World Championship Wrestling was actually Georgia Championship Wrestling, booked by Ole Anderson. Let's remember that. But Mid Atlantic was booked by Ole as well, so you'd think that that would be about the same when Mid Atlantic essentially took over Georgia's re-named show and took it's timeslot. But no, because Ole Anderson was fired and replaced by Dusty Rhodes as booker. Two years later they were out of business.

Bill Watts went national after being replaced by Mid Atlantic and went out of business pretty quick and sold to Jim Crocket, then Jim Crocket went bust, but this time Ted Turner himself said fuck it and bought the company. So now you've got Georgia and Mid South dead and gone, and the owner of the television network that's airing the main NWA show is now the owner of the company.

First order of business? Ric Flair as booker, business booms, 1989, early 1990, everything right with the world. Suddenly Ole Anderson is back as booker, but it's not 1984 anymore, and Ric Flair was doing a great job and business was great, PPV buys through the roof. He sucks, is replaced by Dusty Rhodes, again. Dusty sucks but sticks around somehow for three years, briefly working under Bill Watts who is brought back but again, it's not 1984 anymore and he doesn't work out. Dusty meanwhile has pretty much never worked out as booker.

1994 and Ric Flair's the booker again, once again, business goes great, shows are great, Hogan comes in, business booms for six years or so. Kevin Sullivan, under Eric Bischoff, books WCW to incredible heights and huge gross revenue. Eventually Hogan gets old, but they keep booking him on top and letting younger guys go to WWF, panic sets in, the product implodes, Kevin Nash gets more creative influence for a while, then they hire WWF's writers and oust Eric Bischoff as the man in charge.

Then Russo refuses to be part of a committee and Kevin Sullivan's back in charge for a few months. Then Bischoff is brought back to run the company again and Russo agrees to come back as booker, this last a few months and then Bischoff quits and Russo gets a concussion.

Bischoff and Jerry Jarrett try to buy the company but dodginess prevails and some criminal underhandedness (allegedly) might have happened and Vince McMahon ends up with the company.

Then TNA starts up, Jerry Jarrett and his kid, who loves Vince Russo. Russo gets the ass when they try to bring in Hulk Hogan, who hates him, Jeff Jarrett takes over the booking, and then Dusty Rhodes is brought in to book, with no success again, then Scott D'Amore does a great job for a year and is fired, Jeff takes over again, then Russo is brought back for a nearly six year run. Eventually they bring in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff to run the show and force them to work with Russo as booker. This doesn't work. Somewhere along the line Jeff Jarrett gets the boot from his own company, then ends up starting an imaginary wrestling company that sells merchandise of him and his wife but doesn't run any shows or have anyone employed.

Clearly what should have happened was that Bill Watts should have been given the book back in 85, and even if Ted Turner never ended up owning the company, that's pretty much immaterial to the show's success. By 1989 maybe Bill would have been old hat and replaced by Ric Flair as booker, who books until 1995 and is then replaced by Kevin Sullivan, they do exactly what they did until 1998 with the exception of letting Steve Austin and Mick Foley go.

Then in 1998, they move the fuck on and book Sting, Bret Hart and Goldberg as the top guys and everyone lives happily ever after. And that, is where I'd like to leave off, for my next blog: Rebooking WCW 1998!

Thanks for reading.