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.