Tuesday, March 13, 2018

In Defense of World Championship Wrestling

WCW – World Championship Wrestling, a name forgotten by some, a joke to others, and unknown to the younger crowd.

Mention WCW to a wrestling fan and you’re likely to hear about the nWo, David Arquette winning the world title, and how they were so bad they got bought by Vince McMahon. You won’t hear about how they destroyed the WWF for years on end and almost put them out of business. You won’t hear about the amazing feuds like DDP vs Macho Man, Chris Jericho vs Dean Malenko, Sting vs. the nWo, or Booker T. vs Chris Benoit.

If you watch documentaries you’ll hear former WCW wrestlers trash the failed company, the same wrestlers who fought for its survival. Things at WCW definitely ended on a sour note and the company wasn’t putting out the same great content they were years earlier, but does it deserve this type of reputation? No… no it does not.

Those wrestlers trashing WCW, they’re under contract with the WWE now. It’s in their best interests to suck up to the boss.

All the jokes, mockery, and references to WCW being second rate to the WWE is WWE propaganda. There’s a quote, “History is written by the victors” and Vince McMahon’s actions proves this quote true. Getting beaten by WCW so bad that he nearly lost his business made McMahon bitter. The WCW wrestlers who were absorbed into the WWE were all dumped on and made to look inferior. The legacy of the WCW isn’t embraced; instead it’s mocked with an occasional DVD being released for the die-hard fans. I assure you, if DDP wasn’t hosting the Best of Nitro, it wouldn’t be nearly as positive as it is.

There is no WCW wing in the WWE Hall of Fame. The WCW website on WWE.com contains jokes at WCW expense, not a celebration of the great wrestling and entertainment they once provided. Little to no merchandise is made, and even the WWE Network has been slow to embrace the Nitros that beat Raw in the ratings.

And it’s a travesty.

Did WCW have some bad wrestling? Sure.

Did they do some incredibly stupid gimmicks? Sure.

Did they misuse some of their talent? Sure.

And you can ask those questions about any wrestling organization including the WWE and ECW, and answer “sure” to every single one of those questions.

Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly mocked WCW concepts, angles, and decisions.

The Triple Cage- I still can’t understand why this gets so much flack. It was an amazing looking structure that actually seemed scary. After Mick Foley took his fall and survived, the Hell in the Cell lost its mystery and danger. When you looked at the triple cage, you knew someone falling off that would most likely die. And say what you want, that is why we like those gimmick matches. It’s the danger that gets us excited.

Chamber of Horrors- I’m a huge fan of battle royals, but let’s be honest, the wrestling sucks. You can tell the hits are weak, the wrestlers can’t tell a story when surrounded by ten other people, but it’s still a lot of fun to watch.

WCW decided to have this cage match with a ton of wrestlers which was basically a battle royal. Inside the cage, they put an electric chair, and the goal was to electrocute an opponent. Obviously, it wasn’t a real electric chair, but it was a fun gimmick for Halloween Havoc in the early 90’s when things were quite cheesy.

So, the wrestling sucked, and then Abdullah the Butcher gets mistakenly electrocuted by Cactus Jack. Abdullah did an excellent job selling the electrocution, but people tend to mock all the fireworks, smoke, and sparks that occurred. However, if you watch the match, you’ll see the crowd was really into it and popped huge when the electrocution occurred. If it was so corny and bad, they certainly weren’t complaining.

The question I always want to ask the critics is, what were they supposed to do? Actually electrocute him or simulate a real electrocution, which is disturbing and uneventful? The sparks and fireworks really got the point across that it was an electrocution, but not in a way to make the kids in the audience cry.

Some might say the match should have just never occurred, but I disagree. The match was fun, the crowd loved it, and it was memorable. I saw the match as a kid and I thought it was great.

Robocop- The Robocop movie was originally rated X. It took a lot of effort to cut it down to a hard R rating. Still, for whatever reason, the movie was marketed towards kids. I had a comic book, toys, and even saw the movie at the ripe old age of five. And you know what? I friggin loved it.

In the early 90’s, wrestling was also marketed towards kids. Someone got a bright idea to cross promote Robocop with WCW. Robocop was the good guy, who saved Sting from the Four Horsemen and sent them running.

Watch the video sometime and watch the crowd’s reaction. The WWE would kill for a reaction like that today. Cheesy? Sure. Was it for adults? I don’t think so. It was a fun little segment, and is memorable and enjoyable. Had Robocop wrestled, I might feel differently. But saving Sting? That was awesome.

The Shockmaster– This was simply a blooper. It was just another cheesy early 90’s gimmick that no one would remember had he not tripped over a beam in the floor.

The Ultimate Warrior- I was never a fan of the whole mystical Warrior. The Warrior had begun this sort of transformation during his last run in WWE, and he was a full on wizard in WCW. There was a lot of smoke, disappearing, and showing up in mirrors. Despite not being a huge fan of that version of the character, it was all pretty cool looking. They built his match against Hollywood Hogan up to be the biggest rematch in history and I was following along each week anxiously anticipating the day I’d get to see the match.

I heard the match was a dud, and years later, when I watched it, I concurred. It’s a horrible match, full of missed spots, and bad decisions. The Warrior was rusty, and it was a huge let down. No amount of magical powers could save that match.

But was The Ultimate Warrior in WCW a bad thing? No way. It got a lot of people excited and was entertaining to watch. I’ll never forget the camera focusing on a Warrior sign at the end of Thunder prior to his debut on Nitro. I marked out like crazy.

They didn’t deliver on the match, and WCW should have immediately booked a rematch. I think the Warrior would have been better and maybe some of that chemistry would be back.

Sting Being Set on Fire- For whatever reason, this has been brought up a lot recently. Here’s the deal, following Mick Foley’s Hell in a Cell fall, everyone was trying to have big, memorable falls in both WCW and WWE. None of them were nearly as impressive nor shocking as Foley’s. Being set on a fire was a desperate attempt at having that crazy memorable moment. It failed.

But was it really that bad? Was it worse than Hawk drunkenly falling off the Titan Tron? No way. And say what you want, but having a person with a known addiction problem act like a drunk and fall off the Titan Tron is in much worse taste than Sting being set on fire.

Also, remember, the WWE was home to the Inferno Match where people were set on fire. I also recall a crew member being hit by lightning inside of the arena by Kane.

Goldberg Losing- Quick, name a winning streak in professional wrestling, MMA, or any sport that ended and people were happy with how it ended? You can’t.

Two things happen during winning streaks. At first people are excited and love it, then it gets old and everyone starts rooting for someone to beat them.

Goldberg was an amazing, unstoppable force. Everyone loved Goldberg at first. He had a great look,
was powerful, and fun to watch. I’ll never forget the excitement of him winning the US Title and then the World Title.

People forget that not too long after he won the title, the fans were beginning to turn on Goldberg.

The streak had become old, and WCW had to start pumping Goldberg chants in over the PA system.
Don’t get me wrong, Goldberg was still popular and the streak could have gone on another three or four months easy. But when Goldberg lost, I felt like it was time. I also felt like someone cheating him out of the win was a great idea. He still looked powerful, and the only way someone was able to beat him was to cheat. Should Kevin Nash have been the winner? I don’t think so. I feel like Hogan should have won, thus setting up a Goldberg vs. Hogan super fight.

Here’s the deal though, Goldberg had to lose sometime. Putting over a new or young talent would have hurt Goldberg. Having him cleanly lose to established talent would have hurt Goldberg. Having him cheated out of the title was the smartest move they could have made, second to letting the streak run a bit longer.

Goldberg vs. Hogan on Nitro- This was one of WCW’s biggest title fights ever. People tend to criticize it because WCW aired it on Nitro for free. The thought is: WCW could have made huge money on a PPV match, which is probably true. But as a fifteen year old with no job and no way to order PPV, I was thrilled it aired on Nitro. Remember, there was no YouTube. I would have to wait six months till the PPV came out on VHS to see the match.

WCW sold out the Georgia Dome. They had massive ratings, and got millions to turn over to Nitro. It was a fantastic way to have brand exposure and show new viewers the excitement and level of sportsmanship that WCW offered. They were also rewarding their own loyal fans with the match of the century for free. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

Growth of the nWo- The nWo started off with two, then became three, and then became like thirty. Let’s look at the benefit of having that many members.

1. The beatdowns looked amazing.

That’s all I got.

However, a fact that commonly gets left out is Eric Bischoff’s plan for the nWo was to spin them off into their own wrestling organization. It was going to be Smackdown vs Raw, but ten years earlier. In order to start a wrestling organization, you need main eventers, mid carders, and jobbers. The nWo had them all.

The problem is, that plan never came to fruition and you were left with a glob of nWo members with nothing to do. Eventually the Wolfpac splintered off, and that was fantastic at first. I loved the Wolfpac. But then you had side jumping and mergers, and Hollywood nWo then Hollywood Wolfpac and things got way out of hand.

David Arquette Winning the World Title- Should this have happened? No. But was it really as bad as people make it? No.

WCW was struggling. Arquette winning the title got WCW a ton of press, which is always a good thing. But it made the title look weak and insignificant, which was not good.

I tend to think of Arquette having the title as not much worse than Lawrence Taylor main eventing Wrestlemania, or any other celebrity taking up a spot on a pay per view robbing a real wrestler of a valuable pay day.

I won’t sit here and try to justify something I don’t believe was right. I do however believe that too much emphasis is put on this one event. Arquette didn’t ruin WCW, it was already going downhill at that point. It was a desperate act by a writer (Vince Russo) who viewed belts as props and nothing more, which is no different than the way the WWE views their belts today. They just know not to put the title on a celebrity thanks to WCW trying it first.

Vince Russo Winning the World Title- We’ve already established that to Russo, belts were just props. They weren’t to be held in high regard.

Russo was speared out of the cage thus winning the belt by accident. It wasn’t a bad way to give an undeserving person the title, but Russo should have never been in the ring to begin with. It was a joke.
Then again, Vince McMahon also won the world title, which was also a joke.

The Million Dollar Man bought the World Title, but nobody complains about that devaluing the title.

Cruiserweights like Rey Mysterio won the World Heavyweight Title, but nobody mentions how that makes all the heavyweights look.

I’m just trying to say, belts should be respected, but they aren’t always.

Vince Russo Killed WCW- I have a love/hate relationship with Russo. I think he’s got some incredible ideas, but he’s so full of himself and he gets in his own way.

Russo didn’t help WCW, that’s for sure. His choices for champions (we’ll talk about that later) were not good. His attempt to outdo the shock value on WWE pushed into cheesy and stupid territory at times. But he did not kill WCW.

WCW was still profitable and was pulling in good ratings when it was sold. The reason it was sold was because Time Warner merged with AOL, who were not interested in pouring money into a pet project of Ted Turner. They did a fire sale, and ditched the company and all its responsibilities in one quick transaction. Had AOL not come in, I believe WCW would still be here today.

Stuff I cannot/will not defend:

  • Judy Bagwell on a forklift
  • “Insert Noun” on a Pole Matches
  • The Mysterio Demasking
  • Vince Russo on TV
  • Oklahoma
I’m not here to point out or speculate on why WCW failed, but I do want to comment on what I feel was their biggest mistake- Jeff Jarrett.

I like Jeff Jarrett. I’m a Memphis wrestling fan, so it’s one of those things that comes with the fandom. I liked his feud with Chyna, and I thought he was a great Intercontinental Champion. His defection to WCW in 1999 was pretty big, and was only going to work to his advantage. I say this because; I don’t think he would have ever been a main event player in the WWF. I don’t think he should have been a main event player in the WCW either.

Jeff is good on the mic and in the ring, but he doesn’t have that “it” thing. I was never able to buy into his championship runs in WCW. TNA was easier because of the lack of mainstream talent, but WCW in 1999? I don’t think so.

Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Randy Savage, Sting, Goldberg, Diamond Dallas Page, and Jeff Jarrett. Jeff Jarrett’s name doesn’t fit with the others, and Piper and Hall never even won a World Title.

Vince Russo loved Jeff Jarrett. That is why Jarrett was champion. Not because it was right for business or because he was most deserving, Russo, for whatever reason, thought Jeff Jarrett would take WCW to a new level. He was dead wrong.

I’d argue that Jeff Jarrett’s title reigns devalued the World Title more than David Arquette’s. At least no one took Arquette’s for being serious.

When we look back at retro wrestling, we tend to focus on the WWF glory days of the 1980's or the Attitude Era of the late 90's. We tend to forget about that other guy, who actually put on just as good of a show, and sometimes an even better one. I didn't spend much time giving anyone a reason to watch WCW, but I hope I was able to debunk some of the reasons not to. If you are a wrestling fan and have never watched WCW, give it a shot. You might be surprised by the quality of the product, especially when compared to wrestling today.

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