WCW, three letters that mean so much. Three letters that contain so much history. Three letters that are a warning on how NOT to run a business. The Death of WCW was a book that came out 3 years after the wrestling company closed its doors and was sold to WWE, and that was over a decade ago. The Tenth Anniversary edition adds a lot more content to the book, more quotes from wrestlers, more facts that were not mentioned before, new details that have come to light in the last decade and most of all, Lessons not learned from WCW. That last one gets its own section in the book in the form of new pieces inserted between paragraphs.
WCW, World Championship Wrestling, was a company that took the world by storm in the 90’s in a way no one expected. Wrestling from the 40’s till the 80’s was a territorial business. Everything was overseen by the National Wrestling Alliance, who supported members by sending talent to help promoters, they had the NWA world heavyweight championship, which was THE title in wrestling, and they also had an illegal monopoly on the business.
The NWA had a good system set up, even with some going against them like Verne Gagne with his promotion, the AWA. But something changed the whole set up in the 80’s and that was cable TV. Among those wrestling promotions that took advantage of this were Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) and Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (WWF). Vince K. McMahon, bought the WWF from his father Vince J McMahon, and had some grand ideas. Since his father promoted in Madison Square Garden, HBO would carry the product nationally but Vince jr. had his own ideas. He wanted to promote not just in the North East United States but to promote wherever he wanted. He separated the WWF from the NWA and began raiding talent from other promotions like the AWA and various NWA promotions, taking Hulk Hogan. Ted Dibiase, Randy Savage and Roddy Piper just to name a few. He went from area to area and offered to pay television networks to put his finely produced wrestling on their networks instead of them paying local wrestling groups for content.
Another figure important in this is Jim Barnett who ran Georgia Championship Wrestling. GCW was notable because it ran on channel 17 in Atlanta…..or better known as the Turner Superstation. Their main programing? It was called World Championship Wrestling.
The book details all of this and goes into great explanation so there is no confusion. It discusses how Vince bought GCW which led to Black Saturday, a day that set off a chain of events that led to Turner buying JCP and renaming it WCW.
Now that the basics are out of the way, the book holds nothing back in calling out the stupidity of WCW in the late 80’s and early 90’s. From having a revolving door of bosses, to pissing off their talent such as Ric Flair, WCW made every mistake they could have. Under Bookers ( story writers) such as Dusty Rhodes, who was more interested in putting himself over, Ole Anderson, who held young talent down to get them to quit, to Bill Watts, who refused to change with the times, the company suffered and lost money. The book describes the mistakes each of these men made which only served to drive the company into harder times and anger the talent. And WCW had great talent, from Sting, to Steve Austin, to Mick Foley to Brian Pillman…only one of those 3 would stay with WCW till the end.
With WCW going through so many bosses in a short time, the Turner executives turned to Eric Bischoff for help turning the company around. Bischoff proceeded to do just that.
Here we get into the rise of WCW as the book details its coming from a company losing 6 million in a year to a company making millions. From pretaping episodes of WCW Saturday night, to setting up the Monday Night Wars between WCW Monday Nitro and WWF Monday Night RAW which led to the biggest boom in wrestling, to getting Hulk Hogan and other former WCW stars. Of course they also fired several stars like Steve Austin and Mick Foley and others whom would turn the WWF around. Bischoff created the most successful invasion angle in American Wrestling with the NWO…..which they then ran into the ground over the next several years.
The Death of WCW goes into detail about how stars like Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and many others held talent down to keep the top spot for themselves. How the social hierarchy of WCW was disheartening to the wrestlers and how young stars like Jericho felt they could go no where and left instead of ushering in a new era for WCW. How when WWF entered into their attitude era of mimicking ECW and crash tv, WCW’s ratings fell fast. They had a strong product in 1996 but that product soon became stale and repetitive.
But did WCW learn from the ratings loss? They blamed everyone but themselves and made life miserable for everyone there. Whenever they had a show in the Carolinas, they would mock and embarrass local hero Ric Flair, they wasted so much money on quick fixes that solved nothing. And when it got bad, it got really bad for WCW leading to the company going under in 2001.
The book corrects a lot of mistakes from the first edition such as assumptions of backstage behavior and properly assigns blame to the actual party in many instances. They also address criticism from many former WCW workers who defended the company. More insight is given into how Vince McMahon bought the company and the failed WCW invasion of WWF. The sections of “Lessons Not Learned” are also great additions, ranging from repeating the magic warrior mirror ( too long to explain the details) to Hogan bringing in his family to wrestling companies and the confusion of why the companies do it. There are also “Lessons Learned” such as WWE bringing in Rey Mysterio with his mask on, not playing hot potato with the world title, and most important, taking head injuries seriously.
The last part of the book reads like a preview of their next book, the Death Of TNA, as they discuss in brief all the horrible mistakes and actions that company has taken.
If you are a fan of Wrestling, then you will want to read this book, its well researched and insightful as to the history of the industry. And if you are not a fan of wrestling but just want a good book to read, then I still recommend this. Its incredibly accessible to all and will help you understand quickly about what happened. In fact the book is also good from a business perspective since it teaches how not to run a company.