The 8-Ball 10.19.12: Top 8 Stupid WCW Moments
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the 8-Ball. As always, I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to once again kill fifteen minutes of your day with a top eight list the likes of which you’re not going to see anywhere else on the internet.
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Ahhh, WCW. The destruction of the once-proud promotion as an independent entity in 2001 was a sad moment for many professional wrestling fans, as it meant that the United States no longer had a legitimate number two promotion capable of competing with the World Wrestling Federation.
As sad as it, was, though, WCW in many ways deserved to die. Incompetence and mismanagement ran amuck in the promotion. There have been reams and reams of paper used to write about the incompetence and mismanagement that killed the company, and I’m not going to add to a crowded marketplace by reexamining those issues. The purpose of this column isn’t to point out the idiocy that caused WCW to crumble. The purpose of this column is to point out some stories of idiocy that have slipped through the cracks and, though they didn’t necessarily lead to the downfall of the company, they sure are fun to laugh at.
So, let’s examine the Top 8 Stupid WCW Stories . . .
Everybody knows that WCW made an incredibly ballsy move when they decided to run Nitro head-to-head with Monday Night Raw, which was step one in a process that turned them into the most profitable professional wrestling company in the history of the planet up to that point. However, WCW also made some rather dumb decisions about who they were going to compete with and when. In fact, on at least two different occasions, they decided that they were going to go head-to-head with themselves. First of all, for a period of time in early 2001, WCW Nitro and WCW Thunder actually ran at the same time on two different television networks in Australia, which is a particularly poor idea when you consider the fact that Australia was one of the few places where WCW was still actually popular in 2001. However, that move wasn’t exactly unprecedented. In addition facing competition from WWF Raw, the August 2, 1999 edition of Nitro also faced competition from a WCW-promoted pay per view featuring footage of the Nitro Girls dance group in bikinis. Some might argue that WCW had no choice in these matters, because it was the networks/pay per view providers who were deciding when the programming aired, but it wasn’t like the promotion was a lightweight in the television industry at the time. They certainly could have exerted some pressure to prevent these situations from occurring.
The next-to-last pay per view of WCW’s existence was Superbrawl XI, which was broadcast live from the Municipal Coliseum in Nashville, Tennessee on February 18, 2001. The show was fairly forgettable, but we’re not here to talk about anything that happened on the pay per view itself. We’re here to talk about something that happened during the buildup to the pay per view. As is typically the case, in addition to national advertising, WCW also took out local ads in the Nashville market that encouraged Tennesseans to buy tickets to the show. What part of the WCW product did those ads put over? Did they highlight superb in-ring action? No. Did they mention dramatic storylines? Nope. The advertisements told fans that they should “expect a night of run-ins.” Seriously. WCW took is what is typically considered one of the most obnoxious aspects of wrestling by fans and decided they would be the centerpiece of their local advertising. Sadly, the advertising was accurate, as there were numerous matches on the card marred by outside interference.
Last week we talked about some legal problems that Paul “The Giant” Wight (a.k.a. The Big Show) had when he broke a fan’s jaw. That’s not the only issue Wight had during his WCW tenure, as he was also arrested in December 1998 for allegedly exposing his penis to a woman. (Ultimately, he was cleared of any wrongdoing.) As a result of the arrest, WCW made a series of odd choices in relation to its December 4 house show, which the Giant was scheduled to main event. Rather than simply announcing that he was unavailable and offering a refund, WCW decided to stall, stall, stall in order for the Giant to be released and make the show. The opener was a lucha libre tag match involving Lizmark Jr., Silver King, Damien 666, and Ciclope. Normally that would be a great, hot seven or eight minute opener. However, as part of the stalling process, the company booked it to go twenty. Though the men involved are competent wrestlers, their position in the company meant they couldn’t hold the fans’ interest for that long. Next up were Prince Iaukea and Lodi, who were of similar stature on the cards but were significantly worse wrestlers, meaning the crowd was really crapping on things when they ALSO went twenty minutes. With forty minutes killed, you’d think the Giant would have arrived, right? Wrong. The promotion put on a thirty minute intermission, and they also trotted out Ciclope again, this time without his mask, to do a lengthy bout with Chris Adams. The fans did eventually get their main event with the Giant, but, after almost an hour of subpar matches featuring jobbers and half an hour of no action whatsoever, you have to wonder whether they lost more goodwill with the crowd by going to these great lengths to preserve the planned match.
In the late 1990s, professional wrestling had a love affair with destroying motor vehicles. Most of those memorable moments involved “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, whether it was pouring concrete into Vince McMahon’s convertible or destroying D-Generation X’s tour bus. They’re not as well-remembered, but WCW actually had numerous vehicular destruction moments of its own, including things like hummers and monster trucks. One of those moments came on the December 27, 1999 episode of Monday Nitro, where Sid Vicious (who by this point had lost his last name) was feuding with the reformed black-and-silver nWo, lead by Bret “The Hitman” Hart. The episode closed with Hart engaging in a fairly brutal attack on his rival, i.e. running over Sid’s car with a monster truck while Sid was supposedly sitting in the driver’s seat. On the surface, that’s not too horribly stupid. You do the angle in a pre-taped segment with experienced stunt drivers, you air it, and you move on with your life. That’s not what WCW did, though. For some reason, the powers that be within the company decided that the stunt drivers weren’t necessary and that Bret Hart should legitimately drive a monster truck over the top of a car that legitimately had Sid inside of it. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and the company changed its position when Hart told them that in no way, shape, or form would he do that given that it could very easily result in a man being killed. Yes, Bret Hart had to be the one to explain this.
One of WCW’s biggest, most consistent problems was that the right hand didn’t know what the left one was doing. Different departments of this gargantuan company would have conflicting plans, and one would never clue the other in on how it was handling things. One such clusterfuck manifested itself when the company was attempting to tape the episode of WCW Thunder that was set to air on June 10, 1999. The folks who put the show together had decided to book Ric Flair for a main event against Chris Benoit, including several pre-taped interviews with Benoit hyping up the match. The problem? Management had given Flair the night off quite a bit earlier, and nobody communicated this to the booking team. This lead to the company contacting the Nature Boy at the last minute and spending several thousand dollars to charter a private jet between Flair’s home in Charlotte and the taping in Syracuse, New York. However, the flight was delayed due to weather, meaning Slick Ric didn’t arrive in upstate NY until it was far too late for his scheduled match to go on. So, even when WCW attempted to do a last-second make good to cover up one of its goof-ups, circumstances beyond their control made their goof-up even more phenomenal than it would have been otherwise.
As noted earlier in the column, professional wrestling couldn’t seem to get enough of destroying cars during the Monday Night War era. One such instance occurred during the summer of 1999 with the infamous “white hummer” angle, in which Randy Savage had the titular vehicle repeatedly driven into the side of a limousine that was occupied by rival Kevin Nash. For those of you who were not around at the time, the hummer angle was infamous first of all for being incredibly cheesy in its execution. It was also infamous for a second reason, namely that it was never really resolved. (About a year later, they technically did attempt to reveal Eric Bischoff as the driver, but that was a post-hoc resolution invented long after the original angle was dropped.) However, there’s another aspect of stupidity revolving around the hummer angle that almost nobody thinks about. According to various reports, between the production costs and the price of the limousine that was destroyed, the angle wound up costing roughly $100,000.00 despite the fact that the quarter-hour segment that it aired in only drew a 2.7 rating which, though it is average for an episode of Monday Night Raw these days, was miserable at the time and well less than what Raw was doing as Nitro’s opposition.
Now here’s an odd story. In early 1999, a rapper named D.J. S&S released an album called the “Harlem World Order” on the label Lethal Records. World Championship Wrestling, which obviously had made quite a bit of money off of the “New World Order” name by that point, contacted Lethal Records and threatened legal action. However, Lethal Records had a defense to WCW’s claim that it was infringing on the wrestling promotion’s intellectual property. Lethal claimed that, prior to using the Harlem World Order name; it had done a search of registered trademarks only to find that the New World Order name wasn’t registered to WCW at all. Instead, all registered marks associated with the “New World Order” were actually registered and owned (and had been since the early 1990s) by Brawn of California, Inc., a company that produced a line of clothing predominantly marketed towards gay men. I suppose, technically, this could mean that Lethal Records did a horribly ineffective search of registered trademarks. However, it much more likely means that WCW either never registered appropriate trademarks for their single hottest act in history or had registered the marks at one point and somehow allowed them to lapse. That is mind-bogglingly stupid.
By April 1999, WCW was on a major slide. They had trounced the WWF in the ratings war for quite some time, but the red hot Fed had rebounded and began the wave of momentum that would make them the ultimate victory in the competition. In an attempt to revive itself, WCW unveiled a new “look” in 1999 and also embarked upon a nationwide advertising campaign. Unfortunately, they were still WCW, so the campaign lead to one of the outright dumbest advertisements in the history of marketing, which was run prominently in the national publication USA Today. (The ad is reproduced above, as well.) The first problem with the advertisement? It in no way, shape, or form alerts you that it is an advertisement for a professional wrestling promotion. It tells you to tune in at a particular time on a particular television network but gives you no indication of what you may be seeing when you get there. And why does it give you no indication of what you’re going to see? Because the quote that WCW decided to run in the advertisement is not about the product itself but rather about the new logo . . . and it’s not even a complimentary quote about the new logo. Instead, it compares the thing to bird feces which, frankly, I can’t say is inaccurate. Just because it’s accurate doesn’t mean that you have to say it when you’re trying to hype up your company, though . . .
That’s it for this week’s 8-Ball. If you can’t get enough of Ryan, follow him on Twitter here.