wrestling / Video Reviews

The Name on the Marquee: The Rise and Fall of WCW

February 13, 2012 | Posted by Adam Nedeff
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The Name on the Marquee: The Rise and Fall of WCW  

-Another Netflix offering, with only the documentary and no bonuses.

-Jim Crockett, Jr., explains the beginnings of Jim Crockett Promotions. Jim, Sr. starts promoting wrestling in 1933 and stays mostly in the Carolinas and Virginia. Eventually he makes his way into NWA membership.

-Jim Crockett Promotions was called that because for years, he did FAR more than wrestling, including circuses and concerts.

-Jim Sr. dies in 1973, and Jim & David Crockett take over the company. Jim LOVES wrestling and takes it upon himself to do most of the work.

-Jim brought in a ton of new talent in preparation for the company’s expansion through cable TV; most of the promoters didn’t understand how strong cable TV was going to become.

-We touch on Georgia Championship Wrestling and how huge it got on WTBS, turning it into a credible entity and basically creating Ted Turner’s entire empire.

-Onto Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and the talent that helped build and expand that territory. But the real star was a young fat guy who wanted to call himself “Rambling Rickus Rhodes” before agreeing to just go by Ric Flair.

-Mid-Atlantic peaks when Flair, the homegrown talent, becomes the NWA Heavyweight Champion.

-Jim Crockett wants to start doing pay-per-view in 1983 since that appears to be the next big revenue source. He settles for a giant closed-circuit supercard instead, calling it “Starrcade” and making it a point to spell it with two R’s to avoid pissing off game show producers. They, uh, don’t mention that part, though. That’s an Adam Nedeff exclusive.

-Magnum TA offers his comments about the company’s success at the time. He looks like he is about to be consumed by his own moustache.

-All is well in 1984 until Vince McMahon suddenly takes over the TBS time slots and leaves the Georgia territory for the dead. Vince to this day believes it was a smart business move and is convinced he was a success, blaming “politics” for Ted Turner chasing him off the channel. Jim Crockett steps in to say that the fans who were used to Georgia wrestling at that point hated Vince’s version of pro wrestling.

-Jim Crockett gets the time slots back and immediately regains his momentum and has a strong 1985. Again, he brings in a wave of new talent, while Dusty Rhodes and his collection of increasingly fruity leather hats leads the charge.

-We touch on Magnum TA, who had “next big thing” written all over him. Dusty and Jim treat Magnum to a New York vacation and tell him he’s getting the NWA World Title. And then in October 1986, Magnum is in a serious car accident and is immediately reduced from “next big thing” to “What if?”

-Crockett tries to expand nationally, doing house shows in California and basing a bunch of guys in Las Vegas, flying them back & forth on a private jet. The company begins losing money at an alarming rate. Two weird omissions here when they start talking about losing money: they don’t mention the purchase of UWF at all, and Dusty’s flaws as a booker aren’t touched on.

-Jim Crockett: “Maybe I wasn’t the businessman I should have been.” You can actually hear Vince McMahon’s pants tenting as he says it.

-Jim Crockett’s bookkeeper has a nervous breakdown shortly after telling Jim that he’s $5 million in debt, and it’s either close the company or sell it. Jim Barnett helps arrange the deal with Ted Turner, over David’s objections. Jim & David are both promised jobs if they stay with the company after the sale. David is fired after three weeks and Jim is miserable right up until the day he quits.

-The transformation into WCW made all of the talent optimistic; their paydays were better and there was a drastic uptick in production quality. Another wave of new talent helps the company, too. Dusty and the Four Horsemen weirdly get credit for being part of the talent pool in 1989 and helping grow the company.

-1989-1991 is a pretty decent period for WCW, with effective booking and some of the best matches ever, night in and night out. Behind the scenes, though, management sucked.

-In 1991, former Pizza Hut executive and local TV director Jim Herd takes over the company, and everybody not named Jim Ross hates the shit out of the guy because he had a million ideas and all of them were terrible. Jim Crockett even takes the time to sit down and write a letter to Herd outlining point-by-point why the product was terrible with him in charge.

-Another weird historical omission: they don’t touch on Flair’s departure from the company.

-Ole Anderson was given the book. He was an asshole, but when he finally got fired it was incredibly frustrating because it was hard to gain momentum when there’s a change in power that often.

-Dusty Rhodes gets the book, but Dusty is only given so much power because Turner didn’t trust a wrestler to run the company. Dusty gives up the book, and again, there’s a change in power and the company can’t get any momentum.

-We totally skip the brief, spectacular run of K. Allen Frey and his $5,000 bonuses for the best match of the show and go right to Bill Watts and his brief spectacular run of no moves off the top rope and no booking early flights out of town. Everyone was thrilled when Bill Watts came in because Mid-South had been such a great territory, but then he took away the protective mats on the floor and began cutting pay to reduce losses and suddenly everybody was miserable.

-Bill defends the no-top-rope rule he instituted as a bit of psychology: if it’s illegal, it must be dangerous, therefore, fans will react more strongly to moves off the top rope. In his defense, WCW lost $8 million the year before Bill Watts took over; the year he was there, the loss was only $400,000.

-A guy named Bill Shaw takes over next and upgrades television production again. Bill’s contribution to wrestling history: he promotes Eric Bischoff.

-Bischoff listens to a strange idea from Mike Graham and moves syndicated TV tapings to Walt Disney World. Mike also takes credit for scaling back Clash of the Champions specials in favor of more pay-per-views and claims to be the guy who orchestrated the deal getting Hulk Hogan to sign with WCW. The “WCW News Bulletin” announcing Hulk’s arrival is a hilariously underwhelming way to break the news to fans.

-Hogan’s debut, winning the WCW Title from Ric Flair, looks like it might be the beginning of a new era for the company, with a talent raid of the WWF to make WCW look like they were on an equal level. Another example of being nicer than they have to; the fans almost immediately turned on Hogan, booed the shit out of him, and destroyed Hulk Hogan merchandise on camera.

-In 1995, Eric Bischoff still can’t put the company over the top and talks Ted Turner into giving him a head-to-head timeslot with WCW Monday Nitro. Rare praise from Vince McMahon, who admits watching the premiere of Nitro and thinking that he finally had REAL competition from these guys.

-Eric declares total war with Nitro, poaching stars from the WWF and reading spoilers for pre-taped episodes of RAW.

-Scott Hall arrives, Kevin Nash looks at the adjective, and Hulk Hogan turns heel, creating the nWo.

-We touch on the WWF’s infringement lawsuit that came about when Hall & Nash first arrived and were never identified by WCW. Vince complains with a straight face about how nobody was mentioned by name, therefore it was copyright infringement. Because nothing infringes a trademarked name as strongly as never using that trademarked name. That’s the most insidious form of infringement, really.

-The nWo looks and sounds different from everything else in wrestling, with creepy-looking, awkwardly edited promos. Eric Bischoff turns heel and joins the group and defends the choice because the angle was such a big deal that he wanted to be close to it.

-We double-back to the beginning of Nitro and Eric’s introduction of the Cruiserweight division, showcasing a style of wrestling that the “big two” had totally ignored and giving the fans something else that they had never seen before.

-Along comes Goldberg…Goldberg puts over Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker for busting his ass so hard at the Power Plant and making him something somewhat useful in the ring. Goldberg also thanks Bill DeMott for generously jobbing to a total nobody to start the phenomenon. Kevin Sullivan notes the thought process behind everything, like the lengthy entrance from his dressing room, that turned Goldberg into a giant.

-Dr. Harvey Schiller comes in to talk about how things were doing so well in WCW, and yet, Turner’s underlings would STILL step in and try to micromanage this show even though it was crushing everything in the ratings and making a fortune.

-Pay-per-views are doing strongly. We see clips of the final moments of Starrcade ’97, but absolutely no discussion of that show, another weird omission.

-DDP helps orchestrate the Karl Malone/Dennis Rodman deal after learning that Malone is a huge WCW fan. “Rodman was a jerk,” Jericho understates.

-They do an angle involving “The Goddamn Jay Leno Show,” which leads to a match involving Goddamn Jay Leno, getting more mainstream publicity. Jericho talks about Goddamn Jay Leno putting Hulk in an armbar for a solid minute and not understanding why they’d do a resthold that long so early in the match; the next day, every newspaper in the country had a photo of Goddamn Jay Leno’s armbar on Hogan.

-We talk about the Georgia Dome show where Goldberg won the WCW Title, and Goldberg says the first he heard about the match was JJ Dillon cutting a promo about it on “Thunder” the week before. Goldberg is the first one to say that they flushed a ton of money down the crapper by putting it on Nitro instead of PPV.

-We touch on Halloween Havoc ’98, which costs the company millions of dollars in refunds because they tried doing a 3 1/2 hour show but somehow didn’t notify the cable companies that they were going to go longer than 3 hours, so the show goes off the air one minute into the main event. No mention of the Hulk Hogan vs. Warrior Warrioring Rodriguez clusterfuck on the card that night.

-Goldberg’s winning streak comes to an abrupt end at Starrcade when Kevin Nash gets control of the book and immediately lets himself end the winning streak. The Fingerpoke of Doom happens a week later, and Goldberg looks like a plateful of piss and the nWo buried the last real star that WCW had.

-Meanwhile, stars like The Giant and Chris Jericho get so fed up with hitting various glass ceilings and finally walk away from guaranteed money just to see if they could become bigger stars.

-Vince Russo comes to the company in 1999, and Jericho immediately lays out the problem: He was a genius when he had Vince McMahon acting as his filter; without a filter, he didn’t know shit. WCW gets the lowest ratings ever with Vince Russo in charge. David Arquette wins the WCW Title and it’s the point of no return for the company.

-Onto Bash at the Beach 1999 and the fake shoot angle with Hulk Hogan that turned into a real shoot when Vince Russo did a shoot on Hogan by doing a real shoot during the fake shoot, leading to a shoot lawsuit that was a real shoot lawsuit and not a fake shoot lawsuit.

-Mike Graham rips Jeff Jarrett a new one for letting his superpush go to his head; Jarrett seriously expected to become as big a draw as Hogan.

-The AOL/Time-Warner merger winds up killing the company because Ted Turner was pretty much forced into retirement, which nobody expected to happen, and without Turner there to protect wrestling, WCW was dead.

-So in 2001, Vince McMahon buys WCW; there were so many conflicting stories about what was going to happen to the company that nobody believed it happened until they actually saw Shane McMahon walked into the room. They pretty much declare the final Monday Nitro to be the end of WCW, ignoring the InVasion, which I am more than okay with.

-Everyone says that, in the long run, it was the worst thing that could have happened to the wrestling industry. Talent had nowhere to go, and the product was guaranteed to go stagnant without Vince McMahon having real motivation to put on a decent product.

-The final legacy of WCW: A lot of people made money, a lot of wrestlers got their first breaks, and a lot of fans got treated to awesome matches. Even if it withered and died in humiliating fashion, the company in one form or another lasted 80 years and accomplished a lot.

The 411: It's nice to be a gracious winner, it really is, but I was surprised at how many bad moves by the company were omitted by this release. How do you do a history of JCP/WCW without discussing The Wrestling Network, Flair's departure, Starrcade '97, and the overexposure of the nWo? Going into this documentary blindly, you would think WCW always did pretty well and had maybe three spells of shitty luck, the end. What's there is good, it's just that it could have been better.
Final Score:  7.0   [ Good ]  legend

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Adam Nedeff

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