wrestling / Columns

Top 7 Underrated WCW Killers

June 23, 2024 | Posted by Steve Cook
Scott Hall WCW Nitro Image Credit: WWE

World Championship Wrestling was shut down in March of 2001. Ever since then, wrestling fans have constantly speculated over who was at fault for its downfall. Inevitably, the same names always come up…

-Eric Bischoff
-Vince Russo
-Kevin Nash
-Hulk Hogan
-Jamie Kellner (RIP)

You hear a lot of the same reasons too. Creative control! Guaranteed contracts! Interference by upper management! Hey, I love talking about my childhood as much as anybody, and WCW still holds a special place in my wrestling fan heart. However, I feel like everytime the Death of WCW topic comes up, we go to the same old tropes. Vice’s Who Killed WCW? seems to be falling into this same trap, while also serving as Bischoff’s defense for himself.

We all know that there was more than one thing that killed WCW. The experts & pundits like to act like they’re dropping some type of big revelation when they say that, but everybody knows it. What we’re here to do today is get some clicks off of the recent WCW discussion by writing some silly nonsense talk about some of the less-hearalded reasons for WCW’s dismissal from the wrestling scene. Here are seven causes behind the death of WCW that I don’t think get enough play.

7. Tony Schiavone

One of the best things to come from All Elite Wrestling is the reemergence of Tony Schiavone. We wrestling fans hadn’t heard from Tony in years before he returned with a podcast and eventually became part of AEW’s announce team. One of the best things about Schiavone’s commentary these past few years is how different it is from the dying days of WCW. As the lead voice of that company, Schiavone didn’t do a whole lot to make us care about what was going on. He had mailed it in like most other people had, and was working in a manner that he knew he could get by with. The lead voice of a wrestling company needs to be a great salesman, and Tony wasn’t interested in selling anything towards the end. We could tell.

What makes the case against Schiavone more damning is his being credited with the idea of having David Arquette win the World Championship. Of all of the ideas that sunk WCW’s battleship, the whole thing with Arquette might be at the top of the list. Have I done that one yet? Either way, Schiavone’s hands aren’t as clean as we’d like to think.

6. The Armstrong Curse

Bullet Bob Armstrong was tremendously successful in the Southeastern United States for many years. His sons followed him into the business and attempted to do the same. Most places, the Armstrong kids found success. Brad was a light heavyweight champion in WCW. Scott & Steve formed a championship-winning tag team in multiple promotions. Brian became the Road Dogg and won many championships in the WWF. Something happened to the Armstrongs in the mid 1990s. At least in WCW. Brian had the good sense to keep away from all that.

Unfortunately for Brad, he excelled at making his opponents look better than they were. A good trait to have, but not one that’ll help you win a ton of matches. Scott & Steve fell into that same category. The Armstrong Curse was born, as Brad, Scott & Steve were never able to win big matches or get into contention for championships. They had lengthy periods of time where they couldn’t beat anybody.

So what does this have to do with the death of WCW? See, eventually there were no Armstrongs on WCW’s active roster. Steve left. Brad got injured. Scott became a referee. Once the Armstrongs stopped wrestling, the Curse had to go somewhere. My theory: The Armstrong Curse became the WCW Curse. Once infected with a good ol’ fashioned curse, there was no chance for WCW to survive.

5. Scott Hall’s Demons

I’m not here to criticize Scott Hall for the choices he made in his life. Addiction is a terrible thing, and once caught in the midst of it, one has a hard time getting out. Substances had a hold of Hall for most of his time in WCW, and as much trouble as he got himself into it’s hard for me to cast stones at the man. What I wonder about is what would have happened if he’d managed to stay somewhat clean.

When Hall arrived in May 1996, he was one of the hottest acquisitions that WCW ever made. He was one of the focal points of the New World Order and never failed to get a reaction from fans. What we learned about later was Hall’s mind for the business. Hall’s friends will all tell you that he had a wrestling mind that was second to none. He gave Eric Bischoff the idea for the Crow Sting gimmick that would extend the Stinger’s career for decades. He had an eye for talent that allowed countless wrestlers to get a chance. Unfortunately, Hall’s mind was clouded for most of the final years of his career and he spent more time embarrassing WCW than making it better. I wonder if Hall had the ideas that could turn around WCW’s business. His best friend & tag team partner Kevin Nash didn’t, but Nash would be the first to tell you that Hall was smarter when it came to pro wrestling than he was.

4. Ric Flair

When I first got into the Internet Wrestling Community and read about the history of pro wrestling during the 1980s, there was a common thread between most of the wrestlers I was told were the greatest of that era. Turns out, they were all crooked backstage politicians! Dusty Rhodes kept himself on top forever because he was the booker. Hulk Hogan used his influence to hold down any perceived threats.

There was one name immune from these charges: Ric Flair. In the eyes of these IWC legends, Flair was always in the right. Dusty, Hulk, all the bookers & other folks backstage were always wrong, and Ric Flair was always right. After all, it was Flair that booked most of WCW’s most critically-acclaimed year (1989), featuring classic matches with him taking on Ricky Steamboat & Terry Funk that still hold up today. Flair was an in-ring mastermind that worked circles around Dusty, Hulk, or anybody else you wanted to throw out there. If only he had stayed in charge and continued booking WCW, the company would surely be thriving today.

Don’t get me wrong, Flair was a solid part of WCW programming from his return in 1993 until the end when he was the storyline CEO & wrestling in Hawaiian shirts. I do think we tend to gloss over some of his flaws, including his failure to see things in certain talents that left WCW while he was part of the creative process. I mean, if 10 year old me thought that Cactus Jack & Steve Austin had potential, why didn’t the Naitch see it? Flair went through some legal stuff with WCW later on, was mis-used and wasn’t at his best emotionally during the last years, so it’s tough to fault him too much for all that. We can fault him for his insistence on being heel years after anyone wanted to boo him, or taking part in embarrassing angles instead of standing up for himself, but I feel like that could lead to an even longer list of people to blame.

3. The Fans

I’m surprised we haven’t seen more blame tossed the way of the audience. You don’t see it quite as much these days, but there used to be a very advesarial relationship between wrestlers and the paying customers they called “marks”. Not everybody, but I’d wager more than half. If a match didn’t get the type of reaction the wrestlers expected, it was the fans’ fault. If an angle didn’t go over with an audience as well as the booker/writer expected, it was the fans’ fault for not getting it. This was one of the few things that some wrestlers and bookers agreed on, the fact that they were always right and the crowd was always wrong. That’s why I find it shocking that the fans have mainly avoided blame for the death of WCW. Especially when there’s one crowd in specific we can blame.

Of course, they were WWF fans.

When Vince McMahon purchased WCW, he intended on keeping the brand alive in some fashion. There were plans in place for son Shane to run the company, theoretically giving him training for when he would one day run the whole shebang. (Remember when people thought Shane was next in line?) WCW even got some airtime on Raw, as the main event of the show pitted Booker T against Buff Bagwell. The only problem? Fans in the Tacoma Dome had no interest in seeing a WCW title match.

Looking back, it was one of those moments that decided the rest of time. Had Booker & Buff torn the house down & the fans gone wild over it, WCW would have gotten more of a chance. I’m not saying it’d still be a thing today, as WWE ended up using the ECW brand name for a show and only got a few middling years out of it. I’m just saying that WCW had a chance that night and the fans gave them a thumbs down.

On second thought, maybe I should be blaming Buff Bagwell here?

2. Drugs

Whenever the death of World Class Championship Wrestling is discussed, one of the first reasons listed by nearly everyone is drug usage. The party lifestyle down in the 1980s Dallas-based territory was well advertised, and a good number of their main eventers ended up passing away in their twenties & thirties. WCCW wasn’t the only place in wrestling where drugs ran rampant, but that company got painted with a brush that other companies managed to avoid.

Extreme Championship Wrestling kind of took over WCCW’s reputation as Drug Central in the 1990s, but it’s not like WCW was free & clear of such things. Far from it. Maybe it was just less noticeable because folks like Louie Spicolli & Bobby Duncum Jr. weren’t in the main event. Rick Rude had recently left. You still had Scott Hall with various issues, Eddie Guerrero nearly dying after a car accident, & Juventud Guerrera getting involved in quite the ecstacy-fueled incident in Australia. That’s just the stuff I remember off the top of my head. Jim Mitchell had some good stories during his ROH shoot interview. Raven & Sandman were there for awhile too. Oh, and Bischoff keeps telling us that certain main event wrestlers weren’t in the right frame of mind at key moments in the company’s history without going into proper detail. What does that mean?

Maybe the tippy top of WCW didn’t have too much of a drug problem, but we can’t act like the locker room was full of Sunday school teachers. We also have to wonder if it something of an effect on how things went for WCW.

1. Paul Heyman

Who hated WCW more than Paul Heyman? After getting fired by Bill Watts in 1992, Heyman embarked on a mission to create a wrestling company that would compete with WCW & the WWF by being more modern. Heyman wanted to take wrestling to places that the mainstream feds either wouldn’t go or wouldn’t be allowed to go. Extreme Championship Wrestling did feature some great in-ring action and a ton of talent that would end up in WCW. It also featured plenty of blood & guts, along with some adult-oriented storylines. Heyman’s guess was that both WCW & the WWF wouldn’t be able to compete with him on those fronts, and he was half-right. The WWF was eventually able to have some Attitude, which had the effect of putting them back on top of the Monday night war.

At the same time the WWF was going further in the gutter, WCW found itself in the crosshairs of Turner Broadcasting’s standards & practices division. USA might have been willing to let the WWF walk the line of cable television decency standards, but WCW wasn’t going to get that same kind of slack. By the time standards were loosened a little bit, the WWF had already beaten WCW to the punch. WCW’s attempts at violence & lewdness came off as second-rate to fans that were flipping back & forth between Raw & Nitro, and third-rate to those of us that had seen peak ECW.

Considering that Heyman was getting a check every week from Vince McMahon, I’d say he did a pretty good job helping kill off the WWF’s competition.

Thanks for reading! Hit me up at [email protected] or on the social media with thoughts, comments or suggestions. Feel free to hit the comment section and tell us about whoever I forgot to mention. Until next time, true believers!

article topics :

WCW, Steve Cook