Anyone Interested In Conspiracy Theories?
January 19, 2000
By Fritz Capp
World Championship Wrestling comes tumbling down...tumbling down...tumbling down. This is the tune that has had a repeat performance running through my head this past week as news stories fly across the Internet as to the happenings of the past week down in the southland. To be honest I was convinced it was an elaborate work by a desperate company trying to draw attention to themselves. There is still the remotest possibility of this, but as the days move from one to the next it is starting to appear as though the mounting troubles in WCW have finally come to a head.
I am amazed that a company that is built around a business like Time-Warner could actually allow itself to get itself into this position. There have been problems over the past year and a half that could have easily been dealt with when they first cropped up, but quick fixes were implemented instead of actually dealing with the problems. To myself and a few others who I have spoken with, this was the beginning of their downfall.
The mounting problems in the locker room were of course no one's fault but WCW management. They have the largest locker room ever in the history of professional wrestling. I went on record over two years ago stating that this would invariably become a problem due to all of the egos that WCW now housed. There is no way that you can keep over 120 wrestlers happy at one time. I do not care how much television you have running, you can only push so many people at a time.
This problem escalated in the Eric Bischoff era as Bischoff was known to only push his close friends and those that were in the "clique." This left a lot of workers on the outside looking in which does not make for happy campers. The "names" in the promotion pretty much enjoyed carte blanche while the undercard disappeared into oblivion.
One wrestler in particular did nothing to further his career after he decided to take up with the bookers wife. While there had to be problems within the family for this to happen, I still believe there are certain forbidden fruits that should be left alone, this being one of them. This being the case and one that was not adhered to, Chris Benoit was always left below mid-card status, even though he is probably the most sound wrestler of the whole crew.
WCW also decided to take a man who has more history then the whole management committee combined and put him on the shelves. Politics played heavy in this one as Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and the others sitting at the right hand of The Bish did not want to try to compete with this man's giant reputation in the southland. I am of course speaking of Ric Flair. Flair's name is synonymous with wrestling south of the Mason-Dixon line and there was no way the boys from the north could compete. So what did they do? They helped to put Flair out to pasture. How did this affect WCW? Look at the ratings. To put a wrestler the likes of Flair out of the picture only shows the graveness of what was actually happening in WCW. The inmates were running the asylum and it showed.
Another problem that WCW has had and continues to have is their lack of originality. It is apparent that they are using a "let's see what the opposition does and do it yourself" mentality. If there is a food fight on WWF programming, there is a food fight on WCW a week later. If there is a mud wrestling match on the WWF, you can guarantee there will be one in WCW. If the WWF has high flyers ala The Hardy Boys, WCW will answer with Three Count. If the WWF has all the wrestlers brought to the ring so does WCW. If WWF's booking starts to put enemies together in tag matches so does WCW.
This kind of booking does nothing for their identity or their product. In fact it shows the lack of creativity that actually is housed in WCW. WCW used to be the ratings monster. They did it with their own brand of wrestling and angles. While they were on top, they did not worry about what the other was doing. In fact they laughed about it. But complacency reared its ugly head and the ratings changed. This was due to the fact that Vince McMahon did not worry about what the other was doing. Vince did not try to copy WCW's formula for success. He instead trashed everything he was doing and reinvented himself and his company. The fruits of this has been evident for well over a year now as far as ratings go and well over a year and a half for those who have been following the product.
WCW also forgot who brought them to the dance in the first place. Besides Ric Flair one individual was instrumental in their development and that was Steve Borden aka Sting. For years Sting carried the mantra of WCW on his back. Remember now even Ric Flair jumped ship to the WWF for a brief amount of time. Sting had that same option but opted to stay loyal to the company where he made his career. What thanks was he given for his loyalty? Mid-card status and learning that for all of his dedication to the company he was allowed the ability to stand in line behind Hulk Hogan and his cronies. What a way to be repaid for all those years of service.
Enter Vince Russo. Russo was touted as being the savior of World Championship Wrestling even though during his stint in the WWF he was vilified by both WCW and its employees. Russo promised change. Russo promised a new direction and greater ratings. But Russo wasn't given the chance to make good on his promises. Back stage politics played heavily into undermining everything that Vince Russo tried to do. These politics were done by the same people who helped bring WCW to its lowest point in history as far as product acceptance and rating are concerned. Why they would allow this trash to still be there when they decided to go out on a limb to make radical changes is beyond me.
WCW now lives its life in fear and acts accordingly. It is a mentality that is not going to change anytime soon either. They are not willing to make the needed sacrifices to build a strong foundation to start to put the company back on track to its former greatness.
What needs to be done in WCW is very simple, clean house and start over again. This point is made by the fact that it is being reported that they lost over $10,000,000.00 last year. It is also made by the fact that their house shows are now considered a bother by the upper echelon of workers who no show these events with alarming regularity but are available for their main televised broadcasts.
How could a company lose so much money in one year? Well, to be honest, the way business works and they way they report, they could still have made a lot of money but still report losses. I am sure that they made 10 million dollars less then they expected to. Trust me if they went ten million dollars in the red, the plug would be pulled or a total and irrevocable change would be made immediately. But let's looks at some of the factors that are playing into WCW's finances.
Currently WCW has the largest locker room in history as is well documented and I have stated above. Now considering you only get to see maybe 50% of these people, just why are the others there? Development? Future storylines? No, they are there so that the WWF cannot have them under contact plain and simple. Is this the way to do business? For the brainwashed non thinkers this is not the way to do business if you are confident in your product. The old adage of "the cream rises to the top" comes into play heavily here. Why would you have to purchase the rights to something just so your competitor doesn't get it if you are the superior product? Also why would you purchase these rights if they are so valuable and not use them? Take 30 wrestlers....times that by a base salary of $150,000.00 dollars a year and see that you are now throwing away 4 ½ million dollars in unused dollars. Not to mention that the wrestlers who you are sitting down are doing nothing to further their careers. I mean WCW picked up Barry Horowitz for God's sake just because he was in the WWF.
Now we haven't even touched on Eric Bischoff, Ric Flair or Hulk Hogan who are making a lot more than $150,000.00 a year to sit. In a way, I can understand not letting these people go, but again if you are not going to use them and they are of no commercial value to you, why keep them around. Let's look at what would really happen if they were released. First there is no interest from the WWF in Hogan. They do not need an egomaniac in their locker room at the present time nor would Hogan really boost the ratings. Flair would be a draw for awhile but Flair is in his waning years, and after a program with the Rock, what would Vince really do with him, reform the Corporation? I am as big a Flair mark as the rest of them, but you have to be based in reality here. Bischoff would create quite a stir the first time he walked down a WWF ramp, but that would quickly fade and what would they do with him then? So why the fear in releasing these people from their contracts?
WCW needs to bring its locker room down to a manageable size in order to get things under control once again. It also needs to get rid of the detractors. I do not care if those names start with Kevin Nash and go all the way to the office paper boy. You do not need people who are undermining what you are trying to do, especially in the fast paced business of sports entertainment. The business today is built around continuity of product and how the people feel who work for you greatly reflect that. If they are not happy, it comes across on television, which directly affects the way you are perceived by the public.
Get the bookers off of television. It worked in the WWF, but even Vince knew that it was time to remove himself from television and did so. The Austin/McMahon feud did what it needed to do and Vince has once again stepped aside. He could see that it was starting to get stale. Does Kevin Nash see this? Hardly. In fact Nash is now commissioner of WCW going for the WCW Heavyweight belt. I find it relatively amusing that as soon as Nash gets his hands anywhere near the book, he goes over. His first stint had him being the only man to put a blemish on Goldberg's record and now this. Needless to say that you cannot serve two masters. Kevin Nash is supposed to be serving in WCW's best interest but is instead serving his own needs. It didn't work the first time so why should anybody thing it will work this time?
Get back to what made you in the first place. A couple weeks ago you saw on RAW all the wrestlers come to the ring and deliver ultimatums to Triple H and Stephanie as to how the night was going to go. The matches pitted members of DX against each other. About 30 minutes later, you saw Terry Funk make matches between NWO members which pitted them against each other. Is this originality? WCW doesn't need a booker if they are going to continue down this road, they need a good satellite hookup. This is the sort of thing that WCW has fallen into and needs to get away from quickly. If they are so out of ideas, hire Paul Heyman as a consultant. I may not agree with his business practices but I believe in his booking abilities. There are other people in the business that also have the ability to creatively book matches. I am not talking about "crash television" either. Russo has shown that he can copy what he was a part of in the WWF but really has no original ideas of his own. He also has shown he has absolutely no respect for the business or workers. The people I have in mind respect the business wholeheartedly but will probably never be contacted because it is known that they do not play the politics game. This is the kind of person you need booking the cards. Not the politically based has beens who are leftovers from another era. Today's market calls for fresh and innovative ideas and execution, something that WCW does not have in great supplies.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Right now ECW is sitting in the catbird seat waiting to pounce. If Heyman is as together as he appears to finally be it would not take much for him to remove WCW as the number two promotion in the country. The buyrates for both companies in the pay-per-view arena is almost equal and I believe that if ECW could enhance its production quality it could be a real contender for the number two spot. No one is going to touch the WWF until it decides to fall flat on its fact from complacency as it did in the late 80's/early 90's.
With the reports that Chris Benoit/Eddie Guerrero/Shane Douglas/Dean Malenko/Perry Saturn have all been offered a release from WCW it will be interesting how this also plays out. While Benoit was on the verge of a huge push his compadres are really not that sought after. Also considering that they basically strong armed the company for these releases it will be interesting to see just how wide the open arms for them really are. In professional wrestling, owners do not like people who have a history of strong arming ownership into compromise. This throws up a red flag because if they did it once what is to say they wouldn't do it again, especially if they are signed on as a group.
Yes the walls are tumbling down in WCW and it will be interesting to see how they rebuild from here. The fact is rebuild they must but will it be on its current foundation or will they do what is necessary and rebuild from scratch. The latter takes guts and testicular fortitude which is something that WCW has not shown it has by any stretch of the imagination. Only time will tell, but for now let us bow our heads in prayer that this time around they make the right decisions.
With that I am outta here. Remember wrestling is nothing more than it appears to be.
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