Welcome back to Ringside Review! Apologies for the absence of a week, but circumstances dictated that it was a necessary evil.This week we’re going to be looking at “The Death Of WCW,” which chronicles the rise and fall of a company which once boasted that they’d put the WWF out of business in six months. Ironically, it was ultimately World Championship Wrestling who went bust. Amazingly only two and half years after posting a 60m dollar profit in 1998, the company lost it’s financial safety-net in Ted Turner, proceeded to lose its’ TV deal which made the company – which had at one point been the largest, most successful promotion in the world – essentially worthless. The book, written by R.D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez, seeks to answer the question of how the once proud promotion ultimately met its death.
The cover maybe gives some clues as to where the book is going to be going. A quintet of individuals are featured: Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Vince Russo. The book essentially places the responsibility for the death of the company at these five individuals feet. I can hear some groans already from some of you: isn’t this just going to be a whitewash of five guys who are easy scapegoats? No, this isn’t really the case. The book does give credit where credit is due, especially to Eric Bischoff in how he transformed the company and turned it around initially. Not to mention the behemoth that he created in Monday Night Nitro. The book also praises Bischoff extremely highly for the initial booking of the NWO and the Hogan/Sting feud that culminated in Starrcade 1997. But at the same time, facts speak for themselves.
WCW’s last Starrcade in 2000, which was once the pinacle of their year-the Wrestlemania of WCW-did a 0.11 buyrate. For some contrast, the same event three years prior drew a 1.9 on PPV. In layman’s terms, WCW lost about 95% of its’ PPV audience in three years, which is actually really quite impressive when you stop and think about it. The book is at its’ best in recording what happened to make things go so far downhill so quickly. The material in the hands of less capable duo of writers could have been depressing, or read like a high-school history text book. It isn’t. This is one of the funniest books I’ve had the privilege of reading. The prevailing thought when you read is either: “What the hell were they doing?” or “How in the name of all that is holy did they decide that was a good idea?”
One thing that I feel has to be picked up on is that it doesn’t look in a tremendous amount of detail in the merger between Turner and AOL. Some are going to argue that the merger is the fundamental reason for WCW going bust. They are entitled to that opinion, because it certainly does have some validity in it. If Ted Turner had the power to, it’s safe to assume he would have saved the company. However, here’s the rebuttal. Had WCW been in good shape at the time of the merger, and still been doing good TV ratings, pulling in decent PPV buyrates and generally been profitable, would it still have been axed? Of course not. Had WCW still been a commercially viable entity, of course there still would have been a place for the company in the corporate structure.
As much as people might want to deny it, WCW was killed by bad booking which alienated it’s fan base, making the company pretty much worthless. Hell, it even alienated its own wrestlers. Jericho, Guerrero, Benoit, Mick Foley, Steve Austin and Triple H all served in WCW at one point. All went to the WWF and became multiple world champions and who drew massive money for them.
In summary, this is a book that everyone with an interest in professional wrestling should be forced to read in my opinion. For fans it’s a trip down memory lane, refreshing exactly what WCW do so right at the start, and how they totally murdered their own promotion in the space of about three years. For aspiring promoters it’s a guide as how not to run a promotion. For instance do not put belts on celebrities and do not keep hungry, talented guys down for the sake of relics from the past decade. Bischoff’s unwillingness to tamper with a winning formula ended up making himself and the promotion the biggest casualty of the Monday Night Wars.
For a rather ironic PS: AJ Styles on “The Death Of WCW”