World Championship Wrestling

Last updated
World Championship Wrestling, Inc.
World Championship Wrestling
Formerly
  • Universal Wrestling Corporation (1988, 2001–2017)
  • World Championship Wrestling, Inc. (1988–2001)
Type
Industry
Predecessor
FoundedOctober 11, 1988 [1]
Founder Ted Turner
Defunct
  • March 26, 2001 (de facto)
  • December 16, 2017 (de jure)
FateDeactivated and renamed by AOL Time Warner, later merged with Turner Broadcasting System; selected assets purchased by the WWF
Successor
HeadquartersOne Centennial Tower
Atlanta, Georgia 30303 United States
Area served
Worldwide
ProductsTelevision, Internet, merchandise
Number of employees
c. 150 (March 1998) [2]
Parent
Website www.wcwwrestling.com (archived)

World Championship Wrestling, Inc. (WCW) was an American professional wrestling promotion founded by media tycoon Ted Turner in 1988. For much of its existence, WCW was one of the top professional wrestling promotions in the United States, and was a significant competitor to the dominant World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE), at one point surpassing it in terms of popularity. [3]

Contents

WCW was founded in 1988, after Turner Broadcasting System, through a subsidiary named Universal Wrestling Corporation, purchased the assets of the nearly bankrupt major wrestling National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) territory Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP), which had aired on TBS. After initial success through utilization of established wrestling stars of the 1980s, the company appointed Eric Bischoff to executive producer of television in 1993. Under Bischoff's leadership, the company enjoyed a period of mainstream success characterized by a shift to reality-based storylines, and notable hirings of former WWF talent. [4] WCW also promoted multiple live events a year, and gained attention for developing a popular cruiserweight division, which showcased an acrobatic, fast-paced, lucha libre-inspired style of wrestling. [5]

In 1995, WCW debuted the live television flagship program WCW Monday Nitro , and subsequently developed a ratings competition now known as the Monday Night Wars against the flagship program of the WWF, Monday Night Raw . From 1996 to 1998, WCW surpassed their rival program in the ratings for 83 consecutive weeks, threatening to severely undercut their rival and disrupting the American wrestling hierarchy. [6] However, WCW then endured significant losses in ratings and revenue due to creative missteps in the late 1990s, and suffered from the fallout from the merger of Turner Broadcasting parent Time Warner and AOL.

Soon thereafter, WCW went out of business, and the WWF purchased select WCW assets in 2001, including its video library, intellectual property (including the WCW name and championships), and some wrestler contracts. [7] [8] The corporate subsidiary, which was retained to deal with legal obligations and reverted to the Universal Wrestling Corporation name, officially became defunct in 2017. Its headquarters were located in Atlanta, Georgia. [9] All Elite Wrestling succeeded WCW somewhere around 2019.

Origins

The name "World Championship Wrestling" was first used as a television show title by Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) in 1982. Jim Barnett (who had briefly owned the Australian promotion of that name) came to Atlanta in the 1970s during an internal struggle for control of GCW. [10] Barnett ultimately became majority owner of the promotion, and began using his previous promotion's name for GCW's weekly Saturday television program in 1982. Following the events that became known as Black Saturday, in which GCW and its television program briefly came under the ownership of the WWF, the promotion was eventually purchased by Charlotte, North Carolina-based Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP), the promoter of the Mid-Atlantic territory immediately north of Georgia.

Influential wrestling magazine Pro Wrestling Illustrated and its sister publications thereafter habitually referred to JCP as "World Championship Wrestling", "WCW" and most commonly "the World Championship area" and continued to do so until early 1988 when it began referring to the company solely as the NWA, reasoning that "it has become apparent that the NWA and the World Championship area are one and the same." [11] [12]

By late 1988, JCP was financially struggling after further territory acquisitions. Ted Turner, the namesake principal owner of Turner Broadcasting, did not want to lose pro wrestling on his network, as it was a steady ratings draw. So in October 1988, Turner Broadcasting formed a new subsidiary to acquire most of the assets of JCP, continuing the television shows without interruption, with the acquisition being completed on November 2, 1988. While initially the subsidiary was incorporated as the Universal Wrestling Corporation, following the purchase the decision was made to utilize the familiar "World Championship Wrestling" as the name for the promotion.

Topps had been making professional wrestling cards from 1998 to 1999. [13] [14]

Leadership and booking

WCW went through various changes in business and creative leadership during its existence. Some figures, like Jim Herd, were television executives lacking in wrestling-promotion experience; others, like Bill Watts, Ole Anderson, and Dusty Rhodes had extensive experience in the business, but were so entrenched in the outdated "territory" ways of operating (which their respective careers had thrived under) that they were ineffective at growing WCW's largely regional audience, into a national—and international—one (as Vince McMahon had successfully done with the WWF).

Although Eric Bischoff has received much criticism for some mistakes in judgment as executive producer and later WCW president, he combined an understanding of wrestling (largely gained as a staffer with Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association) with a willingness to make the changes needed to raise WCW's profile with mainstream media, its target audience, and especially television advertisers. These changes included moving some television tapings from Atlanta to Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida, and signing a mix of veteran U.S. main-event performers and younger stars from promotions around the world (such as Rey Mysterio, Jr.). He also launched WCW Monday Nitro in 1995, sparking the Monday Night Wars, a period of intense competition between WCW and the WWF that became the most-watched period in televised professional wrestling history. A second prime time series, WCW Thunder began in January 1998.

Some of the creative freedoms that Bischoff granted main-event-level talent hurt the promotion, as such performers were less-than-cooperative in making stars out of younger performers – even though doing so, known in the industry as "doing what's best for the business instead of for just yourself", has been a staple of the industry since its inception. Once Bischoff was relieved of his duties in 1999, Vince Russo, a former senior storyline writer for the WWF, came aboard as lead writer of all of WCW's storylines. Although Russo did not last long in this role, departing in January 2000, WCW opted to bring Russo and Bischoff back in April 2000 in hopes that the duo might re-spark flagging fan interest in WCW. The two, however, did not get along well and Bischoff soon resigned from the sinking company. It was only a few months later that Russo would also depart after suffering from a concussion at the hands of Goldberg, although he remained under contract for the rest of WCW's existence. Following Russo's departure, creative was handled by a booking committee which included John Laurinaitis and Terry Taylor.

Sale to World Wrestling Federation

In 2000, several potential buyers for WCW were rumored to show interest in the company. Ted Turner, however, did not hold influence over Time Warner before the final merger of AOL and Time Warner in 2001, and most offers were rejected. Eric Bischoff, working with Fusient Media Ventures, made a bid to acquire the company in January 2001 [15] (shortly following the AOL/Time Warner merger), and it appeared that WCW would continue.

One of the primary backers in the WCW deal backed out after AOL Time Warner refused to allow WCW to continue airing on its networks, leaving Fusient to take that offer off the table while it attempted to bring a new deal around. In the meantime, the World Wrestling Federation began speaking to the new AOL Time Warner about acquiring the WCW brand. Jamie Kellner was handed control over the Turner Broadcasting division, and deemed WCW, along with Turner Sports as a whole, to be out of line with its image and said it would not be favorable enough to get the "right" advertisers to buy airtime (even though Thunder was the highest-rated show on TBS at the time). As a result, WCW programming was cancelled on TBS and TNT. [16] [17] In the book NITRO: The Incredible Rise and Inevitable Collapse of Ted Turner's WCW by Guy Evans, it is said that a key condition in WCW's purchase deal with Fusient was that Fusient wanted control over time slots on TNT and TBS networks, regardless of whether these slots would show WCW programming or not. This influenced Kellner's decision to ultimately cancel WCW programming. WCW's losses were then written-off via purchase accounting; according to Evans: "in the post-merger environment, the new conglomerate was able to 'write down' money losing operations, essentially eliminating those losses because of their irrelevancy moving forward." [18]

The cancellation of WCW programming left the WWF free to acquire the trademarks, video libraries, and some contracts of World Championship Wrestling through its new subsidiary W. Acquisition Company, which was renamed WCW Inc. afterwards. [7] [8] AOL Time Warner maintained its subsidiary, which reverted to its original legal name of Universal Wrestling Corporation, to deal with legal obligations and liabilities not acquired by WWF. [9] The UWC was listed as a subsidiary of Time Warner until 2017, when it was merged into Turner Broadcasting System. [19] [20]

Legacy

At the outset of WCW's existence, as well as that of its predecessors, the company was strongly identified with the Southern style of professional wrestling (i.e., "rasslin'"), which emphasized athletic and competitive in-ring performances over the showmanship and cartoon-like characterizations of the WWF. [21] This identity persisted into the 1990s, even as the company signed stars whom their audience had only ever known as WWF-only stars (e.g., Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage). WCW dominated pro wrestling's television ratings from mid-1996 to 1998 in the U.S. (i.e., for 84 straight weeks) mainly due to its incredibly popular New World Order storyline; but thereafter, began to lose heavy ground to the WWF, which had successfully rebounded from the WCW threat with its edgy, antihero-driven Attitude Era that saw the rise of former WCW workers as WWF superstars such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, Mick Foley, and Chris Jericho, as well as fresh, young talent including The Rock. Stale storylines, unimpressive pay-per-view main event performances, a policy of vastly overpaying all headliners – and even many middle-tier performers – exorbitant, guaranteed salaries, questionable booking decisions, and eventual and sudden spending restrictions imposed by corporate parent Time Warner caused a quickly-ballooning loss. As a result, AOL Time Warner sold the trademarks for WCW's name and logo to the WWF for $2.5 million, in 2001. Shortly after the purchase, Vince McMahon purchased the entire WCW videotape library for an additional $1.7 million, bringing the final tally of World Championship Wrestling's sale to $4.2 million. The WWF initially kept the WCW United States Championship, WCW Cruiserweight Championship, WCW World Tag Team Championship, and WCW World Heavyweight Championship active as part of the Invasion storyline. Eventually, the titles were unified into their respective WWF counterparts. In 2003, by which time the World Wrestling Federation was renamed World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the company resurrected the U.S. title.

When Hulk Hogan returned to WWE, it billed him as "Hollywood Hulk Hogan", his WCW nickname. In 2004, WWE brought back WCW's Great American Bash pay-per-view; also that year, it released Starrcade: The Essential Collection as a three-disc DVD set. In August 2009, WWE released a DVD set, The Rise and Fall of WCW. [22] Commemorating the 10th anniversary of purchasing WCW, WWE re-opened WCW.com, highlighting the history of the company that had once had the upper-hand in the professional wrestling marketplace, at one point, even threatening to drive WWE out of business. WWE released three documentaries showing highlights from WCW Nitro's history, The Very Best of WCW Monday Nitro, The Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2, and The Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 3. [23] All three documentaries are hosted by Diamond Dallas Page.

Though the Great American Bash pay-per-view has since been retired, WWE resurrected the Clash of the Champions name as a pay-per-view (WWE Clash of Champions). In 2017, WWE brought back Starrcade. Also that year, WWE brought back the WarGames match as part of their WWE Network series NXT TakeOver featuring their NXT brand.

WCW was a major focus in the WWE '12 video game released by THQ for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii in 2011. In the game's "Road to WrestleMania" Story Mode, many WCW superstars are featured (e.g., Arn Anderson, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, Road Warrior Animal, Kevin Nash (a.k.a., Diesel in his initial WWF run), Booker T, and Vader).

WCW has also gone on to be featured in various modern WWE media. Various WCW programs can be seen on the WWE Network, including all episodes of WCW Monday Nitro, All episodes of WCW Thunder, most WCW pay-per-views, and every WCW Clash of the Champions. WWE also has dedicated a section of their website specifically for WCW programming directed from WCW.com.

After the closure of WCW, multiple start-up promotions began whose initial rosters included former WCW wrestlers who had not gone to work for the WWF. The formation of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling by WCW's Jeff Jarrett in 2002 would take WCW's market position in the mid-to-late 2000s as the secondary wrestling promotion in North America before it was overtaken by All Elite Wrestling, which airs on former WCW broadcaster TNT.

Championships

ChampionshipNotes
NWA Western States Heritage Championship A National Wrestling Alliance championship intended for mid-card wrestlers. It was used in WCW from 1988 to 1989.
NWA World Heavyweight Championship The world title of the National Wrestling Alliance. It was defended within WCW from 1988 until 1993.
NWA World Tag Team Championship The world tag team title of the National Wrestling Alliance. It was defended within WCW from 1992 through 1993.
WCW Cruiserweight Championship The title was established under WCW in 1996 and would continue to be used after WCW's purchase by the WWF until March 2008, when it was retired as the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship The title was established under WCW on March 18, 2001, but was retired eight days later after the WCW's purchase by the WWF.
WCW Light Heavyweight Championship The title was established under WCW in 1991 and was defended until September 1992, when the title was retired.
WCW Hardcore Championship The title was established under WCW in 1999 and was defended until January 2001, when the title was retired later that year due to WCW being bought by the WWF.
WCW International World Heavyweight Championship The second world title of WCW. It was established in 1993 under WCW and was defended until 1994 when it was unified with the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
WCW United States Heavyweight Championship The second highest ranked title used in WCW. It was established in 1975 under NWA Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and would continue to be used after WCW's purchase by the WWF until November 2001, when it was unified with the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Under World Wrestling Entertainment, the title was revived as the WWE United States Championship in 2003.
WCW United States Tag Team Championship The title was established in 1986 under NWA Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and was defended within WCW until July 1992, when the title was retired.
WCW Women's Championship The title was established under WCW in 1996 and was defended until 1997 when the title was retired.
WCW Women's Cruiserweight Championship The title was established under WCW in 1997 but was retired the following year.
WCW World Heavyweight Championship The primary world title of WCW. It was established in 1991 under WCW and would continue to be used after WCW's purchase by the WWF until December 2001, when it was unified with the WWF Championship.
WCW World Six-Man Tag Team Championship The title was derived from the NWA World Six-Man Tag Team Championship of NWA Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and was defended within WCW until 1991 when the title was retired.
WCW World Tag Team Championship The world tag team title of the WCW. It was established in 1975 under NWA Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and would continue to be used after WCW's purchase by the WWF until November 2001, when it was unified with the WWF World Tag Team Championship.
WCW World Television Championship The title was established in 1974 under NWA Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and was defended within WCW until April 2000, when the title was retired.

Programming

ProgramStart dateEnd dateNotes
WCW Pro January 11, 1958September 27, 1998Also known as NWA Pro Wrestling and Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling
WCW Saturday Night December 25, 1971August 19, 2000Also known as WCW Saturday Morning, Georgia Championship Wrestling , and World Championship Wrestling
Best of World Championship Wrestling 19731987
WCW WorldWide 1975April 1, 2001Also known as World Wide Wrestling
WCW Clash of the Champions March 27, 1988August 21, 1997Also known as NWA Clash of the Champions
WCW Main Event January 21, 1988January 3, 1998Also known as NWA Main Event
WCW Power Hour June 23, 1989March 5, 1994Also known as NWA Power Hour
WCW All Nighter March 6, 1994January 10, 1995
WCW Prime February 6, 19951997
WCW Monday Nitro September 4, 1995March 26, 2001
WCW Thunder January 8, 1998March 21, 2001

In other media

From 2000 to 2001, Monster Jam had a series of monster trucks based on wrestlers' names. These included the nWo, Sting, Nitro Machine, Madusa and Goldberg. Following the end of WCW, Debrah Miceli, the only one of the truck's namesakes to actually drive them, remained in monster trucks. The legacy of the other trucks is most prominent with Goldberg. Driven by to great success by Tom Meents (including Monster Jam World Finals championships both years the truck ran), after the end of the sponsorship Meents continued to run the truck as "Team Meents" in 2002 before debuting its new name Maximum Destruction in 2003. Max-D continues to compete in the series and rivals the legendary Grave Digger in popularity on the circuit.

WCW also had a presence in NASCAR from the mid-1990s to 2000, sponsoring the #29 team in the Busch Grand National Series full-time and the #9 Melling Racing team in the Winston Cup Series part-time. In 1996, Kyle Petty's #49 car in the Busch Grand National series was sponsored by the nWo, and Wally Dallenbach Jr. briefly drove a WCW-sponsored for Galaxy Motorsports.

Several WCW video games were made in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, including WCW Wrestling , WCW SuperBrawl Wrestling , WCW vs. the World , and WCW Mayhem .

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