Hey Scott. Hope things are going well.
WWF/E tends to get broken down into eras – New Generation, Attitude, etc- but what about WCW? Is it possible to go back to the mid 80’s and divide the WCW/NWA into different eras?
As a guy who really only watched WCW from 94-98, I’d be curious to see a breakdown of WCW and the overall theme of each era. It might help to decide what to watch on the Network.
Yes! It’s actually very easy to break down WCW into eras, because they went through a series of Executive VPs and pretty much changed direction each time they changed bean-counter. Keeping in mind this is all off the top of my head and probably over-simplified…
Era #1: Pre-Vince Mid-Atlantic (70s to 1984). The company that would eventually be WCW was essentially a regional promotion run by Jim Crockett Sr and then his sons David and Jim Jr. This territory, known as Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, was often combined with Georgia Championship Wrestling in the minds of fans later on because they shared a lot of talent back and forth.
Era #2: Black Saturday. The infamous period where Georgia owners, the Briscos, sold out to Vince McMahon and the WWF was on TBS every Saturday. During this time Georgia and Mid-Atlantic are both crippled by the loss of TV and Bill Watts’ Mid-South gains power as a result. Georgia never recovers and fades away months later.
Era #3: Jim Crockett Promotions (1985-88). Jim Crockett Jr. buys the timeslot back from Vince and Mid-Atlantic eventually merges with the sad remains of Georgia to become what is popularly known as the NWA, with an eye for national expansion. At the end of this run, widely considered the peak of Crockett’s career as a promoter, Crockett and Dusty go a little nuts and end up buying up smaller territories to run as feeder systems, including Florida, Central States (Kansas) and most notably the UWF. This costs them millions in needless expenditures, and by the middle of 1988 the company is swimming in debt and looking to sell.
Era #4: The Booking Committee Era / “NWA: We Wrestle!” Era (1988-1990). Ted Turner buys out JCP, forming the new Universal Wrestling Corporation with Jim Herd and Jack Petrick as the execs behind it. Booking is handled by a committee of writers including some wrestlers and announcers, headed up by George Scott initially and then soon by World champion Ric Flair. This era was known for the goofy slogan “The NWA: We Wrestle!” as a counterpoint to the WWF’s circus.
Era #5: Ole Anderson / Black Scorpion Era (1990). Flair steps down as booker and Ole Anderson takes over, starting a year where salaries are dramatically slashed in an effort to save money wherever possible, and most notoriously known for the angle involving Sting’s mysterious challenger The Black Scorpion, where no one had a damn clue who was going to be behind the mask but the angle still lasted four months anyway.
Era #6: The Luger Era (1991 – 1992). Ole quits at the end of 1990 and is replaced by Dusty Rhodes, while Jim Herd feuds with Ric Flair behind the scenes and tries desperately to phase him out of the top spot and cut his contract, leading to some of the most infamous stuff in wrestling history. The NWA name is retired for good and the company officially incorporates as World Championship Wrestling and removes all references to the NWA. Lex Luger finally wins the World title and holds it for most of 1991 while ratings and buyrates plummet, which finally costs Jim Herd his job.
Era #7: Kip Frye / The Dangerous Alliance Era (Jan 1992 – May 1992). The first new Executive VP is K. Allen “Kip” Frye, who is famous for a policy where the best performer on a show gets a cash bonus, leading to some spectacular matches with guys trying outshine each other. Everyone loves him, so of course he burns out and quits right away. This era is also famous for Paul E. Dangerously launching one of the greatest heel stables in wrestling history, the Dangerous Alliance, which ran roughshod over WCW for months and then lost to Sting’s team in a WarGames match to blow off the feud at exactly the right time.
Era #8: Bill Watts (1992 – 1993). Bill Watts returns from self-imposed exile to take over the company, with a mandate of cutting losses as much as possible. This period is known for Watts’ goofy old school “rules”, like no coming off the top rope and no mixing of faces and heels outside of the arena. Also known for Watts pushing his talentless son Erik. The company did in fact cut losses dramatically during this period, but a scandal involving Hank Aaron and racism accusations ended Watts’ run.
Era #9: Eric Bischoff / Dungeon of Doom Era (1993-1995). Bischoff, with no experience outside of some time in the AWA sales offices, takes over in a stunning upset over heavy favorite Tony Schiavone. His biggest coup is signing Hulk Hogan, and immediately giving him the World title and unprecedented creative control. He spends months facing booker Kevin Sullivan and the Dungeon of Doom while fans increasingly turn on him. WCW loses more money than ever despite increasing buyrates with Hogan on top.
Era #10: WCW Nitro / nWo Era (1995 – 1999). Bischoff goes to Ted Turner and secures two hours on TNT live every week, and suddenly WCW rockets to the #1 position with the heel turn of Hogan, introduction of the nWo, and rise of Goldberg.
Era #11: Vince Russo Era / Death of WCW (1999 – 2001). Bischoff is fired as President in mid-99 after the excesses of the company send ratings off a cliff, and replaced as head of creative by head WWF writer Vince Russo. Russo immediately begins an insane campaign to seemingly destroy his own company, with “swerves” and stupid insider references. Turner is bought out by Time-Warner/AOL and removed from power in his own company, resulting in even more corporate meddling than before like WCW stars being mandated to use Warner-owned entrance music, even if it makes no sense to do so, and characters like The Kiss Demon being put on TV as a part of a merchandising agreement with Gene Simmons. Finally new head of TV Jamie Kellner cancels both Nitro and Thunder, and when Bischoff’s buyout proposal falls apart, the WWF buys the remains of the company and shuts it down in March of 2001.