What Killed WCW (WCW Clue) Final Part

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Looking over these six, I think we can knock off two right away: Hogan’s signing and Arquette winning the title. The former is easy: they DID recover after it and hit their all time highest after it. As for Arquette, I think that once they had hit April of 2000, there was no way they were going to recover and it’s not like the title had meant anything in a long time anyway.

That leaves us with four possible suspects:
1. The Radicalz Jump Ship – January 17, 2000
2. Vince Russo Hired – October 5, 1999
3. Formation of NWO Wolfpac – May 4, 1998
4. Starrcade 1997 – December 28, 1997

Now the question becomes, what was WCW able to do after all of these things? Were they already done by the time they reached any of them? Was one of these moments the one that sent them over the cliff? There are many ways to come at this, so whichever way you want to go with is is fine. We have people leaving, people arriving, a start of a new angle, and a culmination of an old angle. Let’s take a look at these in chronological order.

Starrcade 1997: Now this was certainly a blow to WCW because it was their first major taste of failure after almost a year and a half of being unable to do anything wrong. Now, what people don’t seem to realize is that this show catapulted them up into MUCH higher ratings than they had been seeing before. In February, the show set a record for its highest TV rating ever, only to break it two weeks later. People were watching and they were watching in numbers they had never hit before.

It wasn’t really until May (we’ll get there in a bit) that things fell apart. The numbers for Raw were going up also, but Nitro had a good 4 months to keep the fans interested with something new. They also had Bret Hart, so it wasn’t so much that Starrcade killed them, but rather the following months that really injured them. All Starrcade did was show that WCW could in fact be hurt. Therefore, I think we can eliminate Starrcade 97 from the possible suspects.

In reverse chronological order:

1. The Radicalz Jump Ship – January 17, 2000
2. Vince Russo Hired – October 5, 1999
3. Formation of NWO Wolfpac – May 4, 1998

Formation of NWO Wolfpac
: I wasn’t thinking much of this one but when I look at the numbers more and more, I’m thinking there might be something more to it. When you look at May 4, 1998’s Nitro, other than the NWO being split in two, nothing else happened that night. Hogan was already champion and had been for a month but thing were fine.

However, once that show happened, within about six weeks of a record high rating in late April, the number had lost over 20% of its rating. Raw’s went up a bit, but they weren’t exactly jumping off the page. In short, it appears that fans were not wanting to watch what WCW had to offer. That’s the difference between Starrcade and this: after Starrcade the fans kept watching, but after this the fans left. Therefore, we’re keeping it on the list.

Vince Russo Hired: This works the same as Starrcade but in a lesser version. The ratings went up for a few months after he arrived. People were interested again and then WCW fell apart and things just went through the floor in 2000. Russo was fired in I think April before being brought back and making himself WCW Champion but that’s a different story. Anyway, since things did in fact improve for awhile and they had one last chance to maybe salvage something, I think we can eliminate this one and cut it down to the final two.

In reverse chronological order:

1. The Radicalz Jump Ship – January 17, 2000
2. Formation of the NWO Wolfpac – May 4, 1998

The Radicalz Jump Ship
: With this one, I think we might have a winner. In 1999 you had two major names leave: The Giant (Big Show) and Chris Jericho. Both guys bailed when they realized there was nothing left for them in WCW because the company was in big trouble. They made the jump, but they were about six months apart, meaning they could be replaced. As for the Radicalz, they all jumped in one night. Malenko, Benoit and Saturn all had their final matches for WCW at Souled Out 2000.

Now think about that for a minute. Imagine you lose four guys (remember that Eddie left too but wasn’t on the PPV card) in one night. Imagine if WWE lost let’s say Bryan, Barrett, Rhodes and Kofi all in one night. That’s a lot of stuff they’d have to replace in a hurry. You would have to throw guys up there all of a sudden who may not be ready for it, you have to convince people to not go and watch them elsewhere and watch your new guys. That’s not easy, especially when things were already falling apart as they were. This was a bad moment and yet another big blow to the company.

Now which of these two was worse? I think I have the answer and it’s one word long: Goldberg.

Much the same way that Russo and Starrcade 97 can be written off, the key difference was that after the NWO Wolfpac formed, things were about to get new life in the form of Goldberg. In about two months, WCW would win a night in the ratings due to Goldberg vs. Hogan (why that wasn’t a PPV show is still beyond the common sense of most people) and everything would change. Also, they had ANOTHER good run with Ultimate Warrior showing up in the fall where they won 8 weeks in a row. The NWO moment was bad and things dropped quickly, but they were right back on top later that year.

With the Radicalz leaving, everything was falling apart, but they were already falling apart. The difference was with this big blow, they didn’t recover. The company continued its downward spiral and was out of business in about 14 months, which I think everyone knew was just a matter of time anyway. Everyone knew at that point that WCW was going down and they were going down hard. Ratings kept dropping and the match quality (arguably of course) got worse minus those four. It also gave WWF a nice boost of new talent which didn’t help anything for WCW and was the final blow which they weren’t going to recover from.

So there you have it: after all of the years of WCW screwing things up and somehow managing to come back, it was a group of people rising up together and just walking out that did them in. WCW survived for a little bit after that but they were living on borrowed time. Therefore to me, it was the Radicalz leaving that was the move that killed WCW. To keep up the gimmick of this piece:

As for who killed WCW, the Radicalz did, in Ohio, by walking out.

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63 comments

  1. Wayne says:

    For starters, I want to say your article (all parts of it) was a nice read, however, regarding the conclusion that the Radicals leaving is what killed WCW, I have to respectively disagree with that. In reference to a comment that the late Eddie Guerrero made on this subject, himself, Benoit, Malenko, and Saturn were the backbone of WCW, in terms of workrate, and when WCW lost them, they lost their backbone. I’ve always agreed with that comment. Even after they left, WCW, while in TOTAL chaos across the board, may have still had a chance, but with hindsight being 20/20, they didn’t. As for what “killed” WCW, it was a combination of things (most of them were touched on), not just the defection of 4 great wrestlers. Also, you mentioned that “Ultimate Warrior showing up in the fall where they won 8 weeks in a row”. This is far from the truth, respectively, and here are the numbers to back that up (after doing my research, which I had to because I couldn’t recall the actual ratings off the top of my head):

    August 10, 1998
    Raw: 4.5
    Nitro: 4.6

    August 17, 1998
    Raw: 4.2
    Nitro: 4.8

    August 24, 1998 (the night Warrior made his WCW debut)
    Raw: 4.7
    Nitro: 5.2

    This was the only streak around the time Warrior came to WCW. The only other 2 times Nitro beat Raw was on 9/14/98 (the night Ric Flair made his return to WCW, Nitro beat Raw 4.5 to 4.0) and 10.26.98 (the night they aired the Halloween Havoc 98 PPV main event between Goldberg and DDP due to a PPV miscommunication, for free, Nitro beat Raw 5.1 to 4.5, the Goldberg vs. DDP match was one of the highest rated segments in wrestling history, drawing a 7.1). Chances are Raw would’ve both nights, especially 10/26 had it not been for the airing of a previous nights PPV main event, plus Raw was the better show both of those nights also.

    Overall, your article was a good read (like most articles about the GOOD OL days of wrestling’s past), but I have to disagree with the Radicals leaving WCW as the moment that killed WCW.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    Based on what I can find, Nitro won from August 10 – September 28. Now two of those weeks, Raw didn’t air, but Nitro did win those nights.

    As for the conclusion, I think you might have missed the point a bit. The point of it is that once the Radicalz left, the company was unable to recover no matter what they tried, which seems to be what you said.. They probably died some time before then, but that was probably the biggest killer for them.

    Wayne Reply:

    On August 30 and September 7 of 1998, Raw did not air, Nitro had all 3 hours unopposed. Raw had 2 Raw Saturday Night specials (September 5 and 12), then returned to Monday on the 14th. As far through the 28th, again (respectively) I think you’re off regarding the numbers. Here’s more:

    September 21, 1998
    Raw: 4.0
    Nitro: 3.9

    September 28, 1998 (the night after the Break Down PPV where the WWF title was held up/vacated, plus the night Austin attacked Vince with the aid of the Zamboni)
    Raw: 4.7
    Nitro: 4.0

    klunderbunker Reply:

    The chart I have is wrong on the 21st so you’re correct there.

    However, the 28th says it was a 4.6 for Nitro and a 4.0 for Raw. Not sure on that.

    Wayne Reply:

    And again, with all due respect, that chart has to be incorrect. Nitro didn’t beat Raw on 9/28/98. That 4.7 (Raw) to 4.0 (Nitro) rating is pretty accurate. On a flipside, Raw that night was very good, certainly than what Nitro had presented.

  2. Wayne says:

    *would’ve won both nights

  3. klunderbunker says:

    Raw better than Nitro? I’m shocked!

    Not meant to be sarcastic. That always tended to be the case back then.

    Wayne Reply:

    You’re right, that was ALWAYS the case, especially in 1998. I remember always watching the first hour of Nitro, and then when 9:00 (eastern time) came, I switched to Raw and the ONLY times I turned back to Nitro was when Raw went to a commercial.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    The thing that’s kind of interesting is that Raw wasn’t even all that great. Nitro was just that bad.

    Wayne Reply:

    Oh yeah, Nitro WAS that bad, I agree with that. In my opinion, Raw was phenomenal at the time (world’s better than what we get today). Not every show was great, but more often than not, Raw fired on all cylinders, Nitro, on the other hand, was completely something else.

  4. Wayne says:

    *certainly better than what Nitro had presented (sorry about these typos, lol)

  5. klunderbunker says:

    I don’t know about that. The problem with it was that it wasn’t really even wrestling. It was stuff like transvestites, human sacrifices, kidnapping and whatever else. It ruined a lot of wrestling for a lot of people.

    Wayne Reply:

    I can respect while some would feel a certain way regarding the product at the time. It was over the top at times, I agree. The transvestites (smh) didn’t happen till early 99, but that still doesn’t make it compelling television, because it wasn’t. The sacrificies, kidnapping, etc, made me shake my head at the time, but everything else surrounding it (Steve Austin, the rise of Rock, HHH, Foley, etc, some midcarders having decent storylines) clicked, especially Austin, my #2 favorite wrestler of all time.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    Yeah the main events were good but a lot of the other stuff was bad, which is often forgotten. Stuff like Dan Severn and Jarrett the country singer vs. Blackman. Also the eternally long DOA vs. LOD feud. It wasn’t all great.

    Wayne Reply:

    The main events were great at the time, yes indeed. The Jarrett-Blackman storyline was decent for what it was, and Dan Severn was slightly interesting at one time, mainly because of his “character”, but not necessarily what he did in the ring. Those seemingly endless matches between the LOD and the DOA were completely forgettable.

  6. klunderbunker says:

    Try reviewing them. See how forgettable they are then.

    Wayne Reply:

    Oh trust me, I can tell with your reviews, lol. I remember watching them on Raw and on PPV too (Fully Loaded 98, my God, talk about a POINTLESS PPV in between King of the Ring and Summerslam).

    klunderbunker Reply:

    And yet people bought it anyway.

    Wayne Reply:

    You’re right, with me being one of them, lol. I recall being slightly shocked when Paul Ellering turned on the LOD to side with the DOA.

  7. Wayne says:

    The Fingerpoke of Doom, as it’s called, I feel did more harm than good for WCW, and I feel that even if the planned Nash-Goldberg rematch would’ve taken place (no matter what the outcome was), Rock vs. Foley still would’ve won that night.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    It wasn’t so much the Poke but the announcement by Schiavone. I think it was Foley that said something like half a million people changed the channel then. The Foley vs. Rock match was only announced halfway through the show, so most people wouldn’t have known about it. Bischoff’s old tricks come back to haunt him again.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    I was a little too young to remember Ellering so I wasn’t really hurt by that one as much.

    Wayne Reply:

    And that’s understandable. It was a “sight” to see him there pleading with Hawk “not to jump off the Titantron” that night on Raw after turning on him (and Animal) weeks earlier. That storyline with Hawk and his problems didn’t sit well with me at the time.

    Wayne Reply:

    That announcement was the death blow, if you will, and I do recall Foley saying that also. Now when I think about it more, I still feel Raw would’ve won that night anyway, even if Schiavone didn’t make the announcement, and I already commented on the Nash-Goldberg match. I wonder how Bischoff feels about that today, lol. I’m ENJOYING this conversation here as you can see.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    That’s why this place is here. If you haven’t, you should check out the forums I post on. Some very good old school stuff there.

  8. klunderbunker says:

    That happened about 5 minutes from my house.

    Wayne Reply:

    I think I’ve seen some other forums you’re on, I think (lol) Although I mostly keep up with what happens today, I’m not actively watching the product like I used to, and I’ve watched since the 80s. When the Monday Night War, I have LOADS of things to talk about, lol.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    I’m only on one forum.

    Wayne Reply:

    My mistake on that one. Speaking of “war”, did you think TNA had a chance back in 2010?

  9. klunderbunker says:

    Maybe at humiliating themselves. The idea that the war was back on was laughable at best.

    Wayne Reply:

    It certainly was laughable, I agree. They literally had no chance. I’m not a TNA fan anyway, so I just shook my head and kept it moving. NOTHING will ever be the way it was when WWF & WCW went head to head.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    Not when they’re trying to have the same people fighting the war that fought it fifteen years ago.

    Wayne Reply:

    You’re so right about that. I have a question, when do you think the NWO became watered down?

  10. klunderbunker says:

    Probably when guys were being thrown in there with zero history of meaning anything at all. Or when it split.

    Wayne Reply:

    Yeah, I think it became watered in 97. And don’t even get me started on Starrcade 97. Talk about an EPIC fail of massive porportions.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    Quite so. And yet Bischoff still defends it.

    Wayne Reply:

    I’m not sure why still defends it, smh. But that’s Bischoff for you though. Scott Keith (I believe) said that Starrcade 97 should be studied as a way to NOT do a major PPV.

  11. klunderbunker says:

    Indeed he did. he’s right too.

    Wayne Reply:

    And somehow, they managed to make Starrcade 98 even WORSE next year, outside of 2 very good opening matches.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    I don’t know about even worse. The eyes weren’t on them there.

    Wayne Reply:

    I do think the 98 version of Starrcade was worse than 97 on all levels. I still can’t believe Bischoff (there he goes again, lol) booked himself in another big match on the same show, and in this case to go over Flair, SMH. I remember you did say in this WCW article how badly damaged the Four Horsemen were in 98.

  12. klunderbunker says:

    Yeah that was bad. Not as bad as the 91 fiasco which was about Flair but still.

    Wayne Reply:

    Bad indeed. WCW did have some good to great matches in 98, but overall, they weren’t touching the WWF that’s for sure. I also shook my head when they put Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, and Jay Leno in the ring in the summer of 98, smh+lol. That Bash At The Beach 98 main event was an in ring disaster.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    Well that and the world title was defended in a 3 minute squash. Some might think that changing the title 6 days before a PPV was dumb. those people would be correct.

  13. Wayne says:

    And that 3 minute squash was unexceptable, just like changing the title on NITRO instead of the PPV. Bischoff still defends that also to this day. Raw handily defeated them the week before (the night after the 98 KOTR), so giving away a potential big money making match on FREE TV was their only counter.

    Jay Reply:

    Yeah giving away Goldberg’s Title win for free on Nitro even though it was probably WCW’s highpoint was a mistake as well. Bischoff only cared about beating Vince in the Ratings and not worrying about the bigger picture doing it on a PPV people may have actually bought to see the Title change. Its sad he still defends that decesion instead of doing it on PPV.

    Alot of things led to WCW’s demise overall. Russo Signing,Starrcade 1997,Nash ending Goldberg’s Streak,the constant nWo re-hashes,Fingerpoke Of Doom (which was the straw that broke my back as far as WCW went watching them full-time),David Arquette & Vince Russo being World Champion,Halloween Havoc 1998 cutting off before the Main Event,The Radicalz leaving for WWF/E,etc.

    I liked WCW for the most part but what I just listed just makes me angry about what could have been for them.

  14. klunderbunker says:

    When it’s all about TV ratings, that can happen.

    Wayne Reply:

    You’re right. Do you also think Survivor Series 97 played an indirect role in the death of WCW?

    klunderbunker Reply:

    More direct actually. It got people watching Raw because it was shocking.

    Wayne Reply:

    It certainly did, although it didn’t reflect in the ratings right away.

    Wayne Reply:

    I think 97 may be one of the WWF’s most underrated years in terms of the television product.

  15. klunderbunker says:

    Single events rarely do.

    Wayne Reply:

    You’re right. I feel all of that happened for a reason.

  16. Wayne says:

    Overall what did you think of WCW signing Russo at the time?

    klunderbunker Reply:

    I didn’t know of it at the time. Now, it was a good idea in theory. That lasted about 15 minutes.

    Wayne Reply:

    At the time, I thought he could contribute something, but after his very first Nitro, it was nothing more than “Raw lite”.

  17. Wayne says:

    And again, his signing did MORE harm than good.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    Indeed it did.

    Wayne Reply:

    NOTHING good, in my opinion, came out of WCW when he joined the company, and I’m referring to after he started.

  18. Rocko says:

    I want to say all of these things hurt them but it’s not what killed them. I think that the amount of money they were losing each year killed them. They were not a successful business and it was only a matter of time before the plug was pulled for them.

    Wayne Reply:

    I kind of agree with you on this Rocko, as they were essentially losing money even in the early 90s.They did have a brief lucrative run (96-98), but it wasn’t destined to last long.

  19. WWTNA says:

    The Radicalz jumping ship was the biggest lost from WCW but I wouldn’t go far as to say it was the main reason WCW was killed. I think the Starrcade 1997 main event match played a major role in killing WCW. Sure, things got better after that but it showed the fans what to expect from big main event matches from now on; horrible booking and lackluster matches coming from the main event. People got sick of it. Once the Finger Poke of Doom happened, the fans were done with the lackluster main event matches and tuned in to Raw to see guys who could actually work a main event match without stinking up the place. Starrcade 97 led other horrible things to come later on like Bret Hart’s WCW run and a fan’s view of a WCW main event.

    Wayne Reply:

    WWTNA, well said completely. Horrible booking? Check. Lackluster matches? Check. Starrcade 97, man that was a bad show on all levels. They certainly did NOT know what to do with Bret when he arrived, smh.