WCW was once a beautiful, lovely place. The southern-based wrestling company gave us so many classic moments and characters from the Four Horsemen to Sting to Vader and Ricky Steamboat. The company was even on the verge of putting WWE out of business during the infamous Monday Night War. But it wasn’t to be. Due to a mismanagement, politics and a slew of other reasons, WCW fell apart.
While it’s hard to pinpoint with a few moments why a company worth hundreds of millions lost it all, one can definitely draw a line from these four horrible match decisions and WCW’s death. So here are the four matches that killed WCW.
The Event – Starrcade ’97
The Match – Sting vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan
The Build – This match was the culmination of 18 months of storytelling. Hulk Hogan joined the NWO in the summer of 1996 and WCW was flying high in the TV ratings. There was only one problem: there wasn’t a suitable good guy to challenge the dominant faction. Hogan had beaten The Giant with ease and Ric Flair had been so neutered that there was no way he was sniffing a main event. Sting became the only hope, but he needed a change. It was actually Scott Hall who proposed to then-booker Eric Bischoff that Sting channel Brandon Lee’s Crow character — a recluse who’d hang in the rafters until it was the right time to strike. So Sting stayed silent for a whole year, becoming the go-to babyface for the company in the process. While Hogan had horrible, horrible matches with Roddy Piper and other old wrestlers, Sting would pop up and remind everyone who the real prize was. Eventually a match was set for December 1997.
What Went Wrong – Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan decided that instead of giving the fans the payoff they deserved, they would devise a screwy ending that basically ruined Sting. According to Bischoff, he, Hogan and Sting met before the match and Sting showed up out of shape and pale with his mind not totally focused on wrestling. Bischoff then made the decision to come up with an ending that left the fate of the belt unclear instead of just having Sting win cleanly. There are also some people who think Hogan flexed his creative control to tilt the decision in his favor.
The ending was supposed to have crooked referee Nick Patrick make a fast count in Hogan’s favor. Then Bret Hart would restart the match and Sting would win. Instead Patrick made a regular count after a Big Boot, so when Hart interfered, it made him look like a crybaby and Sting look like a loser. Eighteen months of build-up went down the drain and it effectively killed the territory. Four months later, WWE would regain its ratings advantage, ending a year-plus streak of WCW dominance. What was supposed to effectively be the end of the NWO story was perverted into another clusterf*ck.
Sting would eventually win the title from Hogan, but he’d only hold it for a month.
The Event – Starrcade ’98
The Match – Goldberg vs. Kevin Nash
The Build – Goldberg was the undefeated world champion. He’d won more than 100 matches, but there was a problem: he was getting stale. Kevin Nash, leader of the NWO Wolfpack, was one of the most popular acts in wrestling. They were set to clash in the main event of WCW’s biggest show in what everyone assumed would be an uneventful win for the champ. Nobody thought Kevin Nash would win because he was already an established star, and the end of the Streak would theoretically need to go to someone who could be elevated to the next stratosphere with a win. It would have been crazy to have Nash win.
What Went Wrong – Nash won. Not only did he win, he won because Scott Hall TASERED Bill Goldberg. Tasered him. He put a stick to Goldberg’s chest and Goldberg used his superb acting ability to pretend he’d gotten shocked to near-death. Nash got the pin to an admittedly excited crowd reaction. But it was a disaster in the long-term. Goldberg wasn’t a good wrestler. He was never really put in a position to have a great match at any point in the Streak, so all he really had was the fact he was undefeated. As soon as he lost in the way he lost, WCW’s last hope was gone. But they could have fixed it, if only the next week hadn’t happened.
The Event – WCW Nitro, January 4, 1999
The Match – Kevin Nash vs. Hulk Hogan
The Build – Goldberg had just gotten electrocuted a week earlier. The Streak was over. The formerly popular Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were now bad guys and crowds were on the verge of bailing. So the match was set for Nitro: Kevin Nash in a rematch against Goldberg. However, things changed when Goldberg was “arrested” in the middle of the show to be replaced by Hulk Hogan. The crowd erupted for his return and we were finally going to get the match between Hogan — backed by his NWO Black & White, and Nash — backed by his NWO Wolfpack.
Before the match even started, WCW made one of the worst blunders in company history. WWE at the time was pre-recording every other episode of RAW, so some people knew the results ahead of time (this was pre-Twitter, so a lot of people weren’t privy to the results). WCW decided to spoil the big RAW ending that night by having announcer Tony Schiavone tell the world that Mick Foley would beat The Rock for the championship. Thousands of people immediately changed the channel to see the shocker, so WCW was already behind the eight ball by the time the Nash/Hogan match started. And when it did start, it became one of the most infamous matches of all time.
What Went Wrong – The match started with Nash walking up to Hogan and squaring up. Then Hogan lifted his finger and poked Nash in the chest. Nash fell to the mat and Hogan covered him for three. The match was over. And everyone was confused. Nash got up and hugged Hogan while the NWO joined together. It was all a ruse. Hogan was the new champion. The match would be known as the Fingerpoke of Doom for how insultingly bad it was. As the NWO celebrated, Goldberg came to the ring and got decimated. It was pretty much the castration of Bill Goldberg and the end of anyone having faith in the WCW product.
The Event – WCW Thunder, April 26, 2000
The Match – Diamond Dallas Page and David Arquette vs. Jeff Jarrett and Eric Bischoff
The Build – David Arquette is an actor who was inexplicably popular in the ’90s. He was married to Courteney Cox and was starring in movies. It was a weird time. One such movie he starred in was the wrestling-themed not-great flick Ready to Rumble. The movie featured a cast of WCW wrestlers. So to cross-promote, David Arquette would appear on WCW TV. His appearances were pretty innocuous celebrity fare, even having a comical match with Eric Bischoff on Nitro. Sadly that wasn’t all that happened. The match would lead to a tag match pitting DDP and Arquette against Bischoff and Jeff Jarrett.
I must also mention that this all took place under Vince Russo’s watch.
Vince Russo was the head writer for WWE during the height of its popularity. Depending on who you ask (him), he was the leading creative force behind the company’s most successful era — the Attitude Era of the late ’90s. If you ask people within WWE, Russo bounced ideas off of McMahon who perfected them and made them into the storylines that became so popular. Whatever the case, he was seen as such an asset that WCW threw tons of money at him to help them regain their edge on WWE. This match is one of the reasons that was a bad idea. Here’s his explanation, which is…interesting.
The Match – Sigh. This was the death knell for WCW. David Arquette (who was wearing his outfit from Ready to Rumble during matches in a hilarious touch) had gotten “beaten up” backstage. So essentially we got DDP vs. Jeff Jarrett and Eric Bischoff. Arquette snuck in the ring and pinned Bischoff. He was the champion. Even though Arquette would give up the belt a couple of weeks later, the damage was done. The belt that dated back to the early 20th century had been sh*t on and WCW’s demise was a foregone conclusion. The company would be sold to WWE by the same time the next year.