It may surprise some that it has been well over a decade since WWE’s most serious competition in its history folded after Vince McMahon acquired the property and quickly buried it as best he possibly could. 12 years have passed since that fateful night on RAW, where Shane McMahon, son of the owner of WWE walked into a WCW ring to address both viewers of WWE and of WCW on live television. It was a night that very few will ever forget, simply due to the ridiculousness that was on our TV sets. A McMahon was on WCW programming, and the death of World Championship Wrestling was complete.
Many pundits have argued as to why WCW managed to go from being THE show where everyone wanted to be employed to being the laughing stock of every employee on the WWE’s payroll. In my honest opinion and also to most that were there, the biggest problem was the amount egos backstage adding their two pence to every possible storyline and making themselves, and their friends look amazing. For a while this idea seemingly worked quite well as the audience had some of the biggest names to ever grace wrestling all over the card; battling each other and their associates making WCW TV look more like gang warfare than a wrestling programme. The NWO was a stroke of genius alongside the inclusion of stars from around the world showing American audiences flips, dives and moves they would never have seen before. Essentially you had the big names and the high flyers. How could WWE even compete?
For a long period they didn’t compete and for 84 weeks straight, starting in the summer of ’96, WCW would win the ratings war continuously without break, almost bankrupting Vince and the WWE. Eventually Stone Cold was born along with the Attitude Era and things turned around nicely for WWE. The reason that WWE is here today and WCW is gone is, in my mind, down to one reason and one reason only; they created their own, home grown talent.
For years WCW had past WWE main eventers headlining their shows! Names like Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Lex Luger, Jeff Jarrett and Bret Hart to name but a few were all WCW champion at some point in their career and each one had made a name for themselves in Vince’s company. For many the allure of big money was too much for them to bear and went over to leach out of Ted Turner’s vast wallet. Looking back on it now, I’m sure Vince is quite happy that all this top notch talent moved on as it gave him the opportunity to create new mega stars. Home grown mega stars that would be the turning point in the battle, meaning he would go on to win the Monday Night Wars.
This talent that grew from the Attitude era would never have had chance to shine if the older talent was still knocking about and in a way, you can almost imagine Vince knew exactly what he was doing when he let all his talent leave for WCW’s lucrative pastures. An example of this comes straight from the Montreal screw job from King of the Ring 97 involving Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Vince McMahon and everyone affiliated with each party. It was no secret that Vince pretty much told Bret that he couldn’t afford the money WCW were offering him and apparently, gave Bret the nudge out of the door after contract negotiations broke down. Did Vince want Bret gone so he would have more room at the top of his future stars? The argument could be made to reflect that, otherwise why he would lose one of the greatest of all time to his opposition without much of a fight.
This mentality to create new faces created some of the most recognisable faces in wrestling history, creating household names in The Rock, Steve Austin, Triple H and Mick Foley. Alongside WCW talent that came to WWE and were pushed correctly in Jericho, Mysterio, Benoit and Geurerro. All created some serious business and did wonders for each of their professional careers respectively. Ultimately, the combination of all this talent along with the more adult direction WWE were going in would spell the end for the one time super power of WCW.
But Vince McMahon is heading in exactly the same direction that WCW went in over 10 years ago, with their inability to create new stars and not trusting new faces to draw the same as the old and trusted talent. John Cena is currently celebrating 10 years within the WWE and Randy Orton is celebrating 11 years. Both men have been to the top, experienced all the spoils and always stayed in the main event scene. And for good reason as well seeing as both men bring different cards to the table as it relates to skill and performance. But look back into the history of the modern WWE and it becomes increasingly difficult to name anyone who stayed as an in ring performer for longer than 5-7 years and even more difficult to find anyone close to 10 and 11 years respectively.
Considering these two, admittedly, great performers and the recent influx of past stars to help bolster ratings etc, you can start making the connection between WWE in 2012 to WCW in 96-67, the peak of its popularity. The likes of The Rock, who will become one of the main attractions over the past 3 ‘Mania’s, Brock Lesnar who headlined the event after WrestleMania last year in Extreme Rules as well as SummerSlam along with another old timer in Triple H. Chris Jericho has now made two come backs; the most recent you could argue really wasn’t that much of a great run, regardless of his great position on the past WrestleMania card in a match with CM punk. At some point Vince will run out of stars who are either willing to come back or wouldn’t look genuine in their current state to seem legitimate alongside the younger, fitter roster.
All these old stars that are back / coming back / have come back in the past are always involved in genuinely high profile feuds. During the aforementioned Attitude era; when big names were written in the stars, these positions on the card were given to those that had shown character and skill enough to be given the chance to run to the top. Think about guys like Chris Jericho who headlined his 3rd WrestleMania, as well as a younger Brock Lesnar who headlined his first.
Vince seemed to be willing to roll the dice as long as the current veterans were on the card somewhere. At the moment the undercard has 9 months before WrestleMania season to try and become the next big thing and if they don’t succeed, they are relegated to a filler match at the Grandest Stage while some part timer pops in for a quick cash injection and the rest of the card has to start all over again afterwards to try and become the next big thing once again.
I can’t imagine how frustrating this must be for the talent as it frustrates me no end and I’m sure many reading this would agree. I do NOT want to see The Rock battle CM Punk, or Brock Lesnar have a re-match with Triple H, instead I would rather see a great feud built up and a wrestling clinic performed by Punk and Daniel Bryan at Mania or for Dolph Ziggler to finally be given the hard push he so desperately deserves and to go over a guy like Triple H, creating a star in the process. Nor do I want to see the oh so familiar faces of Cena or Orton respectively headlining event after event. I want to see something fresh and new on my screens that gets me involved. If a film or game franchise rehashes the same features and storylines, you’d get bored wouldn’t you?
This is the problem with ‘Mania season nowadays, everyone has their favourites, from the lower card to the main event players; that the audience has come to respect and support over the past year. Who the audience may have seen develop in front of their eyes turning them into a believer of the talent. Their place on the WrestleMania card is not set in stone however because Vince would rather trust in a past star who doesn’t really care about the business anymore over a young talent busting his ass every day, purely to be a part of the Showcase of the Immortals. They must feel so rejected after all their efforts and it doesn’t surprise me that so many leave due to frustration with their own direction. Much like a lot of the talent that jumped ship from WCW to WWE back in the day!
Vince McMahon has either forgotten about the downfall of WCW completely or simply doesn’t see the trap he is setting for himself for the future. If he is refusing to make stars at WrestleMania, how does he expect to sell events throughout the rest of the year? I would argue that after WrestleMania season is over the audience sits down, looks at the talent now taking up RAW that they haven’t seen for a few months and simply can’t relate to them. The RAW ratings must add fuel to this theory and Vince must stop making the WWE a revolving door for past performers to make a quick buck, otherwise one day, in the coming years, on the Monday after WrestleMania, after all the old super stars have left, the current stars being buried have moved on due to underutilisation and only those with a small amount of talent are left. Vince and his cronies might recognise that every day is a day to re-evaluate your current talent and find the best way to push them to the absolute top, so much so that they are climbing all over each other to try and break that glass ceiling.
We are currently seeking WWE contributors on WhatCulture. To find out more about the perks of being a WWE contributor, click here.