To document why WCW turned it’s fortunes around in such a dramatic way in the late nineties one cannot ignore the re-packaging of one of the most traditional of wrestling good guys, Sting.
The Birth Of The Icon, Sting
Throughout that fairly dull early 1990s period of WCW Sting had been a bleach blond babyface who, although a credible performer, somewhat embodied the blandness at the time. As WCW became diseased with NWO poison, Sting sloped into the shadows and became a recluse. He changed his image, grew his hair, wore a black trench coat and sported eerie black and white make up, an obvious homage to Brandon Lee’s The Crow which had been released a few years earlier.
That in itself shocked the audience, they could not understand what had happened to their dependable hero. But the genius of Sting’s career move was that by and large for the best part ofeighteen months he did nothing except skulk in the rafters of various arena’s observing the violenceof events unfolding beneath him between two warring factions. He stood in judgement, however the audience were kept fascinated at which side he might be on as he never spoke and abseiled from therafters to attack both NWO and WCW performers when he felt injustice was being done.
In the end it became clear he was not a fan of the NWO and he began to play mind games with them and in particular their leader and now heavyweight champion Hulk Hogan. He would get into brief scrapes with the NWO only accompanied by his signature baseball bat. He would send down armies of doppelganger Stings only to strike when the NWO’s guard was down. He would appear from under the ring to scare the living daylights out of Bischoff, Hogan and their many cohorts, However such was his relative in ring inactivity that by the time a one on one match between Hogan and Sting was signed for “Starcade 1997” the viewing public were almost salivating at the prospect. WCW had expertly built up this encounter with a patience unlikely to ever be replicated in the modern world of sports entertainment. Two giants who had not had much opportunity to get their hands on each other were about to do battle. Throw newly signed and recently screwed Bret Hart into the mix as a ring side enforcer and you had all the ingredients of arguably the biggest wrestling main event of all time. Certainly the viewing public saw it that way as a record buy rate was achieved.
And then there was Goldberg.
Bill Goldberg’s Undefeated Streak
A monster of a man Goldberg created the second most famous undefeated streak after Undertaker’s Wrestlemania dominance. Through a number of stiff looking power moves, followed by a spear and a jackhammer Goldberg went 100-0 and beyond. His entrance of walking through his pyrotechnics sent audiences into a frenzy and the majority of them were entrenched firmly in his corner. It was only a matter of time before Goldberg and the NWO clashed. And indeed they did when Goldberg challenged Hollywood Hogan for the world title in Atlanta before the biggest Monday Nitro audience ever. Goldberg destroyed Hogan to lift the title and the roof as the audience went crazy. However equally crazy was the fact that WCW management had given this match away on free TV rather than build for months and show on pay per view. A nonsensical business mistake.
But the appeal of Goldberg waned when he finally lost his title to Kevin Nash following interference from Scott Hall. Although always popular with the crowds that x factor had gone which had built to a crescendo during the streak.
The Beginning Of The End For WCW
In the following years WCW tried all sorts to keep the audiences interested. Bret Hart was brought in but this was a Hart who was a shadow of the performer he had been in WWE prior to Montreal. He was badly managed, turned heel, turned face but nothing seemed to stick with the audience. The NWO was re – hashed countless times but no longer had the cool renegade factor that had struck a chord with audiences worldwide previously. Sting became lost in the shuffle of the constant swapping allegiances.
During the golden era of 1996-1998 cruiserweights and lightweights were often the highlight of the show. They eventually became whipping boys or no longer allowed to put on the clinics viewers had been treated to week on week. This treatment led to the defection of key talent to WWE like Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero.
As WWE put all its backing into new phenomenon’s like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and D-X, WCW floundered and panicked. Vince Russo was brought in alongside Bischoff at first and then by himself. And it was a disaster. Storylines were dropped halfway through, people turned heel one week and then forgotten about the next. Even Goldberg was turned heel which was a serious error of judgment. Hogan was turned back to babyface. Another error. Russo even tried to blur the lines of reality by bringing true backstage politics onto the screen. Audiences didn’t have a clue what was going on and WCW became a rudderless ship. The company was haemorrhaging money and once again Bischoff was brought in to try and salvage the situation, but it was far too late.
A lot of focus is placed on those last couple of years and the mismanagement and mistreatment of talent and rightfully so. For a huge company with Ted Turner’s backing to go out of business in such rapid fashion is astonishing. But once must not forget these were the halcyon days of wrestling. WCW was fantastic for those two years and created some great memories. And we can re-visit them whenever we like.
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