RD Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez’s critically acclaimed 2004 book “The Death of WCW” hit its tenth anniversary this year and to celebrate the duo released a new edition that is approximately forty percent larger. The two took on the task of diving deep into the history of the Ted Turner owned wrasslin’ organization to analyse just how a company that had been packing upwards of forty thousand people into giant stadiums in 1998 went to losing over $60 million in one calendar year in 2000.
How could this happen? How could a company so successful just shrivel up and die so quickly? The authors do their best to provide a multitude of reasons. In fact, here’s just a few examples of how much money the company threw away:
WCW’s flag ship show, Monday Nitro, had a weekly broadcast length of three hours. Despite only needing maybe two or three dozen performers for any given week, the company would often purchase plane tickets for almost 160 performers to be flown in on a weekly basis.
A yearly pay-per-view performed at a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. Attendance was free so the cost of flying in performers, transporting sets and equipment and satellite broadcasting fees all led to a guaranteed yearly loss.
$25,000 paid to legendary R&B artist James Brown to appear in a one-off unadvertised segment that ultimately did nothing for the program nor led into anything for the future.
$100,000 spent on the first (and last) Junkyard Battle Royal in which nine guys fought in.. well, a junkyard over the WCW Hardcore Championship.
$200,000 per appearance for hip hop star Master P to just show up (not wrestle). Five appearances were booked totalling $1 million. On top of that, one of his posse members – an impossibly large man with no wrestling experience named “Swoll” – pulled in $400,000 a year.
$500,000 for Kiss to play a song on a random episode of Nitro.
Huge guaranteed contracts for legendary performers such as Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall that did more to hurt the company than help it. In years prior, contracts offered by WWE (WCW’s competition) were structured with performance based incentives. Therefore, if a performer succeeded in producing memorable in-ring work, moved merchandise or basically became immensely popular, they could see a bump in their pay. With this removed, guys had no real reason to put on a good show, which led to a poor product.
Not only is this book a great learning experience in what not to do when running a wrestling promotion, it’s hilarious as well. The year 2000 within WCW contained some of the most nonsensical television programming ever produced. Reading the two authors try make heads or tails of the matches, the storylines and the hiring/firings was entertaining and had me laughing out loud.
As you probably know by now, I’m a junkie for pro-wrestling. I’ve been watching since I was six years old and while I no longer watch everything WWE produces (honestly, there’s just way too much out there), I still keep up with it. Nowadays, what interests me the most is how the industry works and the decisions made by those in power. I love seeing how “the machine” operates and stories about events behind the scenes will always be way more interesting than what plays out on camera. If this sounds like you, don’t hesitate to pick this one up.
The Death of WCW is a tightly researched, well written autopsy on the demise of one of pro wrestling’s greatest success stories and mind-boggling failures. Now, to sit back and wait for The Death of TNA Impact Wrestling.