Eric Bischoff

Eric Bischoff

An article by Mike Mooneyham

Feb. 18, 2001

World Championship Wrestling, as it awaits completion of a buyout deal with its new owner, faces a long uphill battle in reclaiming an audience that it turned off in droves over the past two years. Whether the “new and improved” WCW is just that – “new” or “improved” – remains to be seen.

New WCW president Eric Bischoff, who ironically held that same position before being exiled from Atlanta in late 1999, has a much greater task ahead of him than he did in 1995 when he talked Ted Turner into bankrolling a live Monday night show called Nitro. Bischoff, who once claimed that it would take “more than an act of Congress and slightly less than an act of God” before he would ever come back to WCW, has indeed returned to the scene of his greatest triumph – as well as his greatest setback – as something less than a conquering hero.

[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]A brief stint a year ago when Bischoff returned to the company as part of a package with Vince Russo was nothing short of an abysmal failure, although he wielded far less power at the time and served more in a creative capacity. Ths time around, however, new owner Fusient Media Ventures has given Bischoff carte blanche to wheel and deal as he pleases – with one significant exception. Bischoff no longer has Turner’s deep pockets to reach into.

The “new” WCW will come none too soon. Nitro dropped to a 2.1 rating last week, while Thunder dipped even lower to a 1.9. WCW plans to suspend operations during the transition period. March 27 is currently scheduled as the last WCW live event or TV taping, and the plan is to return in late April with a “new WCW” to set the stage for a pay-per-view on May 6.

Presently WCW is suffering from a short age of major stars. With Bill Goldberg, Sting and Booker T on the sidelines, the product has suffered, but don’t look for any of these top-tier performers to return before the relaunch of the company. It’s imperative that WCW make dramatic and sweeping change throughout the promotion. From the set design to the announcing staff, from the production values to the talent roster, a major overhaul is in order.

Unfortunately, though, some disturbing signs from the past are still evident.

In defense of Bischoff, he hasn’t been close enough to the product yet to implement some of these changes, and most likely will wait until the company comes back after going dark to unveil any major surprises. Putting the U.S. heavyweight strap on hunting buddy Rick Steiner, whose high six-figure contract constitutues one of the more mind-boggling deals in recent wrestling history, has Bischoff’s fingerprints all over it. On the short road to winning the title, Steiner’s trademark overly stiff style has put Bam Bam Bigelow, Shane Douglas and Kwee Wee on the injury list. Even more troubling is the fact that Kevin Nash’s rein appears to be unbridled, as was evidenced by the pathetic display on Nitro two weeks ago during an angle with Ric Flair, who was forced to sell for Nash for an unforgivable period of time while Nash applied very little pressure and smiled for the camera. Nash, who has boasted on more than one occasion that he will return to the WWF once his WCW contract expires, continues to be rewarded with main-event runs despite having a negligible effect on the ratings.[ad#MikeMooneyham-468×15]

The WWF’s Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who called Flair “the greatest worker of all time in his prime,” recently said that WCW will never succeed until its performers begin working together for a common cause, adding that “a lot of (WCW) guys are out for themselves.”

“The biggest suggestion I could give to that company, if I could make one, would be: Don’t book to hurt us. Book to make yourself successful … All they do is look at our show, and they say, `God, if we could only put them out of business.’ It’s like, please, just try to improve what you’re putting on TV. Slowly try to improve your product, and be happy with what you do, and that will make people happy with what you do. I think they miss the boat a lot of times.”

Bischoff said there is no interest at the current time in “Road Dogg” Brian Armstrong (Brian James), who was suspended indefinitely by the WWF due to substance abuse problems.

Jim Ross announced last week that major roster cuts are on the way in the WWF. The company most likely is trimming the fat to make room for the addition of top ECW talent who continue to jump ship at an alarming rate.

Yoshihiro Tajiri is the latest ECW star to sign with the WWF. Tajiri follows former ECW colleagues Jerry Lynn, Rhino and Justin Credible into the WWF fold, while WCW remains handcuffed until its sale to Fusient is finalized. Bischoff said last week that he doesn’t have the authority to make any major talent acquisitions until all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed. Bischoff can make “dollar for dollar” deals, releasing some WCW performers in exchange for signing monetarily equivalent talent. WCW last week signed Super Crazy to a deal, while Rob Van Dam, long regarded as the hottest ECW commodity, appears to be holding out for a WCW offer.

Tori, formerly known as Terri Power, is playing the role of Raven’s masked mystery woman.

Stacey Kiebler, WCW’s Miss Hancock, is expected to return soon, hopefully minus the pregnancy angle that deposed booker Vince Russo saddled her with shortly before he bailed out. Her real-life boyfriend, David Flair, has been staying busy working a number of independent shows, including dates for the NWA Wildside promotion in Georgia.

Shawn Michaels has signed an extension of his WWF contract. The contract was scheduled to expire in July.

Chyna (Joanie Laurer) revealed in a New York Post article last week that she has ended her longtime relationship with Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Paul Levesque).