The History of WCW
Take a trip back to “Where the Big Boys Play.” Launched by media mogul Ted Turner in 1988, World Championship Wrestling went from a predominantly southern attraction to the most popular sports-entertainment company on the planet in less than a decade. Driven by captivating characters like the unbeatable Goldberg, the dynamic Sting and the so-bad-they’re-cool New World Order, WCW and its flagship program, Monday Nitro, dominated Raw in television ratings for 84 consecutive weeks between May of 1996 and March ’98 before being acquired by WWE in 2001. Here, WWE.com recounts the events that built WCW into an empire and the missteps that made it fall. Let’s get ready to rumble!
1988 — 1992
Nov. 21, 1988
WCW is Born
Throughout the 1980s, Ted Turner presents the action from Jim Crockett Promotions on the “World Championship Wrestling” program on his TBS network. In ’88, with Crockett’s company experiencing financial problems stemming from mismanagement, the media mogul buys the failing business and forms Universal Wrestling Corporation, which is soon renamed to World Championship Wrestling in order to retain familiarity.
Jan. 11, 1991
The First Champion
During WCW’s first years of operation, the promotion remains closely affiliated with the historic National Wrestling Alliance, with the NWA World Title representing the top prize. However, in order to build their own identity, WCW establishes the WCW World Title, which Ric Flair wins by stealing a victory over Sting.
July 14, 1991
Flair Goes North
Following a series of disagreements with WCW Executive Vice President Jim Herd, Ric Flair leaves the organization and takes the WCW World Title to WWE. As a result of the controversial move, the championship is declared vacant and a match between Lex Luger and Barry Windham for the title is held at Great American Bash with The Total Package prevailing.
June 1, 1992
"Cowboy" Bill Watts becomes the Executive Vice President of WCW. A no-nonsense Oklahoman, Watts implements a number of controversial and unpopular policies, including banning top rope maneuvers and removing the protective mats from the outside of the ring. Now when competitors fall out of the squared circle, they hit nothing but concrete.
Aug. 2, 1992
After his name is randomly selected in a drawing by Watts, Ron Simmons challenges WCW World Champion Big Van Vader for the coveted title and defeats the devastating big man to become the first African-American World Champion in sports-entertainment history. (WATCH) The significance of the moment is easily summed up with one word — “Damn!”
1993 — 1994
Feb. 14, 1993
Jim Ross makes his last appearance in the announce booth for WCW. On his way out, J.R. is joined by his old friend Bill Watts who resigns from his position as Executive Vice President amid controversy. Cowboy’s replacement is a savvy young announcer named Eric Bischoff — a man with big ideas and the nerve to pull them off.
July 18, 1993
Back on Top
After running his mouth in WCW for months following his successful stint in WWE, Ric Flair get backs in the ring and beats Barry Windham for the NWA World Heavyweight Title. The NWA, however, is upset with the underhanded way The Nature Boy wins the bout and demands he defend the championship by their standards. Soon after, WCW officially splits from the NWA.
Aug. 18, 1993
A Shocking Debut
On a live edition of Ric Flair’s “A Flair for the Gold” during Clash of the Champions XXIV, The Nature Boy confronts Sting and The British Bulldog about the mystery partner they are set to team with in a WarGames Match against Flair, Sid and Harlem Heat. Hoping to intimidate his opponents, Sting enthusiastically introduces The Shockmaster who busts through a nearby wall. Unfortunately, the klutz trips and falls on his face in one of the most embarrassing moments in sports-entertainment. (WATCH)
July 17, 1994
Hulkamania Runs Wild
Following months of hype, Hulk Hogan makes his WCW ring debut at Bash at the Beach with Shaquille O'Neal and Jimmy Hart in his corner and beats Ric Flair to win the WCW World Championship. To the surprise of few, The Hulkster dominates the scene for the next six years.
Sept. 4, 1995
This Means War
Throwing some direct competition at WWE, WCW debuts their Monday Nitro program with a live broadcast from the Mall of America in the Twin Cities. In the first of many shocking moments to come, Lex Luger makes an unannounced appearance during a match between Sting and Ric Flair only one night after his WWE contract has expired.
Oct. 29, 1995
At Halloween Havoc, Big Show — then known as The Giant — competes against WCW Champion Hulk Hogan in his first match. It may be his ring debut, but The World's Largest Athlete still defeats The Hulkster to win the WCW Title, launching a career that would eventually take him to the pinnacle of WWE. (WATCH)
Dec. 18, 1995
Interrupting a live broadcast of Nitro, WWE Women’s Champion Alundra Blayze creates serious controversy when she publicly denounces her former employer before pledging her allegiance to WCW and throwing her title in a trash can. The stunt is WCW’s most direct attack on WWE up to this point.
May 27, 1996
Say Hello to the Bad Guy
Scott Hall — best known to sports-entertainment fans as Razor Ramon — emerges from the audience during a match between Steve Doll and The Mauler with a microphone in his hand and starts a sports-entertainment firestorm by saying, “You people know who I am, but you don’t know why I’m here.” The reasons behind Hall’s invasion change the landscape of professional wrestling.
June 10, 1996
You Wanted A War?
Hall returns with a "big surprise" for WCW in the form of Kevin Nash. Seemingly representing WWE, the big men insult WCW stars like Sting and Hulk Hogan before Big Daddy Cool powerbombs WCW President Eric Bischoff and reveals that they were associated with a third man. (WATCH) After this night, Nitro beats Raw in the ratings for 84 consecutive weeks.
July 7, 1996
The Third Man
At Bash at the Beach, Hall & Nash dominate Sting, Lex Luger and “Macho Man” Randy Savage, which brings out Hulk Hogan. Looking like he’s out to defend his WCW brothers, Hogan shocks the world when he assaults Savage and reveals himself to be in collusion with Hall and Nash. As distraught fans launch trash into the ring, The Hulkster embraces The Outsiders, effectively launching The New World Order. (WATCH)
July 8, 1996
Rey Takes Off
Less than a month after debuting in WCW, high-flying sensation Rey Mysterio defeats Dean Malenko to win the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. The Little Big Man will go on to win the title a total of seven times during his career while sparking major interest in the lucha libre style of competition.
Oct. 21, 1996
The Dark Warrior
As The nWo adds members like The Giant and The Million Dollar Man to their ranks, an embittered Sting adopts a darker personality and embarks on a crusade to destroy the invading army. No longer wearing neon tights and colorful face-paint, the WCW stalwart dresses in black, lurks in the rafters and makes life hell for Hogan and company.
Nov. 18, 1996
Eric Bischoff is confronted by "Rowdy" Roddy Piper after failing to secure a contract for Hot Rod to face Hulk Hogan. As The Rowdy One gets upset and begins to insinuate that the executive is up to something, The nWo comes to the WCW President's defense, revealing that Bischoff has been part of the faction all along!
Sept. 22, 1997
In his WCW debut, an unknown, but physically intimidating former football player named Bill Goldberg runs through Hugh Morrus in impressive fashion. The victory turns out to be the start of a 173-0 undefeated streak that last for more than a year.
Nov. 17, 1997
On a night where Raw airs taped while Nitro broadcasts live, the legendary Rick Rude creates a bit of sports-entertainment history by appearing on both programs in the same evening. First running down WWE and Shawn Michaels on the live Nitro, the former Intercontinental Champion pops up on Raw an hour later alongside his DX cohorts. Amazingly, Rude also appears on ECW’s television show that week.
Dec. 28, 1997
Sting vs. Hogan
After more than a year of anticipation, Sting finally returns to the ring to beat Hulk Hogan for the WCW Title. (WATCH) The heavily hyped bout propels Starrcade ’97 to become WCW’s most successful pay-per-view, but the main event’s muddy ending leaves fans feeling disappointed — even with one of the first WCW appearances of Bret “Hit Man” Hart.
Jan. 15, 1998
Bring the Thunder
As Nitro continues to top Raw in the weekly tug-of-war for viewers, WCW launches a second brand known as Thunder, which airs Thursday nights on TBS. On the first episode, Ric Flair forces Chris Jericho to submit to his Figure-Four Leglock.
May 4, 1998
After weeks of tension between nWo founders Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan, Big Sexy turns his back on his former friend and starts a splinter faction with Randy Savage and Konnan known as The Wolfpac. More fan friendly than The Hulkster’s devious group, The Wolfpac soon adds Lex Luger and Sting to its roster.
July 6, 1998
Hogan Hits a Goldberg
With his undefeated streak intact, U.S. Champion Goldberg challenges Hulk Hogan for the WCW Title in front of more than 40,000 fans in the Georgia Dome. The powerhouse takes The Hulkster down with his signature Jackhammer and captures the WCW World Title. (WATCH)
July 12, 1998
WCW’s Bash at the Beach is headlined by a match pitting Hulk Hogan and NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman against fan favorite Diamond Dallas Page and the Utah Jazz’s Karl Malone. The media circus surrounding the event brings WCW more mainstream attention, which the company attempts to recreate the following month by putting talk show host Jay Leno in a bout.
One Last Ride
During an emotionally charged Nitro from Greenville, S.C., original Four Horsemen members Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and James J. Dillon are joined in the ring by Dean Malenko and Steve “Mongo” McMichael, signaling a reformation of the famous faction. This group will go down as the final incarnation of The Horsemen.
Oct. 28, 1998
Tricks. No Treats.
With a great deal of hype surrounding the return of The Ultimate Warrior, Hogan and his WrestleMania VI opponent meet at Halloween Havoc in what many fans consider one of WCW’s worst matches. To make matters worse, the event runs too long, leading cable providers to cut off the show in the middle of the WCW Title Match between Goldberg and Diamond Dallas Page.
Dec. 27, 1998
Breaking The Streak
After winning the World War 3 battle royal, Kevin Nash earns a WCW World Title opportunity against the undefeated Goldberg at Starrcade. During the main event, Goldberg’s streak unceremoniously ends when Scott Hall zaps the powerhouse with a stun gun, allowing Big Sexy to hit a Jackknife Powerbomb to claim the victory, the title and the first win over Goldberg. (WATCH)
Jan. 4, 1999
Unkind to Mankind
In an underhanded attempt to stop fans from changing the channel, WCW announcer Tony Schiavone reveals that Mick Foley wins the WWE Title on tonight’s pre-taped Raw before flippantly adding “that’s going to put some butts in the seats.” Immediately, hundreds of thousands of viewers tune to Raw to see The Hardcore Legend capture the championship. The same night, Hulk Hogan defeats Kevin Nash for the WCW Title by poking him in the chest.
Sept. 10, 1999
The Fall of Bischoff
When the return of Hulkamania fails to revive WCW’s nose-diving ratings, Eric Bischoff is relieved of his executive duties and replaced by WCW accountant Bill Busch. Former WWE employees Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara are hired to assume critical roles in the operation of WCW.
Dec. 19, 1999
Best There Ever Will Be
At Starrcade, Bret “Hit Man” Hart beats Goldberg in controversial fashion to win the WCW Title, but The “Hit Man” suffers a concussion during the bout, which will force him to announce his retirement from the ring 10 months later.
April 10, 2000
Let’s Try That Again
Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo are rehired by WCW and announce plans to “reboot” the entire company. For their first act of business, the duo strips all champions of their titles and starts a series of tournaments to declare new champions. The audacious move only leads more sports-entertainment fans to tune over to Raw.
April 26, 2000
David Arquette: WCW Champion
During his promotional tour for the wrestling comedy “Ready to Rumble,” actor David Arquette teams up with Diamond Dallas Page to battle WCW Champion Jeff Jarret & Eric Bischoff on Thunder with the stipulation that whoever secures the pin is declared the champion. To the horror of sports-entertainment fans everywhere, the star of “Eight Legged Freaks” manages to cover Bischoff and win the title.
July 9, 2000
Down and Out
At Bash at the Beach, a scheduled World Heavyweight Title Match between Jeff Jarrett and Hulk Hogan turns into a complete debacle when Double J lies down on the mat and allows The Hulkster to pin him. Afterwards, Vince Russo delivers a scathing tirade pointed at Hogan wherein he fires The Immortal One and declares Jarrett the reigning champion.
Sept. 25, 2000
Vince Russo: WCW Champion
In yet another bizarre incident involving Vince Russo, the WCW executive battles Booker T for the WCW World Championship in a Steel Cage Match and wins the title after Goldberg spears him through the cage wall. Soon he realizes he’s in over his head and vacates the championship.
Mar. 26, 2001
War is Over
With WCW earning a fraction of its highest television ratings and hemorrhaging millions of dollars, parent company AOL Time Warner sells the failed brand to WWE, signifying the end of the Monday Night Wars. The last episode of Nitro features a match between WCW icons Sting and Ric Flair and ends with Shane McMahon revealing that he purchased the company out from under his father, Mr. McMahon.
July 9, 2001
WCW competitors join forces with ECW competitors as Shane & Stephanie McMahon form The Alliance in an attempt to overthrow their father. At the Invasion pay-per-view, ”Stone Cold” Steve Austin (who’d been playing songs like "Kumbaya" on his guitar for Mr. McMahon just weeks prior) turns on WWE and sides with The Alliance. The renegade group falls to WWE that November at Survivor Series. ( WATCH FINAL NITRO PLAYLIST)
Dec. 9, 2001
The Final Champion
A former WCW competitor who left the company due to frustration over a lack of opportunity, Chris Jericho becomes the final WCW World Champion when he defeats The Rock at Vengeance. That same night, he beats “Stone Cold” Steve Austin for the WWE Title to become the first-ever Undisputed WWE Champion. (WATCH) The two titles are then unified, bringing an end to WCW’s lineage.