May the Best Brand Win: WWF vs. WCW
After being bodyslammed by the competition, the latter taps out.
In the 90s, wrestling fans were treated to a matchup bigger than any championship brawl. Stone Cold, Triple H, Hulk Hogan - none could deliver the same level of intensity as the rivalry between World Championship Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation.
The battle to win over fans came to a head when several wrestlers defected from both sides and flagship TV shows aired opposite one other, spawning the brutal Monday Night Wars.
But in the end, lackluster story arcs, massive spending, cartoonish gimmicks and too much corporate tinkering killed the audience for WCW and it was acquired by its competition.
Originally referred to as the Universal Wrestling Corporation, WCW began when Ted Turner and Turner Broadcasting bought the promotional rights to the league from the National Wrestling Alliance. Throughout its lifespan, WCW went through numerous management changes and never settled on a working formula for more than a few years.
From 1988 to 1992, Jim Herd acted as Executive Vice President and was widely criticized for knowing very little about the sport. Herd became infamous for pitching a tag team named "The Hunchbacks," who could never be pinned: Their humps prevented their shoulders from touching the mat.
In 1993 -- after Jim Herd and his replacement Bill Watts almost sunk WCW -- former commentator Eric Bischoff was brought in as executive vice president. Bischoff got off to a rocky start, but eventually convinced Turner Broadcasting to throw more money at the league so it could compete with the WWF. Bischoff even signed former WWF superstars Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage.
Emboldened, Bischoff convinced Turner to produce a primetime Monday program, Monday Nitro, to compete with the WWF's Monday Night Raw. The shows were neck and neck until Nitro surpassed it. Unlike the over-the-top Raw, Nitro catered to an older crowd with edgier characters and matches suited to pay-per-view.
But in 1998, just as the WWF was introducing the world to more adult characters like Steve Austin, The Rock and Nick Foley, WCW was ordered to make its programming more family-friendly. Bischoff caved under the weight of the corporate pressure, and fans fled WCW for the competition.
In 2001, having resolved that WCW would never win top-drawer advertising, Turner Broadcasting CEO Jamie Kellner mandated that TBS and TNT stop airing wrestling programs. This was the final nail in WCW's coffin.
The league also suffered through some of the most ridiculous on-air moments in the history of the sport - and there have been many. WCW was responsible for Rick Steiner getting into an argument with Chucky the doll, actor David Arquette winning the Heavyweight Championship and Hulk Hogan defeating Kevin Nash with his "Fingerpoke of Doom."
And who could forget Shockmaster?
Today, the World Wrestling Federation is World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Led by Vince McMahon, its virtual monopoly means fans have few options, except perhaps of the backyard variety, or the emerging Mixed Martial Arts.
Luckily, enthusiasts of the sport agree both are a little too real.
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