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NWA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING
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The history of WCW is irrevocably tied to the long and often convoluted history of professional wrestling in the state of Georgia.

Jim Crockett, Sr. (known as "Big Jim" to his peers) had been promoting professional wrestling from his hometown in North Carolina since the early 1930's, and would officially incorporate as Jim Crockett Promotions in the 1950s, using the brand names Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and World Wide Wrestling (among others). Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) would join the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) in 1952, with his promotional territory consisting of Virginia, North and South Carolina.

As the NWA began to expand its territorial reach, Crockett's territory would similarly expand, reaching to include parts of Tennessee and West Virginia and even as far as Canada due to a part ownership of Frank Tunney's Maple Leaf Wrestling prior to Frank Tunney's death, after which controlling interest of Maple Leaf Wrestling would pass to Frank's son, Eddie and his nephew, Jack, who would align the promotion with the expanding World Wrestling Federation (WWF) before eventually selling outright to them.

Upon the passing of Jim Crockett, Sr., in 1973, the promotion would be run by his son, Jim Jr., who would continue to run it until its eventual sale to Ted Turner. The name "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" then became the company's primary brand name in print, radio, and other forms of advertising (the name was also used for their main television programs). Two years later, they introduced the Wide World Wrestling brand and television show (which was changed to World Wide Wrestling in 1978 and which existed later as WCW WorldWide after the company was sold to Turner Broadcasting). The "World Wide" brand was used concurrently with the "Mid-Atlantic" brand.

Professional wrestling's regional model would continue throughout the rest of the 70s, but as the 80s began, there was already a change beginning in the landscape of pro wrestling with the Mid-Atlantic territory playing a major role.

Crockett's territory would work closely over the years with the Mid-South territory (later the Universal Wrestling Federation, UWF) after its separation from the (NWA), run by future WCW President Bill Watts and Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) in Atlanta, owned by wrestlers Jack & Gerald Brisco, with minority interest held by wrestler Ole Anderson. This would become important as cable televison became more available and fans could see wrestling broadcast from other territories. WWF owner Vince McMahon, disliking what he felt was the "old boy" system with several regional territories, had an idea to use the growing popularity of cable to dismantle the old school wrestling system of territories and instead create one national promotion with the best talent in wrestling.

Although several territories had previously left the NWA, for the most part, they honoured territorial boundaries and their fellow promoters. Several wrestlers would still work with the NWA from time to time, and many individual promoters still worked closely with it, despite an official separation. This respect for the regional boundaries would inhibit growth of wrestling, especially as it related to cable television, since no promoter wanted to have wrestlers that weren't a part of his own territory appearing on a nationally viewed cable television program. It also allowed Vince McMahon to use that reluctance to cross territorial boundaries to his advantage as he began to overrun the territories.

One of the perks of being an NWA member promotion was that were any promoter who would attempt to run a show in a member's territory, all the other territories would send all their top talent (at the NWA Board of Directors behest) to ensure that any attempts to muscle in on the member's territory would be unsuccessful. As the decade of the 60s came to a close and cable television began to be seen in more households, NWA member promotions began to take on an "every man for himself" attitude, which opened the door for the demise of the traditional territory system.

GCW was the first NWA territory to gain cable TV access (on Ted Turner's fledgling "SuperStation", WTBS), and with the expanded television viewership, Georgia Championship Wrestling changed its name to World Championship Wrestling (so as not to be perceived as regional) in 1983, and began running shows in "neutral" NWA territories (territories not claimed by any other NWA promoter) such as Ohio and Michigan. This allowed WCW to remain competitive as the WWF began its own expansion out of its original northeastern territory.

The first (and possibly the most important) strike in the (first) "wrestling war" between the NWA territories (specifically Crockett's territories) and the WWF took place on July 14, 1984, when wrestling fans tuned into WTBS expecting to see broadcaster Gordon Solie and Ole Anderson hosting "World Championship Wrestling" and instead saw longtime Georgia wrestling announcer Freddie Miller introduce Vince McMahon, who gained control of the company as a result of the Brisco brothers selling McMahon their share of the promotion, forcing out Ole Anderson, who was disliked personally and professionally by the Briscos. The Bricsos, unhappy with the brash, outspoken Anderson, and seeing what McMahon was doing (buying out other territories or forcing them to close) were convinced to sell their shares of the promotion (which also included the timeslot on the WTBS cable television network) to McMahon, and get something for their territory, or follow Anderson's lead, continuing to run GCW against McMahon's expanding WWF, potentially losing the entire promotion, and get nothing. This date has gone into infamy among longtime wrestling fans as "Black Saturday".

McMahon had little interest in the regional Georgia wrestling program; his primary interest was the national television time slot on Turner's SuperStation WTBS, and control of the Georgia territory the Briscos ran, as well as Ohio, Michigan, and West Virginia territories GCW was also running, an important step in his goal of a national wrestling promotion.

Georgia wrestling fans did not take well to Vince McMahon's WWF, and their "sports-entertainment" approach to presenting wrestling, preferring the more traditional, scientific style they were used to. Despite originally promising to produce original programming for the TBS timeslot, McMahon chose to provide only a clip show, featuring highlights from other WWF programming.

Ted Turner was reportedly unhappy with McMahon because the original contract for Georgia Championship Wrestling included the stipulation that the shows would originate from Turner's WTBS studios. McMahon maintained he was meeting that obligation by having the show hosted at WTBS, even though the matches were taped elsewhere. Turner was adamant that the matches actually be taped in his studios, but McMahon was not interested in bearing the huge costs of flying in talent to Atlanta every week just to produce one programme. Eventually, however, McMahon acquiesced to Turner's wishes and In January 1985, the WWF began taping matches in the WTBS studios, although still using WWF wrestlers.

Although Vince McMahon owned the WTBS timeslot, former GCW minority owner Ole Anderson continued to run wrestling shows in the region, partnering with other promoters in Georgia, putting together a new show called "World Championship Wrestling '84" that débuted on July 21, 1984 (one week after "Black Saturday") in Columbus; Albany; Macon; and eventually in Atlanta, Georgia; and was hosted by longtime announcer Gordon Solie, an icon in Georgia.

Two weeks later, on Saturday, August 4, as a result of a major protest from wrestling fans across the state of Georgia, Ole Anderson's group was able to get back a time slot on Superstation WTBS, airing at 7:35 AM Saturdays. This show was called "Championship Wrestling from Georgia", which was also the name of the new promotional company headed by Ole Anderson, working together with promoters Bob Geigel (Kansas City) and Jim Crockett (Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling), and featured wrestlers from all three promotions, in an early attempt to challenge McMahon's growing dominance.

Another two weeks later, on Saturday, August 18, "Championship Wrestling from Georgia" moved to a 9:05 AM Saturday time slot on TBS. The syndicated "World Championship Wrestling '84" had a name change to "Championship Wrestling from Georgia" on that weekend as well, but despite the same name as the WTBS show, continued to be a different live show taped in Macon GA. Around this same time, Crockett’s two TV shows ("Mid-Atlantic Wrestling" and "World Wide Wrestling") began being syndicated in the Macon markets. The result was that for a period of around three weeks, WTBS was airing wrestling from three different promotions: the WWF, Georgia, and Mid-South. Attempting to regain a competitive advantage against the WWF, This show was a collaborative effort of sorts between the Georgia group Ole Anderson working with Harley Race from Central States wrestling in Kansas City, Bob Armstrong from Continental (Southeastern) Wrestling in Alabama, and Tully Blanchard from Jim Crockett Promotions in Charlotte. They immediately began heavily hyping a huge show in Baltimore MD on October 11 called the “Night of Champions”. NWA President Bob Geigel, Fred Ward, and PWI’s Bill Apter all made appearances on the show as well. It was an exciting program for fans, and demonstrated extraordinary cooperation between several different NWA promotions. McMahon was now actively looking for a way to get out of the WTBS contract and Turner was reportedly waiting for the opportunity to throw McMahon off the station. Turner began entertaining the idea of having another major promotion on the station. Two promotions in particular competed for the slot: Jim Crockett's Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, which had been involved with the Anderson group since they started up after Black Saturday, and Bill Watts' Mid-South Wrestling. Watts would succeed in getting his hugely popular "Mid-South Wrestling" on WTBS, airing mid-afternoon on Sundays. Turner's plan was to eventually get out of the Georgia contract that McMahon now owned, giving Bill Watts the entire wrestling package. "Mid-South Wrestling" debuted on WTBS on March 10, 1985. It was the same show that aired in the Mid-South territory, but was on a four week delay, so as not to hurt his local show in its broadcast markets. The plan was to eventually produce a separate program exclusively for WTBS. On October 20, the complexion of the WTBS program began to change. An announcement was made on WTBS of a “merger” of three promotions which included Championship Wrestling from Georgia, Jim Crockett Promotions, and Jarrett Promotions out of Memphis. The merger storyline was in actuality a loose agreement by the three promotions to trade talent, and have combined talent featured on the national program on WTBS. On November 17, the syndicated show taped in Macon changed to a combined show of Memphis and Georgia regulars, hosted by both Lance Russell and Gordon Solie. This show aired in syndicated markets only, and did not last too long, although it's unclear when that arrangement ceased. Like many talent swapping arrangements between promoters, this one seemed to fall apart pretty quickly. Eventually, Ole Anderson’s group would be back on its own, with a show taped at WTBS studios and then aired on a delayed basis in the syndicated markets. In the early months of 1985, Anderson’s roster began to take its final form, as the company began to struggle financially. This group primarily consisted of Ole Anderson, Thunderbolt Patterson, Ron Garvin, Tommy Rich, Ron Starr, Scott Irwin, Bob Roop, Ray Candy and others including the return of Buzz Sawyer, and a brief return of Gene Anderson. In May 1985, McMahon sold the timeslot to Jim Crockett, Jr., under pressure from Ted Turner. Around the time the Mid-South show debuted, Vince McMahon secured a deal with Jim Crockett to sell the WWF's TV time slots on WTBS to Jim Crockett Promotions. The deal was reportedly brokered by the late Australian promoter Jim Barnett, a major shareholder in GCW, McMahon ally, and confidant of Ted Turner as well. Crockett reportedly paid McMahon one million dollars for the time slots. Crockett agreed to Turner's demand to tape exclusive shows from the WTBS studios, but Crockett insisted on being the exclusive promotion on Turner's station. Not only would he take the WWF's slots, but he would assume the early Saturday morning Georgia slot. The Mid-South mid-afternoon Sunday slot would be eliminated. Turner agreed, basically giving Jim Crockett the package that was originally going to go to Bill Watts. Now, just a few short weeks after McMahon had started taping live matches from the WTBS studio, the face of wrestling in Georgia was getting ready for another huge change. Turner honored his original agreement with Watts and the Mid-South show continued to air for the duration of their original three month contract. The final Mid-South show on WTBS aired May 26, 1985. Watts went above and beyond the call and told viewers that they should embrace the new Crockett programs and thanked viewers for watching his show while it had been on WTBS. On Saturday, March 30, “Championship Wrestling from Georgia” came on the air as usual, except this time it was Tony Schiavone who opened the program with Ole Anderson, and it quickly became apparent to viewers that something was significantly different. The next week, April 6, 1985, Crockett Promotions debuted on the Saturday and Sunday evening time slots. That same Saturday morning, the final airing of “Championship Wrestling from Georgia” took place and the following week a Crockett show titled simply “Championship Wrestling” aired in its place. With the acquisition of all time slots on WTBS by Jim Crockett Promotions, and with Crockett now beginning his expansion nationally, an era had come to end. The grand tradition of Georgia Wrestling as a major wrestling territory, which had died on Black Saturday but resurrected itself shortly thereafter, was now, gone for good in April of 1985. Tony Schiavone had replaced Gordon Solie as the voice of NWA wrestling on the Superstation. Solie of course continued as host of “Championship Wrestling from Florida” which he had hosted for decades. Ole Anderson became a full time wrestler once again for Jim Crockett Promotions, and would remain a familiar face for many more years on Superstation WTBS. Anderson would prove to be the common thread in Georgia wrestling that linked all eras together. He was a major part of Georgia Championship Wrestling in the 1970s and early 1980s both as a wrestler and a booker, the promoter of the resurrected Georgia promotion after Black Saturday, a top star for Crockett Promotions that followed on TBS, and would be heavily involved in Turner's WCW that rose from the purchase of Jim Crockett Promotions in 1988. Anderson would continue as either a wrestler, manager, or booker until the mid-1990s. By 1986, Crockett controlled key portions of the NWA as Jim Crockett Promotions, including traditional NWA territories in The Carolinas, Georgia, and St. Louis. Crockett merged his various NWA territories into one group, and began promoting under the name "NWA World Championship Wrestling". In the same year, Crockett purchased Heart of America Sports Attractions Inc, which promoted wrestling through several central states (Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa) and was known as NWA Central States, and ran a TV show called All Star Wrestling. In 1987, Crockett would purchase Bill Watts's former Mid-South Wrestling, now renamed the Universal Wrestling Federation, covering Oklahoma, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana, which was not an NWA member. These promotions and their wrestlers were absorbed into Jim Crockett Promotions. Crockett had almost accomplished his goal of creating a national federation. Between his purchasing several NWA territories, World Class Championship Wrestling leaving the NWA in 1986 and the once highly viable Portland territory going bankrupt, he was the last bastion of the NWA, and the last member with national TV exposure. World Championship Wrestling and the NWA were still two separate entities, though, with Crockett as NWA President, they were very much on the same page. With the large amount of capital needed to take a wrestling federation on a national tour, Crockett's territorial acquisitions had seriously drained WCW's coffers and was now in a similar situation to the WWF in the early 1980s: a large debt load, and the success or failure of a federation hinging on the success or failure of a couple of PPVs. Vince McMahon aired the Survivor Series pay-per-view event the same day and threatened to withhold WrestleMania IV from any pay-per-view carrier that showed Starrcade. With the large amount of revenue brought to these carriers from the first three WrestleManias, few were willing to call McMahon's bluff, leading to Starrcade receiving few buys, and Survivor Series becoming a huge success. In retaliation, in January 1988, Crockett released the Bunkhouse Stampede pay-per-view, which McMahon counter-programmed with the first Royal Rumble airing free on the USA Network. In 1985, Crockett had signed Dusty Rhodes and made him matchmaker for JCP. Rhodes had a well-deserved penchant for creativity and authored many memorable feuds and storylines of the period and also created memorable matches like War Games. By 1988, after three years of trying to compete with Vince McMahon, and a political struggle with World Champion Ric Flair, Rhodes was burned out. He was unable to draw fan interest in his storylines, and the arena show market dwindled. To preserve the inexpensive network programming provided by professional wrestling, Jim Crockett Promotions was purchased outright by Turner on November 21, 1988. 1989 proved to be a turnaround year for WCW, with Ric Flair on top for most of the year both as World Champion and head booker. Flair helped bring in Ricky Steamboat and Terry Funk, and his PPV matches with both were successful financially and critically. Young stars such as Sid Vicious, Sting, Scott Steiner, The Road Warriors, Brian Pillman, The Great Muta and Lex Luger were given big storylines and championship opportunities. Behind the scenes, WCW also becoming more autonomous and slowly started separating itself from the historic NWA name. In January 1991, WCW officially split from the NWA and began to recognize its own WCW World Heavyweight Championship and WCW World Tag Team Championship. Both the WCW and the NWA recognized Ric Flair as their World Heavyweight Champion throughout most of the first half of 1991. During the period that WCW operated with its own World Champion while also recognizing the NWA's world title, Flair returned to WCW, regaining the title from Barry Windham in July 1993. Immediately, the other, smaller member organizations of the NWA began rightfully demanding that Flair defend the title under their rules in their territories, as mandated by NWA agreements. The title was later scheduled to be dropped by Flair to "Ravishing" Rick Rude, The NWA board of directors, working separately from WCW, objected to not being consulted on the decision, and vetoed the change, WCW to finally separate with the NWA for good in September 1993. WCW still legally owned the physical NWA World Heavyweight Championship belt but they could no longer use the NWA name. The title thus became known as the WCW International Heavyweight Title. WCW knew that the title belt, because of its rich in-ring history and visual impact, was highly sought after and respected over in Japan and as such created a fictional subsidiary dubbed WCW International to inject some credibility back into the belt. WCW claimed that this subsidiary still recognized the belt as a legitimate World Championship. Sting eventually won the WCW International Championship and lost the belt to then-WCW World Champion Ric Flair in a unification match in May 1994. The new WCW title belt, introduced in 1991 when Flair left for the WWF, was dropped and the old NWA Championship belt was revived and officially replaced it as the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. It was used until WCW's closure in 2001. The belt (in a slightly altered design) in WWE as the World Heavyweight Championship, and WWE has claimed that the World Heavyweight Championship is a continuation of the World Heavyweight Championship lineage from WCW (which itself claims legacy from Jim Crockett's NWA, which claims lineage to 1905).

The early 1990s saw the company in a period of noticeable decline under the Executive Vice Presidencies of Jim Herd, K. Allen Frey, and Bill Watts, with each contributing to the company's decline in their own way.

Jim Herd was a station manager in St. Louis when his station broadcast the famed Wrestling at the Chase show that aired from the late 1950s through the late 1980s, but aside from that, had limited to no wrestling experience. Several wrestlers in WCW at the time had appeared on that show during its run. Herd decided the best way to compete with the WWF was to beat them at their own game, attempting to introduce silly gimmicks that were similar to what their competition was doing at the time. He also clashed with the wrestlers, most notably Ric Flair, who was the company's biggest draw at the time, not to mention the reigning NWA World Champion.

According to Flair, Herd wanted him to drop his entire "Nature Boy" persona, cut his hair and adopt a Roman gladiator gimmick by the name of "Spartacus" in order to "change with the times". This did not sit well with Flair, who was a member of the matchmaking committee with Herd. Fellow committee member Kevin Sullivan was allegedly quoted as saying, "While we're doing this, why don't we go to Yankee Stadium and change Babe Ruth's number?". Herd believed Flair's time as a main event wrestler was over, and allegedly wanted Flair to take a pay cut and be moved away from the main event position, both of which Flair refused.

Flair also refused to drop the title to Lex Luger as Herd wanted, having previously promised to drop it to Sting, to which Herd had previously agreed, but Herd apparently either didn't recall or didn't care what he said earlier, accusing Flair of holding up the company, with Flair stating he was simply holding Herd to his earlier word. Flair offered a compromise by dropping the title to Barry Windham at the upcoming 1991 Great American Bash pay-per-view event, but just weeks before the event, Herd instead fired Flair, stripping him of the Championship. However, Flair still was in possession of the physical championship belt, due to Herd's refusal to return Flair's $25,000 deposit that was required of every wrestler upon winning the title (according to NWA by-laws, which would guarantee a wrestler would agree to lose the belt when asked. Once a wrestler lost the title, the deposit would be returned with interest).

Free of contractual restrictions to WCW, AND in possession of the company's very recognisable championship belt, Flair phoned the WWF and explained the situation, leading to Flair appearing on WWF television with the rival company's championship belt, claiming to be "the real world champion". A lawsuit from WCW would prevent the WWF from showing the belt on TV, and Flair would eventually return to WCW in 1993. Meanwhile, with a major pay-per-view event on the horizon, WCW no longer had a World Championship match for the main event, nor did they even have a world championship belt. They would instead have Luger wrestle Windham, with the winner being crowned the NWA World Champion. Without a title belt, WCW had to improvise with an older championship belt that Dusty Rhodes owned, as there wasn't enough time to have a new belt commissioned prior to the event. Flair's abrupt firing also had the live crowd at the Great American Bash loudly chanting, "We want Flair!" throughout the entire show, causing a major embarrassment. This incident and other clashes with talent led to Herd's termination and replacement by K. Allen Frey in early 1992.

K. Allen Frey's tenure as Executive Vice President of WCW was brief, and his impact on the company was to institute a bonus programme to the wrestlers whom he felt had gone above and beyond the call of duty in the past week, and also announced the addition of Jesse "The Body" Ventura to the broadcast team. Ventura had a long tenure previously in the WWF as both wrestler and announcer, so this was seen as a feather in the cap of WCW. However, Frey also lacked experience in wrestling, and was soon replaced by former wrestler and promoter Bill Watts.

Watts had a wrestling background, having run his own territory (Mid-South Wrestling/Universal Wrestling Federation) prior to selling its assets to Jim Crockett and having him merge it into his WCW, but Watts was viewed as out of touch with the modern wrestling product. Watts' first act as Executive Vice President was to scale back on the pay raises handed out by his predecessor, re-signing talent at much lower rates of pay than what they had been making previously. In order to keep wrestlers in the ring, Watts removed the mats ringside and also banned moves from the top rope. He re-created the idea of a black fan favourite as the top wrestler in WCW, something he successfully did in his own territory, crowning Ron Simmons as WCW World Heavyweight Champion, making Simmons the first black World Heavyweight Champion. Wrestlers viewed these changes as wanting to re-create his 1970s style of wrestling. Watts would also bring in his son, Erik, to WCW, heavily pushing him to the top of the card despite Erik not having the necessary skill to be a top professional wrestler in a national promotion. Watts was also viewed as somewhat of a bully by the other wrestlers and executives, making him unpopular and contributing to his termination. Watts was also outspoken and controversial The circumstances of Watts' departure in 1993 are controversial. Prior to 1992, he had given an interview to a wrestling newsletter. Most notably, Watts had commented on Lester Maddox, a restaurant owner (and future Governor of Georgia) who was told he had to serve black people but instead closed down his business. Watts felt Maddox stood up for what he believed in and acted accordingly. He also made several other controversial statements in pertaining to race and sexual orientation. When he was hired by WCW, Watts had explained the situation to Turner president Bill Shaw, apparently to his satisfaction. However, a year later wrestling journalist Mark Madden brought the interview to the attention of Hank Aaron, himself a vice president in the Turner organization with the Atlanta Braves, who then pushed for Watts' removal. While Madden takes credit for Watts getting fired,[3] Watts himself disputes this account, saying he was not fired for the comments but quit his position out of frustration over "backstabbing" by Shaw and (unbeknownst to Shaw) had already resigned by the time Aaron got the newsletter. In 1944, Maddox, along with his wife used $400 in savings to open a combination grocery store and restaurant called Lester's Grill. Building on that success, the couple then bought property on Hemphill Avenue off the Georgia Tech campus to open up the Pickrick Restaurant. Maddox made the Pickrick a family affair, with his wife and children working side-by-side with him. the Pickrick soon became a thriving business also provided Maddox with his first political forum. He placed advertising which featured cartoon chickens in the Atlanta newspapers. Following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision of the United States Supreme Court, these restaurant ads began to feature the cartoon chickens commenting on the political questions of the day. However, Maddox's refusal to adjust to changes following the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 manifested itself when he filed a lawsuit to continue his segregationist policies. Maddox said that he would close his restaurant rather than serve . An initial group of black demonstrators came to the restaurant but did not enter when Maddox informed them that he had a large number of black employees. In April 1964, more African Americans attempted to enter the restaurant. Maddox confronted the group with a bare ax handle. There were signs of gradual recovery in late 1993 when former commentator and American Wrestling Association (AWA) Eric Bischoff was appointed as Executive Vice President of WCW after originally being brought in as a secondary commentator behind Jim Ross after the AWA became defunct.

Once in charge, Bischoff would soon begin aggressively recruiting high-profile former WWF superstars such as Hulk Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage, both of whom were frustrated with their position in the WWF at the time. Utilising Turner's financial resources, Bischoff placed his faith in established stars with proven track records. Due to their high profiles, Hogan and Savage were able to demand and receive several concessions not usually allowed to wrestlers, such as multi-year, multimillion dollar guaranteed contracts and significant creative control over their on-screen personas (by this time, although signing a contract binding a wrestler to a certain organisation had become the norm, most contracts contained little more than that. A contract that guaranteed a certain salary, much less any kind of creative control over a wrestler's on-camera character was considered unprecedented). The next step for Bischoff was to persuade Turner to air a live WCW wrestling show on Monday Night, directly in opposition to the WWF's Monday Night RAW programme. This would be perceived by many as an act of "war" against the WWF, and soon, the WWF vs. WCW rivalry on Mondays would be soon labelled "The Monday Night Wars", with each side trying to "one-up" the other.

Bischoff would be instrumental in launching the weekly show WCW Monday Nitro in September 1995 when Turner allegedly asked Bischoff how WCW could conceivably compete with McMahon's WWF. Bischoff, not expecting Turner to comply, said that the only way would be a primetime slot up against the WWF's flagship show, Monday Night RAW. Turner granted him a live hour on TNT every Monday night, which specifically overlapped with Raw. This format quickly expanded to two live hours in May 1996, and then later three. WCW Monday Nitro made its debut in September 1995 live from the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, and featured the surprise appearance of then-WWF wrestler Lex Luger, who had been working on a handshake deal with WWF after his most recent contract expired.

Unfortunately, as the Monday Night Wars continued, and both sides became more aggressive in their talent signings, other wrestlers were able to make similar demands, and contract values soared, with talent being able to make demands for larger salaries simply for not signing with the opposition, regardless of star power or name value.

A memorable early talent signing that was left largely misused was former WCW and WWF Womens Champion, Madusa, who appeared on the live WCW Monday Nitro December 18, 1995, denounced her WWF identity as "Alundra Blayze", and then proceeded to throw the WWF Womens Championship belt (which the WWF didn't care enough to collect after the discontinuation of the WWF Womens Division) in a trash can.

Hogan, in particular, was able to gain considerable influence through a friendship with Bischoff. Another problem Bischoff failed to consider was the fact that many WCW fans watched it as an alternative to the product of the WWF in the early 90s, and many fans saw the hiring of former WWF talent as an attempt to copy its success, as opposed to being an alternative product with an emphasis on in-ring action. WCW's first major event since Hogan's hiring, Bash at the Beach, saw the former WWF mainstay defeat Ric Flair for the WCW Championship. The two had worked for the WWF at the same time from 1991 to 1992, and a feud was teased between them, but the big-money match originally planned for WrestleMania VIII was changed due to a previous promise by McMahon to have Sid Vicious headline WrestleMania as a condition of his WCW defection. When WCW delivered the match, the PPV drew a high buy rate by WCW standards due to mainstream intrigue and hype. In the first head-to-head ratings the following week, Nitro managed to convincingly defeat RAW, seeing WCW beat the WWF for the first time ever. For most of Nitro's first year, the ratings battle between the two promotions were close. In the end, Nitro ended up beating RAW in the ratings for 84 straight weeks between 1996 and 1998. WWF was in a creative slump from 1995 to 1997, thus helping WCW's meteoric rise. The WWF tried in vain to fight back in early 1996 with a series of "Billionaire Ted" sketches that viciously parodied Turner (Billionaire Ted), Hogan (The Huckster), Gene Okerlund (Scheme Gene) and Savage (Nacho Man). These sketches were seen by some as a desperation move, as the WWF had never openly acknowledged the existence of any other wrestling company previously. Siphoning off the WWF's talent and airing Nitro on Monday night was not the end of WCW's tactics to defeat the competition (a stunt McMahon himself pulled when he put the regional territories out of business to monopolise the WWF, although McMahon would be the one crying "foul" this time). In the early days, as RAW was only live once every three weeks at that point, and hours of upcoming shows would be taped in one arena on one night, announcers on Nitro often gave away the results of that week's RAW to keep viewers tuned to Nitro. Much later, with the WWF firmly back on top, this tactic memorably backfired on January 4, 1999, when WCW announcer Tony Schiavone was instructed by Bischoff over his headset to announce that Mick Foley would win the WWF Championship that night on RAW. Schiavone sarcastically remarked, "that would put a lot of butts in the seats.", which it did, and caused millions of viewers to change the channel and not change it back. After WrestleMania XIV in March 1998, the WWF regained the lead in the Monday Night Wars with its new WWF "Attitude" led by rising stars "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H and Mankind. The classic feud between McMahon (as evil company chairman Mr. McMahon) and Austin (who, ironically, had been released by Bischoff for not being marketable) caught the imaginations of fans. The April 13, 1998 episode of RAW, headlined by a match between Austin and McMahon, marked the first time that WCW had lost the head-to-head Monday night ratings battle in the 84 weeks since 1996. WWF ratings increased dramatically in the next two years, more then ever before. Undeterred, WCW attempted to counter and launched a new Thursday TV show, WCW Thunder. One of WCW's last big genuine wins in the Monday night ratings war was on July 6, 1998, when WCW gave the long-awaited World Title match in Atlanta between Hogan and Goldberg for free on Nitro. By doing this, they indeed 'spiked' and inflated their TV ratings for a week, but flushed away millions of possible PPV dollars in the process, as the match was a clear PPV main event. On September 14, 1998, WCW won the ratings war once again with a memorable moment that featured Ric Flair's return to WCW and the reformation of the legendary Four Horsemen. Then came the infamous 'fingerpoke of doom' match with Hulk Hogan in January 1999. The World Heavyweight Championship changed hands when Hogan knocked Nash to the mat by prodding him in the chest with one finger and then pinning him, further damaging the credibility and value of the title. Also in 1998, The Ultimate Warrior was recruited by Bischoff to feud with Hogan. Their October 1998 encounter at Halloween Havoc was sub-par, and Warrior vanished soon after. In addition, no matter who was in charge, WCW did not promote younger stars to the company's top spots., preferring older veterans over rising stars. Despite having many talented younger wrestlers such as Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Billy Kidman, Chavo Guerrero, Jr., the late Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn, Raven, Rey Mysterio, Jr., and Booker T (to name a few) on its roster, they were kept away from the main event, leading to some defecting to the WWF, citing dissatisfaction with internal company politics. WCW's poor talent decisions combined with the massive popularity of the new, hip and edgy WWF Attitude Era, began WCW's rapid demise. Bischoff was eventually removed from power by Turner higher-ups on September 10, 1999, the last straws perhaps being a bizarre and mystifying push for the rock group KISS through WCW shows, as well as a KISS_branded wrestler; a storyline involving rapper Master P and The No Limit Soldiers that saw Master P last only two weeks when Bischoff inexplicably portrayed Master P and his entourage as fan favourites against the West Texas Rednecks stable in a "rap vs. country" feud to WCW's primarily southern fanbase. Bischoff was unexpectedly replaced by former WWF head writer Vince Russo and his colleague Ed Ferrera. Russo and Ferrera had been the head writers for the WWF at the beginning of the Attitude Era, subordinate only to Vince McMahon himself. WCW offered them lucrative contracts to jump ship in October 1999 in an effort to revitalize their own flagging product and weaken the product of the WWF. Russo and Ferrera tried to push the younger WCW talents straight away, and phase out aging stars such as Hogan and Flair. However, Russo was incapable of recreating the intriguing and cutting-edge TV he had produced while working for McMahon, as they struggled to gain approval for their edgy ideas from WCW management, which feared offending some of the more conservative viewers in the south. In late 1999, Russo and Ferrera revived the nWo storyline, this time with Jeff Jarrett and Bret Hart at the helm. Both Russo and Ferrera were suspended just three months later Kevin Sullivan, who had been an on/off booker over the course of several years, was placed in charge in the interim. The new writing team attempted to appease the demoralized wrestlers and fans by making Chris Benoit the WCW Champion at the Souled Out PPV in January 2000. However, because of real-life personal issues between himself and Sullivan, let alone that prior to the PPV that he and a few other wrestlers demanded their releases from the company (due to their lack of a push as well as their similar hatred for Sullivan) which all were granted. Benoit handed the belt back and left WCW. He signed with the WWF along with his similarly frustrated friends Perry Saturn, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko, where they were promptly inserted into a high profile television role as "The Radicalz". In April 2000, with ratings hitting new lows, both Russo and Bischoff were reinstated by WCW. They formed an on-screen union that stood up for the younger talent in the company (which they dubbed the New Blood) in their battle against the Millionaire's Club, which consisted of the older, higher-paid, and more visible stars such as Hogan, Sting, and Diamond Dallas Page. Though initially well-received, the storyline quickly degenerated into yet another nWo rehash, with the heel nWo recast as the New Blood and the face WCW embodied in the Millionaire's Club. Other blunders included making actor David Arquette the WCW Champion in order to promote a WCW-themed movie, Russo himself winning the WCW Championship in September 2000, a June heel turn for Goldberg that greatly diminished his drawing power; and a shoot speech by Russo at Bash at the Beach 2000 aimed at Hulk Hogan which led to Hogan resigning and filing a defamation of character lawsuit against the company Bischoff vanished once more in July 2000, and Russo was gone from WCW completely by late 2000. Meanwhile, when Time Warner bought out Turner's cable empire in 1996, it also purchased WCW. Even though Turner was a big fan and faithful to the professional wrestling shows on his stations (a professional wrestling program had helped get Turner's very first TV station, WTBS, off the ground, and WCW was, in fact, the modern incarnation of the promotion that Turner had run on WTBS back in those days) regardless of whether it was losing him money, Time Warner did not share his loyalty, especially when accounts showed that WCW was allegedly losing between $12-$17 million a year in its decline. However, Turner was still the single largest Time Warner shareholder, and WCW was supported at his behest. However, when AOL merged with Time Warner in 2000, Turner was effectively forced out of his own empire. The new AOL Time Warner finally had the power to auction off WCW, which they saw not only as an unnecessary drain on resources, but a low-rated, demographically undesireable show.

In late 2000, Bischoff and a group of private investors, enquired about buying WCW but backed out when AOL/Time Warner programming executives refused to sell TV time on AOL/Time Warner stations along with the WCW brand. With no network to air its programming, WCW was of little value to Bischoff, who was dependent on the Turner/AOL-Time Warner networks continuing to air WCW programming. Finally, WCW, along with all of its trademarks and footage dating back to the Crockett Mid-Atlantic and Georgia Championship Wrestling promotions, was sold to Vince McMahon through World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. for a reported $7 million, ending a promotion with a near seventy year history, all told, through its various incarnations, and the only promotion ever to be able to compete with the WWF on the same level, not to mention the only promotion ever to overtake the WWF (however temporary) as the number one wrestling company in the world.

The final match of the final broadcast of WCW Monday Nitro pitted Sting against Ric Flair. A fitting tribute to the orgranisation, as at the first WCW Clash of the Champions back in 1988, at the beginning of Turner ownership of the promotion, Ric Flair battled Sting, cementing Sting's status as a rising star, the "Franchise" of WCW. Although the two had stared down each other from opposite sides of the ring since Sting entered WCW, there was always a mutual respect between the two top stars of the company, and when Sting won the match, he would receive a hug from his long-time rival.

A gloating McMahon opened the last-ever episode of WCW Monday Nitro simulcast with RAW on March 26, 2001 with a self-praising speech. Despite aborted attempts to run separate WCW-branded events, the WWF only ran a handful of matches on RAW and SmackDown! under the WCW banner before merging it (on camera) with the recently-acquired ECW brand (which had just recently been sold to the WWF) as "The Alliance", putting a WWF spin on the long-awaited WCW vs. WWF feud. 1931: Jim Crockett Sr. began promoting wrestling cards under banner Eastern States Championship Wrestling (ESCW) I can find absolutely, positively NO PROOF WHATSOVER that JCP was EVER referred to as "Eastern States Championship Wrestling." Jim Crockett Sr. was a member of the National Wrestling Alliance, and was the promoter for Virginia and the Carolinas.. Jim Crockett Sr. promoted wrestling shows in his territories for.. If he started in 1931 (which he did, he ran his first shows in Tennessee prior to the kayfabed "1935" date) and he died in 1973, that would be 42 years. 1973: Jim Crockett Jr. takes over as promoter, The company was always called Jim Crockett Promotions. "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" was just one of the company's brand names (along with "Championship Wrestling," "All Star Wrestling," "East Coast Wrestling," Wide World Wrestling"/"World Wide Wrestling," and "Mid-Atlantic Championship Sports"). Depending on which TV show was in what market and had stronger penetration determined the brand name they used to advertise a specific show in a specific town. The company was NEVER named Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (and only used that brand name for about twelve years of its more or less 57 year history). Jim Crockett formed a working relationship with Frank Tunney's Maple Leaf Wrestling in Toronto, Canada.. Well, he and George Scott bought part of the company if that's what you mean by "working relationship." ~~~Jim Crockett expanded and co-promoted north of the border with Toronto talent often appearing in Mid-Atlantic.. Toronto barely had any talent of its own. It was more like Houston and St. Louis by that point. They imported everyone. Bravo, Mosca, Dewey, etc worked other territories as their primary source of income while holding the Canadian title Jim Crockett Jr.'s vision was to create a united NWA banner by purchasing, or merging all of its members.. 1982: Jim Crockett Jr. ended his first term as President of the National Wrestling Alliance.. 1983: Mid-Atlantic changed their TV show format from recording weekly shows in a studio, to live shows in an arena.. The Crockett/Tunney relationship comes to an end when Frank Tunney passes away, leaving Toronto to Jack Tunney.. ~~~Rather than continue their business relationship, Jack Tunney reached the same deal with Vince McMahon Jr. (WWF). Well, that and George Scott siding with Vince and a big lawsuit. 1985: Jim Crockett Jr. was relected as President of the National Wrestling Alliance.. 1985: Jim Crockett purchased Vince McMahon's saturday night TV timeslot (which McMahon originally bought from TBS).. ~~~And also bought out Fred Ward's Championship Wrestling from Georgia ~~~This secured Jim Crockett an ideal television timeslot, and an expansion to promoting in Georgia... 1986: Jim Crockett Promotions would have the Mid-Atlantic, Georgia and St. Louis regions under one banner. 1986: Jim Crockett purchased Heart of America Sports Attractions Inc~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~which owned the rights to promote wrestling shows through Kansas, Missouri and Iowa. 1987: Jim Crockett is re-elected for a 3rd term as President of the National Wrestling Alliance.. 1987: Jim Crockett added Championship Wrestling from Florida & Universal Wrestling Federation to his growing empire.. He never "bought Florida." Jim Crockett Jr. remained the President of the National Wrestling Alliance until 1991.. Uhhh...I don't believe that's technically the case, is it? Maybe I'm wrong. Ted Turner took the company and renamed it World Championship Wrestling.. No, he started a brand new company called Universal Wrestling Corporation and absorbed the assets of JCP into UWC. JCP remained an active company for several years in order to handle its debts. UWC was quickly reorganized as WCW. In fact, TBS reinstituted UWC to handle the assets it had remaining after selling the IP and tape library to Vince. In 1931, Jim Crockett Sr. began promoting wrestling from his homebase of Charlotte, North Carolina (though his first shows were in eastern Tennessee). It must be noted that the often-quoted "1935" date as the debut for Jim Crockett Promotions was created so that the company could celebrate its "75th Anniversary" (which had a better ring to it than the true 79th anniversary) in 1985. It has been incorrectly reported that this promotion was called "Eastern States Championship Wrestling." That was not the case. People have likely jumped to this conclusion due to the fact that the company recognized an Eastern States heavyweight championship in the early 1970's (that title evolved into the Mid-Atlantic heavyweight championship in 1973). Prior to the Eastern States title, the company recognized a Southern States heavyweight championship as its top title. However, Jim Crockett Promotions was never named "Eastern States Championship Wrestling" (officially or otherwise). The company was called Jim Crockett Promotions throughout its history and used many brand names for its various TV shows, newspaper and radio ads, and on tickets. Among those brand names were the generic standbys "Championship Wrestling" and "All Star Wrestling," as well as "East Coast Wrestling," "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling," "Mid-Atlantic Championship Sports," "Wide World Wrestling," and "World Wide Wrestling." In 1973, Jim Crockett Promotions, Inc. was handed over to Jim Crockett, Jr.. The name "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" then became the company's primary brand name in print, radio, and other forms of advertising (the name was also used for their main television programs). In 1975, they introduced the "Wide World Wrestling" brand and television show (which was changed to "World Wide Wrestling" in 1978 and which existed later as "NWA World Wide" and "WCW World Wide" after the company was sold to Turner Broadcasting). The "World Wide" brand was used concurrently with the "Mid-Atlantic" brand. The elder Crockett joined the National Wrestling Alliance in 1952, and his territory covered Virginia, North and South Carolina. He would promote shows in this region for 38 years until his death in 1973, when his son, Jim Crockett, Jr. took over. Headed by the younger Crockett, and under the guidance of a new creative force, former wrestler George Scott, the promotion moved away from a tag team product to focus more on singles wrestling, though tag team wrestling continued to play a big part in the company. JCP gradually phased out its multiple weekly television tapings in such cities as Charlotte, N.C.; Greenville, S.C.; and High Point, N.C. and eventually consolidated their taping schedule into one shoot, a Wednesday night affair at WRAL in Raleigh, an agreement that would last until 1981, when they moved to WPCQ studios in Charlotte (a station once owned by Ted Turner). "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" (known briefly in 1978 as "Mid-Atlantic Championship Sports") and "Wide World Wrestling" (later "World Wide Wrestling") were syndicated throughout the territory. JCP later added a short-lived show called "The Best of NWA Wrestling" which was taped at WCCB studios in Charlotte (across the street from the old Charlotte Coliseum) and which featured then-active wrestler Johnny Weaver sitting down with top stars in a "coach's show" type environment, in which they commentated over 16 millimeter films shot at local arenas. JCP gradually began to expand, running shows in eastern Tennessee, parts of West Virginia, and Savannah, Georgia. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, they moved into Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio. Crockett and Scott also bought into Frank Tunney's promotion in Toronto, which ran under the Maple Leaf Wrestling brand name. "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" was seen on a station out of Buffalo, New York, which allowed the joint Tunney/Crockett/Scott effort to bring a full slate of shows to Ontario and upstate New York. In 1980, Jim Crockett Jr. was elected President of the National Wrestling Alliance. In 1982, Crockett partnered with wrestlers Ric Flair and Blackjack Mulligan to start a secondary company out of Knoxville, Tennessee, which operated under the brand name Southern Championship Wrestling. That group featured such stars as Mulligan, his son Barry Windham (then wrestling as Blackjack Mulligan Jr.), Kevin Sullivan, Wayne Ferris (the future Honky Tonk Man), The Mongolian Stomper, Terry Taylor, Tim Horner, and others. The group lasted less than a year. By the 1980s, the wrestling world was undergoing significant changes. The old NWA territory system was collapsing under pressure from the nationalized Titan Sports, which operated under the brand name World Wrestling Federation (WWF). Jim Crockett's vision was to create a united NWA by purchasing, or merging, all of its member territories. Ted Turner had realized the value of pro wrestling for cable television in the early 1970s. This was a smart move for Turner, as pro wrestling was a source of cheap, live entertainment; well suited to his cable network. As Jim Crockett ended his second year as NWA president in 1982, the winds of change were starting to whip up in the wrestling industry. Turner's SuperStation TBS had asked Georgia Championship Wrestling, Inc. to change its public brand name to "World Championship Wrestling" and there were rumblings that the Jim Barnett-controlled company would go national. By 1983, JCP went from recording its weekly shows in a television studio, to recording them live in arenas. After purchasing a mobile television unit for $1 million, Crockett started thinking big. In 1984, the WWF purchased a majority interest in Georgia Championship Wrestling from a number of its shareholders, including the Brisco brothers and Jim Barnett, and thus controlled GCW's Saturday night timeslot on WTBS. This was part of the WWF's attempt to go national, in part by co-opting local wrestling timeslots. However, TBS received many complaints for the move, so much so that another promotion backed by holdout GCW shareholder and NWA member Fred Ward and former GCW wrestler/booker Ole Anderson was given an early Saturday morning time slot on TBS. This company (and its television show and brand name) was named Championship Wrestling from Georgia. The decline in ratings for the Saturday evening show, and the fans clamoring for GCW, began to make the WWF's move one that lost the federation money. Also around this time, it is rumored that Ted Turner attempted to purchase the WWF, though Vince McMahon refused to sell. Eventually McMahon cut his losses and sold the ex-GCW timeslot to Crockett for $1 million. This chain of events and McMahon's refusal to sell to Turner were critical in Turner's later decision to purchase Jim Crockett Promotions and form WCW in its wake. This period also marked Crockett's first attempt to create a national federation. Together with Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association (AWA), Championship Wrestling from Georgia, and Memphis-based Jarrett Promotions, Jim Crockett Promotions would create Pro Wrestling USA. It collapsed soon after, leaving Crockett to attempt to achieve his vision on his own. 1985 was a big year for Jim Crockett. First, Crockett was re-elected NWA president. Then, he purchased both the Saturday evening TBS slot from Vince McMahon as well as Ole Anderson's CWG promotion. He filled the timeslot with two hours of original programming filmed in Ted Turner's Atlanta studios and aired it under the "World Championship Wrestling" banner which had been adopted by GCW before its demise. By 1987 Crockett was elected to a third term as NWA president and gained control (either through purchase or working agreements) of the St. Louis Wrestling Club, Heart of America Sports Attractions Inc. (Bob Geigel's Central States brand), Championship Wrestling from Florida, and Bill Watts' Mid-South Sports (which operated under the Mid-South Wrestling, and later, upon expansion, Universal Wrestling Federation brand names). Despite Crockett having six consolidated territories under his banner and being NWA president, it must be pointed out that JCP and NWA were two separate entities and that Crockett, like all NWA promoters before him and since, was simply licensing the NWA brand name. This despite the fact that during his reign, Crockett had what can only be termed an iron clad grip on the NWA World heavyweight championship. Crockett's rapid expansion had significant financial consequences for the company. JCP expanded operations, moving many of its employees from its Charlotte base to Watts' former headquarters in Dallas (with Jim Crockett and Dusty Rhodes manning the Dallas office, David Crockett was left in charge of the Charlotte wing). They began to run shows in new markets from coast to coast, greatly increasing travel costs and other overhead. Their first pay-per-view endeavor, 1987's Starrcade, was scheduled in its traditional Thanksgiving slot, but ran into competition from WWF's debuting Survivor Series. WWF informed cable companies that if they chose to air Starrcade, they would not be offered future WWF shows. At the time, WWF was the uncontested market leader in PPV, and only a handful of companies committed to JCP, devastating the show's profitability. On the verge of bankruptcy, Crockett sold his company to Ted Turner in November 1988. Georgia Championship Wrestling was a professional wrestling promotion whose self-titled TV program aired in the 1970s and 1980s on Atlanta, Georgia superstation WTBS. Though based in Atlanta, the company also ran live wrestling shows throughout its geographic "territory" of Georgia The TV show, hosted by Gordon Solie, was recorded in one of WTBS' studios at 1050 Techwood Drive, in downtown Atlanta. Shows were taped before a small (yet enthusiastic), live in-studio audience, as were most professional wrestling TV shows of that era. The show featured wrestling matches, plus melodramatic monologues and inter-character confrontations -- similar to the programming offered by other territories, including the Northeast-based World Wrestling Federation (WWF). GCW's show, which aired on Saturday evenings, was complimented with a Sunday evening edition. Notable alumni Big stars who came in and out of Georgia Championship Wrestling included Bob and Brad Armstrong, Dusty Rhodes ("The American Dream"), The Road Warriors, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Killer Karl Kox, Larry Zbyszko, The Masked Superstar, Mr. Wrestling II, Ole Anderson, Stan Hansen, Ricky Steamboat, Steve Keirn, Ronnie Garvin, Ted DiBiase (later known as "The Million Dollar Man" in the WWF), Tommy Rich, Rick Martel, and Wahoo McDaniel. History Georgia Championship Wrestling was formed in Atlanta in 1944 by promoter Paul Jones as ABC Booking. ABC held its matches at Atlanta's Municipal Auditorium every Friday night. Jones operated ABC for thirty years until his retirement in 1974, though from about 1970 until 1972 he was assisted by his booker Ray Gunkel - in fact, Jones was so infirm by this time that Gunkel effectively ran the promotion. On Christmas Day of 1971, Georgia Championship Wrestling aired its first show, which was considered a Christmas special, since the rest of the programming didn't air until late January 1972. The promotion underwent some big changes in 1972. Firstly, it started promoting matches at the then-brand-new Omni Coliseum. Secondly, it switched its television outlet from its longtime home, WQXI-TV (now WXIA) to an upstart UHF station then called WTCG but later renamed WTBS (not yet a superstation, but still owned by Ted Turner; station in Atlanta is now WPCH-TV after being spun off from the national TBS cable channel). The battle of Atlanta The new television deal would be one of Gunkel's last decisions. Ray Gunkel died of a heart attack later that year after a match versus Ox Baker in Savannah, Georgia. The death set off some internal problems, with Ray's widow Ann Gunkel, who had worked closely with Ray and expected to get his share of the promotion being shut out in favor of Bill Watts, with the promotion being renamed "Mid-South Sports." Ann Gunkel decided to start her own promotion outside of the National Wrestling Alliance, which she named the All-South Wrestling Alliance. It didn't look good for Mid-South at that point, most of their wrestlers had gone with Ann, and Ann's promotion had gotten Mid-South's television time slot, though both promotions aired on WTBS. (Ted Turner and Ann Gunkel had both attended Brown University and were rumored to be romantically involved.) After two years of strife, a trouble-shooter was called in: Jim Barnett, who had owned promotions in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado and Australia. (The Australian promotion had used the named World Championship Wrestling.) At this point, Ann's promotion went downhill, being locked out of arena dates, with wrestlers defecting to Mid-South, and finally Ann Gunkel's All-South Wrestling Alliance cried uncle in 1974. When WTBS went on satellite in 1976, making the station available to cable systems all across the USA, the renamed Georgia Championship Wrestling became the first NWA promotion to be broadcast nationally. Many of the NWA's regional promoters were unhappy, but Barnett claimed since he was only using Georgia-based wrestlers, that there was no harm. Whether or not Barnett was in fact taking the promotion national is a matter of dispute, Throughout the 1970s, Georgia Championship Wrestling was one of the main shows that kept the Superstation alive.[1] In 1982, Georgia Championship Wrestling changed its main programming name to World Championship Wrestling. GCW ran shows in Ohio & Michigan; wrestling returned to Dayton, Ohio in January 1983 after a lay-off of no wrestling in Dayton for five years. The ring announcer there was Les Pomerville, a Dayton native, who now uses the ring-name of "Flying" Les Edwards. Barnett was forced out in a power struggle in 1983. This set the stage for an important move in wrestling history, involving a then-little known regional promoter: Vince McMahon. The move that changed wrestling history Georgia Championship Wrestling was primarily owned in 1983 by a conglomerate of: Jack Brisco and Jerry Brisco (brothers who were also superstar amateur and professional wrestlers); Jim Barnett (wrestling); and Paul Jones. The remaining ten-percent stake belonged to Al Rogowski, a match booker, who also wrestled as "Ole Anderson." In 1984, the Briscos sold their stock in GCW to Vince McMahon for $900,000 and guaranteed jobs with the WWF. The purchase of Georgia Championship Wrestling by the WWF is still considered the tipping point in U.S. professional wrestling's evolution from local or regional sideshow to national phenomenon. The other primary event was the demise of WCW in 2001, which the WWF liquidated much the same as it had Georgia Championship Wrestling. On July 14, 1984 (a.k.a. Black Saturday within the U.S. professional wrestling industry), Georgia Championship Wrestling ceased to exist when Vince McMahon unexpectedly bought the promotion and its TV time slot for his then-nationally expanding WWF (re-named WWE in May 2002). Freddie Miller, an announcer, was the only member of the original Georgia Championship Wrestling on-air cast who did not quit in protest or just get replaced by the new owner. McMahon had underestimated two major factors, however. The first was the differences in tastes between fanbases of different geographical regions. The WWF's style of wrestling sharply differed from that of GCW, with the WWF featuring cartoonish characters and storylines and squash matches and GCW featuring more athletic competition and fewer cartoonish characters and squash matches. Secondly, Georgia fans – also citizens of The South – resented the symbolism of a "Yankee" company coming down from The North and "taking over" their wrestling. In addition, WWF World Championship Wrestling was mainly used as a re-cap show, featuring matches which had previously aired on the WWF's main programming venues such as WWF Championship Wrestling and WWF All-Star Wrestling. This angered WTBS owner Ted Turner, who was hoping that the WWF would have original matches originating from the WTBS Studios at 1050 Techwood Drive. Eventually, the WWF would have in-studio squash matches on the show on an infrequent basis. During this time, the show was co-hosted by Miller and Gorilla Monsoon, with Monsoon serving as the play-by-play announcer and Miller serving as the ring announcer. The WWF version of the show received much lower ratings than its NWA-associated forerunner. As a result, in March 1985, McMahon sold the Saturday night time slot (but not the Georgia Championship Wrestling promotion) to Jim Crockett, Jr., a Charlotte, North Carolina-based promoter who ran NWA-branded shows in the Mid-Atlantic states; Jim Crockett Promotions took over production of the TV show. In time, the show was re-named WCW Saturday Night, reflecting an overhauled look and a new home studio-arena at the CNN Center. In 2001, McMahon would gain the rights to Crockett's library of Georgia Championship Wrestling/World Championship Wrestling/NWA matches and shows -- augmenting his own WWE Tape Library -- through his purchase of assets and trademarks belonging to the now-defunct WCW. Black Saturday is the name given by wrestling fans on July 14, 1984, when Vince McMahon and his World Wrestling Federation (WWF) took over the Saturday night time slots on Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) that had been home to Georgia Championship Wrestling reow(GCW). History In 1982, Georgia Championship Wrestling began promoting under the name World Championship Wrestling, a name that most wrestling fans would consider to still be part of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) throughout the 1990s. Jack Brisco and Gerald Brisco had major stakes in the organization while Ole Anderson was head booker and was basically in charge of operations. GCW also became the first NWA territory to gain access to a cable television deal on Saturday evenings. GCW was famous for providing a more athletic showcase rather than cartoonish characters like the WWF did and therefore had a completely different fanbase. While still running steadily, both Briscos sold their entire stock in the business (including the TV deal) to Vince McMahon; Jim Barnett immediately followed, as all parties were unhappy with booker Ole Anderson. The WWF show on TBS was a ratings disaster. Reception GCW's core audience hated the WWF's soap opera approach, preferring a more athletic style. Bill Watts' Mid South Wrestling (MSW) and Ole Anderson's Championship Wrestling from Georgia were both able to even gain better TBS ratings over this program as well.[1] Despite originally promising to produce original programming for the TBS timeslot in Atlanta, McMahon chose instead to provide only a clip show for TBS, featuring highlights from other WWF programming as well as matches from house shows at Madison Square Garden, Boston Garden and other major arenas. Aftermath In April 1985, McMahon sold the TBS timeslot and GCW name to Jim Crockett, Jr., under heavy pressure from Ted Turner, who was unhappy with the fact Vince was not providing original material as agreed. That would set up a rivalry between McMahon and Turner that would continue for over a decade. WCW Saturday Night premiered on April 4, 1992 as the showcase for the company's top talent. It grew out of two previous wrestling programs on TBS - Georgia Championship Wrestling, which began on the station (then known as WTCG-TV) in January 1972 and ran under that name until August 1982, when it became World Championship Wrestling. In addition, there was also a Sunday edition of World Championship Wrestling; however, in later years, Sunday editions became infrequent. In spring of 1988, TBS replaced the Sunday edition with a new Sunday wrestling show called NWA Main Event. Georgia Championship Wrestling On Christmas Day of 1971, Georgia Championship Wrestling aired its first show, which was considered a Christmas special, since the rest of the programming didn't air until late January 1972. Beginning in 1972, the promotion switched its television outlet from its longtime home, WQXI-TV (now WXIA) to an upstart UHF station then called WTCG but later renamed WTBS (not yet a superstation, but still owned by Ted Turner; station in Atlanta is now WPCH-TV after being spun off from the national TBS cable channel). When WTBS went on satellite in 1976, making the station available to cable systems all across the USA, the renamed Georgia Championship Wrestling became the first NWA promotion to be broadcast nationally. Many of the NWA's regional promoters were unhappy, but promoter Jim Barnett claimed since he was only using Georgia-based wrestlers, that there was no harm. Whether or not Barnett was in fact taking the promotion national is a matter of dispute, some wrestlers, such as Roddy Piper, say that he was in fact doing so, but prevented by fears of crossing organized crime figures involved with the sport. Throughout the 1970s, Georgia Championship Wrestling was one of the main shows that kept the Superstation alive.[1] The Georgia Championship Wrestling TV series, hosted by Gordon Solie, was taped before a small (yet enthusiastic), live in-studio audience, as were most pro wrestling TV shows of that era. The show featured wrestling matches, plus melodramatic monologues and inter-character confrontations -- similar to the programming offered by other territories, including the Northeast-based World Wrestling Federation (WWF). World Championship Wrestling TV series In 1982, Georgia Championship Wrestling changed its main programming name to World Championship Wrestling. Ted Turner had requested the name change in hopes of giving the wrestling programming on the Superstation a less regional scope. Also, by this point, GCW had been running shows in "neutral" territories like Ohio and Michigan. Much like Georgia Championship Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling was taped in Atlanta, Georgia, at WTBS' studios at 1050 Techwood Drive until 1989, when the taping location was moved to the Center Stage Theater, in Atlanta. On July 14, 1984 (a.k.a. Black Saturday), Vince McMahon, hoping to expand his national reach for his World Wrestling Federation (renamed World Wrestling Entertainment in 2002) promotion, bought the Georgia promotion for $750,000, retaining the World Championship Wrestling monicker.[2] Freddie Miller, an announcer, was the only member of the original Georgia Championship Wrestling on-air cast who did not quit in protest or just get replaced by the new owner. McMahon had underestimated two major factors, however. The first was the differences in tastes between fanbases of different geographical regions. The WWF's soap operaish, "Sports Entertainment" style of wrestling sharply differed from that of GCW's more athletic, "Rasslin'" style. Whereas the Georgia promotion featured an emphasis on in-ring action with talented workers, the WWF show featured a bunch of one-sided "squash" matches. WWF World Championship Wrestling was mainly used as a recap show, featuring matches which had previously aired on the WWF's main programming venues such as WWF Championship Wrestling and WWF All-Star Wrestling. This was despite the fact that McMahon had originally promised WTBS owner Ted Turner to produce original programming for the TBS timeslot in Atlanta. Eventually, the WWF would have in-studio squash matches on the show on an infrequent basis. During this time, the show was co-hosted by Freddie Miller and Gorilla Monsoon, with Monsoon serving as the play-by-play announcer and Miller serving as the ring announcer. In hopes of appeasing the over 1,000 fans who complained to the Superstation over "Black Saturday", Turner gave Ole Anderson a 7:00 a.m. timeslot so that he could open up Championship Wrestling from Georgia, Inc. The following year, Turner gave Bill Watts' Mid-South Wrestling a one hour timeslot on Sundays. This upset Vince McMahon, who thought that his purchase of Georgia Championship Wrestling would give him an exclusive on WTBS. Ted Turner disagreed because he felt that McMahon reneged on the afordmentioned stipulation in the contract to required him to produce a separate weekly program from an Atlanta studio. To put things into proper perspective, Turner figured that if McMahon wasn't going to follow through on the deal, then Bill Watts would. The decline in ratings for the Saturday evening show, and the fans clamoring for GCW, began to make the WWF's move one that lost the federation money. Also around this time, it is rumored that Ted Turner attempted to purchase the WWF, though Vince McMahon refused to sell. This chain of events and McMahon's refusal to sell to Turner were critical in Turner's later decision to purchase Jim Crockett Promotions and form WCW in its wake. Eventually, McMahon cut his losses and sold the ex-GCW timeslot to Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) for $1 million in March 1985. Jim Crockett Promotions was a Charlotte, North Carolina-based promotion run by Jim Crockett, Jr. JCP ran National Wrestling Alliance-branded shows in the Mid-Atlantic states. Crockett's first order of business was to merge his promotion with Championship Wrestling from Georgia. This would bring talent from the Mid-Atlantic promotion to CWG's Saturday morning WTBS program and vice versa. The deal (in which former Georgia Championship Wrestling promoter Jim Barnett helped broker), however, forced the elimination of the Mid-South Wrestling program from the TBS schedule. Ironically, Mid-South Wrestling quickly became the highest-rated program on TBS. Bill Watts had positioned himself to take over the two-hour Saturday block occupied by the WWF. But ultimately JCP became the exclusive wrestling promotion for TBS. JCP retained the World Championship Wrestling name. Crockett filled the timeslot with two hours of original programming filmed in Ted Turner's Atlanta studios. The program name would also become the promotion's name following the purchase of JCP by Ted Turner in 1988. In addition, the Championship Wrestling from Georgia program would become Championship Wrestling and use the same set as the Crockett-era World Championship Wrestling Saturday evening program. The February 7, 1987 edition of NWA World Championship Wrestling was a special called Superstars in Supertowns. It promoted the return of Magnum T.A. (who was forced to retire due to a near fatal car accident in October 1986) and opened up with a first-person view of a car driving on the road. Tony Schiavone and David Crockett, dressed in tuxedos, hosted the show which showed different matches from cities like Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and St. Louis. The opening contest was Barry Windham vs. Arn Anderson from the Philadelphia Civic Center. November 5, 1988 - WCW is born The November 5, 1988 edition of NWA World Championship Wrestling began with "Nature Boy" Ric Flair cutting a promo and pointing out a large group of Turner executives in the crowd. This was a subtle nod to Ted Turner purchasing Jim Crockett Promotions. This can be considered the first World Championship Wrestling, Inc. (Turner's name for the company) program. On the same program, the infamous Jim Cornette-Paul E. Dangerously feud took place as their versions of the Midnight Express went into a brief, but intense feud that would last until February 1989. WCW Saturday Night As previously mentioned, World Championship Wrestling would be renamed WCW Saturday Night on April 4, 1992. This reflected an overhauled look and a new home studio-arena at the CNN Center, although months later, they would be held in either the Center Stage Theater in Atlanta or in Columbus, GA. The show was presented in a very '90s-esque "neon" style, with a blue and pink color scheme. Neon signs displayed the show's logo, and the wrestlers entered through a silver confetti curtain. The show was given a new look again in 1994, with a hi-tech, futuristic design with a unique entry way of slide-open doors and billowing smoke as the performers made their way to the ring. When the show originally premiered, it was hosted by Jim Ross[3] and Jesse Ventura[4]. In later years, Tony Schiavone[5], Bobby Heenan[6], Larry Zbyszko, Dusty Rhodes (who affectionately referred to Saturday Night as "The Mothership"), Gene Okerlund, Scott Hudson, Mike Tenay, and Lee Marshall handled the show's announcing duties and backstage interviews. In the summer of 1996, WCW Saturday Night was taped at WCW Pro's Disney-MGM Studios set in Orlando, Florida due to all of Turner's mobile production units being used by other broadcasters for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Episodes of WCW Saturday Night were usually filmed well in advance, with the exception of three live editions. WCW Saturday Night aired three live shows in its history. The first one aired July 9, 1994. Sting wrestled Ric Flair as voted on by fans. Hulk Hogan made his first in-studio appearance, and he and Sting were attacked by Sherri Martel in drag. The second aired from downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, on May 27, 1995. It started raining halfway through the show, causing the ring mat to become slippery at times. The third live airing took place on August 10, 1996, from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. The show took place right before the Hog Wild pay-per-view event, which was held on a Saturday night instead of the usual Sunday night slot for WCW pay-per-views. Hence, WCW Saturday Night was used as a lead-in to the pay-per-view show, much like WCW Main Event was used as a lead-in for Sunday pay-per-views until 1996. Decline and end When WCW introduced live programs Monday Nitro and Thunder, Saturday Night became WCW's "C-show" (like WWE's Sunday Night Heat after SmackDown!'s introduction). The majority of airtime would be used to display up-and-comers and recent graduates of the WCW Power Plant (with the occasional squash match) as well recapping the major events of the other shows. The main event would often feature mid-card performers such as the current Cruiserweight Champion, World Television Champion, or U.S. Heavyweight Champion in a non-title match. Hudson, Tenay, and Marshall manned commentating and interviewing duties throughout this period. In July 2000, the name of the show was changed to WCW Saturday Morning, which coincided with a change to an earlier timeslot and a new format: rather than feature new matches, Saturday Morning simply recapped the past week's Monday Nitro and Thunder. On June 24, 2000, WCW Saturday Night aired for the last time. The last episode of Saturday Morning aired on August 19, 2000. World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was an American professional wrestling promotion which existed from 1988 to 2001. In 1988, Ted Turner bought the promotion from Jim Crockett. Turner, and later Time-Warner, owned WCW until 2001, when it was purchased by its former competitor, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) (now World Wrestling Entertainment).[1][2] Based in Atlanta, Georgia, it began as a regional promotion affiliated with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), named Jim Crockett Promotions until 1988, when Ted Turner and his Turner Broadcasting purchased the promotion, renaming it World Championship Wrestling. From 1995 onwards, WCW began to turn the corner economically, largely due to the promotion of Eric Bischoff to Executive Producer, the hiring of Hulk Hogan, the introduction of Nitro and the resultant Monday Night Wars, the New World Order and other innovative concepts. However, numerous problems led to the company losing its lead. Its fall from grace has been heavily documented within the industry. The promotion was purchased in 2001 by former competitor Vince McMahon and the then-WWF. Although the name "World Championship Wrestling" had been used as a brand and television show name by various promotions affiliated with the NWA since 1982, (most notably Georgia Championship Wrestling and Jim Crockett Promotions) it was not until five years later that an actual NWA-affiliated promotion called World Championship Wrestling appeared on the national scene, under the ownership of media mogul Ted Turner, based in Atlanta, Georgia. Jim Barnett, who had worked for the World Championship Wrestling promotion in Australia, came to Atlanta in the 1970s during an internal struggle over the NWA Georgia territory.[3] Barnett wound up as the majority owner of the territory, and he wound up using the name for the territory's television program. While initially the new company was called Universal Wrestling Corporation, very shortly following the purchase the decision was made to utilize the familiar "World Championship Wrestling" name for the new promotion. The company went through various changes in its leadership and booking during the following years. Some people, like Jim Herd and Kip Frey, were completely lacking in wrestling experience; others, like Bill Watts and Ole Anderson, had extensive wrestling experience, but were so entrenched in the old territorial methods of promotion that they were ineffective at building WCW's audience. While Eric Bischoff has received much criticism for some of his mishandlings while he acted as WCW Executive Producer (and later, WCW President), Bischoff combined an understanding of wrestling (albeit without as much of a respect for the old Georgia/NWA legacy) with a willingness to make changes that were needed in order to help WCW become more visible in the eyes of the media and advertisers. These changes including moving some television tapings to Disney MGM Studios in Orlando, and signing both main-event performers and young stars from around the world. Some of the creative freedoms that Bischoff granted main-event level talent helped to bring the company down, as main-event level talent were less than cooperative in helping rising stars fulfill their potential, a staple of the industry. Once Bischoff was relieved of his duties in 1999, Vince Russo, a former writer for the World Wrestling Federation, came on board to become the lead writer of WCW. Russo did not last long in his position, but in April 2000, WCW opted to bring Russo and Bischoff back in hopes that the duo might re-spark interest in WCW. The two, however, did not get along well and Bischoff left the company after Russo, in the course of an in-ring promo, made comments about Terry Bollea (Hulk Hogan) which many felt were derogatory not just to the Hogan character, but to Bollea himself. [edit] Acquisition by the World Wrestling Federation As 2000 came to a close, a number of potential buyers for WCW were rumored to show interest in the company. Ted Turner, however, was still in charge of Time Warner prior to the final merger of AOL and Time Warner in 2001, and most offers were rejected. Eric Bischoff, working with Fusient Media Ventures, made a bid to acquire the company in January 2001 (shortly following the AOL/Time Warner merger), and it appeared that WCW would continue. One of the primary backers in the WCW deal backed out, however, leaving Fusient to take that offer off the table while it attempted to bring a new deal around. In the meantime, World Wrestling Federation began speaking to the new AOL Time Warner about acquiring the WCW brand. Jamie Kellner was handed control over the Turner Broadcasting division, and deemed WCW wrestling to be out of line with their image. As a result, WCW programming was cancelled on both TBS and TNT, leaving Vince McMahon's company, which at the time had an exclusive deal with Viacom, free to acquire the trademarks, video libraries and a few contracts. One of the truly mind-boggling facts about the sale is that WCW was in litigation, with various lawsuits pending, and AOL Time Warner still had to pay various performers their guaranteed deals, as many had contracts directly with the parent company, and not with WCW. Since Vince McMahon only acquired select assets, the shell that was once WCW became known as Universal Wrestling Corporation once again; its only purpose now, however, was to deal with old contracts and lawsuits. The history of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) is concerned with the American professional wrestling promotion that existed from 1988 to 2001. It began as a promotion affiliated with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) that appeared on the national scene under the ownership of media mogul Ted Turner and based in Atlanta, Georgia. In the 1990s, World Championship Wrestling, along with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), was considered one of the top two wrestling promotions in the United States. Its flagship show WCW Monday Nitro went head-to-head with WWF Raw in a ratings battle known as the Monday Night Wars. However, questionable booking decisions, the increasing popularity of the WWF, interference and restrictions from Time Warner and lackluster angles eventually led to its decline and eventual acquisition by its main competition: Vince McMahon and the WWF. Although World Championship Wrestling was a brand name used by promoter Jim Barnett for his Australian promotion,[1] the first promotion in the United States to use the World Championship Wrestling brand name (though it was never referred to as "WCW") on a wide scale was Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW).[2] GCW, owned primarily by Jack Brisco and Gerald Brisco and booked by Ole Anderson, was the first NWA territory to gain cable television access.[3] After founding his own company, Titan Sports Inc. in 1980, in 1982, Vince K. McMahon purchased his father's Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC) and merged it into Titan Sports Inc. After changing its name to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), it became the top promotion in North America, and GCW devised the name "World Championship Wrestling" in an effort to compete. In 1982, GCW changed the name of its television show (and thus its public face) to World Championship Wrestling since it was already starting to run shows in "neutral" territories such as Ohio and Michigan. These efforts helped to keep GCW competitive against the WWF, as both promotions had secured television deals and were trying to become national, as opposed to regional, entities. The change in name helped make GCW the top promotion once again, until the WWF was able to officially leave the NWA and create the show WWF All American Wrestling. The NWA, led by the President of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, Jim Crockett, countered by creating Starrcade in the fall of 1983, thus propelling it back to the top, but Vince McMahon again regained the lead with Hulk Hogan's dramatic world title victory at Madison Square Garden in January 1984,[4] as well as the creation of the television show Tuesday Night Titans. On April 9, 1984, the Brisco brothers sold their shares in GCW, including their prime time slot on the TBS cable television network, to Vince McMahon.[5] However, GCW's core audience was not interested in the WWF's cartoonish approach, preferring a more athletic style. As a result, when GCW's faithful television viewers tuned in to TBS on July 14, 1984 and saw WWF programming instead, they were outraged and sent complaints to the network demanding the return of GCW. This day has since gone down in wrestling lore as Black Saturday.[6] Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that, despite originally promising to produce original programming for the TBS time slot, McMahon chose instead to provide only a clip show for TBS featuring highlights from other WWF programming, a move which angered network head Ted Turner and was a major factor in his decision to discontinue showing the WWF on his network. Luckily for Turner, Ole Anderson had refused to sell his shares in GCW to the WWF, and he teamed with fellow holdout shareholders Fred Ward and Ralph Freed to create Championship Wrestling from Georgia. Turner quickly secured a television deal with the new promotion, as well as with Bill Watts' Mid-South Wrestling. In March 1985, McMahon sold his TBS time slot to Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP),[8] owned by Jim Crockett, Jr., under pressure from Ted Turner, who resurrected the World Championship Wrestling name (Turner Broadcasting had trademarked it and prevented McMahon from using it). The WWF and its major superstar, Hulk Hogan, however, were now the superior figures of wrestling after the success of the first WrestleMania, so the sale took place to successfully put the company in better shape. The new WCW, which was now a combination of JCP (Mid-Atlantic Wrestling) and Championship Wrestling from Georgia, was now the top show on TBS, and Jim Crockett, Jr. became NWA President for the second time. By 1986, Jim Crockett, Jr. controlled key portions of the NWA under the JCP name, including the traditional NWA territories in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and St. Louis. Crockett merged his NWA territories into one group, promoting under the banner of the NWA (in fact, JCP virtually became synonymous with "the NWA"). A feud between Crockett and Vince McMahon's WWF sprang up, and the companies attempted to outmaneuver each other to acquire key television slots. It was the WWF, however, who was able to become a hit in St. Louis (and the rest of Missouri as well), which brought trouble to the NWA Central States. The WWF was able to become a hit across the country as well, as the feud between Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff appealed to a large audience. Following this, Bob Geigel became the NWA President once again. In the same year, JCP also purchased Heart of America Sports Attractions,[10] promoters of the Central States territory, which owned the rights to promote wrestling shows through the states of Kansas, Missouri and Iowa. In 1987, JCP would enter into an agreement to control Championship Wrestling from Florida (though JCP never bought that company), and Universal Wrestling Federation (which covered Oklahoma, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana), and which was not an NWA member; this helped make Crockett NWA President once again. The Florida and Mid-South territories (along with those companies' rosters of wrestlers) were absorbed into JCP. Jim Crockett now owned NWA St. Louis, the Universal Wrestling Federation, his own JCP, GCW, Central States Wrestling, Championship Wrestling from Georgia and Championship Wrestling from Florida as well.[11] Crockett had almost accomplished his goal of creating a national promotion. Between his purchasing of several NWA territories, World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas leaving the NWA[12] in 1986 (and later merging with Jerry Jarrett's Championship Wrestling Alliance in Memphis to create the United States Wrestling Association brand),[13] and the once highly viable Pacific Northwest territory, as it had been known, closing in 1992, he was the last bastion of the NWA, and the last member with national television exposure. Since it was all they now saw, people began to believe that JCP was the NWA. Although JCP and the NWA were still two separate entities, with Crockett as NWA President, they were very much on the same page. The NWA was effectively an on-paper organization funded by Crockett and allowed Crockett to use the NWA brand name for promoting. With the large amount of capital needed to take a wrestling promotion on a national tour, Crockett's territorial acquisitions had seriously drained JCP's coffers.[14] He was in a similar situation to that of the WWF in the early 1980s: a large debt load, and the success or failure of a federation hinging on the success or failure of a series of pay-per-view events. In 1987, Crockett marketed Starrcade as the NWA's answer to WrestleMania. However, the WWF promoted Survivor Series on the same day. The WWF informed cable companies that if they chose to carry Starrcade, they would not be allowed to carry future WWF events.[15] The vast majority of companies showed Survivor Series (only five opted to remain loyal to their contract with Crockett, resulting in only an $80,000 profit after expenses). In January 1988, JCP promoted Bunkhouse Stampede, and McMahon counter-programmed with the first Royal Rumble on USA Network. Both NWA events achieved low buyrates, and the resulting financial blow led to the beginning of the end for JCP and eventually the birth of its successor, WCW. The decision to hold these events in Chicago and New York alienated the Crockett's main fanbase in the Carolinas, hampering their drawing power for arena shows in the Southeast. In 1985, Crockett had signed Dusty Rhodes and made him booker for JCP. Rhodes had a reputation for creativity and authored many of the memorable feuds and story lines of this period and gimmick matches like WarGames. By 1988, after three years of competition with Vince McMahon, and a long political struggle with champion Ric Flair, Rhodes was burnt out.[17] Fans were sick of the Dusty finish (and other non-endings for shows) that had obliterated the once-profitable house show market. One of the last creative aspects Dusty Rhodes initiated was the first Clash of the Champions, on the night of WrestleMania IV. For a quarter-hour, the Ric Flair vs. Sting match gained more viewers than WrestleMania; the epic match also made Sting a top player for WCW. By the end of 1988, Rhodes was booking cards seemingly at random, and planning at one point to have mid-card wrestler Rick Steiner defeat Ric Flair in a five-minute match at Starrcade for the NWA World Championship. After Starrcade '88, Rhodes was fired by the promotion after an angle he booked on November 26, where Road Warrior Animal pulled a spike out of his shoulder pad and jammed it in Rhodes's eye busting it wide open, despite a strict "no-blood" policy laid down by Turner after his recent purchase of the company. To preserve the inexpensive network programming provided by professional wrestling, JCP was purchased outright by Turner on November 21, 1988. Originally incorporated by TBS as the Universal Wrestling Corporation, Turner promised the fans that WCW would be the athlete-oriented style of NWA. 1989 proved to be a turnaround year for WCW, with Ric Flair on top for most of the year as both World Champion and head booker. Flair helped bring in Ricky Steamboat and Terry Funk, and his pay-per-view matches with were financially and critically successful. Young stars such as Sid Vicious, Sting, Scott Steiner, The Road Warriors, Brian Pillman, The Great Muta and Lex Luger were given major storylines and championship opportunities. 1990, however, would be an entirely different story, as Flair would be fired from being head booker in March 1990 after WCW talent began to argue that Flair was booking things in his favor. One of these examples was Flair's refusal to drop the WCW World title to Lex Luger, as he had already promised to drop it to Sting, who himself had been injured earlier in the year. Flair was eventually replaced by Ole Anderson. Despite this influx of talent, WCW soon began working to gradually incorporate much of the glamour and showy gimmicks for which the WWF was better known. Virtually none of these stunts—such as the live cross-promotional appearance of RoboCop at a pay-per-view event in 1990,[20] the Chamber of Horrors gimmick, and the notorious Black Scorpion storyline—succeeded.[21]. In addition, house shows were also dropping to record lows after Ole continuously pushed older wrestlers who were loyal to him during the shows.[19] Behind the scenes, WCW was becoming more autonomous and slowly started separating itself from the historic NWA name. In January 1991, WCW officially split from the NWA and began to recognize its own WCW World Heavyweight Championship and WCW World Tag Team Championship. Both WCW and the NWA recognized Ric Flair (who was by now no longer the head booker) as their World Heavyweight Champion throughout most of the first half of 1991, but WCW, particularly recently-installed company president Jim Herd, turned against Flair for various reasons and fired him before The Great American Bash in July 1991 after failed contract negotiations. In the process, they officially stripped him of the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.[22] According to Flair's autobiography, they refused to return the $25,000 deposit he had put down on the physical belt, so he kept it and brought it with him when he was hired by the WWF at the request of Vince McMahon. Flair then incorporated the belt into his gimmick, dubbing himself "The Real World's Champion". On a sidenote, Flair eventually received his deposit which with interest was over $38,000. WCW later renegotiated the use of the NWA name as a co-promotional gimmick with New Japan Pro Wrestling and sued the WWF to stop showing Flair with the old NWA World Title belt on its programs, claiming a trademark on the physical design of the belt. The belt was returned to WCW by Flair when Jim Herd was let go and he received his deposit back plus interest. It was brought back as the revived NWA World Heavyweight Championship. 1992 would also prove to be another bad year for WCW as well, as new booker "Cowboy" Bill Watts made top rope moves-which were common by Brian Pillman and the Steiner Brothers- illegal during wrestling matches. During the period that WCW operated with its own World Heavyweight Champion, while also recognizing the NWA's world title, Flair left the WWF on good terms and returned to WCW, regaining the title from Barry Windham in July 1993.[22] Immediately, the other, now smaller, member organizations of the NWA began demanding that Flair defend the title under their rules in their territories, as mandated by old NWA agreements. The title was later scheduled to be dropped by Flair to Rick Rude, a title change which was exposed by the infamous Disney Tapings (discussed in more detail below). The NWA board of directors, working separately from WCW, objected to the title being change without their vote and WCW finally left the NWA for good again in September 1993. WCW still legally owned and used the actual belt which represented the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, however, and Rick Rude even defended it as the "Big Gold Belt", but they could no longer use the NWA name. WCW realized that the title belt, because of its rich in-ring history and visual impact, was highly sought after and respected in Japan, a fictional subsidiary, dubbed WCW International, was created to inject credibility back into the belt. It was made up of promoters from around the world, essentially their in-house version of the real NWA. The title thus became known as the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship (as the World Heavyweight Championship as sanctioned by WCW International).[24] WCW claimed that WCW International still recognized the belt as a legitimate World Championship. For a short while, there were essentially two world titles up for competition in the organization. Sting eventually lost the WCW International Championship to WCW Champion Ric Flair in a unification match on June 23, 1994 when the experiment was jettisoned.[25] The Big Gold Belt was then used to represent the lone World Title in the company. It was used as such until WCW's closure in 2001. The creative product of the company sank in 1991 and 1992 under the presidency of Jim Herd, and subsequently Bill Watts. There were signs of gradual recovery in early 1993 when former commentator Eric Bischoff was appointed as Executive Vice President of WCW. Bischoff, originally brought in as a secondary commentator behind Jim Ross after the AWA folded, was desperate to give WCW a new direction and impressed Turner's top brass with his non-confrontational tactics and business savvy. Bischoff's first year running the company was considered extremely unsuccessful. Dusty Rhodes and Ole Anderson were still in full creative control at this point, and under their watch WCW presented cartoonish storylines as well as seemingly pointless feuds with little or no build-up (for instance, the "Lost in Cleveland" and "Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal" angles involving Cactus Jack and Sting respectively, as well as the "White Castle of Fear" and Beach Blast mini-movies). In May 1993, WCW began the aforementioned Disney Tapings, a move which would grow into a major headache for them. In order to save money, the promotion rented out a studio located at the Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida, and proceeded to tape its syndicated television programming months before it was to air on television. Wrestlers were often forced to appear on-camera with belts they would not actually win for several more months, exposing future WCW storylines to those in attendance (most of whom were tourists who had been coached to cheer and boo on cue). Footage of Rude with the NWA title shot at these tapings had caused the controversy with the NWA discussed above. Moreover, the tapings also caused confusion in the tag team division, as they had revealed that Arn Anderson and Paul Roma were to win the WCW World tag team titles from the Hollywood Blonds (Steve Austin and Brian Pillman). The promotion had decided to swerve the fans at the live Beach Blast pay-per-view event in July and keep the titles on the Blonds, but the live Clash of the Champions XXIV show was to take place in August before the already-shot footage of Anderson and Roma as tag team champions was to begin circulating in September. However, before the Clash event, Pillman was injured and unable to wrestle, forcing Lord Steven Regal to replace him alongside Austin. Of course, Anderson and Roma won the titles, and the Blonds, an immensely popular tag team with fans, were inexplicably broken up permanently. Clash of the Champions XXIV saw WCW's reputation take another hit. In 1993, Ric Flair returned to WCW from his WWF tenure, but was constrained by a no-compete clause from his WWF contract. In response, WCW gave him a talk show segment on its television shows called "A Flair for the Gold," in the mold of the old "Piper's Pit" segments from 1980s WWF programming starring "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. During a segment of the talk show at the Clash, WCW decided to introduce a "mystery partner" for the babyfaces, a masked man known as The Shockmaster. The Shockmaster (previously known as "Typhoon" in the WWF) was supposed to crash through a fake wall and intimidate the heels. Instead, he tripped through the wall and fell on his face on live television, inadvertently rendering himself a joke character (despite winning some matches). Late in 1993, WCW decided to once again base the promotion around Ric Flair. This was seen as more or less a necessity after prospective top babyface Sid Vicious was involved in an incident with Arn Anderson (which resulted in hospitalization of both men)[30] while on tour in England four weeks before Starrcade and was fired. Flair won the title at Starrcade and was once again made booker.[31] Tthat did not stop WCW from suffering massive financial losses in 1993, however; a staggering $23 million. Beginning in 1994, Bischoff declared open war on McMahon's WWF and aggressively recruited high-profile former WWF superstars such as Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage to work for WCW. Using Turner's monetary resources, Bischoff placed his faith in established stars with proven track records. Due to their high profiles, however, Hogan and Savage were able to demand concessions, such as multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts and creative control over their characters. This would later become a problem during subsequent years of competition with the WWF, as other wrestlers were able to make similar demands, and contract values soared out of control. Hogan in particular was able to gain considerable influence through a friendship with Bischoff. Hogan's considerably hefty fee of $700,000 per pay-per-view appearance would cost the company dearly in future years. He was paid this amount whether the pay-per-view was successful or not. Another thing Bischoff may have failed to consider was the fact that many WCW fans (especially those who had followed the company since its NWA days) watched it as an alternative product to the WWF that focused on in-ring action as opposed to cartoonish characters and storylines. As such, these fans viewed Bischoff's signing of former WWF talent as an attempt to copy its success instead of remaining true to the idea of WCW being an alternative to the WWF. Nevertheless, WCW's first major pay-per-view event since Hogan's hiring, Bash at the Beach, saw the former WWF mainstay cleanly defeat Ric Flair for the WCW World championship. The two had worked for the WWF at the same time from 1991 to 1992, and a feud was teased between them, but the big-money match originally planned for WrestleMania VIII was changed to Flair/Savage and Hogan/Sid. When WCW delivered the match, the event drew a high buyrate by WCW standards due to mainstream intrigue and hype. Despite being a critical and financial success, the glory would not last, as the Hogan/Flair feud would only result in one more match (at Halloween Havoc) and the hope for long-term effects on pay-per-view buyrates and ratings did not materialize. Turner management came to this realization when they checked up on the state of the company in mid-1995. Hence, Bischoff called Turner and requested a private meeting, which he was granted. Bischoff would be instrumental in launching the weekly show WCW Monday Nitro, which debuted on September 4, 1995 live from the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.[32][33] At their mid-1995 meeting, Turner asked Bischoff how WCW could conceivably compete with McMahon's WWF. Bischoff, not expecting Turner to comply, said that the only way would be a primetime slot on a weekday night, possibly up against the WWF's flagship show, Monday Night Raw. Turner granted him a live hour on TNT every Monday night, which specifically overlapped with Raw.[34] This format quickly expanded to two live hours in May 1996 and later three. Bischoff himself was initially the host, alongside Bobby Heenan and ex-NFL star Steve "Mongo" McMichael. The initial broadcast of Nitro, running unopposed because of the pre-emption of Raw for U.S. Open tennis coverage on the USA Network, featured the return of Lex Luger (who had been in the WWF since 1993) to the WCW audience.[35] WCW's coup of obtaining Luger was significant for several reasons. Because Nitro was live at the time, premiering major stars on the show would signal to the fans the amount of excitement the broadcasts would contain. Also, Luger had just come off a moderately successful run in the WWF, and was at one time one of the company's top stars.[36] Finally, because Luger had been employed with the WWF as recently as a week before his Nitro appearance, WCW fans would be intrigued to see others possibly "jump ship". The Monday Night Wars had now officially begun. Early on, Bischoff vigorously promoted his new show by giving away WWF Raw results on Nitro, as Raw, unlike Nitro, was then mostly taped in advance.[37] He took another famous jab at the WWF on December 18, 1995, when he brought reigning WWF Women's Champion Alundra Blayze (who had previously competed in WCW as "Madusa") back to the promotion and, live on Nitro, had her publicly denounce the Blayze character and throw the WWF Women's title belt in a trash can, reclaiming her "Madusa" moniker in the process.[38] The WWF responded to all this by creating the "Billionaire Ted" skits, which featured parodies of Ted Turner ("Billionaire Ted"), Hulk Hogan ("The Huckster"), Randy Savage ("The Nacho Man"), and WCW interviewer "Mean Gene" Okerlund ("Scheme Gene"), which were said to infuriate Turner, thereby giving him more motivation to compete. They also began picking up a bit after WrestleMania XII, running a hot feud between WWF World champion Shawn Michaels and former World champion Diesel. The tide began to turn in WCW's favor on Memorial Day 1996 when Scott Hall, who had just been wrestling in the WWF as Razor Ramon, interrupted a match by walking down through the crowd into the ring. He delivered his "You want a war?" speech: "You people know who I am," he began, "but you don't know why I'm here." Hall said that he and two of his associates were going to "take over." Many thought he meant Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, then still with WWF. Hall challenged the best WCW wrestlers to stand up and defend the company against their onslaught. The next week, Hall reappeared on Nitro and pestered the WCW announcers. Sting confronted him, and was rewarded with a toothpick in the face for his efforts. Sting retaliated by slapping Hall across the face, and in response Hall promised Sting a "little... no... BIG surprise" the next week in Wheeling, West Virginia. This surprise ended up being Hall's good friend and former WWF World Heavyweight Champion Kevin Nash, and in the weeks following Hall and Nash were collectively referred to as "The Outsiders." Both men took to showing up unexpectedly during Nitro broadcasts, usually jumping wrestlers backstage, distracting wrestlers by standing in the entranceways of arenas, or walking around in the audience. Within a couple of weeks, they announced the forthcoming appearance of a mysterious third member. At Bash at the Beach, Hall and Nash were scheduled to team with their mystery partner against Lex Luger, Randy Savage and Sting. At the onset of the match, Hall and Nash came out without a third man, telling "Mean Gene" Okerlund that he was "in the building," but that they did not need him yet. Shortly into the match, a Stinger Splash resulted in Luger being crushed behind Kevin Nash, and being taken away on a stretcher, reducing the match to The Outsiders vs. Sting and Savage. Hall and Nash took control of the match when Hulk Hogan came to the ring. After standing off with The Outsiders for a moment, he suddenly attacked Savage, showing himself to be the Outsider's mysterious third man. Giving an interview with Okerlund directly after the match, Hogan claimed the reason for the turn was that he was tired of fans that had turned on him. Hogan labeled the new faction "the new world order of wrestling", beginning a feud between wrestlers loyal to WCW and the nWo. The fans in attendance were so outraged at Hogan's betrayal that they pelted the ring with debris, such as paper cups and plastic bottles, for the duration of his interview. One fan even jumped the security railing and tried to attack Hogan in the ring, but was quickly subdued by Hall, Nash, and arena security. Shortly after, the WWF filed a lawsuit, alleging that the nWo storyline implied that Hall and Nash were invaders sent by Vince McMahon to destroy WCW, despite the fact that Bischoff asked Nash point blank on camera at a WCW show "Are you employed by the WWF?" to which Nash emphatically replied "No". Another reason for the lawsuit was the WWF claimed Scott Hall acted in a manner too similar to the character Razor Ramon which was owned by the WWF. The lawsuit dragged out for several years before being settled out of court. One of the settlement's terms was the right for the WWF to bid on WCW's properties, should they ever be up for liquidation; an ironic settlement that would prove invaluable in the future. Largely due to the nWo angle, Nitro defeated Raw for 84 consecutive weeks. During this time, WCW occasionally revealed the endings to pre-taped Raw matches at the beginning of its live broadcast. Bischoff reasoned that fans who were open to switching between the two programs would be less inclined to switch to Raw if fans knew ahead of time how the matches would end. In 1997, WCW entered its peak. The nWo began feuding with the revived babyface Four Horsemen as well as the returning WCW hero Sting. Sting had changed his gimmick when he returned to WCW television, he became a darker, brooding character, largely based on The Crow. Sting would be in the rafters of WCW arenas watching the WCW/nWo feud, and sometimes rapple down into the ring to help WCW wrestlers fighting the nWo. The latter feud served to build up Starrcade in December. When WCW delivered the Sting vs. Hogan match for the WCW World Championship, the event drew WCW's largest buyrate and Bischoff was largely praised in the months leading up to this event because of his refusal to give away ("hotshot" in wrestling slang) a Sting vs. Hogan title match for free or without proper buildup.[42] Indeed, the Hogan/Sting angle endured for approximately 15 months. Wrestling fans consider this show to be the beginning of the end for WCW, however, even as they were dominating the WWF in the television ratings.[43] Hogan was heavily criticized for not doing a clean finish to the match, which confused and irritated fans who had waited over a year to see Sting take down the nWo. The finish actually involved a recently-introduced Bret Hart, who had refereed the preceding match between Bischoff and Larry Zbyszko for control of Nitro, coming down to the ring after Hogan had supposedly won the match. Hart alleged that referee Nick Patrick had performed a fast count on Sting and wanted to "make things right".[44] By many accounts, however, including Eric Bischoff's in Controversy Creates Cash, the count looked like a normal count, so Hart's protestations did not make sense. Television replays of the three-count on later shows had the video sped up to hide this. Hart insisted that the match continue with himself as referee, in order to prevent Sting from being "screwed" like Hart had legitimately been at the Montreal Screwjob, which had soured his ties with the WWF and hastened his leave to WCW. It is believed that Hogan pulled Patrick aside before the match and told him the finish had been changed to a normal three-count. In essence, whereas fans were promised a magnificent storytelling classic between Hogan and Sting in which the dark clad dispenser of justice would dethrone the tyrannical renegade leader of the nWo, they were presented with a faux reverse-tide potshot at the Montreal Screwjob. To add insult to injury, it was decided that because of the messy finish to the rematch (On the following Monday's Nitro show which ended with Hogan, and then Sting regaining the title in the same match), Sting had to be stripped of the WCW title that he won from Hogan two weeks later. It was announced when Sting was stripped on television that they would face each other again for the vacant championship at a future pay-per-view. This was without a doubt one of the biggest main event flops in pay-per-view history, and to many, the beginning of the end for WCW. When Hart left the WWF in 1997 following the Montreal Screwjob at the Survivor Series, it looked as though WCW was in position to permanently eclipse the WWF, if not put them out of business. WCW appeared to possess the biggest stars in the industry, such as Hogan, Savage, Sting, Flair, Hart, Hall and Nash. In addition, the company had credible midcard stars such as Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit and Raven, as well as an exciting cruiserweight division featuring high-flying international competition. However, things would not unfold as WCW had planned. Turner sought to capitalize on WCW's momentum by launching a new Thursday night show on TBS, WCW Thunder, in January 1998.[45] Popular opinion was that the Screwjob and WCW's subsequent acquisition of Hart were death blows for the WWF.[citation needed] WCW had a golden opportunity to capture the allegiances of WWF fans who were disenchanted with the company after its poor treatment of a popular star, but Hart's tenure in WCW failed to live up to expectations. According to Hart, the company had no idea how to properly utilize him.[citation needed] Vince McMahon had described Hart as the kind of wrestler a promoter builds his whole company around, but WCW generally used him as a midcarder. Their biggest hope was that Hart would help create inroads in foreign markets such as his native Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Bischoff contends that due to the events of Montreal, Hart's passion and desire for the business was not as it was during his WWF heyday. "Montreal...had taken his toll on him," Bischoff stated in his autobiography. "It was all he talked about... constantly." In any event, WCW failed to capitalize on Hart's talent and momentum. As WCW coasted with the same basic formula they had been following, McMahon set about revamping his creative approach and set in motion events that later put his company ahead of WCW for good. Under the "WWF Attitude" moniker, he elevated rising stars Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H and his DX group, as well as Mankind, Vader, Kane and Ken Shamrock. McMahon himself, after having played in a supporting role on camera as the play-by-play announcer, capitalized on the ill will he received from fans for screwing Bret Hart by turning himself into an on-screen villain. The "Mr. McMahon" heel character feuded with babyface wrestlers and used his influence to screw them out of wins and titles. The April 13, 1998 episode of Raw headlined by a match between Austin and McMahon, marked the first time that WCW lost the head-to-head Monday night ratings battle in 84 weeks. WWF ratings began an ascent to highs previously unheard of in wrestling TV. WCW attempted to counter this by dividing the nWo into the Hogan-led heel nWo Hollywood faction and the Nash-led face nWo Wolfpac faction. WCW's next big attempt to regain ratings supremacy was by marketing ex-NFL player Bill Goldberg as an invincible monster with a record-breaking winning streak. Goldberg was incredibly popular, but business still quickly fell off for WCW, especially as the list of stars ready to be destroyed by Goldberg grew shorter. One of WCW's last wins in the Monday night ratings war was on July 6, 1998, when WCW aired Goldberg's long-awaited world title victory over Hulk Hogan on free television. This significantly increased the rating for the show, but only for that week.[46] Such a match could likely have generated millions for WCW on pay-per-view. On September 14, 1998, WCW won the ratings war once again with a memorable moment that featured Ric Flair's return to WCW and the reformation of the legendary Four Horsemen. On October 25, 1998, WCW's Halloween Havoc ran longer than the time allocated because of the last-minute addition of a tag team title match. As a result, several thousand people lost their pay-per-view feed at 11pm during the world title match between Diamond Dallas Page and Goldberg.[47] The following night, WCW decided to correct the fault by airing the entire match for free on Nitro and won the ratings war for the final time.[48] This timing faux pas upset millions of viewers who had paid for the pay-per-view, only to have to wait to see the main event for free the next night. At this time, Kevin Nash was in charge of booking the shows. After winning the World War 3 battle royal in November 1998, he went on to end Goldberg's winning streak and win the world title on Starrcade one month later. Then came "The Fingerpoke of Doom" match between Nash and Hogan in January 1999. The match was originally advertised as a Starrcade rematch between Nash and Goldberg. As a result, the Georgia Dome in Atlanta was a complete sellout, with over 40,000 people watching live expecting to see the rematch. Throughout the broadcast the announcers hyped the main event as being the "biggest match in the history of our sport" and said that "unlike the other guys, we have a real main event".[citation needed] Instead, Goldberg was forced to forgo his title match and was replaced by Hogan. Hogan knocked Nash to the mat by poking him in the chest with one finger and then pinning him, winning the World Heavyweight Title and further damaging the credibility of it as a result.[49] This outcome damaged the credibility of the company as a whole, having failed to present the advertised match and using underhand tactics to sell out the arena for that night's telecast. On the same episode of Nitro, Tony Schiavone, under direction from Bischoff, revealed that Mick Foley won the WWF Title at a taped edition of Raw and mocked the WWF for making what he implied was a bad business decision. Nielsen ratings indicated that over 100,000 households changed the channel to watch the victory and shifted the ratings for the night in the WWF's favor. WCW slid into a period of extravagant overspending and creative decline; the reasons and the people responsible are still a matter of debate. One possible reason was the overuse of celebrities in pay-per-view matches, such as Dennis Rodman and Jay Leno.[52][53] Another was that WCW's credibility was damaged by product placement, such as Rick Steiner trading barbs with Chucky the killer doll in order to advertise the 1998 film Bride of Chucky.[54] Another possible reason was that the top-level stars had no motivation to excel in the ring due to their long-term contracts. WCW programming had started to decline in quality, leading to a loss of viewers, and the company reacted by throwing money at personalities, something it could ill-afford to do. Talents were reportedly signed to keep them from appearing on WWF television. At one point, WCW held over 260 individual performers under guaranteed contracts, many of whom rarely appeared in its programs. During one Thunder program, only 15 of the 260 contracted wrestlers appeared on screen. Also in 1998, Bischoff recruited The Ultimate Warrior, a former WWF star, to feud with Hogan, Ultimate Warrior's WrestleMania VI opponent. Their October 1998 encounter at Halloween Havoc was renowned as one of the worst matches in pay-per-view history,[55] and Warrior vanished soon after. The Ultimate Warrior also insisted on elaborate and costly apparatuses, such as a trapdoor in the ring which badly injured The British Bulldog when he landed on it. According to Bischoff's autobiography Controversy Creates Ca$h, new WCW owners Time Warner (via acquiring Turner Broadcasting) hindered Bischoff due to micromanagement. Time Warner initially gave him slight restrictions as to what he was and was not allowed to do with WCW. The restrictions mounted as time passed, with impending lawsuits between the WWF and WCW adding more. By the summer of 1998, he was outright ordered to alter WCW's format to a more "family-friendly" output. The forced shift in WCW's programming came while the WWF, buoyed by its new "Attitude" branding and product, was regularly beating an increasingly stagnant WCW week after week in the Monday night ratings war. Also, Time Warner had ordered WCW (like the other companies under Time Warner ownership) to slash their budget, putting even more strain on the company. Although it was common knowledge that many executives in WCW ownership-- from the Turner-owned era to the AOL Time Warner years – hated the idea of wrestling on their stations and attempted to remove the company entirely, Bischoff maintains that the restrictions and mandates placed on WCW was done in order to accomplish and accelerate the promotion's demise. In addition, no matter who was in charge, WCW did not promote its younger stars to the company's top slots (a charge admitted by Bischoff). Despite having talented younger wrestlers like Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Billy Kidman, Chavo Guerrero, Jr., Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn, Raven, Booker T., and Rey Mysterio, Jr. on its roster, they were kept away from the main event scene. Bischoff was eventually removed from control of the promotion on September 10, 1999, after a failed push for the 1970s rock group KISS through WCW shows and a storyline involving rapper Master P and The No Limit Soldiers.[57] The No Limit Soldiers stable flopped so badly that the fans turned on them and began supporting the West Texas Rednecks heel stable that they were feuding with.[58] An announced "million-dollar contest" was later cancelled and a planned Nitro animated series was scrapped as well. Bischoff was unexpectedly replaced by former WWF head writer Vince Russo and his colleague Ed Ferrara.[61] Russo and Ferrera presented themselves as the brains behind the "Attitude" era, and WCW offered them lucrative contracts to jump ship in October 1999. Russo and Ferrara tried to push the younger WCW talents straight away, and phase out aging stars such as Hogan and Flair. Russo and Ferrara struggled to gain approval for their near-the-knuckle ideas from WCW management, such as a November 15, 1999 "Piñata on a Pole" match between Mexican wrestlers.[62] In late 1999, Russo and Ferrera revived the nWo storyline, this time with Jeff Jarrett and Bret Hart at the helm. They next targeted WWF announcer Jim Ross with a parody character called "Oklahoma," who was played onscreen by Ferrara. Ross suffered from Bell's palsy, and the character lampooned his resultant facial defects.[63] Bad luck struck in December 1999 when Hart suffered a career-ending concussion at the hands of Goldberg,[64] who severely damaged his own hand less than a week later while punching through a limousine window in Salisbury, Maryland as part of a storyline that was written by Russo.[65] Russo himself became an on-screen character during this period, though one whose face was never shown on camera: only his hand and the back of his chair were ever actually seen, as he called wrestlers into his office to receive their marching orders for the night. Russo and Ferrara were suspended three months later amid rumors that they wanted to make former UFC fighter Tank Abbott the WCW champion.[citation needed] Abbott, despite his legitimate fighting background, had little wrestling experience and had failed to connect with WCW audiences.[66] Kevin Sullivan, who had been an on/off booker over the course of several years, was placed in charge in the interim. The new writing team attempted to appease the demoralized wrestlers and fans by making Chris Benoit the WCW champion at Souled Out in January 2000.[67] However, Benoit was among a group of wrestlers who expressed their intent to leave the company prior to the show. He handed the belt back right after winning it and signed with the WWF the next day, along with his similarly frustrated friends Perry Saturn, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko. The four quickly became popular in the WWF as "The Radicalz". On February 11, 2000, 12 wrestlers, including African American wrestler "Hardbody" Harrison Norris and Japanese manager Sonny Onoo launched racial discrimination lawsuits against WCW,[68][69] charging that, as a result of their ethnicities, they had not been pushed, had not been paid as well as other wrestlers and personalities, and had been given offensive gimmicks. Some speculated that the charges of racism led to black wrestler Booker T. winning the WCW championship later that year,[70] and his brother Stevie Ray being made a color commentator; Ray himself acknowledged that it may have been a factor. In April 2000, with ratings hitting new lows, Russo and Bischoff were reinstated by WCW. They formed an on-screen union that stood up for the younger talent in the company (which they dubbed the New Blood)[71] in their battle against the Millionaire's Club, which consisted of the older, higher-paid, and more visible stars such as Hogan, Sting, and Diamond Dallas Page.[72] Though initially well-received, the storyline quickly degenerated into yet another nWo rehash, with the heel nWo recast as the New Blood and the face WCW embodied in the Millionaire's Club. The unorthodox and often controversial storylines continued. Although neither was a trained wrestler, Russo and actor David Arquette each won the WCW Heavyweight Championship, the latter in order to promote the box-office flop Ready to Rumble. As neither looked physically capable of defeating actual wrestlers in a match, the title's credibility hit rock-bottom as a result.[73][74][75] Goldberg was turned heel, but the execution was botched and served to greatly diminish his drawing power. Russo delivered a shoot speech at Bash at the Beach 2000 aimed at Hulk Hogan,[76] which led Hogan to resign and file a defamation of character lawsuit, which was eventually dismissed in 2002.[77] Infuriated by Russo's actions (which conflicted with his intentions for Bash), Bischoff departed once more in July 2000. Russo was gone from the promotion entirely by late 2000, leaving Terry Taylor holding the reins.[78] During this time, a short-lived crossover feud began involving stars of WCW and Battle Dome. By the beginning of February 2001, most female personalities had been released from the promotion in an attempt to cut costs. Also as of February 2001, WCW would hold its events in Southern States only. Meanwhile, Time Warner had bought out Turner's empire in 1996, including WCW. Turner was personally faithful to WCW regardless of whether it was losing him money because an earlier incarnation of the promotion had helped establish Turner's first television station, WTBS. However, Time Warner did not share his loyalty especially when accounts showed that WCW was losing between $12–$17 million a year at this point (and an astonishing $60 million in 2000 alone), but Turner was still the single largest Time Warner shareholder, so WCW continued to operate at his behest. When AOL merged with Time Warner in 2000, Turner was effectively forced out of his own empire.[79] The new AOL Time Warner finally had the power to auction off WCW, which they saw as an unnecessary drain on resources. In late 2000, Bischoff and a group of private investors, calling themselves Fusient Media Ventures, inquired about buying WCW, and reports indicated that a deal was in place.[80] However, Fusient backed out when Turner networks head Jamie Kellner formally cancelled all WCW programming from its television networks.[81] With no network on which to air its programming, WCW was of little value to Fusient, whose offer depended on being able to continue to air WCW programming on the Turner networks. On March 23, 2001, all of WCW's trademarks and archived footage, as well as twenty-five of the lower-tier-to-mid-card wrestler contracts, were sold to Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. It was purchased for a mere $3,000,000.[83] A gloating McMahon opened the last-ever episode of WCW Monday Nitro simulcast with Raw on March 26, 2001 with a self-praising speech.[84] U.S. Champion Booker T cleanly defeated the World Champion, Scott Steiner,[85] to become WCW's final World Heavyweight Champion, as well as its final U.S. Heavyweight Champion. Sting vs. Ric Flair (won by Sting) was the highlight nostalgia match of the final broadcast, ending affectionately with a respectful embrace. When Vince came on Raw after the Sting/Flair match to declare victory over WCW, Vince's son Shane McMahon appeared at the Nitro event, declaring that he had bought WCW. However, this was kayfabe and part of the WWF's Invasion storyline that would have Shane leading the WCW invasion of the WWF,[86] which lasted from March to November 2001 and marked the end of WCW. Despite aborted attempts to run WCW-branded events (including a proposed Saturday night timeslot that later evolved into WWF Excess and then WWE Velocity) the WWF only ran a handful of matches on Raw and SmackDown! under the WCW banner. When the WWF bought WCW in March 26, 2001, top WCW wrestlers including Flair, Goldberg, Kevin Nash, and Sting had high-priced contracts with AOL Time Warner that the WWF was unwilling to pick up.[87] Rather, Vince McMahon waited until their contracts expired to sign them as WWF wrestlers (with the exception of Sting, who decided not to sign); this was seen as a mistake on Vince's part, as their participation in his Invasion storyline would have created a more dominant, "powerhouse WCW" to add more credibility to the invading roster used in 2001. At the outset of WCW's existence, as well as with the promotions that came before it, the company was strongly identified with the Southern style of professional wrestling (or rasslin'), which emphasized athletic in-ring competition over the showmanship and cartoonish characters of the WWF.[4] This identification persisted into the 1990s, even as the company signed former WWF stars such as Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. WCW dominated pro wrestling's television ratings from 1996 to 1998 (84 straight weeks) mainly due to its incredibly popular New World Order storyline, but thereafter began to lose heavy ground to the WWF, which had recovered greatly due to its new "Attitude" branding. Repetitive story lines, questionable booking issues, and corporate restrictions eventually led the promotion to begin losing large amounts of money, leading to parent company AOL Time Warner selling the name copyrights to the WWF for $2.5 million in 2001. Shortly after the purchase, Vince McMahon purchased the entire tape library for an additional $1.7 million, bringing the final tally of World Championship Wrestling's sale to $4.2 million. WCW started out as a regional promotion in the late 1980s focusing mainly in the Deep South. WCW started growing nationally a few years later, which led to its rivalry with the WWF. Even though WCW folded in 2001, its legacy lived on in the WWF. The WWF kept the WCW United States Championship, the WCW Cruiserweight Championship, the WCW World Tag Team Championship, and the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Eventually, with the exception of the Cruiserweight title, the titles were unified into their WWF counterparts. In 2003, now known as the WWE, the company resurected the United States title to be competed for exclusively on SmackDown. When Hulk Hogan came back to the WWE, the WWE kept his Hollywood nickname. In 2004, the WWE brought back the The Great American Bash pay-per-view and also in 2009, released Starcade: The Essential Collection as a three-disc DVD set. In 1980, he was elected to his first term as NWA President, which ended in 1982. Crockett had a working relationship with Maple Leaf Wrestling, headed by Frank Tunney in Toronto, Ontario until Tunny's death 1983. Frank died and his nephew Jack Tunney switched his working agreement to Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation.[4] Crockett then formed a relationship with Verne Gagne and his American Wrestling Association to form Pro Wrestling USA. The relationship did not last very long. Crockett was elected NWA President for a second term in 1985. He bought Vince McMahon's Saturday night TV time slot and began to flourish. During that year, he organized the first annual Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Cup in which wrestlers from eight National Wrestling Alliance regional territories participated in a one-day tournament at the The Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana in which The Road Warriors defeated Ron Garvin & Magnum T.A. after 7 1/2 hours. He eventually purchased leagues based in Oklahoma and Kansas City in the Mid-South territory and began airing his own televised wrestling events which were syndicated across the United States.[5] Crockett was elected to a third term as NWA President in 1987. That same year he added Championship Wrestling from Florida and the Universal Wrestling Federation to his company (thus acquiring such talent as wrestler Sting and commentator Jim Ross). Although initially planning to keep the UWF and NWA as separate promotions in order to promote an annual interpromotional event similar to the Super Bowl, Crockett instead moved the old UWF headquarters from Tulsa to Dallas [6] and incorporated its stars into his own promotion. By November 1988, Crockett was near bankruptcy and, through promoter Jim Barnett,[8] sold his company to Ted Turner, who renamed it World Championship Wrestling.[9] Crockett stayed on as NWA President until 1991. In 1931, Jim Crockett, Sr. began promoting wrestling from his homebase of Charlotte, North Carolina (though his first shows were in eastern Tennessee). It must be noted that the often-quoted "1935" date as the debut for Jim Crockett Promotions was created so that the company could celebrate its "50th Anniversary" (which had a better ring to it than the true 54th anniversary. JCP gradually phased out its multiple weekly television tapings in such cities as Charlotte, N.C.; Greenville, S.C.; and High Point, N.C. and eventually consolidated their taping schedule into one shoot, a Wednesday night affair at WRAL in Raleigh, an agreement that last until 1981, when they moved to WPCQ studios in Charlotte (a station once owned by Ted Turner). By the early 1970s, JCP began to consolidate its various local television shows, doing one master taping at WRAL studio in Raleigh, NC, which was then syndicated to stations throughout the Carolinas and Virginia. The local shows hosted by legendary announcers like Big Bill Ward (from WBTV in Charlotte) and Charlie Harville (at WGHP in High Point) gave way to Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (known briefly in 1978 as Mid-Atlantic Championship Sports). Mid-Atlantic was hosted by Bob Caudle (the longtime WRAL weatherman who handled the Raleigh wrestling duties). Caudle was joined by a rotating host of co-hosts (everyone from Les Thatcher to Dr. Tom Miller) before David Crockett stepped out of the ring after a short, uncelebrated career as a wrestler to become Caudle's color man. For a brief period, a secondary show called East Coast Wrestling was taped at WRAL. It was basically a repackaged version of 'Mid-Atlantic' and was announced by Big Bill Ward. In 1975, JCP premiered a new syndicated "B-show" entitled Wide World Wrestling (renamed World Wide Wrestling in 1978). The original host of this show was former Georgia Championship Wrestling announcer Ed Capral. Subsequent Wide World/World Wide announcers included Les Thatcher, George and Sandy Scott, and Dr. Tom Miller. The team of Rich Landrum and Johnny Weaver is perhaps the best remembered team to host this program in the 1970s. In 1978, JCP later added a short-lived show called The Best of NWA Wrestling which was taped at WCCB studios in Charlotte (across the street from the old Charlotte Coliseum) and which featured then-active wrestler Johnny Weaver sitting down with top stars in a "coach's show" type environment, in which they commentated over 16 millimeter films shot at local arenas. Rich Landrum and David Crockett appeared on "Best Of" doing promo interviews for local arena shows. JCP gradually began to expand, running shows in eastern Tennessee, parts of West Virginia, and Savannah, Georgia. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, they moved into Cincinnati, Ohio and Dayton, Ohio. Crockett and Scott also bought into Frank Tunney's promotion in Toronto, which ran under the Maple Leaf Wrestling brand name. Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was seen on a station out of Buffalo, New York, which allowed the joint Tunney/Crockett/Scott effort to bring a full slate of shows to Ontario and upstate New York. In 1980, Jim Crockett Jr. was elected President of the National Wrestling Alliance. In 1981, Crockett moved his taping site from WRAL in Raleigh to WPCQ studios in Charlotte. Former (and future) Georgia Championship Wrestling booker Ole Anderson took over as his booker this year (the following year, Anderson booked both JCP and GCW at the same time). In 1982, Crockett partnered with wrestlers Ric Flair and Blackjack Mulligan to start a secondary company out of Knoxville, Tennessee, which operated under the brand name Southern Championship Wrestling. That group featured such stars as Mulligan, his son Barry Windham (then wrestling as Blackjack Mulligan, Jr.), Kevin Sullivan, Wayne Ferris (the future Honky Tonk Man), The Mongolian Stomper, Terry Taylor, Tim Horner, and others. The group lasted less than a year. By the 1980s, the wrestling world was undergoing significant changes. The old NWA territory system was collapsing under pressure from the nationalized Titan Sports, which operated under the brand name World Wrestling Federation (WWF); Titan Sports Inc., Vince K. McMahon's minority-WWF company founded in 1980, became the modern day WWE after it purchased McMahon Sr.'s Capitol Wrestling Inc. (majority WWF) and unified as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) as its own corporation after this purchase occurred in 1982. The now NWA-independent WWF - thanks in main part to the epic cage match between Jimmy Snuka and Bob Backlund, on June 28, 1982, that helped make this historic purchase possible - was even able to promote a match between WWF champion Bob Backlund and NWA champion Ric Flair on July 4, 1982, but Crockett still had open plans for the future as well. Jim Crockett's vision was to create a united NWA by purchasing, or merging, all of its member territories. Ted Turner had realized the value of pro wrestling for cable television in the early 1970s. This was a smart move for Turner, as pro wrestling was a source of cheap, live entertainment, well suited to his cable network. As Jim Crockett ended his second year as NWA president-as a result of Bob Geigel purchasing Sam Muchnick's St. Louis Wrestling Club in 1982-, the winds of change were starting to whip up in the wrestling industry. Turner's SuperStation TBS had asked Georgia Championship Wrestling, Inc. to change its public brand name to "World Championship Wrestling" and there were rumblings that the Jim Barnett-controlled company would go national; Georgia Championship Wrestling was now able to be called WCW by the next year (1983). By 1983, JCP went from recording its weekly shows in a television studio, to recording them live in arenas. After purchasing a mobile television unit for $1 million, Crockett started thinking big. In order to prevent another Showdown at Shea from taking place, Crockett created the new dominant supercard for the NWA, Starrcade. In 1984, the WWF purchased a majority interest in Georgia Championship Wrestling from a number of its shareholders, including the Brisco brothers (Jack and Jerry) and Jim Barnett, and thus controlled GCW's Saturday night timeslot on WTBS. This was part of the WWF's attempt to go national, in part by co-opting local wrestling timeslots. However, TBS received many complaints for the move, so much so that another promotion backed by holdout GCW shareholder and NWA member Fred Ward and former GCW wrestler/booker Ole Anderson was given an early Saturday morning time slot on TBS. This company (and its television show and brand name) was named Championship Wrestling from Georgia. This program, along with Bill Watts' Mid-South Wrestling, easily surpassed the WWF TBS clip show program. The decline in ratings for the Saturday evening show, and the fans clamoring for GCW, began to make the WWF's move one that lost the federation money. Eventually, McMahon cut his losses and sold the ex-GCW timeslot to Crockett for $1 million. This chain of events and McMahon's refusal to sell to Turner were critical in Turner's later decision to purchase Jim Crockett Promotions and form WCW in its wake. An extra sense of urgency was added to Crockett's national ambitions when, after Frank Tunney's death, the Toronto promotion joined forces with the WWF. This period also marked Crockett's first attempt to create a national federation; Crockett and other wrestling companies needed the opportunity after the buyout occurred, as well as after the WWF program The Brawl to Settle it All aired on MTV. Together with Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association (AWA), Championship Wrestling from Georgia, and Memphis-based Jarrett Promotions, Jim Crockett Promotions would create Pro Wrestling USA. However, the organization fell apart in January 1986. 1985 was a big year for Jim Crockett. First, Crockett bought out Ole Anderson's CWG, on April 6, 1985,[1] and was re-elected NWA president; this was to help counter the WWF after it became the superior wrestling business after the first WrestleMania occurred. Then, he purchased both the Saturday evening TBS slots from Vince McMahon, who needed extra money to also create Saturday Night's Main Event, and became the owner of WCW. He filled the timeslot with two hours of original programming filmed in Ted Turner's Atlanta studios. The programming aired under the World Championship Wrestling banner, which had been adopted by Georgia Championship Wrestling before its demise; with this purchased Jim Crockett Promotions was also now more. As a result of the success WCW now had from acquiring the Saturday night time slots, Crockett, along with JCP booker Dusty Rhodes, was able to establish the annual supercard known as The Great American Bash, and the success of Jim Crockett Promotions grew even more. Crocket purchased the NWA St. Louis Wrestling Club in September 1985 [2], thanks in part of the success of Pro Wrestling USA's Superclash; this program featured Magnum T.A. and Ric Flair fight in a classic match. Crockett was also able to promote a show in St. Louis called All-Star Wrestling as well. However, the WWF was also able to gain fame in St. Louis with the Hulk Hogan/Paul Orndorff feud, and Bob Geigel, who sold his promotion to Jim Crockett in September 1986, was re-elected NWA President until leaving the NWA in December 1987. Crockett had also purchased the UWF on April 9, 1987; this was to help after WrestleMania III occurred. By 1987, Crockett was elected to a third term as NWA president and gained control (either through purchase or working agreements) of the St. Louis Wrestling Club, Heart of America Sports Attractions (Bob Geigel's Central States brand), Championship Wrestling from Florida, and Bill Watts' Mid-South Sports (which operated under the Mid-South Wrestling, and later, Universal Wrestling Federation brand names). Despite Crockett having six consolidated territories under his banner and being NWA president, it must be pointed out that JCP and NWA were two separate entities and that Crockett, like all NWA promoters before him and since, was simply licensing the NWA brand name. This despite the fact that during his reign, Crockett had what can only be termed an iron clad grip on the NWA World heavyweight championship as by that point, Ric Flair was locked in as champion and any title changes that occurred henceforth were to other wrestlers (i.e. Dusty Rhodes, Ronnie Garvin, etc.) who were in Crockett's employ. Crockett's rapid expansion had significant financial consequences for the company. JCP expanded operations, and by December, the UWF completely absorbed itself as part of WCW and JCP moved many of its employees from its Charlotte base to Watts' former headquarters in Dallas (with Jim Crockett and Dusty Rhodes manning the Dallas office, David Crockett was left in charge of the Charlotte wing). Bob Geigel, who bought his promotion back from Crockett in February 1987 through a partnership, had also withdrew from the NWA as well. They began to run shows in new markets from coast to coast, greatly increasing travel costs and other overhead. Their first pay-per-view endeavor, 1987's Starrcade, was scheduled in its traditional Thanksgiving slot, but ran into competition from WWF's debuting Survivor Series. Not wanting to compete directly with the Survivor Series, JCP decided to move Starrcade to an earlier, afternoon timeslot that day. However, the WWF would inform cable companies that if they chose to air Starrcade, they would not be offered future WWF shows such as Survivor Series '87 and WrestleMania IV. At the time, WWF was the uncontested market leader in PPV, and only a handful (five to be more specific) of companies committed to JCP, devastating the show's profitability. It is rumored the total profit for Starrcade '87 after expenses was only $80,000. A similar incident occurred in January 1988, when WWF scheduled the first Royal Rumble special on the USA Network against JCP's Bunkhouse Stampede pay-per-view, again cutting into its buyrate. As a result, Crockett aired the first ever Clash of the Champions on TBS on March 27, 1988 to draw viewers away from WrestleMania IV, which also took place this night too, this was one of the few strategic tactics to actually work for the fledging JCP as the buyrate for WrestleMania IV was much lower than that of the previous Survivor Series '87. Clash of the Champions was now the only thing Crockett could use to keep the NWA alive, though it wasn't as watched as Saturday Night's Main Event. On the verge of bankruptcy, Crockett sold his company to Ted Turner in November 1988, where it became known as World Championship Wrestling. The eventual downfall of Jim Crockett Promotions, leading up to its eventual sale to Ted Turner (and the birth of World Championship Wrestling) can be attributed to several key factors: * Magnum T.A., who was the promotion's top babyface and scheduled to become the new NWA Champion at Starrcade 1986, was critically injured in a car accident on October 14, 1986, and had to end his wrestling career; ratings crucially dropped until Nikita Koloff turned face on October 25, 1986 and took Magnum T.A.'s place. * JCP alienated loyal fans in the Carolinas by moving Starrcade '87 and Bunkhouse Stampede to Chicago and New York respectively. Since JCP had no real history in those areas, they subsequently hampered JCP's drawing power for arena shows in the Southeast.[5] In fact, Bunkhouse Stampede at the Nassau Coliseum drew just 6,000 fans and $80,000. * JCP flushed away a potentially profitable angle following the acquisition of Bill Watts' Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF) by having their superstars bury the UWF's talent and treat the UWF's titles as being second-rate. * Crockett flew himself and the top stars of his promotion around in an expensive private jet.[6] In addition to the expense of Crockett's personal jet, there were other extravagant purchases such as the limousines provided for various wrestlers and regular business parties held by officials throughout its offices in the region.[7] * Fans became sick of the Dusty finish (and other non-endings for shows) that had obliterated the once-profitable house show market. * The expensive purchases Crockett made over NWA territories along with the aforementioned purchase of the UWF. * Midcarder Ron Garvin beat perennial champion Ric Flair for the world title. Although Garvin was booked to be a babyface, fans didn't find Garvin credible enough to be a serious contender for Flair's title.[8] In return, television ratings plummeted from the 4.0 range to a 2.8 - the fastest drop in JCP history. * As previously mentioned, with the large amount of capital needed to take a wrestling federation on a national tour, Crockett's territorial acquisitions had seriously drained JCP's coffers.[9] He was in a similar situation to that of the WWF in the early 1980s: a large debt load, and the success or failure of a federation hinging on the success or failure of a series of pay-per-view events. When both Starrcade '87 and Bunkhouse Stampede achieved low buyrates, it was pretty much the final financial blow for Jim Crockett Promotions. * The depature of Horsemen Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard (a.k.a. The Brain Busters) to the WWF, after losing the NWA World Tag Team title to the Midnight Express and only two months prior to the purchase by Ted Turner. * JCP simply failed to consistently match the WWF's ambitious marketing, TV production values, and merchandising. A tag team tournament was held for three years among the NWA promotions to honor Jim Crockett. It was called the Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament. The cards which featured the tournaments were also headlined by NWA World Title Matches. The winners of the tournament would share a purse of $1 million (kayfabe). The 1986 show was held on April 19, 1986 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Road Warriors won the tournament by defeating Ron Garvin & Magnum T.A. in the finals. NWA World Champ Ric Flair defeated Dusty Rhodes by disqualification. The 1987 show was held on April 10 and 11, 1987 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Super Powers (Dusty Rhodes and Nikita Koloff) won the tournament by defeating Tully Blanchard and Lex Luger in the finals. NWA World Champ Ric Flair pinned Barry Windham. What made this show memorable was Magnum T.A. appearing in support of Rhodes and Koloff. This was Magnum T.A.'s first appearance at a wrestling show since suffering career-ending injuries in an automobile accident on October 14, 1986. The 1988 show was held on April 22, 1988 in Greenville, South Carolina and on April 23, 1988 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Sting and Lex Luger won the tournament by defeating Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard in the finals. Nikita Koloff defeated NWA World Champ Ric Flair by disqualification. After gaining control of Georgia Championship Wrestling, the WWF immediately shut down the wrestling operation. Their main interest was the 3 hours of national television time on Superstation WTBS (local Atlanta channel 17), as well as eliminating their competition in the state of Georgia which also gave them Ohio, Michigan, and West Virginia markets that Georgia had been running for years. Ole Anderson, who had been in control of Georgia Championship Wrestling, was forced out, but quickly aligned with south Georgia promoters Fred Ward and Ralph Freed (and weeks later maverick promoter Ann Gunkle) to attempt to continue promoting wrestling shows in Georgia and elsewhere. The first thing they needed, though, was TV. The week immediately following "Black Saturday", the Georgia promotional group hastily put together a television taping in the studios of WMAZ-13 in Macon GA. The new show debuted on July 21, 1984 (one week after "Black Saturday") and was called “World Championship Wrestling ’84” and aired on their stations in the traditional Fred Ward markets of Columbus, Albany, and Macon GA (and perhaps a few other markets as well) and also eventually got on WGNX-46 in Atlanta. The show was hosted by longtime announcer Gordon Solie, an icon in Georgia, and a focal point for fans who protested to WTBS that Georgia Wrestling had been replaced by the WWF. Two weeks later, on Saturday August 4, as a result of the major protest from wrestling fans in Atlanta and all over the United States, the group was able to get a time slot back on Superstation WTBS, airing at the early hour of 7:35 AM on Saturday. This show was called “Championship Wrestling from Georgia", which was also the name of the new promotional company headed by Ole Anderson. This was a somewhat strange program at first, clearly thrown together in a hurry. It was taped at the same location where Jim Crockett Promotions taped their local promo inserts in Charlotte, at a small studio at the Crockett offices on Briarbend Drive. The show was hosted by Gordon Solie and Ole Anderson. A small rectangular banner, familiar to Georgia fans, of a globe and the initials "NWA" (not the traditional NWA logo) was tacked to a white background behind them. The matches shown were pre-taped in the arenas at the same time Crockett taped his “Mid-Atlantic” and “World Wide Wrestling” TV shows, and the shows featured both Crockett regulars as well as Georgia regulars. (For example, the first show on TBS which aired 8/4/84 featured Jimmy Valiant, the Assassins with Paul Jones, Pez Whatley, Bob Roop, Tully Blanchard, Wahoo McDaniel, Jerry Oates, and the Road Warriors – a mix from both groups.) Local promos for the Georgia towns were conducted by Gordon Solie, but oddly had Crockett wrestlers talking about those upcoming cards, including the Junkyard Dog, Don Kernodle, Ivan Koloff, and Tully Blanchard. This likely was because none of the Georgia regulars were present on the day Crockett did his local promos, and the Georgia promos inserts were taped at the same time. Another two weeks later, on Saturday, August 18, “Championship Wrestling from Georgia” moved to a 9:05 AM Saturday time slot on TBS. The syndicated “World Championship Wrestling ‘84” had a name change to “Championship Wrestling from Georgia” on that weekend as well, but despite the same name as the WTBS show, continued to be a different live show taped at channel 13 in Macon GA. Around this same time, Crockett’s two TV shows ("Mid-Atlantic Wrestling" and "World Wide Wrestling") began being syndicated in the Fred Ward markets. It was Anderson's goal to begin taping exclusive matches for WTBS as soon as possible, and he soon arranged studio time in the traditional WTBS studios. The tapings were every other Wednesday night, and they taped two shows which would then air on the following two Saturday mornings. The first taping was on Wednesday September 5, and the first show debuted the following Saturday, September 8. The set was new, featuring a large traditional NWA logo behind the familiar podium where Gordon Solie hosted the show with Ole Anderson. This show was a collaborative effort of sorts between the Georgia group (Anderson, Ralph Freed, and Fred Ward) working with Bob Geigel (Kansas City) and Jim Crockett (Mid-Atlantic Wrestling). The first taping featured all the Georgia regulars (Ted DiBiase, Brad Armstrong, Tim Horner, Ronnie Garvin, Ted Oates, Rip Rogers, Paul Ellering and the Road Warriors, Mike Jackson, and others) as well Harley Race from Central States wrestling in Kansas City, Bob Armstrong from Continental (Southeastern) Wrestling in Alabama, and Tully Blanchard from Crockett Promotions in Charlotte. They immediately began heavily hyping a huge show in Baltimore MD on Oct. 11 called the “Night of Champions”, the same name the NWA group used at the historic Meadowlands show earlier that year. NWA President Bob Geigel, Fred Ward, and PWI’s Bill Apter all made appearances on the show as well. It was an exciting program for fans, and demonstrated extraordinary cooperation between several different NWA promotions who were desperately trying to regain a competitive advantage against Vince Mahon’s WWF, a juggernaut which now controlled all existing national wrestling programming. Meanwhile, the Macon GA tapings continued for the syndicated markets in Georgia, and continued to be a separate program from the WTBS show, although still both titled the same. On October 20, the complexion of the WTBS program began to change. An announcement was made on WTBS of a “merger” of three promotions which included Championship Wrestling from Georgia, Jim Crockett Promotions, and (surprisingly for fans) Jarrett Promotions out of Memphis. The merger storyline was in actuality a loose agreement by the three promotions to trade talent, and have combined talent featured on the national program on WTBS. On November 17, the syndicated show taped in Macon changed to a combined show of Memphis and Georgia regulars, hosted by both Lance Russell and Gordon Solie. This show aired in syndicated markets only, and did not last too long, although it's unclear when that arrangement ceased. Like many talent swapping arrangements between promoters, this one seemed to fall apart pretty quickly. Eventually, Ole Anderson’s group would be back on its own, with a show taped at WTBS studios and then aired on a delayed basis in the syndicated markets. In the early months of 1985, Anderson’s roster began to take its final form, as the company began to struggle financially. This group primarily consisted of Ole Anderson, Thunderbolt Patterson, Ron Garvin, Tommy Rich, Ron Starr, Scott “Hog” Irwin, Bob Roop, Ray Candy and others including the return of Buzz Sawyer, and a brief return of Gene Anderson. During all this time that the Georgia program was continually changing and evolving, the WWF shows on WTBS remained basically the same format they had assumed on Black Saturday back in July. The shows openings and wrap-arounds were taped in the WTBS studios in front of the same blue "World Championship Wrestling" logo that had been used by Georgia Championship Wrestling since the fall of 1982. There were no "live" matches. The format consisted of Freddie Miller introducing taped matches from various WWF TV locations and pre-taped interviews usually conducted by Gene Okerlund. Later, Miller would occasionally be joined by a WWF wrestler in the WTBS studio. The ratings for the two WWF weekend evening shows "World Championship Wrestling" and "Best of World Championship Wrestling", which had historically been two of the highest rated shows on all cable TV and certainly for WTBS when they were Georgia wrestling, began to drop. Ratings for Anderson's "Championship Wrestling from Georgia" show also suffered as the show languished in the early morning time slot, and as Anderson's talent pool grew thin and the company struggled financially. Ted Turner was unhappy with McMahon because Turner's original contract with Georgia Championship Wrestling included the proviso that the shows would originate from his WTBS studios. McMahon, who owned controlling interest in GCW, maintained that he was meeting that obligation by having the show taped and hosted at WTBS, even though the wrestling was taped earlier somewhere else. Turner was adamant that the wrestling matches be taped in his studios, but McMahon was not interested in bearing the huge costs of flying in talent to Atlanta every week to produce the program. The two were nearly at an impasse. McMahon blinked first. In January 1985, the WWF began taping matches in the WTBS studios. The show was hosted by Gorilla Monsoon and Freddie Miller and featured a new set. WWF wrestlers were flown in for the matches. McMahon was now actively looking for a way to get out of the WTBS contract and Turner was reportedly waiting for the opportunity to throw McMahon off the station. Turner began entertaining the idea of having another major promotion on the station. Two promotions in particular competed for the slot: Jim Crockett's Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, which had been involved with the Anderson group since they started up after Black Saturday, and Bill Watt's Mid-South Wrestling. Watt's would succeed in getting his hugely popular "Mid-South Wrestling" on WTBS, airing mid-afternoon on Sundays. Turner's plan was to eventually get out of the Georgia contract that McMahon now owned, giving Bill Watts the entire wrestling package and Turner hoped to get into the business of promoting wrestling events with Watts. "Mid-South Wrestling" debuted on WTBS on March 10, 1985. It was the same show that aired in the Mid-South territory, but was on a four week delay, so as not to hurt his local show in its broadcast markets. The plan was to eventually produce a separate program exclusively for WTBS. The result was that for a period of around three weeks, WTBS was airing wrestling from three different promotions: the WWF, Georgia, and Mid-South. Around the time the Mid-South show debuted, Vince McMahon secured a deal with Jim Crockett to sell the WWF's TV time slots on WTBS to Jim Crockett Promotions. The deal was reportedly brokered by Jim Barnett, a major shareholder in GCW, now a McMahon ally, and a confidant of Ted Turner as well. Crockett reportedly paid McMahon one million dollars for the time slots, which ironically he probably could have obtained at some point anyway, as McMahon was eventually going to be off the station one way or another. Crockett agreed to Turner's demand to tape exclusive shows from the WTBS studios, but Crockett insisted on being the exclusive promotion on Turner's station. Not only would he take the WWF's slots, but he would assume the early Saturday morning Georgia slot. The Mid-South mid-afternoon Sunday slot would be eliminated. Turner agreed, basically giving Jim Crockett the package that was originally going to go to Bill Watts. Now, just a few short weeks after McMahon had started taping live matches from the WTBS studio, the face of wrestling in Georgia was getting ready for another huge change. On Saturday, March 30, “Championship Wrestling from Georgia” came on the air as usual, except this time it was Tony Schiavone who opened the program with Ole Anderson, and it quickly became apparent to viewers that something was significantly different. Along with a few of the Georgia regulars (Thunderbolt Patterson, Tommy Rich, and Buzz Sawyer) were many of the stars from Jim Crockett Promotions including Magnum TA, Dusty Rhodes, Jimmy Valiant, Tully Blanchard, the Barbarian, Paul Jones, and others. The next week, April 6, 1985, Crockett Promotions debuted on the Saturday and Sunday evening time slots. That same Saturday morning, the final airing of “Championship Wrestling from Georgia” took place and the following week a Crockett show titled simply “Championship Wrestling” aired in its place. Turner honored his original agreement with Watts and the Mid-South show continued to air for the duration of their original three month contract. The final Mid-South show on WTBS aired May 26, 1985. Watts went above and beyond the call and told viewers that they should embrace the new Crockett programs and thanked viewers for watching his show while it had been on WTBS. "Mid-South Wrestling" had drawn tremendous ratings during its short run. With the acquisition of all time slots on WTBS by Jim Crockett Promotions, and with Crockett now beginning his expansion nationally, an era had come to end. The grand tradition of Georgia Wrestling as a major wrestling territory, which had died on Black Saturday but resurrected itself shortly thereafter, was now, sadly, gone for good in April of 1985. Tony Schiavone had replaced Gordon Solie as the voice of NWA wrestling on the Superstation. Solie of course continued as host of “Championship Wrestling from Florida” which he had hosted for decades. Ole Anderson became a full time wrestler once again for Jim Crockett Promotions, and would remain a familiar face to wrestling fans for many more years on Superstation WTBS. Anderson would prove to be the common thread in Georgia wrestling that linked all eras together. He was a major part of Georgia Championship Wrestling in the 1970s and early 1980s both as a wrestler and a booker, the promoter of the resurrected Georgia promotion after Black Saturday, a top star for Crockett Promotions that followed on TBS, and would be heavily involved in Turner's WCW that rose from the purchase of Jim Crockett Promotions in 1988. Anderson would continue as either a wrestler, manager, or booker until the mid-1990s. A SUMMARY OF KEY DATES: 07/14/84 - "Black Saturday" - The WWF takes over the Georgia WTBS timeslots 07/21/84 - "World Championship Wrestling '84" debuts in GA towns, taped in Macon GA 08/04/84 - "Championship Wrestling from Georgia" debuts on WTBS 09/08/84 - "Championship Wrestling from Georgia" starts taping again at WTBS studios 01/27/85 - WWF "World Championship Wrestling" begins taping matches in the WTBS studio* 03/10/85 - "Mid-South Wrestling" debuts on WTBS 03/30/85 - Crockett Promotions takes over "Championship Wrestling from Georgia" 04/06/85 - Crockett takes over WWF timeslots, "World Championship Wrestling" 05/26/85 - "Mid-South Wrestling" final show on WTBS

The WCW World Heavyweight Championship would continue to be defended in the WWF until it was merged with the WWF Championship into the WWF Undisputed Championship when Chris Jericho defeated The Rock and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in separate matches for the World Heavyweight Championship and the WWF Championship, respectively, on December 9, 2001 at the Vengeance pay-per-view event.

Despite the hype of an "undisputed" World Champion, it is slightly misleading, as many promotions across the globe (as it was in the early days of the NWA) still recognise their own "World" Champion.