Was A WCW Return Planned After WWE Bought Them In 2001?
15 years to the day on March 26th 2001, marked a day that changed the wrestling world forever. After a near 6 year head to head battle, WCW had been sold, its buyer? Vince McMahon’s then World Wrestling Federation for a mere $2 million. On television, Vince’s son Shane McMahon walked onto Nitro and announced he had bought WCW. During the summer WCW talent invaded the WWF, which lead to a storyline of WWF vs WCW/ECW, cumulating in a winner takes all Survivor Series Match in November 2001.
Interestingly a Television promo for WCW’s return in June 2001 surfaced on Vimeo, which may shed some light to the original plan with WCW. We debate the question was WCW set to return as a brand under the WWE banner?
This is very interesting, the advertised event would have taken place on the Wednesday after the 2001 King Of Ring. By this time we had already seen DDP and Booker T invade at the King of the Ring. I do recall at the time Jim Ross mentioning that WCW was relaunching, using DDP, Booker T and Stacy Kiebler invasions as promotion. Doing some research into the advertised event through google I found this forum post which was posted on the 11th April 2001, that might shed some light on the plans for WCW.
The new re-launch date for World Championship Wrestling is scheduled for June 13th from the Patriot Center in Fairfax, VA.Following the June 13th show, tentative dates to follow are June 20th from the Coliseum in Jacksonville, FL and June 27th from the Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, PA. These dates are only tentative, and may change
Whilst the above post was based upon rumours back in April 2001, it gave an indication of what idea’s floated about with what to do with WCW. That same post mentions pushing Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho for the title, which happened in June that year. Looking back at the invasion angle and in particular during the first few weeks, we can speculate what might have been the plan with WCW.
WCW TV Show Plans
On Yahoo Based Wrestling-Online Newsletter, the subscription based dirt sheet revealed that Jim Ross had announced that taping’s would go ahead and be shown via tape delay on the Saturday evening.
> LOCATION FOR FIRST WCW SHOW
– The first WCW show under the WWFE umbrella will now be taking place at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, VA., on June 9th. Jim Ross last week announced that the show will be taped and aired on Saturday night via a tape delay between 11PM and 1AM EST on TNN.
One plan would be to launch WCW as a separate brand under the WWF umbrella. WCW would have its own house and TV shows, possibly even PPV’s. The main issue with WCW, and why there were a lack of buyers, was the absence of a TV deal. If this was the case WWF could have used one of its existing TV slots for the new WCW show. A year later, WWE would actually fur-fill a brand extension. Raw and Smackdown would become separate brands to compensate for the growing roster.
Despite being their highest rated TV show, TNN reportedly refused, WWE another prime time slot for the new WCW programming. The only slot available was on Saturday night between 11pm and 1am; something not exactly attractive for the new owners. Regardless of this, WWE.com posted a poll asking fan’s what they would like the new WCW show to be named. Once again courtesy of Wrestling-Online.
– WWF.COM has a poll featuring a couple of names for the new WCW Saturday night show. Among the names featured, there are ‘WCW Saturday Night Nitro’, ‘WCW Hot Box’, ‘WCW Uprising’, ‘WCW Late Night Appetite’, ‘WCW Hard-On Saturday Night’ and ‘WCW Primal Urge’
How the WCW Invasion Panned out
In the early day’s of the WCW invasion we saw several WCW segments take place on Raw and Smackdown. One segment which completely bombed was a match between Buff Bagwell and Booker T. The match was so horrendous that Vince fired Bagwell following the match. Due to the poor reactions to the WCW segments they were dropped quickly and the focus became WWF vs WCW rather than building a brand.
One of the biggest criticisms of the invasion angle was the lack of stars. The majority of the bigger names opted to continue to be paid by Time Warner rather than move to the WWF. Whilst the younger stars sensibly signed with the WWF. Under a separate brand, newer stars would have been more easily built up, gain an identity, this would have established credibility for when the invasion/cross promotion would take place. As a result unfamiliar names were faced against WWF stars which made the invasion angle hard to believe. Alot of wrestlers got lost in the shuffle or became jokes in the process, cue Shawn Stasiak.
I do believe WWF missed an opportunity with a separate WCW brand. Despite the final years of WCW being a shell of its former self, it did achieve respectable ratings, there was a sizeable number of fans a re-launch could have worked. WWE certainly trialled WCW branded segments, complete with announcers and WCW ring gear. It didn’t last long with the main reason why they failed was due to people expecting the WWF, not WCW matches between people they were unfamiliar with.
The brand extension that followed in 2002 was a success, it allowed more chances for wrestlers to develop their characters and to have more opportunities. It also provided the fan’s a choice, the option of the very story driven Raw, or the wrestling show Smackdown. When ECW was brought back, it became a breeding ground for new stars. WCW would have achieved this but only earlier. Yes it would have been WWF owned, the hardcore WCW fan’s would have eventually rejected it, similar to the ECW brand. For a short run, it could have worked. No one knows for sure what ideas got thrown around for WCW, all we know is that plans quickly got changed during July. The invasion angle is a hotly debated angle about its success, and us fans can only reminisce on what could have been.
What are your thoughts? Would a separate WCW brand work to build to a more legitiamate invasion angle?
OSR: WCW PPV Review’s
WCW Clash of Champions 1997 – The return of Sting
WCW Bash at the Beach 2000 – That infamous Vince Russo promo on Hulk Hogan
Image Credit: PWMania