The sale of WCW to Eric Bischoff’s Fusient consortium was on the verge of falling through thanks to Jamie Kellner’s decision to axe all the promotion’s TV from Turner Broadcasting. But what if AOL Time Warner agreed to a compromise?
In this episodic series, Liam Happe imagines a parallel universe in which World Championship Wrestling survived and accepted its role as the number two wrestling company behind WWE.
Kellner intended to make the cancellation of wrestling his first significant act in his new role. His feeling was that wrestling didn’t suit the more affluent, upscale image the network was aiming for with their ‘TNT for drama and TBS for sports’ vision. However, following a last-minute discussion regarding several changes to the company’s image and output it is pitched that the company return to the old 6:05pm Saturday night slot on TBS.
With WCW still having a proven audience even after a chunk of it was driven away by certain aspects of the Monday Night Wars, and a proposed change of tone to give a more serious sports feel with only a necessary sprinkling of storylines, Fusient are given a chance to make the purchase worthwhile.
An initial one-year deal is signed, giving WCW enough time to either prove to AOL Time Warner that there is some merit to keeping the company on their airwaves or show another network that WCW is worth picking up. In addition to reduced broadcasting rights, TBS keeps a minority stake in the company as initially planned during negotiations with Fusient.
WCW will tape every episode of their Saturday evening broadcast during the week, in two- or three-week batches. Until further notice, the weekly shows will be taped in Orlando, Florida. There will be a second PPV on May 27, continuing the company’s tradition that month of staging an event titled Slamboree. A deal will be available where customers can watch Slamboree for free if they bought The Big Bang. And the TV show airing 24 hours before a PPV will be replayed by TBS at 6:05 on the Sunday as a free pre-show leading into and heavily advertising the pay-per-view, in which TBS of course has a financial stake.
Its presentation will reflect a mix of previous eras of the company on TV (details to follow) as well as a touch of the new era. A chyron will be placed on the screen during matches, displaying wrestler names and a match clock. There will be a strong emphasis on the structure and athleticism of competition, with storylines used within reason to spice things up. Pyro is unnecessary and has been cut. And the old WCW walkway which bridged from the entrance to the ring apron will be back.
Time Warner has a host of existing contracts to honour, unless the wrestler accepts a buy-out. With wrestling on their Saturday evening schedules and a minority interest in the company, all of those contracts are made available to WCW.
However it is made clear that those deals will be the only talent contracts financed above WCW itself. Any new deals and any renewals of existing stars past their current terms would come out of the promotion’s own budget.
This gives the company a decent financial umbrella as they transition into their new, more sensible role as a clear number two to WWF (soon WWE), striving to provide a consistent alternative product and turn a profit on a more basic business model.
The following Time Warner contracts will be utilised:
Bill Goldberg: 2.5m pa until June 30 2003
Sting: 1.5m pa until January 1 2002
Lex Luger: 1.5m pa until April 13 2002
DDP: 1.25m pa until January 1 2002
Scott Steiner: 750k pa until November 30 2001
Rick Steiner: 750k pa until November 30 2001
Booker T: 750k pa until January 31 2002
Ric Flair: 500k pa until February 15 2003
Dustin Rhodes: 700k pa until August 1 2002
Buff Bagwell: 450k pa until March 25 2001
Bam Bam Bigelow: 450k pa until July 5 2002
Ernest Miller: 450k pa until January 31 2002
Rey Mysterio: 425k pa until December 31 2001
Alex Wright: 400k pa until December 31 2001
Shane Douglas: 375k pa until April 9 2002
Mike Awesome: 350k pa until April 9 2002
Disco Inferno: 350k pa until March 7 2002
Jeff Jarrett: 325k pa until October 17 2002
Billy Kidman: 325k pa until June 21 2002
Dave Finlay: 250k pa until November 15 2001
Lance Storm: 245k pa until May 31 2002
Chris Kanyon: 240k pa until April 23 2001
Chavo Guerrero: 225k pa until May 31 2001
Bryan Clarke: 175k pa until December 31 2001
Brian Adams: 175k pa until January 18 2002
Lash LeRoux: 150k pa until June 20 2002
Ron Harris: 130k pa until October 24 2001
Don Harris: 130k pa until October 24 2001
Big Vito: 130k pa until November 21 2002
Norman Smiley: 120k pa until May 9 2002
Kaz Hayashi: 100k pa until July 19 2001
Evan Karagias: 85k pa until December 31 2001
Shawn Stasiak: 78k pa until February 28 2003
Chuck Palumbo: 75k pa until April 18 2001
Mark Jindrak: 75k pa until April 18 2001
Crowbar: 75k pa until July 11 2002
Christopher Daniels: 75k pa until February 28 2002
Johnny The Bull: 75k pa until December 15 2001
Mike Sanders: 75k pa until April 18 2001
Elix Skipper: 75k pa until April 18 2001
Shane Helms: 75k pa until December 31 2001
Shannon Moore: 75k pa until December 31 2001
Jamie Knoble: 62k pa until April 18 2001
Sean O’Haire: 75k pa until April 18 2001
Kid Romeo: 40k pa until May 18 2002
Sharmell: 52k pa until April 30 2002
Jimmy Yang: 50k pa until April 18 2001
Leia Meow: 26k pa until December 15 2001
Torrie Wilson: 200k pa until December 5 2001
Stacy Keibler: 52k pa until November 30 2001
Other contracted talent may be utilised within the remainder of their contracts in cameo roles, which will be detailed as we go along.
Deals that expire during the reboot are the first contracts on the Fusient payroll:
Buff Bagwell agrees to cut down from 450k to 300k on a one-year deal when interest from the WWF doesn’t come to pass. May 1 2001 to April 30 2002.
Chris Kanyon moves up to 300k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Chavo Guerrero moves up to 250k on a two year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Jimmy Yang is given a new deal on 100k until December 31 2002.
Kaz Hayashi’s 100k deal is extended from July 19 2001 to December 31 2002.
Mark Jindrak moves up to 150k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Chuck Palumbo moves up to 150k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Sean O’Haire moves up to 150k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Elix Skipper moves up to 100k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Jamie Knoble moves up to 100k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Mike Sanders moves up to 100k on a one-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2002.
In addition, several acquisitions are made in a combination of brand new talent and wrestlers who had worked for WCW in the dying days of the previous era on per-night deals:
Kid Kash signs for 100k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Jason Jett signs for 100k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
AJ Styles signs for 75k on a one-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2002.
Air Paris signs for 75k on a one-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2002.
Rob Van Dam signs for 400k on a three-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2004.
CW Anderson signs for 150k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Johnny B Badd signs for 150k on a one-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2002.
Super Crazy signs for 150k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Tajiri signs for 150k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Guido Maritato signs for 150k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Tony Marinera signs for 150k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Simon Diamond signs for 150k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Johnny Swinger signs for 150k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Christian York signs for 100k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Joey Matthews signs for 100k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Low Ki signs for 100k on a two-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2003.
Chris Harris signs for 100k on a one-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2002.
James Black signs for 100k on a one-year deal. May 1 2001 to April 30 2002.
Steve Corino came highly recommended for a job from Dusty Rhodes. However, Corino unfortunately suffered a serious neck injury shortly before signing. As a result, he was offered a job in the office learning the ropes on the production side, as well as handling minor on-air interviewing and hosting roles. It’s hoped he would one day move up to a full roster role.
Championships are carried over from the previous regime. Here are the title holders:
WCW World champion: Booker T
WCW United States champion: Booker T
WCW World tag team champions: Sean O’Haire and Chuck Palumbo
WCW Cruiserweight champion: Shane Helms
WCW Cruiserweight tag team champions: Billy Kidman and Rey Misterio Jr.
Tony Schiavone has moved on from wrestling to baseball. Joey Styles and Don Callis (known previously as Cyrus) have been hired to provide commentary as lead announcer and colour man respectively, alongside Mike Tenay in his usual ‘Professor’ role as an analyst.
Gene Okerlund and Scott Hudson will provide interviews with the talent as well as present syndications and video/DVD releases, with Jeremy Borash also being eased into similar roles as a long-term option. A range of inexpensive compilations featuring the best of the old WCW tape library will be released to help generate revenue and raise the profile of remaining roster members.
David Penzer remains lead ring announcer and the deal with Michael Buffer is terminated. Improvements are made to the in-house production and medical teams.
Arn Anderson is employed as a road agent. Norman Smiley and Fit Finlay also help put matches together whilst still performing in reduced roles. Both are expected to sign full-time trainer/road agent deals when their AOL Time Warner deals expire.
THE SEASON FINALE
Contingency plans were being laid into place by the booking team for the Spring Breakout season finale of Nitro, which are mostly kept. The show runs as it did in reality, albeit without the copious McMahon appearances.
The final Monday Nitro runs under the premise that Bischoff’s takeover has yet to be completed, playing off the uncertainty surrounding the deal that was factored into Eric Bischoff’s promos on the penultimate Nitro and final Thunder.
During the season finale, an ominous air of uncertainty hangs over the entire broadcast, with performers and staff playing up that this truly could be the end of WCW despite now knowing it will not be. Nothing is given away regarding the fate of the company… at first.
Ric Flair cuts a similar promo to reality, without the references to McMahon and WWF. Flair speaks as if it’s WCW’s last night and says if this is how it ends, he wants to end against his greatest opponent… Sting.
US champ Booker T pins WCW champion Scott Steiner (w/ Midajah) for ownership of both belts. The bout runs pretty much as in reality, but runs a few minutes longer.
Rey and Kidman earn a cruiser tag title shot later in the night, as per, versus Three Count and the Yung Dragons. Remains a high-spot sprint.
Shane Helms retains the cruiserweight title in Chavo Guerrero’s rematch. Again, runs a little longer than in reality.
Sean O’Haire and Chuck Palumbo retain the WCW tag titles vs Lance Storm and Mike Awesome, as per.
Rick Steiner calls out Shane Douglas for a fight, per Douglas’s challenge on Thunder. The two end up brawling all around the Spring Breakout set until security break things up before they get too out of hand.
Shawn Stasiak wins the ‘tattoo’ match versus Bam Bam Bigelow, as per.
Rey and Kidman win the cruiser tag titles from Elix Skipper and Kid Romeo in a longer match than in reality.
Booker T promises in an interview to lead WCW in the 21st century if they make it through this period of uncertainty.
Sting beats Ric Flair, as per, in their nostalgic exhibition of legends. Sting extends a hand post-match and the two shake and hug. They’re joined by the entire roster, barring anyone else from the Magnificent Seven, in a big heartfelt farewell to the Turner era and perhaps, in their minds, to WCW as a whole.
Post-credits, however, a graphic of an almighty explosion is followed by the on-screen words: The End… until May 6.