Hey yo. It’s TJR Retro time. This is a list article that I wrote seven years ago for another website that I haven’t contributed at for about six years, so I figured I would bring it here to TJRWrestling as some retro content on a weekend. I could post this as a slideshow, but I know a lot of people don’t like that. Here it is in one post.
When a lot of wrestling fans think about WCW they oftentimes focus on the negatives too much. Just because WWE bought them out in 2001 doesn’t mean that WCW was a complete waste of time. There were a lot of great things that they did too. Instead of looking at the bad stuff in their history, it’s time to look at some of the best WCW storylines ever.
A lot of the better moments happened post-1995 because that was the year when WCW started airing Nitro on Monday nights opposite Raw. Prior to that, WCW’s main show was called Saturday Night, which was a taped show that was on TBS. It was a good show that had some great matches a lot of the time, but for big angles, it was definitely lacking. Once Nitro got going, they really ramped things up and put out some memorable stuff. It’s just a shame it only lasted just under six years because there were a lot of other things they could have done too.
If you watched WCW at all then you know the problem with the company was that they just didn’t know how to advance storylines the right way or elevate characters enough. They relied too much on past stars from WWE and some of the veterans weren’t willing to make the younger, more talented guys stars. They had talent, but if you don’t use it right then you’re never going to succeed.
This feature is only about WCW, so it will look at the things that happened from 1991 when they officially because WCW until their ending in 2001. If we went back to count NWA things then that would go back way too far into history in a period when we weren’t alive. This is more about the WCW storylines that took place during the company’s ten years as a worldwide company that was full of highs and lows.
Here’s a look at ten of the best WCW storylines ever.
10. Bret Hart Countering Goldberg’s Spear With A Steel Plate
Nitro was in Toronto on March 29, 1999, with Canadian wrestling legend Bret Hart in the ring talking about how nice it was to be in a place where you get respect. He was clearly frustrated with things in WCW and talked about how people weren’t giving him a fair shot. He made a lot of good points.
That’s when Bret called out Goldberg. Bret referred to him as “William Goldberg” and called him a chicken. He wanted to take him on right there. Of course, the fans cheered that and it also helped that Hart was wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey (Tie Domi), which if you know anything about hockey is the local sports team that is beloved.
Goldberg got into the ring, stared at Bret, and gave him his trademark Spear. The problem was that Goldberg didn’t get up right after. We were so used to seeing Goldberg hit a Spear, then popping right up and hitting a Jackhammer. This time he stayed down. Hart ended up getting back up without any sign of injury, took off the jersey and Bret had a metal plate wrapped around his stomach. The metal plate knocked Goldberg out. Bret covered him, counted a pinfall of his own, and then ended it by saying: “Hey Bischoff and WCW…I quit!”
Most of Bret’s best moments were in WWE, no question about that, but the ovation he received that night was enormous. This one would have been higher up if they actually followed up the storyline at all, but in typical WCW fashion, they really didn’t do much with it. Part of the reason was because it happened two months before Owen Hart died and when Bret came back after that they weren’t going to book him as a heel. Still, it would have been nice to see something happen with them.
9. Booker T Battles Chris Benoit In A Best Of 7 Series
Best of seven series aren’t done in wrestling that often. They are fun to watch, but they’re rare. The reason companies probably don’t do them is they can get repetitive to see the same teams wrestling that many times in a short period of time. However, WCW did it in 1998 and it was awesome to watch.
From May 25, 1998 to the June 14, 1998, Great American Bash PPV, Booker T wrestled Chris Benoit in a best of seven series that produced seven very good matches. The matches took place on Nitro, Thunder, WCW Saturday Night and then it ended on PPV. They found a way to end every match in a creative way so it never felt too repetitive either.
The purpose of the series was to elevate both guys. They were seen as rising stars that were popular with the fans, so they had these straight up wrestling matches. Benoit was up 3-1 in the series. Booker won two in a row to tie it up and then won the final match, which was the longest one at nearly 17 minutes.
What the series of matches did was elevate both guys. It made them look like bigger stars, which is the whole point of it. After Booker won the 7th and final match at the 1998 GAB show, he beat Fit Finlay to become the TV Champion. It was the right call to put the title on him. It solidified him as a great singles wrestler after working in the Harlem Heat tag team for several years before that.
8. Ric Flair’s Feud With Eric Bischoff Gets Personal
It was a live Nitro on September 14, 1998 in Greenville, South Carolina as the Four Horsemen stood in the ring for a reunion of sorts. It was time to get back together as their leader Ric Flair returned to WCW.
In April of 1998, Flair missed a WCW Thunder taping because he attended a wrestling event for his son Reid, who was 10 years old at the time. Sadly, Reid passed away in 2013 when he was 25 years old. Former WCW President Eric Bischoff ended up suing Flair for missing the taping and it was a big deal because people thought that might be the end of Flair in WCW. It took five months for him to return.
When Flair faced the crowd in Greenville, he started crying while the fans in attendance gave him a standing ovation. Flair delivered a fired-up promo ripping on Eric Bischoff for trying to disband the Horsemen. Flair called Bischoff an “overbearing assh**e” and didn’t seem to care about it. He also kept yelling “abuse of power” at Bischoff. Then Flair started ranting about how he couldn’t be fired because he already was. He really wasn’t, but it felt that way since he was gone for so long.
They ended up feuding for the rest of 1998 with Bischoff actually beating Flair thanks to an assist from Curt Hennig. That match should have ended with Flair getting the win, but that’s another example of WCW not knowing how to really book things the right way.
It was still a really good storyline. Give them credit for taking a real-life situation and turning it into an entertaining angle.
7. Chris Jericho As The Conspiracy Victim
The WCW Cruiserweight division was one of the highlights of the company. Every week you could usually count on one or two cruiserweight matches and then they’d get a chance to have long matches too. The storylines weren’t really that elaborate. The main guys in the division were Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio, Psychosis, Eddie Guerrero, Chavo Guerrero, Juventud Guerrera and a cocky brash Canadian named Chris Jericho. It was Jericho that brought some interesting storylines into the division and made it more than just a showcase for talented wrestlers to have awesome matches.
Jericho really started to take off as a heel in early 1998 while feuding with Mysterio, Malenko, Guerrera and others. He injured Rey, he beat Juventud in a match that led to him removing his mask and did everything to make like difficult for Malenko. There was a great moment where Malenko wrestled as the masked wrestler Cicople only to unmask as Malenko, which led to him winning the Cruiserweight Title from Jericho.
What was cool about Jericho’s heel run was that he wasn’t a part of the NWO like a lot of heels in WCW. He was his own guy that was adding a different dimension to the Cruiserweight division. If you didn’t watch WCW and you were wondering why Jericho was so beloved when he got to WWE in 1999 it’s because of how entertaining he was in WCW.
6. Ron Simmons Beats Vader To Become The WCW World Champion
It was one of the better upsets in wrestling history as Ron Simmons defeated Vader to become the WCW World Champion on August 2, 1992. It was a historic moment since Simmons became the first black WCW World Champion in American wrestling.
Vader was a dominant heel World Champion that is one of the best big men there’s ever been. His main rivalry was with Sting, but he got taken out by Jake Roberts in the storyline and Simmons received the title shot.
Simmons was a phenomenal athlete that was a standout football player at Florida State and he made the transition to wrestling smoothly. He was mostly a power wrestler, but in the early 1990s he was really athletic too. There were some nice nearfalls early on and most people probably thought Vader was going to win.
When Vader went for a Powerbomb, Simmons slipped out of it, Vader bounced off the ropes and Simmons gave him a Powerslam for the pinfall win. Jim Ross was on commentary yelling at the top of his lungs: “He got him in a powerslam!” The reaction to the win by Simmons was amazing with the crowd going wild for him and the other babyface wrestlers flooded the ring to congratulate him.
It was a historic moment that also was an exciting upset. They told a great story that night and it’s definitely one of WCW’s best storylines ever.
5. Eddie Guerrero’s Title Against Rey Mysterio’s Mask
It’s considered by a lot of fans to be the best match in WCW history: Eddie Guerrero defending the Cruiserweight Title against Rey Mysterio at Halloween Havoc in Las Vegas on October 26, 1997. If Rey lost the match he had to give up his mask. If he won, he became Cruiserweight champion. Mysterio was only in WCW for a little over a year at the time.
The reason the match was so great is because they went out there for just under 14 minutes and had a flawless wrestling match. Everything clicked. The timing was perfect. Their reversals were on point. There were some huge spots in the match like hurricanranas, a really stiff Powerbomb by Eddie and then Rey was able to pull out the win with a hurricanrana counter off the top rope. It’s just amazing to look back on that match to see how skilled these two guys were. The crowd went wild for it.
Mysterio ended up losing the mask in February of 1999 although if you watch WWE programming they’ll never mention that sort of thing even though he wrestled on national TV for two years.
There were so many great Cruiserweight rivalries in WCW, but this match stands out above the rest.
4. Diamond Dallas Page Becoming “The People’s Champion”
The rise of Diamond Dallas Page was an awesome story in WCW because he was in his early 40s when he really started to get going. He started pretty late in his career, but his hard work and determination helped him get far. Some say his close friendship with Eric Bischoff was a reason too (they were neighbors), but if you listen to the crowd reactions for him you could tell that his push really was deserved.
With Page looking like a star on the rise, the NWO tried to recruit him. He turned them down. That made the fans love him even more. He ended up in a feud with the legendary Randy Savage in 1997, who was a part of the NWO. What Savage did for Page was elevate him to another level by having a number of competitive matches with him and putting him over clean.
What DDP did to get over was smart. He was a man of the people. He called himself “The People’s Champion” before The Rock did and it worked. He celebrated with them and they embraced him for it. Thanks to his “Bang” celebration as well as the Diamond Cutter finisher (some fans may know it as the RKO) he got over as one of WCW’s biggest stars.
When Page won the WCW World Title at Spring Stampede on April 11, 1999 he did so in a match where he beat three other legends: Ric Flair, Sting and Hulk Hogan. He was 43 years old, which would make him one of the oldest first-time World Champions in wrestling history. There was a big celebration when he won because he proved that you could overcome obstacles to get to the top. He’s a guy that truly earned it.
3. Bill Goldberg’s Winning Streak
173-0. That was Bill Goldberg’s record in WCW when he lost the WCW World Title to Kevin Nash at the Starrcade PPV in December 1998.
Goldberg’s winning streak started on the September 22, 1997 edition of Nitro. That 173 number wasn’t legit, but WCW did a phenomenal job of building up this undefeated streak from the ground up. He had televised matches nearly every week that he would win in under three minutes. Every week his momentum built with the loud “Goldberg” chants growing.
They ended up putting the US Title on him when he beat Raven, which was the longest match of his career at that point. It was such a big reaction when that win happened.
Then they had him beat Hulk Hogan for the WCW Title on the July 6, 1998 edition of Nitro. It was another dominant win for Goldberg as the Atlanta crowd went crazy. It was one of the loudest ovations in WCW history. After his streak was over, he was still a main eventer although things were really never the same for him after that loss to Nash.
Where WCW made mistakes with him was by having that match with Hogan on TV instead of PPV, where they could have made a lot of money by making people pay for it. That was a WCW problem, though. They cared too much about ratings and not about PPV buys. It should be other way around.
Goldberg at his peak was one of the most popular wrestlers ever in any promotion. No doubt about it.
2. Sting’s Transformation Into A Darker Character
Sting was the main babyface in WCW from when he came up in the NWA in the late 1980s right until WCW’s final show in 2001. He had a brief heel run that was unsuccessful. Fans really only know him as a babyface because he was such a key figure in that role. Nothing else he did was as important as that.
What’s amazing about him as a performer is that he was successful as two completely different characters. In the early 1990s version of WCW he was an energetic guy with a painted face, spiked blonde hair and athleticism that was unmatched. He played to the fans that adored him. He was WCW’s version of Hulk Hogan, no doubt about it.
When the NWO started in the summer of 1996, Sting changed. People didn’t know if he would go NWO or WCW, so he took advantage of that by becoming this black & white figure that painted his face in those colors while refusing to talk to people. He also didn’t wrestle in 1997 until the final week of the year when he beat Hogan for the WCW Title.
That angle with Sting stalking the NWO by attacking them for months on end leading up to that final showdown was one of greatest stories WCW ever told. Good luck recreating something like that again. It was the mystery that made it work so well.
1. The Formation Of The New World Order
This is a no-brainer. The New World Order was the best angle that WCW ever did and the company was most successful when they were featured prominently.
The formation of the group happened at the Bash at the Beach PPV in July of 1996 when Hulk Hogan entered the ring during a tag match with Scott Hall & Kevin Nash taking on Sting, Randy Savage & Lex Luger. When Hogan showed up we figured he would help the good guys because that’s what he always did, but instead he dropped a leg drop on Savage two times and celebrated with Hall & Nash.
From there we saw a new side of Hogan with the black & white colors of the NWO as the group became the biggest heel faction in the company. Several others joined the group, but it was their feuds with babyfaces like Sting, Goldberg, Lex Luger, Roddy Piper, Diamond Dallas Page and so many others that made it WCW’s best story they’ve ever told.
Like a lot of things in WCW, they really didn’t know how to end the angle and they managed to mess it up by adding way too many members to it, but those first two years of the NWO were generally pretty good. It should be remembered for its greatness instead of laughed at for how it ended.
There’s a reason why Hogan, Hall & Nash can appear on Raw in August 2014 and still get a huge reaction when that famous music hits. They did something special in 1996. It’s great to know that fans still remember it.
Thanks for reading this retro blog. I’ll post others once in a while too.