In my first column I'm going to talk about a subject that has been
beaten to death. A true dead horse that has been ridden around again
and again by seemingly every wrestling fan on the Internet.
How do you turn around the one promotion that has needed turning around for the majority of its existence?
RAMBLE ON #1
How do you stop the Titanic from sinking? You can't simply wave your magic booker's wand and plug up the gash where icy water is gushing in. However, you can extend the bulkheads up a deck so the ship does not sink. You can use your lifeboats and keep your talent from drowning in the sea of bad booking. You can call in help and admit your mistakes in turning the screws too fast. But not with a captain who refuses to do any of the above.
The Booking Committee
"Ambition must be made to counteract ambition....If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."-Federalist No. 51A major problem that World Championship Wrestling has had since its purchase by Turner is the lack of qualified promoters to run it. The various incompetent NWA and WCW head bookers throughout the years are legendary in "smart fan" wrestling lore. The names read off like a who's who. Bill Watts. Dusty Rhodes. Eric Bischoff. Vince Russo. Kevin Nash. Kevin Sullivan Even Ric Flair on a couple of occasions had booking flaws (despite what smart fans would like to believe).
However, someone who blasts these bookers for their faults also overlooks some of their incredible ideas and successes. You have to look at both sides of the picture. Let's take Eric Bischoff.
Eric Bischoff's philosophy while in control of WCW was simply accumulating the best talent available for the midcard and having them put on great matches. He also accumulated any famous talent from the WWF he could get his hands on. This is the same strategy that made the WWF so successful in the early 80s. For a time at least, it worked.
I used to hate Eric Bischoff. Now I realize all the positive things he did.
He didn't always have an ego. He didn't always mark for Hogan.
At the beginning of the year, when they showed the first Nitro match between Brian Pillman and Jushin Lyger on the Nitro Millennium Special, you could hear a passion for the sport of wrestling in Eric Bischoff's voice. You could tell that this guy really seemed to know about the value of talent and planned on putting that talent over once the promotion was #1. He promised to bring the best talent in the world to WCW and he delivered.
I'd like to have that gentleman back on my booking committee.
The problem was, with the New World Order and Nitro's rating wins, Bischoff became overconfident and too much of a mark for Hogan and Nash to be effective. He never significantly pushed any of his great wrestling talent. He booked on the fly, caring only for the moment. He relied on people who were already over and whose time had passed. And the locker room hated him for it.
When he finally took control, it was too late.
But Bischoff knew the value of having good wrestlers, and the value of a good simmering feud. That's why he has value. His successor boasted that he would change everything.
Vince Russo had similar flaws and a similar ego. Immediately upon arriving he made some much-needed changes but ended up really keeping things just the way that they were. The man gave out many gimmicks, and some of them worked and some of them didn't. He made an effort to get people over by gimmicks and angles and not feuds.
Russo's problem was that he didn't know when to say when. And when he did say when, he dropped the gimmick in a way that made no sense. He booked ahead but not far ahead enough ahead. He did things to please himself and not the fans. He thought he could keep them happy with pseudo-shoots and T&A. He was wrong.
In my book, he still has value for his ideas, if he is kept in check.
The current head booker, of WCW, Kevin Sullivan, has expanded successfully on some of Russo's ideas, such as the Mamalukes, and people are starting to get over again. Sullivan knows how to end a feud. He knows the babyface should go over. He's tried to turn some gimmicks into angles, with varying success. And he values having some wrestling on his shows.
He's also doomed to fall as well, since he's out of touch with what the fans want to see. He knows where his bread is buttered in the locker room. It's with the old guard, and Nitro today isn't horribly different than Nitro in 1995 with its main event angles. Also half the locker room hates his guts. But he does several things right.
There have been several other important role-players on the booking team like DDP, Kevin Nash, Ed Ferrara, and Dusty Rhodes that have all had good ideas. But they also have flaws. Ferrara's are like Russo's. Dusty is a mark for himself and has goofy ideas and lame finishes. Nash is lazy. But they all can bring positives to the table.
The answer isn't bringing in someone from outside, unless a Paul E. Dangerously or Vince McMahon would somehow become available. I think hell would freeze over first, but with wrestling, you never say never.
WCW has fully qualified people under contract right now who each know how to book a piece of the booking puzzle. With an impartial head booker to keep things coherent (who would have little more than some editing power to act on the decisions of the committee), all of these things could be worked out into an expertly crafted product.
I beg of Bill Busch to just lock these guys all in a room sometime and not let them come out until they all verbally agree on a long-term plan of what wrestlers should be pushed and what wrestlers should be phased out. I think a committee of Sullivan, Bischoff, Russo, Ferrera, DDP, and Bill Banks, with Terry Taylor as "editor" could get WCW back on top if they were willing to compromise on ideas.
There's no guarantee, however, and wrestling fans and wrestlers would still whine about the state of affairs. But it would certainly produce ideas with fewer flaws that putting any individual booker in charge. Compromise would moderate the lame ideas out. The whole thing would be a team concept, and every effort should be made to carry that over to...
"We are the hollow men... Our dried voices, when We whisper together Are quiet and meaningless As wind in dry grass Or rats' feet over broken glass In our dry cellar."- T.S. Elliot, "The Hollow men"Up until a couple weeks ago, the disparity between the main event level of talent and the rest of the card was grotesque in WCW. You had guys like Scott Steiner, Scott Hall, and DDP that served as a sort of bridge between the main eventers and midcarders six months ago. With those three out, the gap became huge. It seemed like two different feds.
Most of WCW's midcard under Russo was nothing but one-dimensional gimmicks. Not characters. One trick ponies. Hollow men. And the voices of the midcard were truly quiet and meaningless until the Radicals bolted and destroyed the last advantage WCW had over the WWF. Luckily the promotion has seemingly turned the corner.
Now guys are actually getting pushed. Some characters are developing. There's Vampiro fighting Jarrett and Flair. The crowd is popping for midcarders. Hogan isn't headlining PPVs. But a lot more needs to be done.
Immediately attempts should be made to push Booker, Kidman, Kanyon, Vamp, Bagwell up to main event status. Tell Hogan that he can go out however he wants if he puts these young guys over. Force the main eventers to job to them after they are properly built up. Phase guys like Hall, Nash, Hogan, Flair, and Piper out.
In the meantime, repackage some of the great talent that is coming out of the powerplant and have them take spots in the midcard and begin appearing on Nitro. Guys like Kid Romeo need an opportunity to shine. I could see some of them breaking out in a few months, with all their talent.
Suck up to Ultimo Dragon and pay him fat cash to bring in guys like CIMA, Dragon Kid, and Tokyo Magnum to give the cruiserweight division a shot in the arm along with newly marketable power plant guys.
Try to book matches that will either be good or advance an angle. Preferably both. Keep plugging away and grab a good WWF midcarder like Venis or D'Lo when their contracts are up. Raid ECW for talent yet again. A guy like Steve Corino could be the next Chris Jericho.
Bring back blood. WCW probably shouldn't go quite as far as the WWF or ECW but they should definitely go as close to it as possible
The most important item should be getting everyone over and getting everyone to realize that everyone is on the same team. Punish the locker room egos. Give bonuses to those wrestlers who put on great matches or cut good promos. Take ideas from them. An incentive-based contract system is ideal for better performance.
When you have great matches and great angles it elevates everyone involved. And when you elevate everyone it's a lot easier to make the next big thing.
The Production Crew, Announcing, and Show Style
"Insert witty quote"-FroSimply put, hire the best people they can get and fire most of the existing staff gradually. Turn off the house lights for more wrestler entrances. Pay out some money to use real songs as entrance themes or promote Time-Warner records as entrance themes. Fire Crockett's kid for production. Try to forge your own path and your own style.
Try to do more in-depth backstage interviews with Gene for the midcard wrestlers. He has a great ability to guide them and it shows on Saturday Night.
Put Hudson on Nitro with Madden and you have a winning team. The old Nitro crew can do Thunder and Saturday Night. Great announcers make an average match good and a good match great. It is essential that wrestlers and the matches are put over.
Add another cameraman to the TV broadcasts.
Cut down on backstage angles unless you have something like the "Kid-Cam" to explain why a camera is back there. Things should generally make some sort of sense
Turn Saturday Night into what Jimmy Hart was planning on turning it into. They certainly have enough guys laying around for it to work.
There's nothing that says these ideas could work. There's nothing that says they won't either. And no one is going to know unless they try.
I doubt anyone from WCW would seriously ever read this and implement my ideas. But hopefully they see the writing on the wall from the barrage of opinions on how to "save WCW" and make some sort of changes over the next couple of years.
The WWF seems to pay at least some attention to the Internet in booking. If everyone cries bloody murder at an angle it gets ended.
WCW is always trying to emulate the WWF in every way. They've overlooked one.
I wish they'd emulate the WWF's listening to their fans too.