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  March 24, 2001



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Wrestling monopoly


By BRET HART -- Calgary Sun
  I always said the only thing missing from WCW is Vince McMahon.

 Guess what, it seems they've got him.

 It's no secret within the wrestling industry that despite top TV ratings, mismanagement has kept WCW in the red for years, with the exception of a short spell when then WCW president Eric Bischoff turned things around. Last year alone, the company lost $80 million US.

 There have been persistent rumblings for quite some time that parent company Time Warner was putting WCW up for sale, so last month when they finally did, hardly anyone working for WCW believed it. In a business where management too often feels the need to put one over on the wrestlers, production crew and the media, almost everyone thought WCW being for sale was some sort of a storyline. Even a flurry of activity from potential buyers didn't have everyone convinced. It started to dawn on people that this was for real when one of those who expressed genuine interest in buying the company was Bischoff.

 It was Fusient Media Ventures, a New York based media investment company, however, that turned up with the most likely bid and it was believed to be just a matter of dotting the I's and crossing the T's.

 Enter Turner's new chief executive, Jamie Kellner, who came to Turner out of the Time Warner/AOL merger. Kellner hopes to expand the network's appeal to a more 'upscale' audience and decided that the present-day wrestling product does not fit with that image. I can't say as I differ with him there. In his situation, if I can presume to understand his position well enough to say, I would have changed the WCW wrestling shows carried by Turner back into wrestling shows. I would have veered completely away from the pathetic turn the programming has taken as it gradually worsened over the past five years, mirroring the WWF. Instead, I would have gone back to a more family-oriented product, hoping to lure back fans of traditional wrestling and also to restart the cycle, educating little kids to what pro wrestling is supposed to be so they could grow up with an appreciation of it, unaffected by the lack of artistry, storylines and sleaze that took over the second half of the '90s.

 But what Kellner decided to do was take away WCW's timeslots. Fusient, understandably, not interested in buying a wrestling company that has no TV time, ended negotiations on Wednesday.

 Enter Vince McMahon.

 It now appears WWF Entertainment Inc. will be the new owner of WCW. As of this writing, an official announcement is anticipated any minute. McMahon commented to Howard Stern, on Thursday, that should WWFE become the owner, he may put his son, Shane, in charge of the company and would, at least for the time being, keep it separate from the WWF.

 It would put the McMahons in the position to swap wrestlers between the two organizations and from a storyline standpoint the inter-federation matches and "big" unified title that past politics made impossible would make for lucrative pay per view.

 I always said the one guy who could turn WCW around is Vince McMahon and in that respect, this would be a great day for WCW.

 At the same time, it is a black day for wrestling.

 With the McMahons having no competition, wrestlers have no alternative but to work for whatever pay they are offered. Under whatever safe or unsafe conditions, on whatever schedule they are given -- with no benefits. And now, with no place else to go.

 If ever there was a right time to form a wrestler's union, the time is now.

 It will be very interesting to see what happens next. I hope my friends who are wrestlers don't find themselves out of work. And I hope the ones who do have jobs are actually better off than the ones who don't.

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