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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: The new WCW still needs help
By NICK TYLWALK -- For SLAM! Wrestling

The concept of a new WCW got off to such a promising start. First there was the angle that featured charismatic Shane McMahon stealing the rival promotion right out from under his father's nose -- on the last episode of Nitro, no less. Then there was the appearance of Lance Storm on RAW in front of his hometown fans in Calgary, a winner of an idea if there ever was one.

So far, so good. But then came Hugh Morrus hitting his moonsault on Edge on this past Monday's episode of RAW, and that's where the first cracks in this idea began to show. The fans' reaction -- or more exactly, the lack thereof -- to Morrus proves that the new WCW can't succeed to the satisfaction of its owners without some bigger names to help it get off the ground.

This is no reflection on Morrus -- a talented performer who often worked through injuries during his time in the Turner-owned WCW -- or any of the other wrestlers already under contract to WWFE. The roster assembled so far is long on potential but short on star power.

And therein lies the problem. Without adding some more recognizable names, the WWF will have to hope that it can create its own stars. While the writers headed by Stephanie McMahon has proven that it is capable of doing so, its track record with talent imported from other promotions is mixed at best. For every Chris Jericho, there's a Dean Malenko and a Perry Saturn. Can something as simple as a change in creative team propel mid-carders to the top of a program? Perhaps, but it's a risky proposition for starting an entirely new television show.

Rumours continue to circulate that the WWF will send some of its floundering superstars to WCW in the hopes of jump-starting their careers. It's anyone's guess who might be shipped out, but people like Billy Gunn and Val Venis come to mind. Unfortunately, this might hurt WCW more than it helps, as WWF fans who give the new show a try are accustomed to viewing those performers as mid-carders. It's a case of perception versus reality that the WWF will be hard pressed to overcome.

Like a catchy pop song, the new WCW needs a hook to make it successful. And for once, the TV networks might actually have it right, as the buzz in the industry suggests that TNN is reluctant to grant another wrestling time slot unless some legitimate former WCW stars are brought into the fold.

Booker T and Scott Steiner would be a good place to start. Both men are credible champions who have the ability to put on entertaining matches with just about anyone. Steiner's unpredictability and Booker's growing charisma are traits that the WWF writers could put to good use. The drawback is that both grapplers held the WCW world title during the period of WCW's lowest ratings, meaning that they won't be the solution by themselves.

Rob Van Dam might do the trick. The biggest name left from ECW that hasn't already been signed to the WWF, Van Dam's electrifying moves and cockiness would be a shot in the arm. But would his presence be enough to bring disenfranchised WCW viewers over to the new show? Probably not.

Signing Bill Goldberg would be best. Say what you want about the man's in-ring ability, but the former WCW world champion had a huge following and sold more merhcnadise than anyone outside of the nWo. The WWF has got to be praying that some way can be found to convince Goldberg to opt out of the rest of his AOL-Time Warner contract, as he is the best hope of getting old Nitro fans to tune in to the new product.

And to truly succeed, the new WCW will need some of those fans to watch. Analysis of the ratings back in the heyday of the Nitro versus RAW battles proved that there were fewer fans that watched both programs than one might expect. On top of that, the posts on the WCW website during the twilight days of Nitro exposed many fans who won't support the new WCW simply because Vince McMahon is involved. A link to the past is the best, and possibly only way to get them to change their minds.

The WWF has a great chance to get WCW off and running on its own by building up some momentum during what looks like a major crossover angle over the next two months. All it needs to keep that momentum going is the arrival of some familiar faces.

Reader Feedback

  • May 31:WWF down to the core?


  • I'd have to agree with you on some things, like an unwaverable cult following for the promotions. But I don't think wrestling is as "cyclical" as you made it out to be. If it were, the WWF's ratings wouldn't have dropped this suddenly. The ratings drop as of late would have been more gradual if it did go in that loop. For instance, you wrote a year ago that the cyclical state of wrestling would mean that WCW would eventually start winning the ratings war again. Well, you were wrong because it was mistakes on WCW's part and nothing else that buried them. And WCW's ratings triumphs of 1996-early 1998 were short compared to the WWF's 1984-1991 heyday. I agree with what you said about summer not being a good time for the WWF, but don't forget that other shows are almost nothing but reruns. Thus, the WWF should have a decided advantage over them, regardless of how few people are wanting to watch TV.

    tbanks@sowega.net
    The wrestlers have deluded themselves into believing their own hype. With their guest appearances they point to the fact that the shows they grace hit their highest numbers when they appear. This goes back to the same premise you pointed out. Those shows have a core audience as well. So the gravy is the marks that must see their favorites on these shows. It means nothing especially when the numbers drop right back to where they were when the guests no longer appear. I don't see how helping a show like Pacific Blue hit a ratings peak is a big coup?

    Dale Halvorson, dhalvorson@smednet.com

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