The origins of today's WCW-WWF war
By CHRIS SCHRAMM -- For SLAM! Wrestling
Billionaire Ted skits, Eric Bischoff revealing RAW results on Nitro,
mocking the other corporation and other instruments have been used by
the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling
(WCW) to make the other look organization look lower than the other. It
seemed to all turn bad just a few years ago when WCW's Nitro came to
Monday nights to compete with the WWF's RAW show, but a few fans know
when it really started.
First, one must understand the background. World Championship Wrestling
(WCW) was not the name of an organization until 1989 when Ted Turner
bought the company. Till that time, the name was used for a show that
aired on Atlanta-based cable station WTBS. The National Wrestling
Association (NWA) represented themselves on the show when Turner bought
Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) started the "World Championship
Wrestling" show on WTBS in 1983. GCW was an independent organization
under the jurisdiction of the NWA.
On the cable USA Network was a wrestling show produced by Southwest
Championship Wrestling (SCW). The two companies were looked at as rivals
because they both tried to work out of the same Southwest region of the
United States. SCW kept most of their shows in the Texas area but also
journeyed to the east coast where GCW was based.
GCW looked to expand to such states as Ohio, Michigan, Virginia and
Pennsylvania. Many of those states had been untouched by promotions
outside of the WWF. GCW knew that they needed help to gain these
audiences, and thus they asked the SCW to try a symbiotic relationship
with them. The two looked to gain control of the wrestling television
audience in the United States.
The two also needed to keep on eye on smaller NWA promotion, World Class
Championship Wrestling, whose shows used younger talent to appeal to a
wider range of viewers.
With the background out of the way, these promotions had no idea what
they were in for. The WWF had their own plan that started when Vince
McMahon Jr. bought his father's stock in the WWF. The new owner had
plans his father had not even imagined.
In September 1983, McMahon Jr. works out a deal with the USA Network to
have the WWF produced show "All American Wrestling" replace SCW's show.
McMahon Jr. keeps his mind open by showing matches with the likes of Ric
Flair, Greg Valentine and Ricky Steamboat, when who work from promotions
outside WWF. Till this time WWF had only ran shows in the Northeast part
of the United States.
On September 29, 1983, the WWF heads to California for the first time
and tests the territory that had long been part of the American
Just months later, the WWF takes more away from the AWA when they sign
AWA wrestler Hulk Hogan to a contract. Hogan was one of the biggest
draws for the AWA, and the WWF used that momentum to soon sign such
wrestlers and wrestling employees as Bobby Heenan, Roddy Piper, Bob
Orton, Paul Orndorff and David Schultz.
In what is attempted as the first supercard being networked by
closed-circuit, Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, an NWA affiliate, holds the
first Starrcade card in Greensboro, NC. The Jim Crocket run promotion is
seen by 55,000 people by those live in the arena and those watching on
closed-circuit television in several cities. The idea would change how
wrestling would promote itself in the coming years.
It is not well known that Hulk Hogan had originally agreed to work on
the card, but he later pulled out after agreeing to make some Japanese
tour dates. Hogan signed with the WWF just weeks after Starrcade.
On January 23, 1984, Bob Backlund was to wrestle the WWF World champion
The Iron Sheik in front of a sold out card in New York City's Madison
Square Garden. Backlund had been suffering from injuries, and the newly
signed Hulk Hogan was announced as his replacement. Hogan was able to
work himself out of a camel clutch put on him by The Iron Sheik to win
the WWF World title that night.
April 1984 saw the WWF gain a two-hour show on the USA Network by the
title, "Tuesday Night Titans." The show is highly successful in its
first year by showing a talk show mixed with taped wrestling matches.
The next month the WWF signs rock singer Cindy Lauper and television
actor Mr. T to a contract with the WWF. The WWF's mainstream status
brought attention to the WWF's new "Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection" theme
which would continue into the next year.
The NWA tried to combat the WWF's growth out west by holding a card in
New York City for the first time in over two decades. The successful
card features a classic Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat main event.
It was called "Black Saturday" at the time when Vince McMahon Jr. bought
the GCW on July 14, 1984. The GCW show, "World Championship Wrestling,"
now features McMahon Jr. introducing taped WWF matches. WTBS receives
some 1000 complaints in the next few days of the switch. WWF continues
to hold the spot despite by requests to pull the show.
The WWF now carried their matches on WTBS twice a week, the USA Network,
Madison Square Garden Cable and over 100 syndicated stations across the
WTBS pleases their viewers in late July by airing "Championship
Wrestling from Georgia." The Gordon Solie hosted show airs early at 7:35
a.m. ET on Saturday, and it is later moved to 9:05 a.m. ET after strong
ratings at the early time slot.
In the months approaching the first Wrestlemania, Hulk Hogan and Mr. T
promote the WWF by appearing on cable's Music Television, Saturday Night
Live and other nationally televised shows and stations.
Seven promotions banded together in late September of 1984 to form Pro
Wrestling USA. Among those are the AWA and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. The
show was broadcast on such networks at ESPN. Disorganization and big
heads led to the dismantling of the idea shortly after, and the AWA
would take over the show that aired on ESPN.
Music Television, or MTV, airs a wrestling match between Hulk Hogan and
Roddy Piper on February 18, 1985. The match sets up the first
Wrestlemania after Mr. T and Cindy Lauper interfere in the match.
In the middle of all of the commotion, Bill Watts's Universal Wrestling
Federation (UWF) starts to air their show on WTBS starting March 10,
1985. The show becomes the number one rated show on cable television
shortly after its debut.
The WWF finally holds their Wrestlemania card on March 31, 1985. The
card is shown on closed-circuit in the Northeast and on live pay per
view in some markets. The main event sees Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff
fall victims to Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. Also appearing on the card are
celebrities Billy Martin, Cindy Lauper and Muhammad Ali.
Jim Crockett, promoter and owner of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, buy the
WWF's spot on WTBS from Vince McMahon for $1 million in April of 1985.
McMahon reportedly stated that "Crockett will choke on that million."
Crockett would rename the show "World Championship Wrestling," and
become the only wrestling show on WTBS after pressuring the canceling of
From there the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling organization would ultimately
combine with the NWA, and they would continue to air their shows each
week on WTBS. The WWF would continue their relationship with the USA
Network by promoting a number of different ideas over the next few
years. The WWF still airs four shows on the USA Network in 1998.
The "WCW Saturday Night" show currently seen each Saturday on WTBS was
given to the old NWA by Vince McMahon Jr. McMahon Jr. might still own
that spot if he did not sell it in 1985. Thus Ted Turner might not have
bought the NWA and rename it. Thus the WWF and the WCW (NWA) could have
still been running joint shows throughout the year. Although a Steve
Austin vs. Bill Goldberg seems unlikely now, the selling and buying that
took place in 1983-1985 might have changed that. A different move here
and there might have made these dream matches today an everyday event.
Maybe if Vince McMahon Jr. and Ted Turner went back 20 years ago, they
might be able to overlook the recent past. It is an old saying that,
'competition will ultimately destroy all of those involved.' Is it time
for that destruction?
Chris Schramm is from Lawrence, Kansas.