The Ultimate Guide
Authors: Bob Ryder & Dave Scherer
Synopsis: A comprehensive reference guide to WCW in its final year of operations.
While every WCW event is special, some have been built up through time to considered the premier events of the year. Starrcade was first introduced in 1983 and has been considered the "Superbowl" of wrestling. Two years later, The Great American Bash was born, and has become the summertime equivalent to winter's Starrcade. On the same level, Halloween Havoc was created in 1989 and soon became the event that really set the tone for WCW. All in all, there are now twelve big events on WCW's calendar, and they are carried around the world on pay-per-view.
Of course, the easiest way to trace the history of WCW is through its incredible rise in popularity. In the 80's, you saw wrestling once or twice a week on television. The only merchandise was a few T-shirts on sale at the arenas. Now, WCW is broadcast practically every night of the week in some areas. WCW clothing is no longer just a souvenir - you're likely to see it being worn on the street every day. Of course, that's just the tip of the merchandising iceberg, one that also includes toys, CDs, video games and even movies! WCW is everywhere, and will be for a long time to come!
Well... the last part of that paragraph wasn't exactly true, as WCW would go out of business less than one year after WCW: The Ultimate Guide was published. But to be fair, absolutely no one saw that coming at the time.
Lots has been said about that final year of WCW. We recently looked into the World Title picture during May of 2000 and in fact, there's an entire podcast dedicated exclusively to monitoring the decline of Nitro in that year. But it would be fair to characterize this reference guide as one of the bright spots in an otherwise disastrous year for the world's second-biggest wrestling promotion.
Online wrestling veterans Bob Ryder and Dave Scherer did more than simply report on the goings-on in WCW in this book; they actually make sense out of storylines and gimmicks that often didn't make sense as they were being played out on television! In fact, I'd go as far as saying that Ryder and Scherer did a better job of making WCW sound like a vibrant and exciting promotion than the likes of Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo were doing at the time!
For example, each wrestler is given ample room in the book to delve into their persona, talk about their history and some of their more prominent rivalries and accomplishments. While this would have been easy enough to do for, say, Sting or Scott Steiner, it was a major accomplishment to write at length on the merits of Tank Abbott or Ernest The Cat Miller.
WCW: The Ultimate Guide was published by DK, a company known for well-illustrated hardcover reference guides on everything from LEGO to Bollywood to World of Warcraft (they've in fact published a few WWE books in recent years, too). Thankfully, WCW didn't borrow a page from some of their publishing ventures (such as the often-confusing WCW Magazine) and instead followed the DK model here.
The result is writing that's incredibly crisp and easy to follow, even for those who aren't wrestling fans or those who had never seen an episode of Monday Nitro. The illustrations are plentiful and very professional -- again, something that was never a hallmark of WCW on their own.
In addition to all of WCW's marquee stars, mid-carders are profiled, too, with everyone from Jerry Flynn to La Parka getting a full profile. Plus, the book highlights specialty matches such as a Steel Cage or Battle Royal. Again, this is nothing spectacular for a grizzled wrestling fan, but a huge advantage for those who may be new to watching the product.
There were only a handful of minor issues with the book, and nothing that was in any way a deal-breaker. For example, the guide talks about Rick Steiner's time in the nWo. It's certainly possible that happened, but I have no recollection of this personally. And when it comes to Hulk Hogan's section, he's referred to simply as "Hogan". There was some sort of name licensing issue at play there, if I recall correctly, and while it's certainly not the author's fault, seeing the biggest star in wrestling history introduced simply by last name, just seemed a little off. Couldn't they at least have referred to him as Hollywood Hogan?
Overall Rating: Oh Hell Yeah! I'm not exaggerating when I suggest that this is one of the best things WCW produced around the 2000 time frame. It's a fun, easy read and the authors do a phenomenal job of making the promotion seem better than it actually was at the time. Even if you see this book somewhere now (found mine on eBay), it's worth picking up as a great reference to the promotion that was WCW.