Official Annual 1996
I don't often pick up random things on eBay (once you start going down that rabbit hole, it can become an incredibly expensive habit), but while checking on something recently, I noticed the book above - a hardcover book that was only available in the U.K.
For the bargain-basement price of $12 (including shipping), I said "what the hell?" and here we are. Let's review this bad boy:
Published by the folks who wrote WCW Magazine, they felt compelled to list everyone who worked for WCW at the time, including Eric Bischoff (who wasn't yet widely known as the guy in power); David Crockett (part of Jim Crockett Promotions back in the day); and Sharon Sidello (whom Bischoff mentioned in his book was sleeping with Ole Anderson).
Plus they list Nick Bockwinkel as kayfabe "Commissioner". What a strange start.
The first profile (after cover boy Randy Savage) is the frickin' Renegade, whom WCW refers to as "undoubtedly the most exciting new wrestler to appear in WCW for years," which just seems like a lie. They also say he will be a force in WCW for years to come. The Official Annual 1996 was unfortunately wrong, considering he died three years later.
But the Official Annual 1996 isn't always wrong. Stunning Steve Austin is described as "widely tipped to be the biggest star in the next millennium," which was absolutely right - unfortunately, that never happened in WCW.
Still, the mere mention of Stunning Steve is a great reminder of the non-WWF outcasts WCW had at the time.
From Austin we move on to.... Dave Sullivan? Seriously?? The guy who was referred to as "Evad" by WCW announcers because he was allegedly dyslexic?
Despite the headline, Dave Sullivan was never a "favourite of the younger fans", or any fans, for that matter. Not even his own mother would consider him a favorite because his "brother" is Kevin Sullivan!
After thumbing through profiles ("BIG 64 page value!") of The Butcher, Big Bubba Rogers, Avalanche and others, we're given a Behind The Scenes look at what goes in WCW. Unfortunately, it has less to do with breaking kayfabes and more about lighting grids, electrical cable and how the WCW camera crew had to miss Christmas with their families to film Starrcade '94.
From there, we go to the likes and dislikes of various WCW competitors. The lists are fine, I suppose, but you have to look at the previous page to figure out what, say, Sgt. Craig Pittman is on about. The comments are about favorite wrestler, least favorite wrestler, favorite food, car, movie, etc., but you have to keep checking back to the master list to figure that all out!
Is the Official Annual 1996 a must-read for WCW fans? Probably not. But it does serve as a kind of cool time capsule ahead of the year EVERYTHING changed for WCW with the birth of the nWo and the Monday Night Wars.
And hey - it was absolutely worth 12 bucks.