What if something happened in the past that changed wrestling history forever? Putting on our fantasy booking hats and using educated guesses, Wrestling Merchandise and Memories will look at different "What If" scenarios to give you a blow-by-blow analysis of how one change could have drastically altered the wrestling landscape.
WCW WINS THE MONDAY NIGHT WAR
By Canadian Bulldog
In March 2001, the World Wrestling Federation purchased World Championship Wrestling, effectively ending the so-called Monday Night War that began six years earlier between the two promotions. Once Vince McMahon owned his competition, it became far more difficult for anyone to start up a competitive promotion - and attempts such as TNA have never able to measure up.
But what if things didn't quite play out that way, and in fact, the opposite happened? What if WCW purchased the WWF and became the undisputed dominant wrestling company in the world? Let's find out....
The Back Story
In January 2001, Fusient Media Ventures - a group of venture capitalists led by Eric Bischoff - agreed to buy WCW from AOL-Time Warner. Of course, that deal fell apart in real life when Fusient wasn't given any television slots of TNT or TBS.... but for our purposes, we're going to assume that the deal went through as scheduled and as of March, Fusient (not WWF Entertainment) was the owner of World Championship Wrestling.
Bischoff had promised big changes with Fusient at the helm, including WCW "going dark" for a month or so before returning to television with a new look, new stars and new concept. So that's where we will begin.
In interviews at the time, Bischoff said the plan was to take several top WCW stars off television leading up to the relaunch, which actually happened. Diamond Dallas Page, Kevin Nash, Goldberg and others were absent from WCW's final weeks of programming as Scott Steiner ran roughshod over the company's babyfaces. In addition to those names, WCW still had quite a bit of star power on the roster, including Booker T, Ric Flair, Jeff Jarrett, Lex Luger, Lance Storm and Dustin Rhodes.... just to name a few.
Bischoff also promised to focus on younger stars that were signed to the promotion but hadn't yet been fully exploited. Looking at the roster in WCW's final months, this would have included Sean O'Haire, Shane Helms and AJ Styles.
But the biggest key to WCW's relaunch in April 2001 is signing a big name who wasn't currently with the company. Backed by Fusient's endless supply of cash, Bischoff finds someone who will give WCW a much-needed shot in the arm... while being able to work a lighter schedule because of other commitments the superstar was considering at the time.
The relaunched Monday Nitro is a massive success. The aforementioned names that had been taken off TV have a huge return, with brand new angles and matchups. ECW has gone out of business, but instead of the WWF taking the entire promotion over, WCW is able to pick up some of their most desired talents, including Rob Van Dam, Justin Credible, Tajiri and Tommy Dreamer.
The first Nitro is headlined by Scott Steiner defending his WCW World Title against Booker T (the match that actually headlined the final Nitro). In this scenario, Steiner retains his championship and afterwards, gets on the microphone to complain that he still doesn't have any competition. Big Poppa Pump is interrupted by the familiar strains of "IF YA SMELLLLL....."
The Rock comes down to the ring to confront Scott Steiner and challenges him to a match. The Great One signed with Fusient because it allowed him a lighter schedule, and one that gave him flexibility for his burgeoning career in Hollywood. The match is set for WCW's first PPV under the new era (I believe the planned name was Big Bang and it had been scheduled for May 6, 2001). This potential dream match captures the imagination of wrestling fans.
The Pay Per View
The Rock isn't the only major newcomer to WCW's first PPV. In addition to the ECW defectors, The Hardy Boyz jump ship from the WWF, as do Edge and Trish Stratus. For the first time in years, WCW is the talk of wrestling. The Big Bang does the highest pay-per-view number since Starrcade '97. The Rock defeats Scott Steiner for the WCW World Championship.... but that's only the beginning.
The following night on Nitro, Rock is confronted by a man who, in real life, faced him a year later -- Hollywood Hulk Hogan. Having successfully sued AOL-Time Warner (but not Fusient), Hogan decides to give the new WCW a shot, and a monster feud is set up for the summer of 2001.
With Fusient bankrolling tons of new stars, the WWF becomes worried. Kurt Angle and The Undertaker are said to be considering their options when their current contracts come due... and former WCW stars Eddie Guerrero and The Big Show aren't far behind. With each passing defection, WWF begins losing the ratings war again. But this time -- there's a new twist.
A steep ratings decline alarms more than WWF executives. Because the company is now publicly-traded (which they weren't during the first leg of the Monday Night War), Wall Street investors begin calling for Vince McMahon's head.
As if that weren't bad enough, WCW procures the licensing to ECW following a court bankruptcy battle. Led by Paul Heyman, Bischoff stages an ECW invasion of World Championship Wrestling. But unlike WWF's watered-down invasion angle, this incarnation works, and Bischoff instantly has a new version of the nWo to play with. Free of Turner Broadcasting's famed "standard and practices" issues, WCW has become the edgiest wrestling program in town.
Both WrestleMania X-7 and WrestleMania X-8 are commercial failures and the WWF begins cutting wrestlers from their contracts just to stay afloat. But by mid-2002, they're also hit by a legal challenge from the World Wildlife Fund..... which, we now know forced the company to change its name to WWE. But in this alternate universe, the sting of the lawsuit (combined with other financial problems) leave Vince McMahon no choice but to run to Wall Street investors to bail his company out of trouble.
Investors take a much larger stake of the company than they currently own. And seeing the promotion bleeding money, they begin to look at alternatives to get a return on their investment. The best option around is selling the company to Fusient Media Ventures. By the fall of 2002, the hostile takeover is completed and WCW purchases WWE, owning not only many of its contracted performers, but also its logos, trademarks and massive video library. With the burgeoning DVD market taking off, WCW makes a small fortune off WWF archived footage.
Much like Vince McMahon did, Eric Bischoff fails to fully take advantage of the WWF invasion angle, making his own guys look far too dominant. Apart from a phenomenal PPV number from Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Sting at Starrcade 2002, the WWF invaders just become "regular guys" after a while.
Still, WCW remains the only game in town and because Jeff Jarrett was never blackballed, he doesn't start TNA.... meaning that WCW has even less competition than WWE has in the current day. Talents such as Randy Orton, John Cena, Batista, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and Brock Lesnar eventually make their way to the company as well, freshening up the roster considerably.
By 2005, AOL Time Warner ends its television agreement with WCW, and the promotion finds a new home on The USA Network, where it remains for almost a decade.
In early 2015, Fusient Media Ventures launches The WCW Network - an on-demand service that streams every WCW pay-per-view ever, plus archived footage from promotions such as the AWA, ECW and WWF.