The Common Denominator – “WCW Lives!” (Goldberg, Sting, Scott Steiner, Eric Bischoff, Fusient Media Ventures, WCW)

Hello again, my loyal Common DenomiNation! In a continuation of my column from last week, I’m doing a little alternate history, similar to the “Superfly Effect” columns I did last year. I think the “point of divergence” here will be pretty easy to spot, so here we go…

Excerpt from Media Life Magazine, January 2001 edition…


Ailing wrestling franchise goes to Fusient

By Gabriel Spitzer
Turner Broadcasting has unloaded its flagging wrestling outfit, World Championship Wrestling, for an undisclosed sum to the New York media company Fusient Media Ventures. Turner will retain a minority interest in the WCW, and its shows Monday Nitro Live and WCW Thunder will continue to air on TNT and TBS Superstation, respectively.
The sale put to rest persistent rumors that the league might be acquired by Vince McMahon, head of the WCW’s main competition, World Wrestling Federation. McMahon was reportedly unable to negotiate a deal to the satisfaction of Viacom, the WWF’s exclusive television partner. Viacom apparently was not enthusiastic about McMahon getting involved with programming for arch-rival Turner’s networks.
The deal is expected to close within 30-45 days, according to Fusient president Brad Bedol, who will be named CEO of the WCW. Before creating Fusient, Bedol and partner Stephen Greenberg founded the Classic Sports Network, later sold to ESPN.
Eric Bischoff, who presided over the WCW in its glory days and was brought back last March to bail it out, will remain president of the company.
The WCW, while still the WWF’s closest competitor in the wrestling world, is barely limping along. In fact, it’s limping backwards—the company lost somewhere between $60 million and $80 million for Turner last year alone. The league enjoyed several years of success during the mid-1990s, during which time it actually knocked the WWF off its perch with the help of proven (but aging) talent like Hulk Hogan and “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. But since late 1998 the fall has been swift and brutal. WCW’s cable programs and pay-per-view events alike consistently rate way below those of the WWF.
“I remember in January of 1999 it was clearly a dogfight [between the WCW and the WWF]. The WCW would rate a 4.6, and now they’re doing a fraction of that. They made a mockery of their product. Instead of giving the fans what they wanted, they gave the fans what the writers wanted,” says Dave Meltzer, editor of Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Fusient saw the WCW’s financial situation as a buying opportunity, and they believe they have the personnel to turn it around.
“Our goal always was to find undervalued media assets, whatever they may be. We think we’ve assembled a really terrific group of people in our company with backgrounds in sports, cable and entertainment all around,” says Tom Lassally, president of Fusient
Media Ventures West Coast. Lassally, a former Warner Brothers Studios exec, is the man credited with bringing the WCW to Fusient. Meltzer says that Turner Broadcasting and parent Time Warner mismanaged the WCW into the ratings basement.
“Theoretically, wrestling ought to be within the Time Warner Empire. But they kept hiring people to run wrestling who didn’t really understand wrestling. And [TBS president of general entertainment networks] Brad Siegel’s run in charge was not good at all. He made a lot of bad and impatient calls. It was akin to a losing team bringing
in a new coach every 11 weeks,” says Meltzer. Fusient is saying little at this point about what changes it will make.
“We might cut back on the live events and pay-per-view for a while. It costs a lot to do 200-plus touring shows a year,” says Lassally.
“I think that with any product you can’t make promises,” Bedol said in a conference call yesterday morning. Bedol will take responsibility for marketing and promotion, while ad sales will continue to be handled by the Turner networks. Bischoff will remain in charge of programming and production. Fusient’s Lassally insists that the WCW does not define itself as the WWF’s competitor.
“I don’t think our goal is to out-WWF the WWF. We’d like to be advertiser-friendly, and we don’t think the way to entertain people is to have more craft and more titillation. They do what they do well, and we’d like to do something slightly different,” he says. Still, Wrestling Observer’s Meltzer says that the WCW could learn a thing or two about strategy from the WWF.
“The winning formula for wrestling has always been to constantly bring in new guys and push them over the top. But the WCW didn’t elevate talent. Instead they consistently wrote for ratings week to week.” Despite the WWF’s strong showing, Meltzer says that as a whole, wrestling is going through a tough period.
“The WWF is doing a great business, but they’re the only ones. Throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s, there were always alternatives. Now, with so many of the fans it’s WWF or nothing. So there’s really only one product.”

By the way, the above article is 100 percent genuine. Seriously, it’s still online. Let the fiction begin…

February 1, 2001 – Fusient’s acquisition of WCW is not mentioned on any WCW broadcast. Business continues as usual. However, the company begins to streamline its road schedule, cancels its April and May pay-per-view schedule with cable and satellite providers, and makes other cost-cutting moves.

February 20, 2001 – Television executive Jamie Kellner is hired as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., as part of the AOL/Time Warner merger. Kellner oversees TBS, TNT, and Cartoon Network. As the final stages of the Turner/Fusient deal are being negotiated, Kellner issues an edict that the Turner family of networks will no longer carry professional wrestling programming. Initial reports are that the news has killed the deal dead. However, Bedol and Bischoff instead work a new deal to acquire the promotion and all of its assets for a much lower price (Rumors are that the price tag for WCW has gone from $30 million with a roughly 25 percent interest in the company remaining with Turner to $3 million with Turner only being financially responsible for the remaining balance of the company’s 20 highest talent contracts).

March 26, 2001 – The last episode of “WCW Monday Nitro” airs on TNT. Throughout the broadcast, Eric Bischoff is touted as the “new owner” of WCW. He is seen at ringside and backstage observing “his” talent and speaking to various wrestlers. Also throughout the show, a crawl at the bottom of the screen gives times, dates and locations for various live shows under the banner “WCW Live & Loud!” These are fully-loaded house shows that will continue as a tour while plans for a WCW re-launch are finalized. In the Main Event of the night, WCW World Heavyweight Champion “Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner defeats Booker T. After the match Steiner lays a beatdown on Booker with a lead pipe until the lights flicker, the lightning strikes, and Sting repels down to the ring. The final image of the night is a face-off between Sting and Steiner then a fade to a graphic reading “WCW: The Big Bang! 06/03/01,” At the bottom an advertisement instructs viewers to visit to follow the story.

April 2, 2001 – No “Nitro,” but on and via other media outlets, Eric Bischoff and Fusient founder (and the real owner of WCW) Eric Bedol announce several deals, including news that the entire WCW Library will be re-broadcast nightly on the Classic Sports Network beginning that night with an airing of the first ever episode of “Nitro.” The broadcast will include promos for upcoming “WCW Live” shows, which will stick mostly to longtime WCW/NWA strongholds, primarily in the South and Midwest. Bischoff also announces that the new flagship show for the promotion, “WCW Monday Night Mayhem,” will launch Monday June 11, 2001, on the FX Network, with an online-only show, “WCW Full Axxess” to be produced weekly. Finally, the pair announced “The Big Bang!” would take place at the Hard Rock Casino Arena “The Joint” in Las Vegas, airing live on pay-per-view for only $19.95, Sunday night, June 3.

April 14, 2001 – The first “WCW Live & Loud” is held at the Pyramid Arena in Memphis, Tennessee. The crowd of nearly 4,000 paid is padded with an additional 2,500 free tickets given away at area schools. On the card, Jeff Jarrett comes out with “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. They are supposed to face Dusty and Dustin Rhodes, but Dusty comes out and says Dustin missed his flight. Jarrett insults Rhodes and badmouths his home town, issuing an open challenge for Dusty to find a partner. The crowd goes nuts when Jerry “The King” Lawler comes out to accept the challenge. Lawler, who had quit the WWF in February following the firing of his then-wife Stacy “The Kat” Carter, has signed with WCW. The Dream and The King put a Memphis-style whoopin’ on Jarrett and Flair. In the Main Event, Scott Steiner defends the WCW title against Sting, getting disqualified for using a lead pipe, though the Stinger turns the tables after the match with his trusty baseball bat. features some excerpts from the show.

April 21, 2001 – “WCW Live & Loud” makes its way to St. Louis, where another crowd of around 6,000 paid and comped fans see a virtual repeat of the Memphis card, only with Dustin in Lawler’s spot, and Lawler taking on Terry Funk in a street fight for the title of “WCW Commissioner,” won by Lawler after the Harris twins, Ron and Don, interfere on “The King’s” behalf, turning Lawler into the “heel commissioner” role. This time, Steiner wins over Sting after getting away with a lead pipe shot and putting Sting in the Steiner Recliner. The show also features a fantastic three-way for the WCW Cruiserweight title, as “Sugar” Shane Helms defeats Rey Mysterio and AJ Styles. The Natural Born Thrillers (Sean O’Haire & Chuck Palumbo) defeat Diamond Dallas Page and Lex Luger to retain the WCW Tag Titles, only to be attacked by Vampiro and “The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels.

April 28, 2001 – On another “Live & Loud” show, this one on the campus of the University of Alabama, Booker T defeats U.S. Champion Rick Steiner for the first title change of the new era. O’Haire and Palumbo defeat Shawn Stasiak and Mark Jindrak in a tag title match, and are again jumped post-match by Vampiro and Daniels, now calling themselves “The Dark Circle.” Sting defeats Mike Awesome in a solid match, and Scott Steiner and Jeff Jarrett defeat Diamond Dallas Page and Kevin Nash in the Main Event when Nash turns on Page and leaves him to the heels. Lex Luger and Booker T make the save and run the trio off.

May 5, 2001 – The Phillips Arena in Atlanta is the next stop on the WCW tour. A solid crowd of 7,500, most of which are actual paid tickets, comes out to see Luger, Booker T and Diamond Dallas Page take on Scott Steiner, Jarrett and Nash. The Dark Circle and Kronik have what is billed as a “#1 contenders match,” but it ends in a no contest. During the brawl, Bam Bam Bigelow comes out and sides with Vampiro and Daniels. In a Cruiserweight Tag Titles match, Kid Romeo & Elix Skipper are defeated by Jason Jett & AJ Styles, accompanied to the ring by Ric Flair, who gets a strong babyface reaction. Flair will later christen the team of Jett and Styles as “Stylin’ and Profilin’.” The biggest surprise of the night, though, comes when, after Luger wins the main event by forcing Jarrett to submit to the Torture Rack, the heels, joined by Rick Steiner, beat the faces down until a familiar song begins to play on the sound system. It’s Goldberg! The place erupts. Goldberg quickly spears his way through Nash, Rick and Jarrett, before coming face-to-face with Scott Steiner. The two lock eyes before the champ decides to slide out of the ring, cursing and shouting as the crowd chants “Goooold-Beeerg!”

May 1-13, 2001 – With the Internet all a-buzz about the return of Goldberg,’s servers struggle to keep up with all of the traffic. Other wrestling sites begin to see an impressive increase in traffic as well. As interest seems to be building in WCW, Bischoff takes the crew on a tour of Europe that includes huge crowds in London, Dublin, Berlin, Milan, and Barcelona. The WCW name did not lose as much of its luster overseas as it did in the U.S. Scott Steiner successfully defends the WCW World Title against Sting, Luger, DDP, and even a tough match against Mike Awesome when Sting comes down with the flu at the last minute. The cruiserweights are the definite highlight of the tour, paring off in various combinations, with one match between champ Shane Helms and challenger Christopher Daniels getting rave reviews. On the same card, Lance Storm and Chavo Guerrerro nearly capture the WCW Tag Titles, but O’Haire and Palumbo manage to eke out a win. O’Haire also impresses during a U.S. Title match with Booker T. Goldberg goes on a tear, going undefeated on the tour with wins against Konnan, Jeff Jarrett, Bam Bam Bigelow, Curt Hennig, Rick Steiner, and a handicap match against Ron and Don Harris, who have taken to wearing “suits of armor” and being referred to as “Sir Ron” and “Sir Don,” the King’s Knights, serving as enforcers for Commissioner Jerry Lawler.

May 18, 2001 – The arena in Charlotte, North Carolina is packed with more than 10,000 fans to see the first “WCW Live & Loud” show in the states following the very successful European Tour. On the card, The Dark Circle upsets Palumbo & O’Haire to win the tag belts. O’Haire turns on Palumbo following the loss. Mike Awesome comes close, but can’t wrest the U.S. title from Booker T. Shane Helms wins a 6-man ladder match against Chavo Guerrerro, Lance Storm, Jamie Noble, Rey Mysterio, and Billy Kidman. Stylin’ & Profilin’ with Ric Flair defeat Shawn Stasiak & Mark Jindrak with Miss Hancock (Stacy Keibler), when Hancock turns on her team and joins Flair’s crew. Lawler comes out and makes an announcement that there will be a four-man tournament to crown the #1 contender for Scott Steiner’s WCW title at “The Big Bang.” In the first round, Kevin Nash defeats Sting, while Goldberg defeats Jeff Jarrett. In the final, Scott Hall makes a surprise appearance, attempting to interfere on Nash’s behalf, but he accidentally zaps Nash instead, Goldberg then goes on to defeat Nash with the spear and jackhammer. In the final match of the night, Scott Steiner defeats Chris Kanyon. After the match Goldberg comes down to the ring. Lawler stops anything physical from happening, threatening to strip Steiner of the title and revoke Goldberg’s #1 contender status.

May 26, 2001 – WCW pulls into Richmond, Virginia for another big show. Sean O’Haire and U.S. Champion Booker T wrestle to a 20-minute draw. DDP and Mike Modest defeat Chris Kanyon and “Crowbar” Devon Storm. Shane Helms defends his cruiserweight title against Christopher Daniels, Vampiro defeats “Angry” Alan Funk. Mike Awesome defeats Rick Steiner, and “Above Average” Mike Sanders wins a triple-threat match to crown a #1 contender for the cruiserweight title against Rey Mysterio and Billy Kidman. He will face Helms for the belt at “The Big Bang.” The King’s Knights defeat Kronik. Sting and DDP go to a no contest with the reunited Outsiders, Hall & Nash. Goldberg defeats Curt Hennig and Scott Steiner defeats Chuck Palumbo. launches “The WCW Experience,” their online show. Using clips from the various house shows and sit-down interviews, host Scott Hudson hypes the card for “The Big Bang” pay-per-view.
May 31, 2001 – The final “Loud & Live” show before the pay-per-view takes place in Wichita, Kansas. Sean O’Haire wins a 20-man battle royal to win a U.S. title shot against Booker T at “The Big Bang.” Stylin’ & Profilin’ defeat Lance Storm & Chavo Guerrerro to become #1 contenders for the WCW tag belts. Elix Skipper & Mike Modest defeat Kid Romeo & Disco Inferno to become #1 contenders for the Cruiserweight Tag Titles. Lawler announces Sting, DDP, Lex Luger and Mike Awesome will take on The Outsiders, Rick Steiner and Jeff Jarrett in a “War Games” match at “The Big Bang.” The final card for the pay-per view is:

WCW World Heavyweight Title Match
“Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner w/Madajah vs. Goldberg

“War Games” Match
“Big Sexy” Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, “The Chosen One” Jeff Jarrett & Rick Steiner vs. Sting, Lex Luger, Diamond Dallas Page, & Mike Awesome

WCW World Tag-Team Championship
“The Dark Circle” – Vampiro & Christopher Daniels w/Bam Bam Bigelow vs. “Stylin’ & Profilin'” – AJ Styles & Jason Jett w/Ric Flair & Miss Hancock

U.S. Championship
Booker T vs. Sean O’Haire

Cruiserweight Title Match
“Sugar” Shane Helms vs. “Above Average” Mike Sanders

Cruiserweight Invitational Gauntlet Match
Billy Kidman, “Angry” Alan Funk, Billy Kidman, Mike Modest, Evan Karagias, Chavo Guerrerro, Alex Wright, Ultimo Dragon announced as appearing

Weapons Legal Battle Royal for the WCW Hardcore Championship
Shane Douglas, Terry Funk, Chris Kanyon, Konnan, Chuck Palumbo, “Crowbar” Devon Storm, Dustin Rhodes, La Parka announced as appearing

June 3, 2001 – “WCW Presents: The Big Bang!” airs live from The Joint at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas. 4,000 fans have been jammed into the facility to see the first pay-per-view of the new era. Viewers are welcomed to the show by announcers Mike Tenay, Commissioner Jerry Lawler, and in a surprise, Joey Styles!
In the opening bout, “Sugar” Shane Helms defeats “Above Average” Mike Sanders, with Helms picking up the win with his “Sugar Smack” finisher. Of note, he is accompanied to the ring by Torrie Wilson. In the match-up between World Tag Champs Vampiro & Christopher Daniels and Cruiserweight Tag Champs AJ Styles & Jason Jett, the Dark Circle picks up the win by nefarious means as the groups newest member, Gangrel, makes his debut, along with Luna Vachon, interfering on their behalf. Sean O’Haire picks up the upset win, capturing the U.S. Title from Booker T with a Sean-ton Bomb.
Next up is the Cruiserweight Invitational. In explaining the rules, it turns out to be a hybrid of a gauntlet match and a Royal Rumble-style match. Four men start the match, and every three minutes a new competitor enters the match. The only way to be eliminated is by pinfall or submission. The match is a complete 40-minute spot-fest, but the crowd is popping for everything. Making surprise appearances are Jerry Lynn and The Great Muta, but the biggest surprise comes as the last entrant comes out, and it’s Rob Van Dam! Van Dam eventually wins the match, eliminating Rey Mysterio with the 5-Star Frog Splash.
Lawler goes to the ring and reminds everyone to tune in to the FX Network next Monday night for the debut of Monday Night Mayhem. He touts all of the great new things that WCW will be doing in the months to come, including the company’s next pay-per-view, the Great American Bash, July 22.
Shane Douglas then comes to the ring with a rolling dumpster full of weapons, throwing them all into the ring. He then gets a ladder out from under the ring and gets in the ring, placing the ladder in the middle. He then produces the WCW Hardcore Title belt and straps it around a descended line. Douglas then climbs down and announces, “You want it, come get it!” Terry Funk is the first to answer the challenge, followed in short order by the rest of the participants. Surprise entrants include Mikey Whipreck, The Sandman, and Balls Mahoney of ECW fame. Joey Styles puts the extreme alumni over on commentary, although the actual “ECW” name is not mentioned (the crowd, however, gets the point across with a loud “ECW!” chant). Finally, during the heated action Rhino emerges from the crowd, wearing the ECW World Heavyweight Championship belt. Although the promotion had gone out of business earlier in the year, Rhino, the final ECW champ, still had the physical belt. After a series of gores (spears), he and Terry Funk are the last two men standing. One gore later, Rhino ascends the ladder and comes down with the Hardcore title. He then stands triumphant holding both belts above his head. He then takes the ECW title and tosses it in the dumpster Douglas had brought to ringside, with Styles effectively putting the WCW Hardcore belt as “the new gold standard for extreme.”
The cage is then lowered for the War Games semi-main event. Instead of the traditional double-ring, the structure is more of an oversized Hell in a Cell-like structure. The heels win the coin toss, thereby having a one-man advantage every five minutes until all eight men enter the ring. After a knock-down drag-out brawl, the end comes when Sting has Hall trapped in the Scorpion Leg-lock only to see Luger blindside the Stinger and knock him out. He then puts Sting in the Torture Rack until he passes out, oddly enough gaining the win for his opponents. The heels then lay a 5-on-3 beatdown until Randy Savage makes a shocking return and makes the save with a pair of bolt-cutters, first to cut the lock on the cage and then as a weapon.
While all the carnage is cleared, Eric Bischoff makes his first appearance of the night. He plays to the crowd, thanking them for their support and such until Lawler interrupts him and makes his way to the ring. The Harris Brothers join him. He basically says, “Your job here is done, this is my show now.” The King’s Knights look all menacingly at Bischoff, but Eric says he’s got a little backup, too, and out come Big Van Vader and Road Warrior Animal, wearing a hybrid of the old Road Warrior gear and Vader’s gear. Vader has grease paint designed like his mask. Lawler and the Harris twins back down.
Finally, in the Main Event of the evening, Goldberg and Steiner have a brutal match, but in the end Goldberg hits the spear and jackhammer and regains the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. He holds the belt high as the crowd chants his name. The cameras fade as Tenay reminds everyone to tune in to FX next Monday night at 8 p.m. for the debut of “Monday Night Mayhem.”

June 4, 2001 – On “The WCW Experience” online show, Scott Hudson interviews several of the promotion’s stars, and welcomes some of the new arrivals. Hudson also reminds viewers about the “Nitro” replays on The Classic Sports Network, which has been faring quite well in the cable ratings for a second-run show on a small network. The early numbers indicate around 350,000 buys for “The Big Bang,” not earth shattering numbers but very respectable. The WWF runs a huge show on Raw, including the Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian, Kane vs. Jeff Hardy in an Intercontinental Title match, Tazz vs. Raven in a hardcore match, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Chris Jericho for the WWF Championship. Though no one mentions WCW, it seems that Vince is well aware that his competition is far from dead.

June 11, 2001 – It’s the debut of “WCW Monday Night Mayhem” on FX. The first man in the ring for the new era of WCW is Rob Van Dam. He gives a laid back interview, and the crowd pops for his every word. He is interrupted by “Sugar” Shane Helms who says he’s the champ and RVD needs to recognize greatness when he sees it. Van Dam says he would if he saw any. The two get into a fracas in the ring until Lawler sends the Harris twins to pull them apart. He makes a match for later in the show between the two.
Next, out comes Ric Flair with Miss Hancock, leading Styles & Jett to the ring for a Cruiserweight Tag Title match against Elix Skipper & Shannon Moore. The match goes nearly 20 minutes, and the champs retain.
Scott Hudson is in the ring. He introduces the new WCW Champion, Goldberg, to a huge ovation. Hudson informs him that he has a match tonight in the Main Event, defending the title against Lex Luger. Goldberg says Luger will just be the first notch on his belt.
Animal & Vader, going by the name The Power Warriors, make their in-ring debut, defeating Chris Kanyon & Crowbar. At the top of the hour, RVD vs. Helms goes to a double count-out, after the pair, dueling on the top turnbuckle, crash outside onto the announce table.
New U.S. Champ Sean O’Haire squashes Rick Steiner in under a minute, finishing him off with a Sean-ton Bomb. In the next segment, Rey Mysterio comes to the ring, giving an impassioned speech about having a downturn in his career. He is interrupted by Dos Caras, Jr., who the announce team put over as CMLL champion in Mexico. The two argue in a mix of Spanish and English. Finally, Caras pulls out one of Mysterio’s old masks and tosses at Rey’s feet. The gist of it is that Caras feels like Mysterio lost his edge when he lost his mask. Rey goes to pick it up, but Caras steps on it and says if he wants it back he’ll have to earn it.
Lance Storm beats Mike Modest in a solid match. After the match, The Dark Circle, which now includes Vampiro, Christopher Daniels (now going exclusively by “The Dark Angel,”) Bam Bam Bigelow, Gangrel, & Luna Vachon, storm the ring and take out both men. Daniels cuts a promo saying they will bathe WCW in blood as Vachon pours a bucket of “blood” over Storm and Modest.
Jeremy Borash conducts an interview with Sting from the hospital, where he is in the shadows, but it is obvious he’s not wearing make-up. He vows revenge on Hall, Nash, Jarrett, “and my best friend” Lex Luger.
Rhino destroys La Parka in a quick Hardcore Title match, goring La Parka even though he was using his “air guitar” chair as a shield. Joey Styles puts Rhino over as “extreme for the new millennium.”
And in the Main Event, Goldberg defeats Lex Luger, despite attempted interference from Scott Steiner. Mike Awesome makes an appearance, thwarting Steiner’s attempts. Steiner and Awesome brawl to the back as Goldberg hits the spear and jackhammer. As promised earlier, after the match, Goldberg, breaking off a piece of La Parka’s chair left at ringside, takes the jagged metal bit and makes a notch in the strap of the WCW title, saying “That’s one! Who’s next?”

Okay, so that’s my take on what could have been if Eric Bischoff and Fusient Media Ventures had pulled off their acquisition of WCW. Obviously, I have no idea what really might have happened, but I tried to look at what was going on at the time and build from there. And I’m sure I got some other details wrong, but oh well. Were I to carry this out (and I might), I would have a lengthy reign for Goldberg and a transition of most of the older wrestlers into part-time guys and eventually a new generation of stars largely taking over by the end of the year, building to a real “changing of the guard” by Starrcade 2001.

Anyways, hope you enjoyed this ridiculously long thing (that’s what he said). Thanks for reading. RIP Paul Bearer.

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