Alternate Wreality: WCW/ECW Merger – Introduction

Fans of pro wrestling, much like the fans of “real” sports, are history buffs at heart. They can always tell one of the uninitiated about where and when a certain pivotal event took place.

January 23, 1984. New York City. Hulk Hogan defeats the Iron Sheik for the then-World Wrestling Federation (WWF) Championship. The pop culture phenomenon known as “Hulkamania” is born.

March 31, 1985. New York City. The first “Wrestlemania” supercard features Hulk Hogan, Mr. T., Rowdy Roddy Piper, Muhammad Ali, Billy Martin, Cyndi Lauper and Liberace. The event launched the WWF into the mainstream media.

July 7, 1996. Daytona Beach, Florida. Again, Hulk Hogan makes history. This time, as the “third man” joining “Outsiders” and ex-WWF stars Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to form the New World Order. The move enabled World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the WWF’s biggest rival, to catch and defeat the WWF in the TV ratings for nearly eighteen straight months.

November 7, 1997. Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Vince McMahon calls for the bell in a WWF title match and awards the belt to the challenger, Shawn Michaels. The champion, Bret Hart, was on the last day of his contract before moving to. The incident, since known as the “Montreal Screwjob”, birthed the “Attitude Era” and propelled the WWF into the popular consciousness once again.

February 18, 2001. Cleveland, Ohio, and Panama City Beach, Florida. Vince McMahon announces that he has purchased WCW from AOL-Time Warner. In his own words, “I now own my competition.” The wrestling ratings wars were over.

As any history buff knows, if some event were to have an outcome other than what the record shows, then the results would be entirely different.

For instance, one possible outcome, the one we know as “historical fact”, was that Vince McMahon used the capital from his initial public offering (IPO) of WWF stock to purchase the struggling WCW from AOL-Time Warner executives who were all too eager to sell.

Another possible outcome could have been that former WCW President Eric Bischoff was successful in not only buying the floundering company, but securing a new television distribution deal.

A third potential alternative, one which we will explore here, involves another professional wrestling company that had fallen on bad financial times. Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), owned and run since 1994 by former WWF and WCW personality Paul Heyman, ran its last show in January 2001. With both WCW and ECW closed down, Vince McMahon and his newly-christened World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) was, for a while at least, the only game in town.

In the original historical scenario, the “evil empire” of Vince McMahon’s WWE gobbled up his rivals, much as he did with the regional territories a decade earlier. In next week’s article, we will explore the scenario in which a wealthy, connected wrestling fan came to the rescue of both WCW and ECW. In this scenario, we see a strong, vibrant WCW host its biggest pay-per-view card of the year: Starrcade 2001.

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