The Death of WCW Revised and Expanded edition, ECW Press, RD Reynolds and Byan Alvarez, 2014.
One of the biggest stories in wrestling is without a doubt the advent of the WCW and more specifically the “Monday Night Wars” of mid-90s/early 00s. A mere mention of the name WCW will elicit chuckles or harken fond memories from wrestling fans. Since it’s demise a lot has been saying about the WCW and it’s rise and fall. The Death of the WCW puts World Championship Wrestling under a microscope in an effort to understand exactly what happened to this once profitable organization.
So what killed the WCW? It was a small independent company when it started out that became very competitive when it signed a lot of WWF’s previous big stars. For a time was even more successful than Vince McMahon’s company. What went wrong? Well the authors attribute the fall to a number of things. Among others are; Poor writing/booking, a roster of aging stars with hardly any young talent and whoever happened to be managing the company that week.
To begin, there’s a LOT of “dirt”. That goes for backstage politics, whoever was in charge that week, decisions, writers, firings/hirings, statistics, ratings, financials and more. The Rise and Fall of the WCW works as a tell-all/behind the scenes type of book. Mostly a lot of shaming and who was responsible for events that lead to the demise of the WCW (or that the authors just found particularly funny and/or stupid). A few names are repeated over and over again over the course of the book: Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Eric Bischoff, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall.
“The main problem I have with The Death of WCW stems from the book’s sources and biases. It feels as if we’re supposed to take everything they say as gospel.”
The introduction on the backstory of wrestling, the WWF/E and WCW sold me on the book. The history they give on wrestling and territories was very well-written and lengthy. The copy that I own is the 10 year anniversary edition of the book, with added content (more on that later).
There are a few highlights. Reading about how the WCW slowly rose and acquired WWF’s talent and beat them in the ratings was wonderful. WCW’s demise was equally as fun to delve into. Some of the mismanagement of finances will capture anyone’s attention. For instance, finding out that they paid a wrestler for months/years without them even stepping in the ring was astounding to me. The list of World Championship Wrestling’s mistakes goes on and on
Chris Jericho’s debut was remembered fondly, as were the NWO who receive plenty of coverage. The parts on Goldberg take you back to just how big of a star he was, and how big he flopped under poor booking. After reading the book, poor booking definitely seemed to be a reoccurring theme for the WCW. It’s amazing to look back on some of the terrible wrestling and writing that was happening in the organization, while reminding yourself that the company used to dish out an entertaining product that could compete with then WWF.
The main problem I have with The Death of WCW stems from the book’s sources and biases. It feels as if we’re supposed to take everything they say as gospel when there isn’t much of a bibliography; this one my main gripes with the book. If the information was properly attributed and sourced it surely would’ve affected my rating. The authors also seem to be huge fans of Ric Flair and appear biased towards others. As interesting as it is to read, I feel the book would’ve benefited from some professionalism. If it was more academic and less biased (and sourced!), it truly could’ve hit it out of the park.
Some of the content is excellent and will have you devouring this book. Simply put: when it’s good, it’s really good. At times however, it’s just summaries of WCW episodes with snarky comments and little else. There is good amount of analyzing happening, and the authors know how to evaluate events and make them interesting or at least find some form of controversy within it. The financial aspects were great (and the ratings to a certain extent), -if they happen to be true – as again, the sources are sorely lacking. Reading about the ratings may be boring to some, but it really helps puts things into perspective on the death of a once successful wrestling promotion.
The 10 year anniversary updated edition has some more content as the cover claims, but if you own or if you’ve read the original you’re honestly not missing out on a whole lot. Basically some notes attached to the original text and a section poking fun at TNA Impact wrestling and how they have not learned from WCW’s mistakes. It’s truly amazing to see how TNA mirrors WCW in certain ways and repeats their bad decisions. As an “anniversary edition”, they missed an opportunity to create something special if you ask me. They could have added more sections/content and interviews.
As it is, the original manuscript stands on it’s own. The only great thing this 10 year anniversary edition does is introduce the book to a whole new generation of wrestling fans.
Even from a business point of view, The Death of WCW is fascinating. Guidelines on what NOT to do if you’re in business. I knocked down a star and a half because as fascinating and fun as the book is in the beginning, towards the end it becomes a bit tiresome and monotone ( and ends up mostly blaming everybody). Lack of sources and in some cases, summaries-only made the rating go down a bit for me.
If you are or ever were a wrestling fan, this book is a good read and covers the WCW, the Monday Night Wars and the wrestling industry adequately. Wrestling fans should find some of the content interesting, but it’s a little uneven overall. Also as an update on an existing volume, l feel it doesn’t add enough content to justify a higher rating. 3 1/2 stars out 5.