In the 1980’s and 90’s the WWF and WCW were not just two separate companies, they were two separate cultures. Comparing the in ring work of the WWF and WCW during the last great wrestling boom reveals a distinct difference in wrestling philosophy. The WWF has been for the past few decades a perfect example of the “sports entertainment” model of professional wrestling.
[adinserter block=”1″]Matches are meant to convey a sense of grandeur and theatrics. Much of the current WWE fan base grew up watching only “sports entertainment” style matches. It is important that we do not forget that there was at one time another style of professional wrestling that enjoyed widespread popularity in America. What I am speaking of is the gritty Southern style wrestling that WCW once offered. Southern wrestling thrived by offering a much more organic and realistic approach to in ring competition. Southern wrestling is as distinct a style as Japanese wrestling or Lucha Libre, and it attracts a specific type of fan that more often than not has little interest in the sports entertainment style.
Many wrestling historians believe that the death of WCW led to an exodus of Southern wrestling fans from the sport altogether. These Southern fans were alienated by the product offered by the McMahons, and with no national alternative available the Southern wrestling fan simply quit following wrestling altogether. Evidence of this can be seen in the current lack of wrestling viewership as compared to the 80’s and 90’s. Wrestling is simply not as popular as it once was, and it is my belief that the reason for this is the death of Southern wrestling. There is an entire segment of the wrestling fan population that simply will not settle for anything but the Southern style. If the WWE wants to bring those fans back into the fold then they are going to have to create a business strategy that allows for both sports entertainment and Southern style creative platforms.
THE WCW BRAND
WWE has the capability to revitalize the current wrestling environment and surpass the viewership levels of the 80’s and 90’s, but it will require a radical new business model and massive change within the company. The WCW brand is synonymous with Southern wrestling and the popularity of the former #1 wrestling promotion in the world remains strong. All you have to do is look at the popularity of current crop of WCW dvds to see that there is a demand for the type of wrestling offered by the defunct promotion.
WWE has the power to attract the Southern wrestling fan once again. It is time to relaunch the WCW brand as an alternative to Monday Night RAW. A revitalized WCW could allow the WWE to expand their talent pool and offer a wider variety of in ring styles. RAW will remain the sports entertainment powerhouse that it has always been, and the new WCW will offer the Southern style wrestling that is so greatly missed by millions of fans. The WCW brand is money on the table for the WWE, they just have to make sure that past feelings about the brand do not get in the way of a successful relaunch.
HOW TO RELAUNCH WCW
A successful WCW relaunch must begin with a slimming down of current WWE programming. Friday Night Smackdown has become a shell of its former self and serves only as supplemental programming to RAW. For WCW to be rebuilt, Smackdown must be eliminated. In place of Smackdown the WWE should create a new programming platform for WCW. The death of Smackdown and the rebirth of WCW could be an amazing creative opportunity in terms of storylines and press campaigns. Such a drastic change in WWE programming would surely create a media storm that would instantly pique the interest of even the most jaded wrestling fan.
The establishment of the new WCW would have to be followed by a hardline brand split. WCW and RAW wrestlers should only appear on one another’s show on rare occasions. This will create a competitive environment wherein talent on each show will work to outdo each other. By creating their own competition, the WWE can expand their audience and motivate their talent without having to worry about losing money.
Of course for WCW to be a competitive brand it must offer in ring competition that differentiates itself from what is presented on RAW each week. It is not enough to just have exclusive performers, WCW must recapture the essence of Southern wrestling and attract the long lost Southern wrestling fan. Southern wrestling is still a popular style on the American independent scene. The talent required for a WCW relaunch is available, but the WWE cannot rely on their same standards of talent development if the new WCW is to succeed. The WWE must create an independent developmental and creative team to oversee the growth of the new WCW. If this independent team is not formed, the new WCW could fall victim to the same pitfalls that destroyed the relaunched ECW. The new WCW cannot be a different shade of sports entertainment, it has to be Southern wrestling to the core and it has to offer a truly alternative approach to both storylines and in ring work.
[adinserter block=”2″]Imagine the possibilities of a relaunched WCW. The failings of the infamous Invasion angle could finally be corrected and the WWE could ignite the spark that sends us into the next boom period in professional wrestling. There is really nothing to lose and a whole lot of money to gain. Hopefully the WWE can see the true value of the WCW brand and give the fans a wider variety of programming that appeals to every segment of the wrestling fan population.
[amazon_link id=”B00JHH1YAW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]WWE The Paul Heyman Story[/amazon_link]