By Mike Mooneyham
April 1, 2001
“To the victor goes the spoils.”
Those weren’t exactly Vince McMahon’s words last Monday night as he gloated over his expanding wrestling universe, but they were mighty close to it. And they certainly weren’t those of Ted Turner, whose beloved “rassling” company was sold to his longtime nemesis in what seemed a blink of an eye. The carefully chosen words did, however, succinctly reflect the sentiment of David Crockett, who watched a 29-year tradition of wrestling on Turner’s stations come to an end.
Crockett, a veteran WCW television production executive, fondly remembers the days when his father, “Big Jim” Crockett Sr., promoted weekly Monday night shows at the old Park Center in Charlotte and was one of the driving forces in the National Wrestling Alliance. David’s brother, Jim Jr., took over the promotion after their father’s death and served as NWA president while running Crockett Promotions out of a small building on Charlotte’s Brianbend Drive that housed an office, a small kitchen, a wrestling ring, a TV studio and a whole lot of memories.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]”I built the TV truck. I built our production facility. I directed shows. I produced shows. I was announcing on shows. If I had to I’d bring the camera,” says Crockett, his voice trailing off.
Now WCW, along with the powerful WWF, is owned by the most powerful man in wrestling – Vincent K. McMahon Jr. For storyline purposes Vince’s son, Shane, will be in charge of the new WCW, along with its own separate wrestling crew and creative team. Both companies, however, will be run out of Titan Towers in Stamford, Conn.
“I never thought it would come to this,” says Crockett. “I thought I’d always be fighting him (McMahon) – in some way. It’s a shame. But I enjoyed it.”
Crockett laments the fact that WCW could still be thriving on the Turner net works had better business decisions been made. It was TBS that put wrestling on the national stage years before McMahon gobbled up the territories and took the industry to a new level. He says the company’s downfall came when those in charge lost sight of the bottom line.
“It’s a shame that upper management let their egos get in the way,” says Crockett. “But that’s exactly what happened. When management intersects themselves into storylines – and I’m not saying anything against Eric (Bischoff) per se, but all of a sudden you get snake-bitten. It happened to my brother, Jimmy, it happened to Jim Herd, it happened to Bill Watts, it happened to Kip Frey. Everytime someone started to do well, they got on TV and everything went to pot. You can get the best ratings in the world, but when it costs you more than you are bringing in, it does not work. But what do I know?”
It seemed only fitting that WCW’s last match on TNT featured Ric Flair, for years the flagship of the company, and Sting, WCW’s eternal franchise. Although the 52-year-old Flair had a shoulder operation last year and Sting later underwent elbow surgery of his own, neither would have passed up the opportunity to close this chapter. While other former world champions were invited to take part in the festivities but refused, it was Sting, who had remained loyal to WCW since its inception, who made one last trip down memory lane with the Nature Boy.
And while Flair, by all rights, should have gone over in the match, he remained the team player until the end, symbolically passing the torch to his longtime rival on the way out. After the 14-time world champion put over his opponent cleanly in the middle of the ring, the two embraced in a show of genuine emotion that marked the end of an era on Turner networks.
For Crockett the change is bittersweet. He realizes that something radical had to happen, because in the end, it was a case of the inmates running the asylum, laying waste to the fertile ground that had been sown by a generation of blood, sweat and tears.
“At least a wrestling person has it … a wrestling family has it,” says Crockett. “Their objective is the bottom line. They had a plan. These people (at Turner) didn’t have a plan. As long as they got the rating point on Monday, that was it. You forget about tomorrow or next week or six months from then.”
The bigger picture, though, is that the poorly managed WCW will now get the shot in the arm it has so desperately needed. Vince McMahon, in a matter of mere minutes last Monday night, managed to get over the WCW product more effectively than WCW itself had done the past three years.
McMahon, whose vendetta with Turner took very personal turns over the past decade, will get to write the final chapter of the story. He will realize his dream of having complete control of the wrestling business after purchasing the remaining assets of WCW – the contracts of a select group of WCW wrestlers, the WCW name and its valuable tape library. The move will no doubt meet opposition in some circles, with critics questioning the logic of McMahon, in the midst of the money-losing XFL debacle, investing more funds into salaries that have caused WCW serious financial problems. There’s also the potential problem of established WWF stars being reluctant to put over WCW performers in future interpromotional storylines.
There were many ironies as the clock wound down on the old WCW, not the least of which was that this former Jim Crockett territory should die out in the midst of a Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes feud. And it seemed only fitting that WCW’s last pay- per-view under Turner auspices was titled “Greed,” for it certainly was greed that put the final nails in the coffin of World Championship Wrestling.
And it certainly was no coincidence that Tony Schiavone, the longtime voice of WCW, was not given a chance to say his final goodbye on Monday night’s broadcast. Ironically it was the voice of Jim Ross, who was denied the same opportunity at WCW nearly a decade ago, that viewers heard sign off last week. Even more uncanny was the commercial for Wrestle mania that immediately followed on TNT – much to the surprise of those in the WCW production truck.
Among the many developments coming out of one of the biggest stories in the history of professional wrestling:
Jerry Jarrett and J.J. Dillon reportedly are forming a partnership to start a new promotion.
Sources say USA Network may be interested in a new wrestling show.
Nearly lost in the buzz surrounding the events of the past week is the biggest wrestling show of the year – Wrestlemania – tonight at a sold-out Houston Astrodome featuring The Rock against Steve Austin.
Shane McMahon told WCW performers at a meeting before Nitro that talent was being re-evaluated and everyone was on a level playing field as far as the new company was concerned. He said WCW would be run as a separate company and that WCW would be dormant for six to eight weeks before debuting on TNN in a new time slot. WCW’s first taping is tentatively scheduled May 9 in Trenton, N.J. Jim Ross reported Friday that the TNN show could start as early as May 12 from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Booker T became the third man in WCW history to hold both the U.S. and world titles at the same time.
Jimmy Hart, a longtime supporter of the WWF, will retain his job as part of the WCW backstage production team.
Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan were scheduled to appear at AXXESS in Houston this weekend to promote Wrestlemania. The two are expected to be hired for announcing roles in WCW. Scott Hudson and Larry Zbyszko also reportedly are being considered.[ad#MikeMooneyham-468×15]
Former WCW creative director Vince Russo, who went on the sidelines last October when he suffered concussions from working matches, has worked out a deal with AOL-Time Warner that releases him from his contract and allows him to work on new projects. Russo had about six months left on his WCW contract but reached the early settlement.
Russo, a former WWF scriptwriter who left Vince McMahon high and dry to take a similar position with WCW 18 months ago, said last week on his Web site that he didn’t plan on going back to work for the WWF, but that if McMahon called, he’d be there. Wrote Russo:
“The truth is, the World Wrestling Federation was always my home. It hurt so much to leave … but I knew I had to. I want to also thank everybody in the World Wrestling Federation who I had the plea sure of working with
you have some very talented people there. But, most of all, I’d like to thank the entire McMahon family. I cared for Vince, Linda, Shane and Stephanie as if they were my own flesh and blood. The fact is
I still feel that way toward them today. It was special
so special. My relationship with Vince will never be repeated. It was an experience of a lifetime. He taught me more than he will ever know
and I can’t wait until the day that we can talk again. God, I can only imagine how he felt on Monday night. To see his dream become his reality
it was a special night. You have to respect what he accomplished.
“So, the question – Will Vince Russo go back to the WWF? The answer is short – and simple – no. First of all, Vince Mc Mahon doesn’t need Vince Russo. He now owns the greatest, richest talent roster in the history of the business
you want to see ratings? You’re about to see ratings. Secondly – it’s just not the right thing for me. I don’t believe in going backward in life. I’ve been there, and I’ve done that, it is time to once again move on
grow. I’m a leader at heart, and in order to survive
I must lead. However, if the situation ever did arise where Vince needed me
I would be there for him, just like he was for me on so many occasions.”
Shawn Michaels, who was scheduled to headline the April 29 Backlash pay-per- view teaming with Triple H against Kane and The Undertaker, had a planned angle at Smackdown Tuesday night scrapped when management deemed Michaels in no condition to appear on TV. Michaels, who had attended Raw on Monday night to talk to management about future storylines, left before the show started and is not expected to appear at Wrestlemania.
Michaels’ backstage behavior both nights reportedly raised concerns among management that he might not be fit to return to the ring anytime soon.
Jerry “The King” Lawler and wife Stacy Carter (formerly Kat) were given their WWF releases last week.
WCW staff was officially informed at a meeting Wednesday at the Power Plant that the company was being shut down and all employees were being laid off. After being asked to turn in their phones, pagers and other company items, they were sent to their offices one last time to gather their belongings. A WWF representative told the employees that they were free to apply for a job with the Stamford, Conn., WWF offices and they would be given full consideration.
The WCW staffers will receive nine weeks severance pay plus four weeks of pay for every year of service. Some WCW employees have been retained for a transitional period as WCW switches ownership to the WWF. Among them are Diana Myers (legal), Aaron Blitz stein (marketing), Rob Garner (syndication and advertising) and Steve Barrett (production).
Dusty Rhodes announced that his promotion, Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling, will be doing a pay-per-view in the fall. Rhodes lamented the demise of wrestling on the Turner networks, but said that his own promotion will be getting television soon and that he planned to use some of the company’s names, like son Dustin, on his show.
Benny Loyd McCrary, who shared a world record with his brother as the heaviest twins, died Monday of heart failure in Hendersonville, N.C. He was 54.
Benny and Billy, listed at 814 pounds and 784 pounds in the Guinness Book of World Records, are most widely recognized in a famous photograph of them on motorcycles. It was taken as they rode across country for a Honda promotion.
Te twins traveled around the world as wrestling’s biggest tag team during the ’70s and billed themselves as The McGuire Twins because announcers had difficulty pronouncing McCrary. They appeared several times on “The Tonight Show.”
After Billy was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1979, Benny teamed up with other wrestlers, including Andre the Giant, before retiring from the sport. He later bought a pawn shop in Hendersonville where he worked as an auctioneer. In 1998, McCrary moved with his wife Tammie to Walkertown, N.C., and began working for the Christian Golfers Ministry at the Pine Knolls Golf Course.
McCrary and his brother began gaining weight when they were 4 years old after their pituitary glands were damaged by German measles. “That’s why our parents bought the farm,” he said in a 1998 interview. “They said `Maybe they’ll burn the calories up working on the farm.'”
The twins weighed 200 pounds each by age 10 and had topped 600 pounds by age 16. The McCrary brothers grew up in Hendersonville, but dropped out of East Henderson High School to travel to Texas, where they worked branding cattle.
The wrestler playing Doink The Clown in tonight’s Wrestlemania battle royal will be Gary Fall, also known as Ray Apollo, who masqueraded as one of the Doinks last decade in the WWF. The original Doink was Matt Borne (Matt Osborne).
Ricky Steamboat has sold his gym in North Carolina and is concentrating on helping out his son’s racing career. Richie, who is 14, wants to be involved in Busch Grand National in 10 years. Hid dad is on his pit crew.