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Rebooking WCW from July 1998


Liam O'Rourke
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So for this week's podcast, we're attempting the massive task of Rebooking WCW from July 1998 (after the Georgia Dome Nitro and Bash at the Beach), and would love to get your thoughts on what you'd have done to try and steer the company at a point when the Monday Night War was still neck and neck.

If you had to  take control in July 1998, what moves would you make at this pivotal time to prevent the fall that was? You have Goldberg as the new champion, a enormous roster filled with established star power, future superstars and underneath fodder to work with - what would be your priorities? Who would you push? Who would you de-emphasise and how? What feuds and angles would you put together to counter the rising momentum of the WWF? How do you deal with Hogan and the Hollywood/Wolfpac angle which is in full swing? How would you bring back Flair? And most key of all, what would you have on the docket for Starrcade in December?

As always, we will be reading the best contributions on the show and you'll be credited accordingly. So what would you have done as of July 1998?

EDIT - Podcast link: https://squaredcirclegazette.podbean.com/mf/download/hav5h4/SCG_Radio_139_-_Rebooking_WCW_in_July_1998.mp3

Edited by Liam O'Rourke
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This is such an interesting one. The product was red-hot. Slightly second place to the WWF but both growing hugely throughout 1998. It's not easy because of the politics that are everywhere and the weak management who bow down to Hogan. He's the key. He stomped all over the Sting reign and he'd stomp all over Goldberg's.

You have to tie Hogan up with something that allows Goldberg to be the man without making Goldberg feel secondary. The Wolfpac/nWo thing is already garbage at this point. Hall is on the wrong side. Sting should never be involved. I'd want to blow that off in double quick time. Ideally you'd have some of them off TV for a while but realistically, I don't think you can afford to do that. If we're rebooking, can we bin off Road Wild? That opens up the possibility to build to a big nWo blow-off at SummerFest in August in a Wargames match. Have Hall turn back with Nash and make the black and white losers leave WCW for 60 days.

Wolfpac would then destroy Sting the next night to establish themselves as heels and go off on a reign of terror until the Horsemen return and unite to take them on leading to a big match at Starrcade. Oh dear, that means Nash can't end the streak. I'd have Benoit win the match for the Horsemen who would exist to get him over as a top guy from this point.

I'd use the 60 days off to turn Hogan babyface through interviews and skits. He'd then lose to Goldberg in a babyface match at Starrcade. in the meantime, Goldberg would be the man. main event on every PPV regardless of what else was going on. The only problem is all of the opponents are babyfaces. Sting, Hart, DDP. I'd just keep his streak going in Nitro main events, all non-title squashes. He was doing great numbers around this time.

There is a dearth of heels. So while he's suspended for 60 days, Scott Steiner turns up anyway and murders people. No one gets "arrested" in shit angles except Scott. No-one flips anyone off or curses - except Scott. He's Stone Cold on roids and there is a rocket on his back because he's going to beat Goldberg. Probably at Spring Stampede 1999.

My other three projects would be Eddie G, Chris Jericho and Booker T. I'd build the US Title around an Eddie & Jericho feud that escalates from comedy, which they were both great at, to a blood feud ending with a cage match via a ladder match which would be awesome. I know this is somewhat reliant on Jericho re-signing but it would be absolutely gold. Considering how drab the WWF was in-ring from mid-1998 to 2000, this would be a real differentiator. Need ideas on Booker but he's too good to waste for another 2 years.

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Goldberg definitely has to be the focal point of WCW & everything built around him. It's interesting booking with the benefit of hindsight. Did anyone really know Benoit, Eddie, Rey, Chris Jericho & Booker would be breakout stars?. So you need to factor that in. Plus Hogan had a creative clause in his contract so I think he might be an issue with how Goldberg is being pushed. Plus you have an overloaded roster so first thing I'd do is cut it down. There's a talent agreement with New Japan so you could send some there to develop and bring in Liger, Chono, Muta etc.

The Cruiserweights were popular so Id put a lot of focus on them. I would also slowly faze out the nWo. I'd do a reverse Bash at the Beach scenario where Hogan turns back face and I'd turn Sting into a Ministry Taker type heel. Then you could have Sting v Hogan, Sting v Goldberg and plus which hasn't been mentioned, you have Bret Hart on the roster. So Bret would get a big push too.

As for reintroducing Ric, I'd have a WCW v nWo War Games where if the nWo loses they have to disband. Ric makes the save for Team WCW and reintroduces a new look Horsemen. However Ric turns heel again because Goldberg, Bret & Hogan are the top baby faces and the Horsemen become the new dominant heel faction in WCW. So you'd transition into a Horsemen vs WCW angle. Flair extends an invitation to Sting similar to when they tried to recruit him into the nWo, so you have the will he/won't he join going on. I'd de-push Hall & Nash, DDP, majority of the nWo guys. Scott Norton would be a henchman for hire who'd do beat downs for the Horsemen and a unofficial 5th member. 

I would put a lot of focus on the tag division and also have a 6 man tag title. Nitro would stay 2 hours and Thunder would be mainly focused on the Cruiserweights and be the "wrestling" show. Nitro would be more storyline driven. The roster as mentioned would be much smaller & Id try to work a deal with Paul E, so Raven, Public Enemy etc can go back and RVD, The Dudleyz come to WCW. Then you'd have another heel faction for Goldberg to go up against.

I would try and freshen things up regularly too so the fans don't get bored. I think WCW focusing too much on the nWo, having Goldberg lose momentum etc was what cost them. So bringing in new talent to go up against Bill, Cruiserweights being on fire, The Dudleyz etc tearing up the tag division, the Horsemen being revitalised as the top heels, no nWo dragging everything done, signing talent agreements with other promotions so WCW really has a "worldwide" feel.

Another thing I'd keep WCW family friendly so it appeals to everyone. Trying to be WWF Attitude too would backfire but I think you need characters with substance so there wouldn't be any cheesy gimmicks etc. Everyone would be involved in an angle too which is why I'd cut the roster size down and all storylines would intertwine with each other so everything makes sense. Long term you can push Eddie et al into main event positions but I don't think anyone in 1998 would thought he and Chris Benoit, Booker T, Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio would be future WWE World Champions. So it's important to factor that into the equation. With Hulk, Bret, Goldberg etc on the roster pushing say Eddie to WCW World Champion doesn't make much logical sense, so once the other talents time has past you then push the younger talent and until then let them shine in the Cruiserweight division and develop fan bases. Then if there's a clamouring for them to be a world champion you go for it. 

So really you need to focus on keeping WCW strong, shaking things up which are going stale, not really concerning yourselves with what Vince and co are doing too much, staying family friendly to attract more advertisers and being for everyone, have compelling storylines which make logical sense and characters the fans will root for and those who they will root against. It seems that the rot was starting to set in but this time too so to stop it you need to make moves fast to stop it happening. WCW had the financial resources to hire talent etc but I wouldn't over commit too much and reduce costs where possible in case a fall was in the horizon so plan B could kick in if A fails.

I would try and slowly faze out Hogan, Flair etc out of the top positions in the next few years too but there's a danger if you drop them they'd jump to the WWF and you'd have like Hogan v Austin, Hogan v Rock etc so thats another thing to consider. To book covering all bases is real difficult considering what we know now and  how the WWF really surpassed WCW. But ideally you keep Bill Goldberg strong and focus on areas which are your strengths. Nothing can really stop WWFs rise to the top but that's not to say WCW has to fall off. Just focus on what the fans want and for fans who don't like WWF you have a real alternative. Where you have great wrestling from the cruiser weights and compelling storytelling and a hero the fans can get behind in Goldberg. 

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I love this idea for a show Liam. Looking forward to hearing the rebooking ideas you guys  come up with. The key to it all is Hogan and keeping him out of the main program I think. Goldberg is the champion and needs to be in the main event/focus of the show, not the Hulkster. Not unless he is putting over Goldberg at every opportunity. 

Goldberg should be beating people until at least the spring, if not the summer of the following year. Even then, if the title is coming off him it's probably only temporary. 

Like others have suggested, end the NWO civil war as soon as possible and decisively. At the end of it I would want to be left with no NWO. If WCW is to survive long enough, then the NWO will have ended before it completely lost all goodwill, and it means it can always be brought back at a later date for a short term reunion. 

I wouldn't bring in Warrior either. Not unless the plan is for him to lose to Goldberg - which he isn't going to agree to. An easy Million dollars saved there. 

We're also going to Canada every month. Bret Hart is getting a huge push in my WCW. He might even get Lance Storm's future gimmick of re-naming the U.S Title the Canadian Heavyweight championship and pretending like it's 1997 WWF all over again as the dual cross border heel/baby. 

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Very concisely: 

Keep Nash away from the booking. Don't hire Warrior or Sid Vicious. Build Jericho and/or Benoit up to the main event and even be the ones to break Goldberg's streak. Putting the title on Benoit and Booker when they did was too little, too late. They should have done that years earlier rather than it swapping between old guys out of their prime.

Also, dump all the celebrity cameos. A lot of money and PPV match time wasted on people like Rodman, Leno, Malone and Master P. Bands like Megadeth and KISS playing on the show killed ratings too.

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First action is massive roster cull. Streamline how many need focus and the guys you let go at bottom of rung will come work a per night deal of needed anyway 

limit who appears where. Goldberg for example still gets one squash per week, but also has a semi competitive match on thunder to help tune him up more 

rehabilitate The Giant. Have him be the guy Goldberg can’t get up for moves. He’s your heel for starrcade and a believable streak ender if anyone wanted to go that way. 

Give away ppvs to a UK tv channel for next to nothing just to have them seen. Back then that would be perfect ITV Saturday afternoon tv. Get eyes on your still identified as the top guys in the uk who remember Hogan , savage etc from 90-93 and run shows here earlier 

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Join Liam O'Rourke, Karl Jones, Luke Edwards and Kieran O'Rourke, as they attempt to Rebook WCW in July 1998! Tackling all the major issues of the time, the panel looks to hash out a plan to tackle the rising momentum of the WWF, one week following Goldberg's title win at the Georgia Dome. What happens to the nWo, and how do we deal with Hulk Hogan? Who on the enormous roster do we cut? Who do we push? What happens to the titles? What major matches do we build for Starrcade 1998? In addition, we have suggestions from you, the loyal listeners, on what you'd have done to keep the ship on track. An entertaining and thought-provoking show as always, check it out!

https://squaredcirclegazette.podbean.com/mf/download/hav5h4/SCG_Radio_139_-_Rebooking_WCW_in_July_1998.mp3

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