Author’s Note: Please note that the following edition of NTWICW was written several months ago.
“So at the very end of the day, when people ask, “Do you think there’ll ever be another competitor to WWE?” my answer is, “I don’t think so.” When people ask, “Will you ever go head-to-head with Vince McMahon again?” my answer is, “Probably not.” But never say never.”
(Eric Bischoff with Jeremy Roberts, Controversy Creates Ca$h, Pocket Books,2006).
From whether Mickey Rourke will be at WrestleMania XXV to why Randy Savage and Vince McMahon (allegedly) fell out, rumours and speculation make up a big part of the online wrestling landscape. Always have, always will. One rumour that won’t go away is that Eric Bischoff and/or Hulk Hogan are going to launch their own wrestling company in an attempt to give Vince McMahon serious competition.
Recently, the story gained more credence when it was reported that Bischoff and Hogan have had talks with CMT about creating a new wrestling promotion that would air on the channel. Along with such reports came criticism that “the issue at hand is that there appears to be no “name” talent that could appear with the promotion that is not currently signed to WWE, TNA or ROH. The only big name free agents available at this point, excluding Hogan, are RVD, Goldberg and Bobby Lashley.” (Source: WrestleZone).
Even WWE’s Good Ol’ Jim Ross joined in the speculation in an addition of his Barbeque Blog:
“Is Eric Bischoff going to start a new, wrestling promotion using CMT as his network? I don’t know the answer but Bischoff is an aggressive, entrepreneur who understands the art of the deal. Being successful in this genre is all about talent and television and there, unfortunately, is no abundance of available talent out there that could headline a weekly TV show. Producing a slick looking show is less challenging than creating a viable talent roster in today’s marketplace. However, I will add that if anyone could pull this off it would be Bischoff.”
Indeed the biggest obstacle facing a successful start-up promotion is precisely that lack of talent. Is there even enough out there to make this a viable option? In this edition of NTWICW I will examine exactly that question.
Before I start, let me make it clear that I am NOT holding my breath on it going ahead. I think IF it did happen it would be something like this…
Building A Roster From Scratch
During his time behind the wheel at WCW, Bischoff gained a reputation for “stealing” the opposition’s talent. It’s a load of rubbish of course – you can’t just go up to someone working for someone else and force them to join your wrestling company. ‘The Bisch’ himself has stated on more than one occasion, that he simply negotiated with talent who’s contracts were about to expire (thus legally able to negotiate) and offered them a better deal.
The decision of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to join WCW was seen as a major loss to the WWF in 1996, not least because their WWF characters Razor Ramon and Diesel were considered part of McMahon’s ‘Top Five’ alongside Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker in terms of name value and merchandise sales. Today it would be a difficult task to persuade any WWE headliner to jump to a new and unproved company without the established name that WCW had behind it. In 2009 the unfortunate reality is that for many inside the business WWE is the only game in town. They therefore face the task of building a roster ‘from scratch’ using the best available names outside WWE and TNA. Is it even possible to assemble such a roster? And if so how would it look?
Networking For A Job
A Bischoff-Hogan operation would mean certain workers are almost a given. I can see some of Hogan’s mates (Knobbs, Beefcake, Jimmy Hart) being offered some kind of role even if only part-time occasional appearances on TV. I reckon a few of Bischoff’s pals (DDP, The Cat, Sonny Onoo) would at least be offered something as well. Whether they’d be willing to come back is an entirely different matter. So there would be some ‘WCW Nostalgia’ going on which isn’t really a bad thing per se, just as long as it wasn’t the whole show.
By that same token, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see at least a few ex-WCW guys who never went to WWE (or didn’t do as well as they did ‘Down South’ when they did) who are currently not in TNA to turn up. Not so much talking about headliners here as the guys who where in the WCW mid-card for years (Rick Steiner, Bagwell, Kanyon, etc.) none of whom are really associated with TNA in a big way but are associated with the old WCW. Now obviously one can’t build the entire roster just around veterans, but it would help fill up the card.
The Main Event
In terms of headling shows I think they’d have to go after the biggest names out there not in either WWE or TNA. When you factor out guys currently working in other industries (Brock Lesnar, The Rock) then it is actually quite a small list. Hogan aside, then Goldberg, Rob Van Dam and Scott Hall are probably the most obvious names.
To stand a chance of looking like a ‘Big Time’ promotion from the outset management would have to work on signing the above, along with offering a good deal to any TNA guys with name value (meaning the very top Kurt Angle/Sting level guys) and a contract that is running out. Throw in a few disgruntled upper mid-carders who are fed up with WWE (hard to predict who this might be but if someone like a Carlito, a Mr. Kennedy or a Shelton Benjamin was fed up with the way things were going and they thought there was a viable alternative with decent money then getting a couple of them would be ideal). That goes for non-wrestlers too – Joey Styles would be the ideal Play-by-Play Commentator once his WWE Deal runs out. Right now, I can’t see them getting the top guys who are in WWE but if they could get someone like Angle then it would set up some potentially interesting matches pitting the Olympian against Goldberg and Hogan.
The other thing I think they could and would do to get some publicity is use some celebrities from outside wrestling. With Bischoff’s Hollywood connections and Hogan having not only hung out with the celebs but being a household name in his own right for so long, they have distinct an advantage here over most of the other companies that have tried to start up. Take advantage of Hogan’s Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling show and try and get a few of the contestants to work a match (or even just a couple of angles) on PPV or TV.
If this promotion ever went ahead then I would be shocked if they didn’t get some celebs to appear. Once again I’m not saying they all would but I think they would at least try.
Bischoff-led WCW made use of international connections and talent trading agreements to bring us some of the most exciting wrestlers in the world. In 1994-1998 working arrangements gave us Heavy and Junior heavyweights from New Japan (NJPW), luchadores from Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA) and later Konnan’s Promo Azteca, and even joshi performers from All Japan Women, JWP and GAEA.
I can definitely see this promotion following that formula. If they could form a working relationship with AJPW or NOAH then they could get access to some talent not familiar to WWE/TNA fans in exchange for sending some of their (Hogan and Bischoff’s) mid-carders on Japanese tours. If they worked with, say AJPW and they could bring in The Great Muta or even Kaz Hayashi whom at least some of the old WCW fans will remember but who haven’t been shoved down our throats on Raw and IMPACT every week so will seem fresh. For some reason, the idea of Muta vs. Hogan all these years later (Fun Fact: they first met in 1993) interests me.
Best Of The Rest
I said before that one can’t build a roster entirely on veterans and some younger talent is a must for future development not least because they will (barring injury or other outside circumstances) still be wrestling in five years time. Considering Bischoff’s “formula” and the infamous “talent raids” on ECW, then it makes sense that any top-line ROH talent who’s contract is up for renewal would be fair game. In fact the current ‘bigger’ Indy names not in WWE/TNA would be a good start for building the mid-card around.
Women’s wrestling seems to be all the rage these days and Bischoff is a guy who has often being credited for having his finger on the pulse. In terms of a Women’s Division I’d imagine the same would apply to the top stars of Shimmer or the other women’s groups out there.
Add in the better workers who were released from WWE in the latest series of cuts, last Summer (Murdoch, Burke, Nunzio) who didn’t go to TNA and in the past few weeks (Venis, D-Lo, Cabana) and the better guys from Memphis (White, King, Dotson) and you have nice looking roster in terms of a mix of people who have been seen before in WWE/WCW/TNA and ‘new faces’ from the Indy/International scene.
The Name Game
One thing I always noticed about Nitro was in many ways the only thing in common about the people Bischoff was signing when WCW were signing every free agent in 1998 (be it to fill a slot on the WCW roster or to stop then going to McMahonland) was whether they had a “name”. It didn’t matter whether it was from a while ago (Enos, Nord, Bloom, Darsow, etc.) or whether it was because they had a cult following from having been in ECW (Sandman, Whipwreck). I think the equivalent today would be some people who have been in WWF/WWE/WCW/ECW and the bigger names from the Indy and International scenes. Not all are working right now. Not all would be willing to come back. However all would at least be worth phoning.
This is partly what I’d like to see and partly what I could realistically see Bischoff and Hogan going for. With that in mind, I think the best roster I can put together would be something like this:
Main Eventers/Main ‘Draws’:
Hulk Hogan – If Hogan didn’t use himself as a headliner for the purposes of establishing his own promotion it would not only be an odd business decision, it would go against the grain of his entire past career.
Bill Goldberg – Won’t work for TNA while Russo is there, was never a fan of WWF/E… even when he was there. This could be interesting.
Rob Van Dam – Has a loyal following and interestingly enough, Hogan and RVD seem to get along well based on comments from both. Van Dam is arguably the biggest ‘younger’ name not currently contracted to WWE or TNA.
Scott Hall – Huge risk involved but there is a shortage of big names around so having him there at the start could be worth the hassle. Or maybe not.
Diamond Dallas Page – One last chance at chasing the title?
Big Daddy V – If he can lose a bit of weight then he’s a recently-released WWE guy who has just come off a big push.
Giant Bernard – If they could sign him away from NJPW on a full-time deal, with a full-time push it would be interesting to see how well he could do.
Sid – Big Sid keeps talking about making a comeback to the main stage and if this went ahead I could see Sid vs. Hogan or Goldberg happening. Those matches would seem a better fit than Sid/Cena or Sid/Triple H which are hard to even imagine.
Bobby Lashley – Offer him enough money and a big enough push to give up MMA (or work the odd match in-between MMA appearances) and he could be feuding with Goldberg, Bernard and Daddy V.
The Ultimate Warrior – Despite what anyone may say to the contrary the fact he returned against Orlando Jordan last year shows me he would come back for a one off match against Goldberg/Hogan/Sting (provided the price was right)
Randy Savage – Is independently wealthy and supposedly has no desire to return but if he and Hogan can iron out their differences then he could make a Warrior-style comeback for one big retirement match against Hogan)
Dennis Rodman – Part-time celebrity appearances. Hey, it’s a Hogan project…
Bret Hart – Not as a wrestler but considering Bischoff gets on well with Hart to this day, if they could get Bret to make a few appearances in a Commissioner/President/Authority Figure gimmick then that would be something WWE/TNA don’t have and could help establish them. It is another ‘name’ people might tune in to see for a couple of weeks.
Eric Bischoff – Obviously
Steve Corino – Is something a little different to the guys we see in McMahonland and Planet Jarrett.
Ed Leslie – Obviously x2
Johnny The Bull Stamboli
Sean Morley – In-ring he’s always been known as a solid hand (which is why WWE kept him around as long as they did), capable of enhancing the younger talent. Outside the ring, the former Val Venis and Eric Bischoff worked well together in backstage segments on Raw during the former’s all too brief run as Chief Morley. It would be interesting to see them revive their partnership six years later.
Raven – As a wrestler, manager, producer and commentator. The guy has a wealth of experience working in onscreen and backstage capacities, from the dying days of the territories to the present day Indies.
2 Cold Scorpio
Buff Bagwell – Not the most popular choice with some but he has a ‘name’ and was a staple of the old WCW.
The Great Muta – Possibly the best known Japanese wrestler to fans in United States due to his exposure in WCW. Hogan and Muta had decent enough chemistry in 1993. Even in 2009, matches opposite ‘The Hulkster’ and Goldberg would likely spark some interest provided they were marketed well.
Chyna – If she is well enough / can sort her problems out her name still holds some weight with the Attitude crowd.
Konnan – Even if just as a promo guy this K-Dawg has his place on the roster if it would help get them access to Mexican talent through talent exchanges.
Torrie Wilson – The former two-time Playboy cover girl has to be one of the most recognisable faces out of the talent McMahon has released over the past couple of years.
Ernest Miller – If they set the promotion up quick enough they could cash in on the critical success of The Wrestler. Miller is apparently concentrating on an acting career nowadays but a few part-time appearances would be good publicity for ‘The Cat’.
Mark Jindrak – Who is now an important star in Mexico.
Takeshi Morishima – As a part-time Monster Heel.
Headbanger Mosh – As a bonus I’m pretty sure he can use the own gimmick considering the ‘Bangers were using it in their pre-WWF days.
Barry Windham – Have him work as a Road Agent, but also wrestle the odd match against guys like Scorpio, White or Corino.
Bob Holly – Road Agent/Wrestler?
Ricky Morton – Road Agent/occasional worker. Morton still has something left in the tank after all those years Rock N Rolling.
Robert Gibson – Road Agent/occasional worker.
Necro Butcher – Prominently featured in The Wrestler, he has something of a cult following amongst the Hardcore fraternity and with this added mainstream exposure he could be another addition that helps separate the promotion from WWE and TNA.
Little Guido – Another reliable hand capable of making green opponents look credible. The chance to reform the Full Blooded Italians in yet another promotion is an obvious opportunity.
Brian Christopher – We could finally get 2 Cool (they won’t be called that, obviously) vs. The F.B.I. one of the matches I wanted to see back in ‘99/’00.
Ron Simmons – Road Agent/occasional worker. Damn.
Butch Reed – Road Agent/occasional worker. They can reform Doom for special occasions.
Sonny Onoo – Bischoff’s long-time pal.
Teddy Hart – Might not last long but it could be fun reading about him in the time he’s there.
Percy Pringle III (Paul Bearer)
Bruce Prichard – Brother Love-style interviewer, anyone? The long-serving McMahon employee is now a free agent.
Larry Zbyszko – Non-wrestling role.
Chris Masters – Hey, I thought he had some potential for a while there.
Nicho El Millonario – Better known to U.S. fans as the original Psychosis.
New Jack – Jack vs. Hogan would be interesting to say the least!
Shane Douglas – Non-wrestling role. Would be a great choice for colour commentator or even a heel manager.
Kevin White – One of the shining lights of modern day Memphis Wrestling. I would make him the first Television Champion right off the bat.
Derrick King – ‘Mr. Personality’
Koko Ware – Road Agent/occasional worker. One of the best heel promos in the business and he can work better than Beefcake, etc. so if you are going to have some 80’s names…
Sable – Big name from back in the day and it might help them get Lesnar you never know…
Jimmy Hart – Almost a certainty with Hogan involved, especially if they decide to link the project to Hart’s new woman’s promotion Wrestlicious.
Brian Knobbs – See Jimmy Hart.
Jerry Saggs – Probably only capable of the odd match, you know like The Nasty Boys vs. Bagwell and Scorpio
An Alternative Product?
So the main event would be established names plus celebs. The undercard would be kind of a cross between late 90’s WCW, AJPW, Hogan-era WWF, Attitude-era WWF, modern day WWE, AAA, (old) ECW, Memphis, Wrestling Society X, the glory days of the NWA, OVW, NOAH, and mid-2000s Sunday Night Heat all rolled into one. A good mixture of younger guys and veterans. I do think it would have a different ‘feel’ to it than WWE or even TNA’s current product with any given show having a mix of Hogan promos, followed by RVD-Lynn type stuff, followed by 2 Count vs. 2 Cool, followed by Danielson vs. Taylor under World Of Sport rules. Paul London against the latest Japanese sensation, some old school Wrasslin’, some Goldberg squash matches, etc., etc. All with 2010 style production values. In other words – something for everyone. A bit like WCW in fact.
The key here would be to use the big names to get some attention and slowly build some of those mid-card guys up to eventually be taken on the same level as guys like Goldberg and Hogan. The idea is not so much that they could create stars who would go on to surpass them but to give them some new opponents to work with. Then wait for the some of the WWE/TNA guys contracts to come up for renewal.
I know that is a big list but it is in keeping with Bischoff’s “formula” that worked in the past. That formula involved signing a lot of talent. WCW had a sizeable roster when it was at its most profitable, as did the WWF when it was their turn to shine in 2000-2001. Whenever Bischoff/Hogan have talked about this promotion going ahead it has always been in terms of “giving McMahon competition” so there is no point in it resembling a small Indy if they are going for that level – Prime Time national TV deal, International tours, Pay-per-views, etc., etc.
The above is a list of over one hundred onscreen talents who could appear over the first few months of the new promotion. There are plenty more who could theoretically join over the course of the first year to year and a half some of whom wouldn’t be able to start at the beginning because they are under contract to TNA/WWE (Angle, Sting, Big Show, Carlito, Nash, etc.). Of course, some of the above would only be part time/short term anyway (Miller, Warrior, Savage, Rodman, Sid, Bret). It also includes other onscreen talents such as managers, valets, announcers, interviewers, authority figures, bodyguards, etc. that could be used as part of storylines. From the wrestling talent a good fair few of them likely to only work the odd match (Saggs, Leslie, Simmons, Reed) or be mainly used in other roles (Koko, Konnan, Rock N Roll Express, Windham). In fact some of them may only be used for one or two ‘programmes’ (and by that I mean ‘feuds’ not TV episodes). A good dozen or so of the others are International talents who would only be brought in to work specific matches or feuds. It also includes jobbers/Jobbers To The Stars. I don’t know the exact numbers, but overall I wouldn’t be surprised if WWE around the same number of talent between the various brands. This is just a starting point of at least some of the wrestlers I would be on the phone to now if I was Uncle Eric.
I am presuming they would have backers with decent money because otherwise I can’t see Bischoff doing it and that it would be a long-term commitment from himself and Hogan for it to work. The fact of the matter is this can’t be something half-hearted if they want it to look equal to McMahon or even the old WCW so whoever is backing it would have to have a ton of money and be willing to let Bischoff and Hogan spend on wrestling. My aim here was to debunk the often cited Internet myth that a third national promotion would be impossible due to lack of talent not contracted to the ‘Big Two’.
Of course this promotion will likely never happen. Hogan will make a few more appearances for WWE and continue to make money from Reality TV appearances whilst Bischoff will concentrate his energy on his non-wrestling business ventures. It is an interesting thought though. Wouldn’t it be even more interesting if it did? Now That’s What I Call Wrestling.
Carl ‘TheBigBoot’ Robinson
N.B. Just think what TheBigBoot could do when he wins the lottery? Bet you can’t wait.