Kevin Sullivan and the End of WCW
Written By: Bob Colling
Kayfabe Commentaries presents Kevin Sullivan and the End of WCW
Hosted by: Sean Oliver
The DVD opens up with Sean asking what was biggest story in the past ten years and gives a few options such as the Montreal Screw job, wrestlers dying early and McMahon wrestling (sarcastic comment). After a brief background to the demise of WCW, Sean says that during the course of the DVD we will hear from the guy who booked WCW during the year 2000.
Chapter #1: Background
Sullivan talks about Tommy Rich being a huge star as Crockett left Georgia to travel to Ohio. He discusses Crockett taking over the UWF and the East Coast while Vince McMahon bought the television slot that was vacated by Crockett. When the company was sold to Ted Turner, according to Sullivan, people who had no idea how to run wrestling were put in charge of the company. He believes that the corporate people believed that anyone could do it because it was fake. He is actually surprised that WCW lasted as long as it did. The real problems started when WCW dipped big time in 1999.
He talks about how Ted Turner said that wrestling will always be on his channel because wrestling made him successful. By saying that, the people involved with WCW were relaxed knowing they had Turner’s support. Sean asks about Time Warner coming into the picture and what that was like.
Sullivan recalls being told that the merger is ass background because Turner should be buying Time Warner. He remembers being told that someday there will be someone in his playpen that doesn’t know what they are doing.
Player #1: Harvey Schiller
Sullivan says he was brought in because he “did something” with the Olympics and didn’t interfere with WCW.
Player #2: Brad Seigel
When Harvey left, Brad took over.
Player #3: Bill Busch
Busch was an accountant for WCW and took over when Bischoff left WCW. He was smart enough to know that he didn’t know the business all that well. Sullivan considers Busch a positive influence on the company. Sullivan notes that Busch would attend the show quite often.
Players #4 and #5: Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera
It was very important to WCW to get Russo and Ferrera. Sullivan supported the decision to sign them. He mentions how they tried to bring the entertainment aspect into WCW and how if someone from WCW were to have gone to WWF it would have been someone trying to bring wrestling over there.
Player #6: JJ Dillon
Dillon did a lot of work for WCW, such as dealing with wrestler contracts. Sullivan credits Dillon as someone he would go to with ideas.
Player #7: Gary Juster
Gary was the promoter in Baltimore when Crockett was running the company.
Player #8: Terry Taylor
He worked many different areas for the company and was a “complete asset to the company.”
Player #9: Mike Graham
Everyone voted for Graham to be brought into the company. Sullivan credits Graham with being the best person to come up with a finish.
Player #10: Kevin Nash
Sullivan believes Nash and Hall changed the industry. He talks about how Nash and Hall came in and how it looked like an invasion because they couldn’t mention their wrestling names. He says that the turning point for the company was when Hogan turned heel. He notes how Hogan was reluctant to turn heel but convinced Hogan that he had to do it. Sullivan drove Hogan to the arena to make sure he went through with it. He says when Hall, Nash, Hogan and Syxx came in it was the demise of WCW because they were so cool they were babyfaces everywhere they went. Sullivan mentions how it was like two different companies being WCW and New World Order. He talks about the attack where Rey Mysterio Jr. was tossed into the side of a trailer. He heavily puts Hall and Nash as great performers.
Before continuing the interview, we get a timeline of some events.
– On September 10th, 1999 Eric Bischoff is relieved of his duties as WCW President.
– Bill Busch takes over and signs Russo and Ferrera to book the shows.
– Scott Hall was stripped of the US Championship due to injury. The belt was given to Hall without any match lined up.
Sullivan wasn’t happy with the title being given to Benoit without the match because titles should mean everything.
– There were three intergender matches at Starrcade 1999.
Sullivan says the greatest intergender match was when a man simply punched a woman in the face and got the three! He believes there is a place for women in wrestling but doesn’t buy into a woman clotheslining a man. He doesn’t want people laughing at the product.
– A ladder match between Benoit and Jarrett takes place, though a ladder was used prominently in another under card match.
He states that it was silly to have a ladder match if the ladder is previously used in an under card match.
– The main event featured three referee bumps.
He talks about the history of the ref bump which was developed in Florida. He gives a rather poor example with the same thing happening in football. Terry Funk told him that in order for wrestling to work the fans must believe it is an athletic competition.
– Ed Ferrera played a character based on Jim Ross and his issues with Bells Palsy.
Sullivan was horrified when the character was put on television. He says that karma has a way of biting you in the ass. He says that they were mad at Jim for whatever reason. He would’ve laughed if they did the character without the Bells Palsy he would’ve laughed but they didn’t.
– The main event at Starrcade saw them rehash the Montreal Screw job.
Sullivan says that they made a mistake by giving away the endings to the WWF tape shows, such as Mankind winning the WWF World Championship which was ordered by Eric Bischoff. The comments upset Sullivan.
Chapter #2: State of WCW, January 2000:
There were three camps. The undercard guys like the Filthy Animals wanting a push and they tried to get rid of Ric Flair, but Flair is still around. Sullivan has a theory that he was trying to sell a television show called Rope Opera and that WCW was his pilot to the series. The second group was the established guys going to Busch saying that something needed to be done. He talks about how the New World Order got watered down, eventually. He only lists two groups.
People in the back thought that WCW had turned into a “bad independent show.” They were trying to out shock what Vince McMahon was doing. Everyone is in Busch’s ear trying to get their way.
– Bret Hart and Jeff Jarrett pull out of WCW Souled Out 2000 due to concussions. As a result the WCW World Championship is vacated and Vince Russo wants to put the belt on UFC fighter Tank Abbott. Russo is asked to book with a committee. He instead goes home.
Chapter #3: Sullivan, Head Booker
The booking committee consists of JJ Dillon, Taylor, Graham, Bill Banks, Ed Ferrera and Bob Mold. Sullivan says that he and Ferrera did most of the booking and Kevin Nash was given a role as a booker as well. Sullivan credits Nash as a man with a good wrestling mind. He wanted to put the belt on Nash, but instead the belt is given to Benoit.
Sullivan says that Benoit deserved to be WCW World Champion and gave Benoit the title because he had heat with the group. He told Benoit that Nash was going to win the belt from Benoit down the road.
– On January 15th, more than a dozen wrestlers sought their releases from WCW. They included Benoit, Guerrero, Saturn, Malenko, and Douglas.
He heard a rumor that people were saying that Sullivan was going to screw Benoit over and the guys were paranoid because he was the booker. Putting the belt on Benoit was Sullivan’s way of trying to reach peace.
– On January 16th, more than half the wrestlers changed their mind when it came to asking for their releases. The Radicals, Konnan and Douglas did not change their mind.
Chapter #4: Week by Week
Sullivan talks about how difficult it was to tell Sid Vicious to tap out to Benoit, a guy that may not be with the company tomorrow. Sid did it only because Sullivan asked him to. Sullivan made sure to tell Sid to put his foot under the bottom rope just in case.
– The next night, the Radicals are sent home. Benoit vacates the belt by giving the title to JJ Dillon.
He didn’t want to promote a product that would be competing against them the next week. By this point, most the Russo guys had left the company. He credits the Radicals as being the work horses as they put on the best matches on the card. Because Kidman stayed, they began to push him.
– During the taping of Thunder, Goldberg calls the office to support Russo. Busch and Dillon remain in Atlanta to figure out how to deal with the mess.
Sean talks about the shows having longer matches and clean finishes with the product becoming Sullivan’s. Sullivan feels like people were settling down at this time and puts over the guys as being great for working with him.
Sean brings up Sullivan’s “vacation” on January 24th and people were questioning his dedication. Sullivan says he attended a graduation and couldn’t miss it. He agrees that people were trying to twist and turn the story to make him look bad.
Despite being in January, Sullivan is looking to book towards Starrcade in December. The officials weren’t calmed down by the news of long term booking. Sullivan takes credit for the guy who created Goldberg and mentions that he had lost to Steve McMichael and made sure the fans forgot about that. Anyway, Sullivan needed Goldberg healthy again so he could start the streak again. Sullivan felt that Tank Abbott was good on the card, but he simply wasn’t a wrestler. He says they were going to sign Don Frye among other ultimate fighters and Abbott was there just in case that happened.
– The WCW World Championship is vacated and Sid earns a title shot by beating Ron Harris to fight Kevin Nash for the title.
Sullivan defends his reasoning by saying that Ron was booked well by Vince prior and says that Ron worked a good match with Sid.
– On January 25th, the title is stripped from Sid by Nash because he pinned the wrong Harris Twin. Sid wins the title by winning a cage match.
Sullivan needed Sid to get hot so that Goldberg could return and fight someone he hadn’t beaten (he had back at Havoc and Mayhem in 1999.)
– January 31st sees Nash suffer an ankle injury after slipping on ice and Heenan call in sick with strep throat. Mark Madden takes his spot. Jeff Jarrett is named the Commissioner.
It also marked the return of Ric Flair. Sullivan says that Flair vs. Funk draws. He says both were very receptive to working for Sullivan. Several young wrestlers were upset about their spot. He notes how those young guys are now the old guys doing the same thing.
Hulk Hogan returned on February 1st and said a promo that saw him say he was upset that the younger guys complaining. Sullivan says the promo was written by Hogan. Sullivan feels the promo was directed towards Russo, however it caused a lot of friction among everyone in the locker room.
Sean brings up a promo on February 7th where Scott Steiner ripped on Ric Flair. Sullivan was told by Busch to chew his ass out for cutting that promo. Sullivan talks about how Scott Steiner was supposed to be the World Champion back when Jim Herd took over but Ric Flair may have sabotaged him. Steiner didn’t seem to know that what he did was wrong. Sullivan believes that Steiner was told some things from Russo prior to delivering the promo. He knows what Steiner did was the wrong thing to do.
Sullivan mentions that he was starting to dread going to work every day. Sean asks about the booking committee and how it was like. Sullivan says that four weeks into his tenure as booker, he was told what he couldn’t do which included no more foreign objects, intergender matches, blood, and perceived violence with a object. The guy from human resources eventually gave up a little bit, but for WCW to go the other direction compared to WWF was a uphill struggle.
When it comes to booking, Sullivan could never book on the fly because he needed to know where he was going.
– On February 8th, Ric Flair confronted Scott Steiner at a Thunder taping.
Sullivan hoped that Steiner wasn’t let go because the issue with Flair would have been a violation of his probation. Sullivan saw Steiner as a perfect opponent for Goldberg and didn’t want him to go to the competition. Sullivan would’ve done the same thing that Busch did and that was to protect himself.
When talking about the Superbrawl X main event between Jeff Jarrett, Sid and Scott Hall, Sullivan says that they had an issue with the finish. He reveals that he would’ve put Hall over instead of what actually happened, which was Sid pinning Hall.
Sean brings up Sabu coming to WCW, but the contract talks broke off during the week of February 9th. Sullivan wanted to get Sabu and knows that Sabu signed the contract but no one in WCW signed it. He knew something was wrong when he was told there was a delay in the process.
Sullivan understood why Hall was nearly fired for being drunk on a plane while traveling to Germany because “it was tough on the guys.”
When the lawsuits brought by Bobby Walker, Harrison Norris and Sonny Onoo are brought up Sullivan states that they knew the company was crumbling and he even testified on their behalf!
Super Calo, Hector Garza, Damien and Cicolpe considered filing lawsuits. So did Jerry Only which caused Vampiro to change his music. Sullivan says that Jerry thought they were going to get a record deal, but that didn’t happen.
Sullivan thought that if he could get Steiner, Sid and allow Nash and Hall to get over because they are great heels. He has seven heels to feed to Goldberg to buy himself time to create new stars.
– February 14th saw a three hour unopposed Nitro which saw Hogan vs. Flair, Luger vs. Funk and Jarrett vs. Sid.
Sullivan was hoping that Hall was going to turn things around and be healthier. He thought that having them reform the Outsiders and going back to them destroying everyone because he had such a limited roster. During the same show, Sid confronted Mark Madden for being called a monkey and demanded more respect. Sullivan agrees that at the time it was like a sitcom. He compares WCW to the people on the Titanic playing the music, and they were a part of the chorus.
He had no worries with Sid because he did the Benoit job without a problem.
– On February 15th, Sid no showed the Thunder taping leading into the pay per view.
Sullivan didn’t think it was a ploy because it was a real shot from Jarrett. Hall is sent home after jokingly say he was going to rough Terry Taylor up in the ring during an angle. He thinks people were being hyper sensitive.
– Top three matches planned back in January for Superbrawl were Sid vs. Bret for the WCW World Championship, Kidman vs. Jarrett for the WCW United States Championship and Flair/Funk vs. the Outsiders with Funk turning on Flair. None of those matches occurred.
The heavyweight title match didn’t happen because Hart had a concussion, Funk was injured and Nash suffered an ankle injury. Sean says it is remarkable how little he had to work with. He brings up the Hogan/Luger match that had several finishes lined up. Sullivan says that there wasn’t an issue it was just a matter of getting the right finish. He credits Luger for being someone that step up to the plate to help him out.
Sean mentions the angle where Abbott threatened to cut Big Al’s throat with a knife. He gave Abbott the gimmick to use. Abbott was given a tape knife, but got a real one because he thought it was gimmicked. He doesn’t know if it was done on purpose or not.
Sean brings up the James Brown appearance, which Sullivan didn’t want to promote because it was the sixth or seventh time that Brown was supposed to be on the show. He notes that Brown did it for free.
– February 21st, 2000 Sullivan is over heard telling Busch that they can only be a reasonable number two and can’t compete with McMahon.
Sullivan doesn’t recall if he actually said it, but knows it was the truth. Sean brings up the Jim Duggan finding the WCW Television Championship in the trash angle which was taking place on Saturday Night. Jimmy Hart booked the show. Sullivan was told that the show needed to be back to being targeted towards children.
Sean goes over an angle that saw Hogan pin Flair despite Flair not being involved in a last man standing cage match. Sullivan says that Hogan had created control and had heat with Flair. Doug Dillinger was used for the broken arm spot because he was Flair’s best friend.
– February 25th saw Brad Seigel want a strong plan for when Goldberg returns.
Sullivan says this was the time where they wanted the big plan. Seigel didn’t like the idea of building for seven months, even after Sullivan put it all on the table. Sullivan knew that they weren’t going to be given time. Shortly after, Terry Taylor resigned from the booking team.
The topic of limited dates is brought up and mentions that Sting had something like 70 dates to work. It was difficult to book with that fact.
He thinks that if he would’ve had the Radicals, Douglas, Konnan and everyone else that he would’ve beaten WWF or he would’ve been a complete moron for not doing so.
Sullivan believes someone made a deal since WCW was bought for only one million dollars.
– February 28th, 2000 saw a strap match between Hogan and Flair. Sullivan goes back to creative control that Hogan had and jokes that they wrestled 200 times and Flair has never won.
Sullivan talks about Sid/Abbott where he had Sid make Abbott tap out and was looking to get the little bit of hope from the fans that what they were seeing is real.
Sean brings up company notes in March which would see Sid defeat Jarrett and lose to Goldberg at the pay per view Bash at the Beach in July. He says that Sid was going to be a baby face and be a supporting character to Goldberg.
Sullivan believes that the higher ups were hoping that the company would fail as quickly as possible.
Sean brings up a quote from Jerry Jarrett where he said he wasn’t offered a booker job but rather just a consultant job. Sullivan was aware of the interview and thought Jarrett would take the job but says Jerry is smarter than him and knew the company was done.
Sullivan talks about a quote where he said they needed to do less and do better. He said they needed to get back to personal issues and tighten things up. They needed to get the cruiserweights going, New World Order back, Flair and Hogan doing their thing and all of that.
On March 13th, Anderson refuses to join Team Package and went home to spend time with his family. Sullivan missed Anderson and thought he did the right thing by going home.
Sean talks about the Uncensored pay per view and Sullivan says that because Hogan has creative control he was put on last at the pay per view.
Chapter #5: Sullivan Goes Home
March 22nd, Sullivan and his team submit their booking plans for the rest of the year. On the other hand, Bischoff and Russo submit their ideas after having quietly thought up their own ideas. Their plan was the New Blood vs. Millionaire’s Club. (As you can tell… Sullivan didn’t win).
Busch quit once Bischoff returned. Sullivan says that he had just signed a three year contract and went home to fish and was paid while doing so. The same things that he had to deal with happened to Bischoff and Russo. He believes that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to WCW demise.
When it came to long term planning with Goldberg, Sullivan wanted Goldberg to lose clean in the middle of the ring the first time he lost. He figured he could get two years out of Goldberg but the heel who defeated Goldberg could have had an enormous run.
Sullivan plan was to erase history and act like it never happened and do it his way. He would have the authority figure prevent the heel from wrestling on television to play up the damage.
Chapter #6: Post Mortem
In 2001, WCW programming was canceled by TBS and TNT. The company was sold to WWF for one million dollars.
Sullivan says WCW was like a T-Rex that didn’t evolve and was eaten. He credits McMahon for creating a great show when he had competition. He thinks you need to have an edge because if you don’t you lose your creative edge. Sullivan doesn’t believe the current product is the best product he has ever put out.
He would’ve liked to see WCW continue on forever. He believes that there should be some kind of history for wrestling but there really isn’t. Sullivan jokes that thirty seven years of wrestling was only worth a million dollars.
Sean thanks Sullivan for taking the time to be a part of the interview.
My Take: Well, for having always been a WCW fan this was an interesting watch. To hear the direction that WCW could’ve possibly went in if Sullivan were to be in charge was fun. Oliver is a good host and seemed to know his facts regarding the era, so that was refreshing. Also, he didn’t chime in and cut Sullivan off like some hosts do (RF).
I’ll try to keep this short since you can come to your own conclusions and whatnot. I think WCW went in the right direction when they chose Bischoff and Russo. What Sullivan was going to do was simply erase history, or at least try to, and rehash the same stuff that made them successful. That wasn’t going to work at al.
Sure, Russo’s booking or writing was pretty bad but at least he attempted to push the younger guys like Booker T and Scott Steiner to WCW World Championship reigns. Judging by what Sullivan was saying, he was going to focus everything around Flair, Hogan, the Outsiders, Funk and Sid. It just wouldn’t work when the WWF is highlighting younger, more entertaining guys.
I will give Sullivan credit for being honest throughout the whole interview and for being able to remember his plans from nearly ten years earlier.
Overall, I enjoyed the interview. I thought it was done nicely and didn’t drag along like some interviews do. It was nice to see just where WCW would’ve went if Sullivan was allowed to book it.
Thanks for reading.