This week Throwback Thursday on WrestlingDVDNetwork.com looks back at the 16th anniversary of the sale of World Championship Wrestling to Vince McMahon by revisiting the landmark series finale of WCW Monday NITRO as seen on the WWE Network.
The end of WCW was something many saw coming but never dreamed would happen. In January 2001 Eric Bischoff, with Steve Greenberg and Brian Bedol of Fusient Media Ventures, made a last ditch effort to save WCW (which had lost upwards of $80 million in 2000 alone). At a press conference call on January 11, 2001 (which can be heard here) it was announced that Fusient had reached a deal to acquire majority ownership of WCW, with programming to remain on the Turner networks until at least 2011. That same day, however, AOL’s merger with Time Warner (announced on February 11, 2000) was finalized, and the re-branding of the Turner networks began.
As Bischoff was planning WCW’s May 6, 2001 revival show WCW Big Bang, the Fusient deal collapsed. Jamie Kellner, the new head of Turner Broadcasting, then canceled WCW TV across the board. On the March 19, 2001 edition of NITRO, Eric Bischoff announced (38:26) the end of WCW TV on Turner networks and that the next week’s edition of NITRO would be its last. Just four days later, on Friday, March 23, 2001, WCW was sold to Vince McMahon and WWFE for a fraction of what the company was worth.
Though WCW Thunder isn’t yet uploaded to the Network as of this writing, context isn’t an issue. All previous PPVs, COTCs, and past editions of Monday NITRO are currently available on the Network.
A note on edits. Shane Helms music has been overdubbed and there is select muting of the “F” from WWF. The most notable change, or correction, has been to the awkward delay that plagued the simulcast when this aired live.
WCW Monday NITRO #288: Night of Champions (WATCH)
Date: March 26, 2001 – Location: Club La Vela, Panama City Beach, Florida
Attendance: <2,500 – Rating: 3.0 (Monday Night RAW: 4.7)
Commentators: Tony Schiavone & Scott Hudson – Interviews: Michael Cole
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME:
WCW World Heavyweight Champion: “Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner
WCW United States Heavyweight Champion: Booker T
WCW World Tag Team Champions: The Natural Born Thrillers (Chuck Palambo & Sean O’Haire)
WCW Cruiserweight Champion: “Sugar” Shane Helms
WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Champions: Kid Romeo & Elix Skipper
The final NITRO opens with Mr. McMahon backstage in Cleveland, Ohio announcing that he’s bought WCW. “You see, it was only a matter of time before I, Vince McMahon, bought my competition. That’s right, I own WCW.” McMahon says that on NITRO‘s final broadcast on TNT he’ll address the fate of WCW in a “special simulcast”. “Because the fate—the very fate—of WCW is in my hands.”
After the usual opening and pyro Tony Schiavone and Scott Hudson welcome us to the final NITRO on TNT and talk about the sale of WCW, the uncertainty surrounding it, all five WCW titles being on the line, and the coming simulcast.
Ric Flair comes to the ring for a promo, saying he’s been the World Champion 14-times for the “greatest wrestling organization in the world,” and that WCW ran “neck-and-neck” with the WWF for years. Addressing Mr. McMahon directly, Flair says, “When was the last time you wrestled for an hour, cut yourself five times, bled for 45-minutes—when were you there? You weren’t!” Finally Flair says his greatest opponent in WCW was Sting and that if WCW is going out he wants Sting one final time.
— “Champion vs. Champion Match” (WATCH – 12:12)
WCW United States Champion Booker T vs. WCW World Heavyweight Champion “Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner w/Midajah
This match isn’t all that bad. It’s not a classic but it’s far from a dud. Eventually Booker T makes the comeback and hits the Ghetto Blaster and the Harlem Sidekick before connecting with the Book End for the pin at 5:10 to retain the U.S. title and win the WCW World Heavyweight title for the 4th and final time in WCW. This marked the end of Scott Steiner’s lone reign as WCW World Heavyweight Champion at 120 days.
WINNER and NEW WCW World Heavyweight Champion, WCW United States Heavyweight Champion Booker T (Pin, 5:10)
Next up is a 1-800-COLLECT promo followed by Mr. McMahon in Cleveland, Ohio on the telephone mocking the location of the final NITRO.
— “Number One Contender’s Tag Team Triangle Match for the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship” (WATCH – 22:59)
The Jung Dragons (Kaz Hayashi & Yang) vs. 3 Count (Shannon Moore & Evan Karagias) vs. The Filthy Animals (Rey Mysterio, Jr. & Billy Kidman)
The winners of the this one get a Cruiserweight Tag Team title shot later in the show. Aside from near-falls there are few, if any, breaks in the action with all three teams looking great. In the end, however, Rey hits Shannon Moore with a beautiful springboard guillotine leg drop for the win, and the title shot, at 3:38.
WINNERS are The Filthy Animals (Rey Mysterio, Jr. & Billy Kidman) (Pin, 3:38)
We see a promo for the final Flair/Sting showdown before going to a break. After the break we go back to Cleveland, Ohio where Trish Stratus, champagne in hand, comes in to celebrate with Mr. McMahon, who tells Trish the real way to celebrate is with a kiss.
— WCW Cruiserweight Championship (WATCH – 29:24)
Chavo Guerrero, Jr. vs. “Sugar” Shane Helms(c)
Despite the time, this is a really good match from two guys who had no real idea what the future held for them. After a nip-and-tuck match filled with non-stop action Helms reverses a Chavo brainbuster into the Vertebreaker for the pin at 4:37 to retain the WCW Cruiserweight title for the last time.
WINNER and STILL WCW Cruiserweight Champion, “Sugar” Shane Helms (Pin, 4:37)
After a break we get a Booker T promo from the back where he says that “this may be the end of a chapter but, let me tell ya, there are many, many more pages left in this book.” Booker T says he will prove he is the best in the business.
As Team Canada stands in the ring for the playing of the Canadian national anthem we go to a break. Afterwards we’re back in Cleveland, Ohio where Michael Cole asks Mr. McMahon about WCW fans concerns over the fate of “their brand” of wrestling. Mr. McMahon tells him to “get the hell out of here”.
— WCW World Tag Team Championship (WATCH – 37:28)
Team Canada (Lance Storm & “Canadian Killer” Mike Awesome) vs. The Natural Born Thrillers (Chuck Palumbo & Sean O’Haire)(c)
This is another fast-paced, action packed match that just doesn’t get much time. Eventually Palumbo escapes the Awesome Bomb and hits the superkick on Mike Awesome. The late O’Haire connects with the Seanton Bomb moments later for the pin at 3:19 to retain the WCW World Tag Team titles for the final time on WCW TV.
WINNERS and STILL WCW World Tag Team Champions, The Natural Born Thrillers (Chuck Palumbo & Sean O’Haire) (Pin, 3:19)
— “Tatoo Match: If Shawn Stasiak Loses He Must Be Tatooed” (WATCH – 44:16)
Shawn Stasiak w/Stacy Keibler vs. Bam Bam Bigelow
Though it’s another rapid-fire match it just doesn’t get any real time to develop. Before long Bigelow hits the big headbutt and tries for the pin when Stacy distracts the referee. When Bam Bam goes for the Greeting From Asbury Park Stacy grabs Stasiak’s feet, enabling Stasiak to escape and hit the hangman’s neckbreaker for the win at 1:24.
WINNER is Shawn Stasiak w/Stacy Keibler (Pin, 1:24)
Backstage in Cleveland, Ohio Commissioner William Regal shows off his WrestleMania X-Seven jersey to Mr. McMahon before questioning Mr. McMahon’s decision to purchase WCW, saying “it’s a bloody awful place”.
After a break we get a pre-taped outdoor promo from Diamond Dallas Page who says it’s been a “long, strange trip” but that he wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. DDP then thanks the fans, saying that it’s the fans, not the promoters, who determines who’s “over”, and that it’s time to take his dream to “another level”.
Next up is a vignette highlighting some of the great champions in WCW history including Sting, Vader, Hulk Hogan, Lex Luger, Kevin Nash, Ric Flair, DDP and many, many others before Mr. McMahon, in Cleveland, says it’s time to get ready for the simulcast.
— WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship (WATCH – 52:08)
The Filthy Animals (Rey Mysterio, Jr & Billy Kidman) vs. Elix Skipper & Kid Romeo(c)
As the match gets under way Schiavone takes umbrage with William Regal’s comments. “We’ve had to do some crazy things, Steve Regal,” Schiavone says, “including put your ass over on TV.” As for the match, it’s not on the level of their showdown at Greed but, considering the time constraints, it’s a very good match. Late, Elix goes for the Play of the Day on Kidman who reverses it into the Kid Krusher for the win at 4:44 to win the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team titles for the first and final time in the very last Cruiserweight Tag title match ever. This marked the end of Skipper and Romeo’s lone reign as Cruiserweight Tag Team Champions at 8 days.
WINNERS and NEW WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Champions, The Filthy Animals (Rey Mysterio, Jr & Billy Kidman) (Pin, 4:44)
In a room with baseball bats hanging from the ceiling Sting makes his first appearance in WCW TV since November of 2000 (“Not for nothin’ would I miss this night!”). Sting says that he and Ric Flair started it years ago and tonight they’re going to end it “once and for all.” Regarding his future Sting says that “the only thing for sure about Sting is nothin’s for sure.”
After a break we get a painfully long America Online 6.0 promo before a shot of Mr. McMahon preparing to head to the ring for the big simulcast.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:00:11)
“Nature Boy” Ric Flair vs. Sting
It seems only fitting that the final WCW match ever would be Ric Flair versus Sting, the same two men who headlined the first Clash of the Champions heads-up against WrestleMania IV and were the feature bout of the debut edition of Monday NITRO. No two names were ever more synonymous with World Championship Wrestling than Sting and Ric Flair.
Like an old shoe these two easily slip into their familiar roles and get right to work creating a fresh, unique encounter. This is the most methodical and psychological bout of the night but it’s by no means boring. Sting battles out of the figure-four leglock, walks through Flair’s chops, and hits a superplex before cinching in the Scorpion Deathlock for the submission win at 7:18.
WINNER is Sting (Submission, 7:18)
After the match Sting helps Flair to his feet and the two embrace as Scott Hudson thanks both wrestlers for all they’ve meant to the sport of wrestling. Schiavone talks about the emotional roller coaster and uncertainty brought on by the sale, saying that they don’t just work for WCW “we live WCW.”
Without warning the scene cuts from Panama City Beach, Florida to Cleveland, Ohio where Mr. McMahon is coming to the ring. Mr. McMahon says the sale of WCW is not final, that Mr. McMahon wants Ted Turner himself to come to the ring at WrestleMania and deliver the contract to be signed, after which Turner can sit ringside to watch what he does to Shane.
McMahon says he could put WCW “on the shelf” or transform it into a “huge media conglomerate”, like the WWF, before quizzing the crowd about who should or shouldn’t be a part of the new WCW. McMahon says he had two choices, gloating (“which I think I’m doing a very good job of at the moment.”) or flying to Panama City Beach, Florida and telling them all “You’re fired!” And that’s exactly what’s going to happen, that WCW is and will remained “buried” like anyone who gets in his way, including his son Shane.
Shane McMahon’s music hits, but he’s nowhere to be seen. Suddenly Shane McMahon appears on the TitanTron from Panama City Beach, Florida. Shane says that Vince’s insistence to wait until WrestleMania to sign the contract was all the opening Shane needed. “You see, dad, the deal is finalized with WCW,” Shane says. “And the name on the contract does say ‘McMahon’. However, the name on the contract reads ‘Shane McMahon’. That’s right, I now own WCW.” Shane says that WCW will kick the WWF’s ass in the future as it did in the past and like Shane will do to Vince at WrestleMania.
Jim Ross and Paul Heyman talk about the swerve before selling the main event to come on RAW. When it originally aired the last thing WCW fans saw on TNT was a Rock/Austin promo for WrestleMania X-Seven that can still be seen at the conclusion of the segment on RAW #409. On the Network version the last we see is the graphic from the satellite feed that simply reads “Good night and goodbye”.
As far as the show is concerned it’s not bad, one of the better shows of the year, in fact. In historical terms the end of WCW and ECW (both of which would be acquired by WWFE) spelled the closing of wrestling’s frontier, marking the bitter end of the territory days and the coronation Vince McMahon as the sole survivor in the game of thrones for absolute control over professional wrestling.
Though the WWF planned to relaunch WCW numerous times in the late-spring and early-summer of 2001, sparked by the start of the “Invasion” angle, television contracts and lack of fan interest killed the project in the cradle. What fans ended up with was not a re-branded, re-launched WCW but one of the most infamous angles in wrestling history.
By Survivor Series 2001, where the angle ended, it was clear that if the sale of WCW didn’t kill the company for good, the “Invasion” angle finished the job.
So, are you currently subscribed to the WWE Network? Then on the 16th anniversary of the sale of WCW, go check out the series finale of NITRO, as well as any other of the episodes, right now. Don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments below.
And, as always, more great coverage of WWE Network can be found at WWENetworkNews.com.
Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
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