WWF Struggles As Wrestling’s One Super Power

Galveston County Daily News – December 20, 2001
By Scott Williams

It’s said that nature abhors a vacuum, but the wrestling industry has been making what Ross Perot might call “giant sucking sounds” for months. A couple of would-be players are scrambling to fill the void, but scrambles often turn to stumbles.

Don’t be fooled by the apparent prosperity of the World Wrestling Federation. The Rock might sit with the Bushes at the Republican National Convention, but business is down. Flagship program “Raw,” is drawing ratings similar to those the C-level show, “Sunday Night Heat,” was getting in 1998 and 1999. Every source of revenue has declined at an alarming pace over the course of the year.

Even worse, for all intents and purposes, the WWF has been >he only game in town since March. A year ago, the WWF was one of three national companies, competing with the creatively bankrupt World Championship Wrestling and the financially bankrupt Extreme Championship Wrestling.

WCW effectively died in March, after Time-Warner/AOL executive Jamie Kellner decided to kick wrestling off the cable networks TNT and TBS. Without TV, WCW was a worthless commodity to pretty much everyone except WWF owner Vince McMahon. He snatched up the company for about $2.5 million, about what the WWF has lost by not letting DirecTV satellite providers carry its pay per views since October.

At the time of the WCW purchase, ECW was cold in the grave. The company was behind on payments to wrestlers and practically everyone else, and gave up the ghost.

Whatever embers were left of the once-roaring flames of both companies died due to incompetent storytelling. WCW might not have had Goldberg, Sting, or many of its other top stars, but it deserved better than the treatment WWF writers and stars gave it. The WCW crew came in, setting up potential dream matches, only to be squashed like bugs.

The WWF-WCW war became the most lopsided affair since those college kids decided to take on Chinese tanks back in 1989. Even the (fictional) injection of ECW into the story couldn’t save it.

This creative failure caused much of the decrease in fan support and revenue. The only national wrestling company left is struggling a bit. While it does, fans have had no viewing alternative and wrestlers have had more limited employment options than ever.

Recently, two new groups have emerged, each struggling to find a niche and make a mark.

World Wrestling All-Stars was the brainchild of former WWF and WCW writer Vince Russo. The group, which Russo left soon after its birth, used castoffs from the U.S. scene to stock a roster and tour Australia and Europe, markets starved for big-budget action.

The tours have enjoyed a degree of success, but the company is planning a February pay per view. ECW and WCW pay-per-view ventures have shown that success is far from guaranteed even for groups with weekly nationwide TV exposure. No one should be optimistic about the chances of a pay per view from a group with no exposure.

The other new kid on the block is the XWF, headed by former WWF manager Jimmy Hart. The group has taped a number of shows at Universal Studios theme park in Florida, and hopes to sell them as pilots for a series. The XWF content appears to be a little more appropriate for all ages than the frequently raunchy WWF, but the group lacks superstar presence. When your top guys are Vampiro, Curt Hennig and Buff Bagwell, you have no top guys.

Until the XWF gets on the air, the All-Star group gets its head out of the cloud, or a new player with a new vision comes along, it looks like your wrestling choices have slimmed to exactly one.

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