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  November 19, 1998

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The origins of today's WCW-WWF war
By CHRIS SCHRAMM -- For SLAM! Wrestling

Billionaire Ted skits, Eric Bischoff revealing RAW results on Nitro, mocking the other corporation and other instruments have been used by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) to make the other look organization look lower than the other. It seemed to all turn bad just a few years ago when WCW's Nitro came to Monday nights to compete with the WWF's RAW show, but a few fans know when it really started.

First, one must understand the background. World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was not the name of an organization until 1989 when Ted Turner bought the company. Till that time, the name was used for a show that aired on Atlanta-based cable station WTBS. The National Wrestling Association (NWA) represented themselves on the show when Turner bought the company.

Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) started the "World Championship Wrestling" show on WTBS in 1983. GCW was an independent organization under the jurisdiction of the NWA.

On the cable USA Network was a wrestling show produced by Southwest Championship Wrestling (SCW). The two companies were looked at as rivals because they both tried to work out of the same Southwest region of the United States. SCW kept most of their shows in the Texas area but also journeyed to the east coast where GCW was based.

GCW looked to expand to such states as Ohio, Michigan, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Many of those states had been untouched by promotions outside of the WWF. GCW knew that they needed help to gain these audiences, and thus they asked the SCW to try a symbiotic relationship with them. The two looked to gain control of the wrestling television audience in the United States.

The two also needed to keep on eye on smaller NWA promotion, World Class Championship Wrestling, whose shows used younger talent to appeal to a wider range of viewers.

With the background out of the way, these promotions had no idea what they were in for. The WWF had their own plan that started when Vince McMahon Jr. bought his father's stock in the WWF. The new owner had plans his father had not even imagined.

In September 1983, McMahon Jr. works out a deal with the USA Network to have the WWF produced show "All American Wrestling" replace SCW's show. McMahon Jr. keeps his mind open by showing matches with the likes of Ric Flair, Greg Valentine and Ricky Steamboat, when who work from promotions outside WWF. Till this time WWF had only ran shows in the Northeast part of the United States.

On September 29, 1983, the WWF heads to California for the first time and tests the territory that had long been part of the American Wrestling Association.

Just months later, the WWF takes more away from the AWA when they sign AWA wrestler Hulk Hogan to a contract. Hogan was one of the biggest draws for the AWA, and the WWF used that momentum to soon sign such wrestlers and wrestling employees as Bobby Heenan, Roddy Piper, Bob Orton, Paul Orndorff and David Schultz.

In what is attempted as the first supercard being networked by closed-circuit, Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, an NWA affiliate, holds the first Starrcade card in Greensboro, NC. The Jim Crocket run promotion is seen by 55,000 people by those live in the arena and those watching on closed-circuit television in several cities. The idea would change how wrestling would promote itself in the coming years.

It is not well known that Hulk Hogan had originally agreed to work on the card, but he later pulled out after agreeing to make some Japanese tour dates. Hogan signed with the WWF just weeks after Starrcade.

On January 23, 1984, Bob Backlund was to wrestle the WWF World champion The Iron Sheik in front of a sold out card in New York City's Madison Square Garden. Backlund had been suffering from injuries, and the newly signed Hulk Hogan was announced as his replacement. Hogan was able to work himself out of a camel clutch put on him by The Iron Sheik to win the WWF World title that night.

April 1984 saw the WWF gain a two-hour show on the USA Network by the title, "Tuesday Night Titans." The show is highly successful in its first year by showing a talk show mixed with taped wrestling matches.

The next month the WWF signs rock singer Cindy Lauper and television actor Mr. T to a contract with the WWF. The WWF's mainstream status brought attention to the WWF's new "Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection" theme which would continue into the next year.

The NWA tried to combat the WWF's growth out west by holding a card in New York City for the first time in over two decades. The successful card features a classic Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat main event.

It was called "Black Saturday" at the time when Vince McMahon Jr. bought the GCW on July 14, 1984. The GCW show, "World Championship Wrestling," now features McMahon Jr. introducing taped WWF matches. WTBS receives some 1000 complaints in the next few days of the switch. WWF continues to hold the spot despite by requests to pull the show.

The WWF now carried their matches on WTBS twice a week, the USA Network, Madison Square Garden Cable and over 100 syndicated stations across the nation.

WTBS pleases their viewers in late July by airing "Championship Wrestling from Georgia." The Gordon Solie hosted show airs early at 7:35 a.m. ET on Saturday, and it is later moved to 9:05 a.m. ET after strong ratings at the early time slot.

In the months approaching the first Wrestlemania, Hulk Hogan and Mr. T promote the WWF by appearing on cable's Music Television, Saturday Night Live and other nationally televised shows and stations.

Seven promotions banded together in late September of 1984 to form Pro Wrestling USA. Among those are the AWA and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. The show was broadcast on such networks at ESPN. Disorganization and big heads led to the dismantling of the idea shortly after, and the AWA would take over the show that aired on ESPN.

Music Television, or MTV, airs a wrestling match between Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper on February 18, 1985. The match sets up the first Wrestlemania after Mr. T and Cindy Lauper interfere in the match.

In the middle of all of the commotion, Bill Watts's Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF) starts to air their show on WTBS starting March 10, 1985. The show becomes the number one rated show on cable television shortly after its debut.

The WWF finally holds their Wrestlemania card on March 31, 1985. The card is shown on closed-circuit in the Northeast and on live pay per view in some markets. The main event sees Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff fall victims to Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. Also appearing on the card are celebrities Billy Martin, Cindy Lauper and Muhammad Ali.

Jim Crockett, promoter and owner of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, buy the WWF's spot on WTBS from Vince McMahon for $1 million in April of 1985. McMahon reportedly stated that "Crockett will choke on that million." Crockett would rename the show "World Championship Wrestling," and become the only wrestling show on WTBS after pressuring the canceling of UWF's show.

From there the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling organization would ultimately combine with the NWA, and they would continue to air their shows each week on WTBS. The WWF would continue their relationship with the USA Network by promoting a number of different ideas over the next few years. The WWF still airs four shows on the USA Network in 1998.

The "WCW Saturday Night" show currently seen each Saturday on WTBS was given to the old NWA by Vince McMahon Jr. McMahon Jr. might still own that spot if he did not sell it in 1985. Thus Ted Turner might not have bought the NWA and rename it. Thus the WWF and the WCW (NWA) could have still been running joint shows throughout the year. Although a Steve Austin vs. Bill Goldberg seems unlikely now, the selling and buying that took place in 1983-1985 might have changed that. A different move here and there might have made these dream matches today an everyday event.

Maybe if Vince McMahon Jr. and Ted Turner went back 20 years ago, they might be able to overlook the recent past. It is an old saying that, 'competition will ultimately destroy all of those involved.' Is it time for that destruction?

Chris Schramm is from Lawrence, Kansas.

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