The Perfect Opportunity
August 4, 2006 by Jason "XtremeFalls" Simmons
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You know over the past five years many wrestling fans and media alike have talked about the Death of WCW. The reasons were from flops of Russo and Warrior to the horrible handling of storylines. Another reason was the poor pushes of key wrestlers. Now you could say this about The Cruiserweights, Goldberg, and even the legendary Ric Flair. However one wrestler is always looked over but in my opinion really could of helped WCW from falling apart. This one man was another legend by the name of Curt Hennig.
Hennig was fresh off his release from the WWE and would sign with WCW in 1997. By this point in time Curt Hennig had a very successful run in not only the WWE but prior to that the AWA. He was a former AWA Champion and Tag Team Champion but Verne Gagne let Hennig slip through his fingers. Also a 2 time WWE Intercontinental Champion and one of their biggest stars of the early 90s. The one thing that hurt Hennig during his WWE run was a bad back that he was put out of action twice for extended periods. However heading into WCW Hennig finally seemed to be healthy.
Hennig was a big pick up for WCW because unlike most of the older WWE stars such as Piper, Hogan, Savage, and Warrior Hennig could still deliver in the ring. Also Hennig could carry himself on the microphone and was still a big name in the business. Curt Hennig could have changed things as him getting a main event push could have delivered some respectability to the main event division however this never happened. In this column I want to look over the perfect opportunity that WCW had and blew. Now the biggest question when Hennig showed up was who was Hennig going to be with? The Horsemen or The New World Order.
Hennig showed up and quickly became the talk of WCW with him turning down Flair but also turning down The New World Order. Hennig first act in WCW was a feud with Diamond Dallas Page. The two produced a great match at Road Wild 97 and while Hennig lost it was a great outing for him. Then Hennig really started to heat up on WCW television as The Horsemen continued to try to bring him into the elite stable. Flair and Hennig teamed up at Clash of the Champions beating Syxx and Konnan but Hennig still wouldn’t agree to join the Horsemen. Finally on August 25th 1997 Hennig accepted Arn Anderson’s spot in the 4 Horsemen in one of the greatest speeches in wrestling history. The fans were excited with Flair, Hennig, Mongo, and Benoit reforming the Four Horsemen and Hennig looked to be getting bigger by the moment in WCW.
However the next week The New World Order came out and parody the speech which set up an epic match for Fall Brawl 1997. The War Games match truly in my opinion not only started the downfall of Curt Hennig but WCW. The match started up with The Horsemen’s chances looking grim as Curt Hennig was founded injured backstage. The Horsemen were down 4-3 in the match and finally Hennig runs down to the ring wearing a sling to even the sides. Hennig took his arm out of the sling and had handcuffs and the fans in Carolina were going nuts. Then in typical WCW fashion Curt turned on the Four Horsemen by joining the New World Order and ended up slamming Ric Flair’s head with the cage door.
Why was this the start of the downfall you ask? Well first and foremost WCW once again looked inferior to The New World Order with Lex Luger and The Steiner Brothers losing in the previous months. Also this marked the end of the Horsemen as they would have one last run in late 1998 and early 1999 but by that point the magic was gone. Hennig was the biggest victim however. Not only was this the turning point in his WCW run but might have also been the fall from grace in the wrestling industry.
Anyway after Fall Brawl Flair dismantled the Horsemen and Hennig actually beat former Horsemen Steve Mongo McMichael for the United States Title. Hennig after winning the title would move straight into the feud with Ric Flair after Hennig claimed he killed the horsemen. Flair however would dominate Hennig at Halloween Havoc and get himself disqualified but Flair lost to Hennig in the rematch. This pretty much would end the feud and at Starrcade Hennig dropped the title to Diamond Dallas Page in another great match. After losing the title this left many saying now what?
WCW by this point brought in Bret Hart and Brian Adams so Curt Hennig who years earlier was one of the biggest stars in the business was once again left out in the cold. What should of WCW done by this point? Maybe have Hennig feud with Bret Hart who was at Summerslam 1991 and King of the Ring 1993 he had classic matches with. However WCW didn’t do any of that, in early 1998 Curt became a B-member of the New World Order. Until mid 1998 that is, when The New World Order finally split into two groups. Hennig decided to head to the Wolfpac while his friends Adams and Rude stayed in the Hollywood camp. However shortly after WCW blew their chance to make Hennig important and put him back in the Hollywood camp as a B member.
Hennig however got some good news when he was given a WCW title shot against newly crowned Champion Goldberg. However that good news soon turned into terrible news as WCW booked it as a squash feud. In two attempts Goldberg destroyed Curt Hennig and to make matters worst neither match was all that good. After this Hennig floated around for the rest of 1998 with a knee injury and nothing big happened. Hennig not only floated around but also once again became a B-member of the N.W.O Hollywood. Then Hennig looked to have another opportunity in 1999 to get a push.
The opportunity started during WCW’s infamous finger poke of doom, which was another huge blow to WCW. You see the next Thunder Hennig was kicked out of the N.W.O, which allowed him off the B-team of the New World Order. With the WCW Tag Title tournament going on Hennig found himself with a new veteran tag team partner in Barry Windham. Barry and Curt were a great combination of wrestlers WCW didn’t use well and formed one hell of a tag team. They won the titles after beating Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko in a great match. So while Hennig wasn’t as popular as he was in his first run in 1997 he was picking up steam.
Hennig would go on to lose the tag team titles to Benoit and Malenko in a rematch but Hennig had a plan. Soon after the end of the Benoit and Malenko feud WCW placed Hennig in a feud with Master P and his No Limit Soldiers. During this feud he created his own stable with Bobby Duncum Jr., and the Windham Brothers to form the West Texas Red Necks. WCW had the group release a country song called Rap is Crap. This is where WCW once again created a problem. You see the song was actually very funny and got airplay around the south. The problem with this was Master P and his No Limit soldiers were supposed to be the good guys but fans around the company were booing them out of the building.
The problem was WCW has always had its roots in the south which stereotype or not likes country music. So they were cheering Hennig and his crew instead of the babyfaces. So even though the Stable was very popular and actually getting over WCW saw fit to just cancel the feud and pretty much end all chances of making the group something big. So Hennig and the group stayed together until late October, which by that point had added Vincent into the group. So once again WCW blew an opportunity to get this guy over.
After the break up of the West Texas Red Necks WCW proceeded to do nothing with anyone in the group. Curt Hennig had a short pointless feud with Harlem Heat and then WCW once again proceeded to do nothing with him. Hennig pretty much drifted along in WCW until April of 2000. By this point WCW was a shell of its former self with Hennig being another lost soul. Vince Russo however had a plan for Hennig. Shawn Stasiak started a new gimmick that was a copy of Hennig’s Mr. Perfect Gimmick in WWE years earlier. The problem was just like everything else they did with Curt they dropped the ball. After Hennig confused most fans by helped Stasiak in a couple of matches while they were feuding and his contract finally ran out. That marked the end of Hennig’s WCW career.
It shouldn’t have ended up like this. While WCW had a love affair with veterans getting pushes Curt Hennig wasn’t one of them. Even though Curt could out perform most of the veterans on his worst day he still never got a great push. Even though Hennig got over with a couple of separate gimmicks WCW refused to push this man. Hennig could have helped reshape the company and turned a new corner in the N.W.O vs. WCW feud with the resurgence of the Horsemen. Goldberg could have had a solid challenger with Curt Hennig but instead of pushing the feud they were pushed back by Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman.
Hennig after WCW had a short run in the WWE and TNA before his untimely death in 2003. I think when you look back Hennig should be remembered for his runs in WWE and AWA. Also I think he should be remembered as someone who really could have made a difference in WCW. Maybe not of changed the outcome but could have slowed it down.
Thanks for reading and feedback will answered
by Jason Simmons [View Jason's Column Index]..
Joe L. wrote:
It's rather unique that you would deem the Curt Hennig heel turn from Fall Brawl 1997 as the beginning of the end for WCW. No other match defines disappointment than what happened that night. When you watch the heel turn and consider the events that followed, you hit the nail in the head with something that was stupid to begin with and only hurt the company more.
To make matters worse, this also hurt Hennig as he went from being a semi-main eventer to being squashed by Diamond Dallas Page, Goldberg, among others. Unlike most main wrestlers who earn their claim to fame by name quality (**cough**Hulk Hogan**cough**), Hennig was still impressive in the ring and his presence could have sparkled intrigue in the main event scene. But because this was WCW, that was not to be.
This was an excellent column, one of the best you've done. The only criticism is that you can be at least a little more positive. Other than that, two thumbs up.
Brad Blaze wrote:
Contrary to popular belief, WCW went under because, like ECW, its management always was blowing money. Even during the peak of WCW, ATM Eric would hold a yearly PPV at a stupid biker rally where admission was free. He gave out free tickets to shows. WCW and ECW both would have inevitably gone broke and it didn't happen because of what the WWF was doing. In 1999, ATM Eric was fired when he was drawing ratings comparable to what the WWE draws today and WWE always makes profits these days with those ratings. Bischoff's firing made things worse for WCW when it started losing even more money under Russo. Meanwhile, Ted Turner, who had always prevented wrestling from being canceled on his networks found his Turner Broadcasting company bought out by Time Warner. By the time the AOL Time Warner merger was complete, Ted Turner was so far down the corporate ladder that he was a non-factor and the network execs were free to finally can WCW, as they had wished to do for years despite it actually turning around in the ratings department around when the sale of WCW rumors started. It had drawn a 2.6 for 2 out of 3 weeks and was finally on the verge of a turnaround. Had WCW survived and revived their ratings, maybe the future WWE wouldn't have had to suffer the down years ahead until this year. It has taken TNA disrespecting a Championship Belt that is WWE's property and defaming WWE in their storylines to awaken the WWE and make them realize they need to improve. WCW could have kept them from going to sleep altogether.
Jason "Xtremefalls" Simmons wrote:
First off thanks for responding to the column however Brad Blaze you obviously didn't get my point in this column. I know exactly why WCW died because the ratings, buy rates, and House Show numbers were in the toilet thanks to Vince Russo and in part to Eric Bishoff. However my point was storylines like Hennig turning on the Horsemen was killing there fans. Hennig was just another example of botched storylines and bad pushes that turned off WCW's fan base. Also while WCW's ratings were still decent they weren't great and when 12 months earlier your drawing in the 5.0's and 4.0's every week competing with the WWE to losing by 3.0 every week doesn't exactly happen for no reason. Now with Hennig turning on Flair was just another example of WCW looking like losers and fans got tired of it. So storylines like Hennig turning on the Horsemen, Finger Poke of Doom, and pretty much everything Russo ever did effected the ratings which lead to there death of WCW. However thanks for reading and thanks to everyone else.
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