World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was a wrestling company owned by media mogul Ted Turner after he purchased a portion of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) in the Fall of 1988. For thirteen years WCW was the chief competition of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). During the early 1990s, professional wrestling was at the peak of a renaissance and the WWF lead the charge with a different presentation of the sport. Vince McMahon had a vision of not just wrestling, but also a form of theatre. This formula would be referred to as sports entertainment and it would enforce its will on the world of professional sports.
To counteract McMahon’s vision, Ted Turner would stick with the traditional “Southern” style of wrestling (rasslin’). Much to the dismay of his peers during this time, Turner would find moderate success as the leader of the “new” World Championship Wrestling. However, things would suddenly take a nosedive in 1991 as the WWF would slowly surpass WCW in quality. Gone were the days of “normal” babyfaces and heels (good guys and bad guys), in were the days of superheroes and supervillains. As a result of WCW not accepting this change, the company would begin to flounder critically.
As the World Wrestling Federation began to hit another stride in the business, management in WCW would witness a shift. Turner brought in Jim Herd (who had no experience in professional wrestling) as WCW’s new president. Immediately Jim Herd and then WCW Champion Ric Flair would disagree. Brian Zane, who’s the host of Youtube’s Wrestling With Wregret said, “Herd wanted Flair to switch his gimmick to “Spartacus”, a rip-off of a gladiator.” Flair angrily resented the change in character believing it would not go over with the fans the way his “Nature Boy” gimmick did. To make matters worse, had Flair changed the gimmick, it would’ve ruined his credibility in the entire wrestling world.
Tensions would reach a boiling point in the Summer of 1991 when Flair was scheduled to lose the WCW Championship to Lex Luger. Flair was known for going along with bookings without incident but not in this case. In order to become WCW Champion, the top star was required to pay a $25,000 deposit. When the champion lost the title, the deposit was to be returned per company’s policy. As a result of the creative tension between the two parties, Herd refused to return the money to Flair. Flair retaliated by not only leaving WCW, but he legitimately took the WCW Championship with him to the WWF. This would leave the WCW creative team in an uproar as they had to scramble with a new conclusion to 1991’s Great American Bash.
Jim Cornette, who was in WCW at the time, described the event as a “waste of time creatively” and that the show should have been “postponed.” Nonetheless, Turner deemed that the show must go on and that a new champion must be crowned. Despite their best efforts, the Great American Bash was a critical bomb. The cage match between Lex Luger and Barry Windham was a last minute replacement of the original Luger/Flair match for the WCW Title. Among the confusion, fans were chanting “We want Flair” during the controversial event. In the end, Luger went over as the new Champion, but was not immediately accepted by the fans.
In all, 1991’s WCW was ruined by the abrupt departure of Ric Flair and his holding up of the championship belt. Jim Herd, who was a regional general manager of Pizza Hut before his hiring in WCW, did not know how to steer the ship. Even though Herd’s intentions were good, the overall quality of that year was awful at best. Due to the over criticism of his work in WCW, Herd resigned from the company at the beginning of 1992. However, things would go from bad to worse for WCW as “Cowboy” Bill Watts would take over and further damage the credibility of Turner’s acquisition.