WWF vs WCW - Down for the Count | 6
I know listeners. This episode contains adult content. It's early nineteen ninety eight and in a meeting room inside. WWF Headquarters in Stamford Connecticut USA Network Executive Body Hammer checks her watch watch and frowns she sitting alone waiting for Vince McMahon to show up. He's ten minutes late. It's not a great start. The blonde on fashionably dressed hammers. USA's new liaison with the WWF not by choice though when they handed her the wrestling brief per I thought was that that her career must be in trouble. Suddenly McMahon bursts into the room looking agitated. USA Mike Broadcast his flagship show. Oh but big man resents the cable network poking its nose into his business. He wants to get hammer out the door as quickly as possible of this won't take along. I'm needed elsewhere. Hammer leans forward and looks McMahon right in the eyes thence. I'm going to be blunt until two who weeks ago. I never watched your show. I don't understand your business in honestly. I don't care about it. McMahon raises an eyebrow. This meeting just got interesting hammer leans in closer. What I do know is how to make great TV. I'm here to turn Monday night. Ross from a show with Nielsen ratings in the twos and threes to one to get fours and fives now hammers talking McMahon's language language. I like the sound of that. Where do we start with the writing. The way I see at wrestling should be a soap opera for men you view need characters with depth and better stories hire some soap opera and comedy writers what else plenty. Ooh In the weeks that follow hammered schools McMahon in ways to up. WWF TV game she tells him to replace the dated smoke machines bad the WWF ring and Hayes. She teaches him about running. The show's best material when the risk viewers switching channels is highest she convinces convinces him to start recapping the previous week's episode to make it easier for new viewers to come on board and with every Golden Nugget of advice. WWF's TV output gets leaner and meaner for almost a decade the WWF has been putting out fire after fire steroid scandals and financial crises ratings defeats and wrestler defections but in Bonnie Hammer McMahon's found a tag bag team partner who can help him put all that behind him and realize his dream of leaving WCW bloodied and broken broken ever wondered how to invest more struggle to understand how to make your money work for you. Will you probably want to hear about the Motley fool then the Motley fool was founded twenty five years ago in a garage by brothers Tom and David Gardner in those twenty five years. Motley fool members got access to recommendations like AOL in Nineteen ninety-four before you've got mail was a movie Amazon. In nineteen ninety-seven before four Prime Day was a thing net flicks in two thousand four before you were binging stranger things and Marvel Now Walt Disney in two thousand four when Tobey Maguire was still spiderman every month. Tom And David each pick a stock and provide a deep dive. Analysis exclusively for members of their stock advisor service members get exclusive access to the stock advisor website with daily updates that cut through the noise of the financial market. So what what are you waiting for. Go to fool dot com slash. VW to learn more and to claim exclusive discount only for listeners from wondering I'm David Brown and this is business on the last episode. WCW dominated Monday nights inspiring Ted Turner to give it a second primetime show on Thursdays meanwhile Vince McMahon man became wrestling fans most hated figure and pull the curtain down on WWF Day says PG entertainment a final fight looms but the biggest blows will be landed outside the ring. This is episode six down for the count. It's April Thirteenth Nineteen Ninety eight and the atmosphere backstage at the core state center in Philadelphia is electric. WWF Arise Broadcasting Live from the center and the team knows tonight could be the night the night when WCW he w loses its title for eighty three weeks in a row WCW Monday nitro has beaten wwf raw in the ratings but WCW's lead is shrinking fast last week Nitra one out by less than one hundred thousand viewers and tonight Ross serving up a three hour showcase with a new attitude. The artist formerly known as gold dust sets the tone the gender bending ending wrestler arrives in drag pretending to be the female grappler. Sabo entering the ring to fight the braided haired Nina Luna knocks gold dust down in tears off his dress and wig then the real sables storms into the ring and attacks Luna it later in the show viewers meet bow Venus who's sleazy wrestling character is an adult film star. He reclines in his dressing room wearing nothing but a towel to women's stroke his chest he winks at at the camera and promises that the rocket in his pocket will take female wrestling fans to exciting new heights next. There's a standoff between wrestler. Owen Hart right and degeneration ex gang of rule breaking wrestlers who are WWF's answer to WCW'S IN W. O. The D generation xers nominate a bad ass billy gunn to fight hard while pointing at their crotches and thrusting human hearts direction you got two words form the creative but what the audience is really waiting for us the main event of fight between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon. You See McMahon's no longer just the boss. He's now a central character in the WWF shows the evil tycoon trying to turn Austin into a suit wearing corporate drone. The monthly middle aged McMahon enters the ring in a black vest and sweatpants the crowd reacts by Chanting Austin's Three Sixteen Catchphrase Austin smiles and grabs it might have you a woman down with one arm of us in this arena but before the fight it can start a tie-dyed hippie wrestler played by Mick Foley Intervenes fully forces the clash be postponed setting the stage for the Austin in McMahon's feud to keep running for months to come that night. WCW's winning streak and four point five million households watched Roz wild antics. That's four hundred thousand more homes than Nitro the following following afternoon. WCW Boss Eric Bischoff gathers his team at WCW head office in Atlanta WWF got the better of US last night but it's their only victory in more than eighteen months we have millions of fans businesses solid and continues to grow. I'm not stopping until alive driven a stake through Vince McMahon's heart but his team knows. WWF's Ratings Win no fluke McMahon's igniting controversy traverse and making WCW. Look Tame and he's just getting started two weeks later. WWF Sends Degeneration Generation X. to Norfolk Virginia in an army jeep with a mounted gun their mission to gate crash the live broadcast of WCW Nitro atro- shadowed by a camera crew is filming it all for that night's episode of WWF Farrah on arrival. They aimed the gun at the arena. Where W you see W we'll perform that evening starts thanks after firing a blank shot they drive I towards the arenas underground loading bay but as they approach the venue security brings down the gate but the coward by a bunch of the by May the competition for Monday night is too close to call one week nitro regains lead lead then raw pulls ahead the following Monday it creates a pressure cooker battle with both companies vying to be the must watch wrestling show raw airs airs a skit where degeneration experts to blow up Turner Broadcasting. CNN's Center Bischoff hits back by challenging McMahon to get in the ring with him consider this an open invitation Vista Fan. You sell up slammed. It'll be McMahon doesn't bite instead. He just keeps keeps pushing. The limits in one pay per view presentation sable removes her top to reveal to black latex handprints covering her breasts on another show viewers are introduced to the Godfather superfly pimp who is followed into the ring by entourage of women. He calls the whole train. The company also runs with story line that ends with a Japanese wrestler pretending to castrate bow Venus with a sword but as McMahon continues to raise as the stakes with his tasteless antics bishops about to get gagged. It's July nineteen ninety eight and Bischoff has been summoned to a meeting with Turner Network Executives. He walks into a conference room inside Turner Broadcasting's Tech would campus in downtown Atlanta. He has no idea why he's here around. The long table are fifteen or more turner executives. Bischoff doesn't recognize any of them thirty. Something woman introduces herself. I'm Terry tingled senior vice president of standards and practices Mrs Terry Tingle here right thanks Bischoff. This has got to be a prank but it's not tingles job is to keep Turner Broadcasting astings programming on the straight and narrow and she's here to rein in. WCW and Bischoff from now on WCW is as a family friendly show nitro will no longer be aimed at eighteen to thirty four year old guys no more scenes with wrestlers insulting each other ahead of matches. No more Monica Lewinsky Jokes Bischoff is dumbfounded. Who are these people to be bossing him around tingle bears down harder. You also also need to send me your scripts two weeks in advance so I can review them before broadcast bishops snaps out of his shock not a chance I I we don't have scripts there outlined with bullet points and production directions second what we're doing works. That's why. WWF is copying us. If we do what you're suggesting I promise you are ratings will fall and advertising sales executive steps in what you need to understand. Eric is it our business businesses selling airtime to advertisers. They do not want to be linked to controversial shows no matter how strong ratings are even if. WCW ratings are cut in half half. We can sell more airtime. NITRO was family friendly. Bischoff browns all this. This is bullcrap regardless of what you think. This is what's happening. Bischoff leaves stunned the battle for wrestling dominance is at a crucial sean juncture and he's just been kneecapped by his own team with a WCW barred from bad language sexual references his wild stunts and anything else that could be considered unsuitable for nine year olds the WWF starts creeping ahead in the Monday night ratings with help from it's latest latest superstar wrestler Dwayne the Rock Johnson as the egotistical henchmen of Mr McMahon. The Rock is electrifying. WWF fans with his razor sharp jibes at rival wrestlers and his gimmick of referring to himself in the third person and my day hey it's January fourth nineteen ninety nine and bishops. WCW production truck at the Georgia Dome Atlanta overseeing the first Monday nitro episode of the year. He's hoping tonight will be a game changer a launchpad forgetting nitro back on threes next to make that happen. He's lined up a high profile fight between former N. W. O. Allies Hollywood Hogan and Kevin Nash a fight right that will start a story arc about the return of the N. W. O. that Bischoff hopes will reverse the sagging interest in WCW among wrestling fans bishops checking to make sure that everything's ready for the big moment when he glances at the subtitled feed of WWF raw playing on a monitor so the announcer is saying something about his Hogan vs Nash Fight Bischoff space drops as the wwf he w fs announcer reveals that Nash is going to take a die then hand Hogan the championship belt Bishop figures two can play this game. He grabs a headset and barks orders to the announcer during the live commentary. Tell the audience not to switch channels. Tell the Mick Foley will win the WWF title belt from the rock tonight. We know that because they're show isn't live moments later. The announcer issues the retaliatory spoiler. If you're even the big channel to our competition fans recalled unlike they've got they're showing the shelf take later tonight. Mick Foley who watch Wessel. Here's pat he's got. He's GonNa win their world title but the plan backfires fire's big time almost immediately six hundred thousand households switched channels they WANNA see Foley's deranged is leather mask character mankind beat McMahon's brash champion the Rock Bischoff just promoted the WWF on his own show causing causing a viewer exodus and securing another ratings victory for Vince McMahon in the process and the blows keep deep coming. It's early spring nineteen ninety nine at an upscale French restaurant in Hollywood Dean Valentine on-time the CEO of the TV network. UPN is sharing a business quandary with a friend over dinner. The Viacom owned UPN is one of America's America's national broadcast networks but it's trailing far behind the likes of Fox and NBC so Valentine Fields his network needs a new direction and I'm thinking of focusing UPN on the young male demographic but I need to find compelling shows to bring them to us preferably with a built in Audience Valentine's friends sips his glass of red wine and offers a suggestion. You know my teenage son. Sir Crazy about wrestling so totally addicted ballantine's eyes widen of course wrestling yeah. That's the ticket you know. I met Vince Mcmahon a few months ago. I'm going to give them a call so when Valentine invites. WWF to make prime time wrestling show for UPN McMahon leaps at the chance to bring his wrestling show to network worked TV on Thursday April twenty nine nine hundred ninety nine UPN and wwf open up a new battlefront in the restaurant war Ala they independent. It's a glorious return to that night. Five point six million homes watched the the pilot episode of smackdown within days. UPN AND WWF agree to make smackdown a weekly show in August one thousand nine hundred ninety nine the first weekly episode of smackdown airs and it lives up to its name four point two million homes watch the WWF newest show that week WCW's Thursday night offering thunder manages less than two million households. WCW is now losing the TV ratings were on Mondays and Thursdays and bishops efforts to turn things around. You are about to hit another robot. Every business war starts with an uncertain outcome dot com personalities resilience skill and luck all play a row and every winner uncovers an unexpected edge along the way. If you've been looking for the edge for your company's marketing and sales then let me tell you about intent data. I O they help you identify the B. Two B. 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Morgan Chase Bank in a an equal housing lender in late August nineteen ninety nine and in WCW's head office Eric Bischoff is on the phone selling a big new idea to Turner Broadcasting Finance chief Vicky Miller and cheese his last hope his plans already been vetoed by every other senior executive company Vicki. I WanNa do a Millennium Eve pay per view that combines a WCW show with a concert by kiss. Yes it'll be called new. Year's Evil Miller interrupts sorry. Did you say kiss yeah you know kiss base paint gene and Simmons. I WanNa rock and roll all party every day. I think it would make at least three million dollars. That's enough to ensure. WCW turns a profit this year and sorry Eric but it's a no-go kisses expensive and I don't see them appealing to the young men who watch your shows also were all worried about the Y2k bug causing technical problems during this pay per view and he's just not worth the risk they find another way but while Bischoff is scrambling to come up with another plan Turner's top brass decide. It's time for a change inge. WCW's revenues are slipping and losses are growing a few days later. Bischoff is out his strategy of making a wrestling show for young men turn WCW into a serious threat to the WWF but now the WCW's visionary leader her is gone a victim of the new regime. That's taken charge since Time Warner bought out Turner Broadcasting while WCW is sliding into to the red the WWF is flush and plans to use its cash to dominate wrestling and it does in fact WWF has become so popular it draws the interest of well heeled investors. It's October nineteen ninety nine inside a Wall Street Investment Bank Vince McMahon. His family and a group of bankers are popping popping champagne corks. They've got plenty to celebrate to this morning the WWF floated on the Nasdaq stock opened at seventeen seventeen dollars by the closing bell it had risen to twenty five the WWF. Now has one hundred seventy million in dollars in the bank. Finally after years of living hand to mouth is a private enterprise the WWF has plenty of financial actual muscle. It's also made the Mcmahon family the majority owners of a Billion Dollar Corporation by steering his sports entertainment attainment empire toward the crew rude and lewd just as Turner Broadcasting his taming. WCW Outwit McMahon's at the Jackpot uh-huh advertisers like Coca Cola might have pulled their AD dollars from wwf in response but the gains far outweigh the losses WWF TV ratings ticket sales pay per views ad revenues and merchandise sales are soaring in nineteen ninety eight at generated aided prophets of eight point five million dollars a year later. It's on track to make fifty seven million. WWF really WF shift from PG to R. rated wrestling his also left WCW broken and bleeding with BISCHOFF gone WCW's CW's decline only accelerate viewers are steadily deserting it shows and pay per views average attendance at its live shows drops ops from forty-six hundred people in October nineteen ninety nine to just seventeen hundred a year later it ends the year two thousand with a reported loss of sixty the two million dollars then in January two thousand one Turner Broadcasting Calls a surprise as news conference in New York City Turner executive fills the reporters in Turner Broadcasting has signed a letter of intent to sell L. WCW. To a consortium led by Eric Bischoff bishops back since getting pushed out of WCW. He's found a wealthy ally in investor Brian Bideau the founder of Classic Sports Network in College Sports Television together together. They're offering Turner Broadcasting's owners. Time Warner Sixty seven million dollars for the wrestling promotion as part of the proposed Buyout Turner Broadcasting has promised beat that WCW will keep its primetime slots on TNT and TBS. At least that's the plan Dan until there's a change at the top in mid-march beat all is called to a meeting with Jamie Kellner the Time Warner executive who's just taken charge of Turner's. TBS TNT networks beat olds in a room waiting for Kellner beadle senses trouble. The Moment Kellner enters. There's I just reviewed the WCW buyout contract and I'm not happy with it. I'm not guaranteeing you. WCW's primetime slots as part of the deal deal in fact. I want to cancel the shows. That's a dealbreaker for us without TV platform. WCW Jog is still your highest rated show you know. I don't see why you wouldn't want to keep broadcasting it. TNT and TBS are positioned as upscale networks. You see our advertisers want to reach affluent consumers. WCW's audiences downscale a third of its audience or unemployed only eleven percent of WCW viewers have a college degree. It's out out of step with what my networks are doing like. I said it's a deal breaker if we don't get TV shows we're not buying well then. I guess we're done here with bishops bid by. WCW Dead in the water Vince McMahon seizes the opportunity unlike alike bishops consortium Ming. Man Doesn't care about getting WCW TV slots. He just wants to shut down his competition five days later after Bischoff takeover bid collapses. WWF BUYS WCW's trademarks and intellectual property operative from Turner Broadcasting four point three million dollars a week later WCW shows are off the air wwf absorbs the cream of WCW's wrestling talent and dumps the rest the WCW brand rand is consigned to history. The war is over and only WWF remains but but they're about to be thrown a curve ball. It's August two thousand one and in the High Court in London the WWF legal team is celebrating its just won a court case defending its trademark but it isn't the wrestling in WWF. That's in high spirits. It's the World Wildlife Fund the other. WWF is a global charity protecting protecting pandas and other animals. It was founded in nineteen sixty one some eighteen years before McMahon's wrestling promotion adopted the WWF brand. The two organizations have spent years arguing over trademarks and now the English court has given its decision. The World Wildlife Fund got out there. I it's the World Wrestling Federation that must change its name in May two thousand and two McMahon response to the ruling by renaming his company World Wrestling Entertainment W. w. p. and for the moment at least it's the only wrestling game in town the regional promotions of old her long gone the WCW is a mothballed brand owned by W W E and the ultra violent e C. W's just gone bust too but wrestling fans missed the rivalry so in summer two thousand two McMahon invents a new rivalry by dividing the WWE's wrestlers into two rival camps raw and smackdown to help the story work. He reveals that he's going to appoint two managers to head up these rival branches of the wwe. It's July two thousand and two and in East Rutherford New Jersey fifteen thousand Monday night raw fans are waiting for a big reveal may man's already cast his daughter Stephanie as the leader of smackdown and tonight he's going to name the manager of WWe Raw McMahon Browse the stage mic in hand realize this but it takes a real son of a Beck's to be successful successful in this business from one son of a bits to another due to the new general manager of raw is name is Eric Bischoff the crowd jeers and boos the Eric Bischoff walks onto the stage and hugs McMahon the two former rivals then turned to the crowd lock hands and raise their arms in the air in triumph the very real competition that once existed between them is now just just another story arc in McMahon's lucrative sports entertainment illusion from this is business or we sure hope you enjoy this series and we invite you to subscribe on Apple podcasts spotify. Defy Google podcasts stitcher iheartradio or wherever you listen to podcasts you'll find a link on the episode notes. If you tap or swipe over the cover art we'll see some offers from our sponsors and you can support our show by supporting them if you will if you like what you've been listening to it would be terrific if you give us a five star rating and tell all your friends had a subscribe another way to support us is by answering or short survey at one dot com slash survey and please tell us what business war stories. You'd like to hear next a quick note about the conversations in this episode. We can't know exactly what was said but this dialogue is based on our best research. I'm your host. David Brown Tristian Donovan wrote this story Karen. Low is our senior producer and editor Donna. Hi edited this story our editor and producer Jenny Lower Beckmann sound design by Kyle L. Randall for Bay area sound. Our executive producer is Marshall Louis created by or non Lopez or wondering.