The Death of WCW

The Death of WCW




It is hard to figure out whether or not the death of World Championship Wrestling was more unavoidable or inexcusable.


What went wrong with WCW?
In 1997, World Championship Wrestling was on top. It was the number-one pro wrestling company in the world, and the highest-rated show on cable television. Each week, fans tuned in to Monday Nitro, flocked to sold-out arenas, and carried home truckloads of WCW merchandise. Sting, Bill Goldberg, and the New World Order were household names. Superstars like Dennis Rodman and KISS jumped on the WCW bandwagon. It seemed the company could do no wrong.
But by 2001, however, everything had bottomed out. The company – having lost a whopping 95% of its audience – was sold for next to nothing to Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment. WCW was laid to rest.
How could the company lose its audience so quickly? Who was responsible for shows so horrible that fans fled in horror? What the hell happened to cause the death of one of the largest wrestling companies in the world? The Death of World Championship Wrestling is the first book to take listeners through a detailed dissection of WCW’s downfall.
©2014 R.D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez (P)2016 Audible, Inc.


In March 1998, World Championship Wrestling had it all. It possessed arguably the deepest talent roster of any wrestling company in history. It had television ratings that many shows today would kill for and was selling out live events as if doing so were a mere formality. In March 2001, the company was dead and purchased for a pittance by its biggest competitor, the World Wrestling Federation. How did WCW fall so far so fast? ‘The Death of WCW’ by Bryan Alvarez and R.D. Reynolds is a thorough examination of that very question.
Think about how quickly World Championship Wrestling went from on top of the wrestling world to extinct. To put it in perspective, if you were a freshman in high school in March of 1998, WCW was out of business before your graduation in the late spring of 2001. Listening to this audiobook, you will come to understand how WCW going out of business is something that was both unavoidable and inexcusable.
‘The Death of WCW’ is not a complete history of the wrestling company. It doesn’t detail every major storyline or title change in the company’s history. The authors take what is often a week-by-week look at the years 1999 and 2000, while years like 1990 to 1993 are covered in much broader terms. But the book isn’t meant to be the complete history of the company as much as it is meant to be a dissection of the rise and fall, and in that way, it delivers in spades.
It would be difficult for me to summarize such an exhaustive account of the highs and lows of the company in a few words, but I will try. What went wrong with World Championship Wrestling? A lot of unqualified people made a lot of atrocious decisions.
But why should anyone who is a wrestling fan care about a company that made a series of horrible choices? In this way, the 10th anniversary edition of the book is much improved over the original release in 2004. The book contains added sections called “Lessons Not Learned” which point out how, despite having WCW’s example to learn from, wrestling promotions today find themselves making many of the same mistakes that proved fatal to Ted Turner’s wrestling empire.
The book is not without some factual errors, such as placing Bill Goldberg’s debut on August 22, 1997 when it was actually the next month or declaring that the anniversary of his first win was in July of 1998. However, there aren’t many of these errors and none of them, even compounded together, are enough to discredit the overall theme of the book.
At nearly 14 and a half hours ‘The Death of WCW’ might seem like a daunting listen for some. However, the book actually becomes more compelling as it progresses through the years 1996-2000. If anything, some might argue that the book isn’t long enough.
There are other books that cover the rise and fall of WCW to one degree or another by people who were actually there at the time. However, those books are hampered by personal agendas and our natural desire to paint ourselves in the best possible light. ‘The Death of WCW’ is the most thorough and objective account of the rise and fall of what was once the hottest wrestling company in the entire world.


Bryan Alvarez developed his writing style while producing the Figure 4 Weekly newsletter for several years. R.D. Reynolds is best known for his stellar work on the tremendous website. Unsurprisingly, this book is a reflection of both men’s sense of humor and longtime fans will have no trouble identifying trademarks of each author.
As much as I love the book, I do feel that there are areas in which the book could actually be improved. Before I discuss those points, I want to emphasize again that none of this detracted in any way from my enjoyment of the book, nor did it hurt the book’s premise.
The book is written with the assumption that the listener has some degree of familiarity with professional wrestling history and terminology. At first glance this makes complete sense as this is a book about the history of a pro wrestling company and thus has the most appeal to pro wrestling fans. However, there is some appeal for fans of business related books or books about doomed companies, and while definitions of terms can be derived from context, the authors could make the book more accessible by defining terms such as: “angle”, “face”, “heel”, “work”, “shoot” and others early in the narrative.
Another reason why a future edition of the book might want to assume a lesser degree of familiarity on behalf of the listener is to make the book feel more timeless. One example is that when the authors list all of the different incarnations of the New World Order faction, they make mention that NWO Typhoon did not feature the wrestler Fred Ottman. The joke makes sense if you know that Fred Ottman played a character named Typhoon in the early 1990s WWF, but fans who come to wrestling ten years from now and become aware of the book because of the WCW section on the WWE Network aren’t necessarily going to take the time to Google the reference.
There are a couple of things mentioned later in the book that could have been brought up earlier, but they would be minor. Anything else would simply be a matter of looking to find fault and that’s not what I’m looking to do.


Among fans of audiobooks, the question of whether authors should narrate their own material gets debated from time to time. One advantage an author has over someone hired to narrate their book is familiarity with the material. ‘The Death of WCW’ is a prime example of that advantage, as I don’t think this book would have been nearly as good if it were narrated by someone other than Bryan Alvarez.
As a host of Wrestling Observer Live and several other radio shows and podcasts, Alvarez is very comfortable behind the microphone. This by itself is enough to make him one of the best narrators of a pro wrestling related audiobook ever. I have heard many audiobooks dealing with pro wrestling and most are plagued by the same issue – name mispronunciations. When you are a fan and you hear a narrator mispronounce a name with which you are quite familiar, the experience can be quite jarring. This is especially true if the mistake is made repeatedly throughout the reading. Thankfully, this is not an issue with ‘The Death of WCW’ due to Alvarez’s own familiarity with the product.
There are a few awkward pauses here and there, but in general the narration flows smoothly. There are a couple of interesting pronunciations to be found (“lunatic” and “malarkey” come to mind), but these are more amusing than distracting.


Listening to Bryan Alvarez as often as I do, I was certain of one thing when he announced that he would be narrating the audiobook: It would sound great. The man is fanatical about his devotion to high quality audio and it shows in this production. It sounds as good as you would expect a book produced in 2016 to sound.
The track contains no music or sound effects. There are 16 audio chapter stops, one at the beginning of each chapter and another one in the middle of each of the longer chapters. I’m glad it was done this way, as some of the book chapters, particularly the 1999 and 2000 chapters, are quite lengthy.


Listening to ‘The Death of WCW’ evoked numerous emotional responses in me. The book made me laugh, it made me sad, it made me angry, and it almost made me cry. When Bryan Alvarez announced on one of his shows that he was narrating the audiobook, I was very excited. The final product not only met but surpassed all of my expectations.
‘The Death of WCW’ is a must-listen for any fans of professional wrestling and its history. It also has value to anyone who has an interest in knowing why companies succeed or fail. Even if you don’t know much of anything about wrestling, you’ll still be entertained. Minor factual errors and structural criticisms aside, it is not hard to understand why ‘The Death of WCW’ is a two-time winner of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Book of the Year award.


The Death of WCW Details
Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Released Length Stars
The Death of WCW R.D. Reynolds, Bryan Alvarez Bryan Alvarez Audible Studios Sports 09/16/2016 14H, 27M 5/5


A copy of ‘THE DEATH OF WCW’ was purchased from Audible for review.