e had secured WCW, it was finally ours and out of AOL Time Warner's possession, and no executive in the CNN Tower could tell me or any other WCW employee how to run things. We knew coming out of the sale, we had no deal with TNT or TBS as Jamie Kellner had booted us off the air but, as we knew about this before the sale, we negotiated with many networks and were turned down however, we found an agreement with FX, they wanted us on for 6 months and if ratings proved to be strong, we had the possibility of extending to a massive 7 year term, more than I could have imagined that's for sure.
It was the first day that the office had all the 'important' backstage people there. Everyone from bookers to video editors and for the first time in years, WCW had a somewhat positive feel to it. I felt that if this venture was successful from the off, the days of Time/Turner Broadcasting would be nothing but a distant memory. I just had to steer the ship in the right direction.
Fusient had put a lot of trust in me, they had invested over fifty million dollars and expected me to turn over a good profit in a five year time frame. Would that be easy given WCW's current stature? Certainly not, especially with the way the WCW brand had been devalued since late 1998 but, I felt it was an achievable task. When WCW began to lose money in 1999 and 2000, it wasn't as much as many dirtsheets thought. I had faith in myself but most importantly, I had a lot of faith in my crew/employees - whatever you want to call them.
Creative was a difficult section to deal with, nothing really major had been done with WCW for a long time but, the man who took over from Vince Russo, Johnny Ace had a good vision for WCW's future - at least I thought so. John had taken over booking and I thought he did a great job in steering WCW in the right direction, towards the black. The problem that John had, wasn't that his booking decisions were questionable, some of which were but, I know from personal experience that John's hands would have been tied, the executives up in the CNN Tower would have had John handcuffed to the table to ensure he did what they wanted and didn't breach any of their so called "rules" - I knew John with the right assistance, could help re-establish what WCW once had, he might not get us all the way there, not yet anyway but I knew he had the tools mentally to take us in the right direction.
Another employee of creative I decided to keep on was Ed Ferrara, after a lengthy discussion, Ferrara & I came to an agreement. Originally, he had reservations after what had gone down under Turner & Time Warner and expressed interest initially, in continuing as a road agent. Of course, the booking team would expand in the weeks and months to come but right now, these were the only two people I could trust.
Talent? The hardest negotiating period of my life. Everyone associated with Turner/Time Warner were signed to them and not to us (WCW) and that meant that when the deal with Fusient went through, we had everything except the contracted employees. I knew I had to sell this harder than I could sell it, no one had any faith in WCW being turned around, especially without the mammoth level of finance that WCW had once had when under the powers of CNN Tower. All those contracted had around 6 or 7 months left on their contracts and they could choose to sit them out with AOl Time Warner or, they could be bought out by myself or the WWF - fortunately for me, the WWF either didn't know about these terms or just never acted on them. I figured most of the talent would be in Atlanta still, since WCW had pretty much just closed it's doors so I invited all those contracted to AOL Time Warner to attend a meeting at a local conference centre. Not all of them turned up but the ones that did managed to take me by surprise. I knew straight away I would have to win them over, especially the established stars who actually came, one of which was the injured Bill Goldberg. I instantly told them that signing over to me would keep them relevant, ensure a better future in the business and also help make WCW what it once was, a huge, profitable wrestling company that can take anyone down, including the WWF.
I never had a problem with the WWF, business is business, but the boys never needed to know that. I sold my ass off, harder than I think I ever have and it paid off, 80% of those agreed to a buy out, Scott Steiner & Booker T were more than happy to accept however, 20% didn't and part of that 20% was Bill Goldberg, who wasn't convinced in the slightest. Now, even though Bill was injured, he still had name value. If I could use Bill in an other way whilst he was injured, I would. Name value would bring in an audience. I let everyone who had verbally agreed know that contracts would be sent in the mail as soon as possible, those who never wanted to come over - I had two choices. Tell them to go fuck themselves or, the more sensible route would be to further negotiate - and I did with Goldberg being my top priority. Sting, perhaps the most loyal man I know, took me aside following the initial meeting and told me he was willing to take a massive pay cut if it helped WCW build but Sting never wanted to be messed around, he wanted positivity, I knew straight away that Sting was one of the ones I could trust.
I wanted to negotiate with Bill in private, he always has been a cards close to the chest kind of guy so I thought a meeting individually would in the end, work. So I set one up. Jesus. This was a massive wake up call. Bill Goldberg was a massive prick and only wanted to ensure his own well-being was taken care of before he even bothered to help anyone, much less the company that helped make him a household name.
Goldberg had demands, massive ones. I said from the get go, guaranteed contracts were not an option moving forward with WCW, it just wasn't plausible due to financial constraints and also from the petty shit it causes backstage. Goldberg wanted $1,235,000 for a three year deal with the addition of at least two WCW World Heavyweight Championship runs and control as to how, and when he loses the belt. I thought I could come to a better agreement, I couldn't. Goldberg was intent on milking me and Fusient for what we had, he seen our desperation and acted on it as quick as he could.
I knew right away that there was no way I could agree to this deal, I wouldn't allow someone to try and take advantage of me like this and I damn sure knew Fusient would have a hell of a lot to say if I went through with this. Goldberg was off the cards, at least so I thought. When Goldberg realized I wasn't willing to give him what he wanted, he gave me a counter. He now wanted $1,000,000 over three years and one WCW World Heavyweight Championship reign - no control as to when and how he loses it. Still, I wasn't convinced I could do this. I knew giving Bill a guarantee like this would ruffle more than feathers with the boys and with Fusient. I had to think fast, though - I was still engulfed in the fact that Bill Goldberg was a massive name to be added to our talent so, I reluctantly decided to give Bill what he wanted however, an additional clause would be written in stating that Goldberg would not be permitted to tell anyone, including close friends and family about the details of his contract and should anyone find out, he would be terminated on the spot. He agreed. Bill Goldberg actually agreed. He shook my hand but deep down, I wanted to kick his face off. His contract would be drawn up and sent out too.
I conducted more meetings with the other talent who weren't totally convinced and sadly, many of them still never came over and opted to sit out their contracts with AOL Time Warner - I say sadly but really, it's their careers they could end up killing because I wont be here in 6 or 7 months ready to give them a job.
I was ready, or at least almost ready to continue with the planning of our return, I still needed an arena or venue, something I had inadvertently left until last to sort. I had a damn good feeling that everything was looking up for us - then I got the call from Hard Rock Cafe.
I had been in negotiations with Hard Rock Cafe about building a ring in Vegas at their area, I knew we'd get a crowd every night and knew we couldn't go back to doing arenas over 10,000 capacity when the WCW's name had been dragged through the mud ten times. Hard Rock Cafe told me that the deal had collapsed and further negotiations at present were not available. I don't know the reason why but I would assume they never wanted to run the risk of such a tarnished name being put in their vicinity. Who knows? The problem I now had was I needed somewhere to work. Fortunately, after a lot of searching, Johnny Ace came to me and pitched an arena in Hunstville, Alabama - the Von Braun Center to be exact. I made the call and after a few meetings, we came to an agreement to give us exclusive use of the building all day on Thursday's. Did I like the venue? Hell no, it was a piece of shit to be honest but, I had no choice. I needed somewhere and this place would have to do us for now.
So, we had the arena set, we had our network deal with FX ready, talent had sent me back their signed contracts with some who said they would, pulling out at the last minute however, I still had Bill Goldberg plus Booker T, Sting & Scott Steiner signed up. Things were looking up. Now the fun begins. We had under 2 weeks to get plans finalized now that we knew exactly who we had to work with. WCW Nitro returned to TV on Thursday, June 14, 2001 - it was make or break time for us since we have been off air since March.
June 01, 2001
And that's the start, well some of it. This wont be a rush job. Yearly recaps take quite a lot of thought. Again, hope this kind of format isn't putting anyone off.