POLLOCK’S UPDATE: Decline of WCW in 1999, Raw ratings, WrestleMania 40 tickets

Photo Courtesy: WWE

POST IT NOTES

On Saturday, July 6, POST Wrestling & Poisonrana are holding a live event at Yuk Yuk’s in Toronto (224 Richmond Street West) before Money in the Bank. Beginning at 2 p.m. ET, we will hold a special “State of the Wrestling Media” panel with guests Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics, Richard “Benno” Benson from GRAPPL, Stephanie Chase, Wai Ting and myself to discuss many aspects of covering the industry, our own experiences and opening it up to questions. This event will NOT be streaming, so if you’re in Toronto the way to see the panel is by attending the show with tickets available at www.postwrestling.com/live. The CASH-IN event will be followed by Braden Herrington & Davie Portman hosting some wrestling trivia, karaoke, and wrestling-themed Improv. We are going to have several guests joining us, so stay tuned.

**Rewind-A-Dynamite is live at 10:05 p.m. ET tonight following AEW Dynamite.

**Submit questions for this Friday’s ASK-A-WAI Mailbag Show on the POST Wrestling Forum or send an audio question at memo.fm/POSTWrestling. We already have a bunch of great questions, but we’ll answer as many as you have for us and no topics are off-limits. The show will be released this Friday for members of the POST Wrestling Café.  

WHO KILLED WCW?

**Episode 2 of “Who Killed WCW?” focused on the start of the decline for WCW in 1998, which increased exponentially the next year. In 1998, it was evident while watching WCW’s programming that the cracks were forming with a diluted product, serving multiple masters, and running with a pat hand. However, the product was enormously successful and grossed the most revenue of any pro wrestling company ever had up to that period (which would be surpassed by WWE in the years to follow).

So much is focused on Raw overtaking Nitro in TV ratings beginning in April 1998 with an episode teasing a Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon match throughout the episode. While WWE caught fire through the Austin vs. McMahon program, WCW was still riding a massive wave from the N.W.O. angle and then got a second burst of fuel through the unsuspecting rise of Bill Goldberg into a phenomenon. One of the most underrated periods of WCW’s history is four weeks beginning in December 1998 where WCW drew 32,067 at the Astrodome Houston, 29,000 at the TWA Dome in St. Louis, the Starrcade event doing 460,000 pay-per-view buys, and 38,809 at the Georgia Dome on January 4, 1999. The latter event was the Nitro with the “Finger Poke of Doom” and covered on this week’s episode with Kevin Nash still defending the decision, which dramatically hurt its business (their return to the Georgia Dome six months later fell to 25,000 and never reran the Georgia Dome).

The night of Jan. 4 was the last major battle in the Monday Night War climaxing with Mankind winning the WWF title from The Rock and the Nash vs. Hulk Hogan title match on the other channel. The combined audience between the two programs peaked at 13,827,000 in over eight million homes. While it’s often repeated how many viewers shifted to Raw when Tony Schiavone revealed the title change, there was also a massive number returning to Nitro after the title switch with over two million viewers coming back for Bill Goldberg’s run-in at the end of Nitro.

WCW did irreparable damage on that night and booking Goldberg outside of the WCW title picture was another colossal mistake. Nash’s justification for beating Goldberg was that there was more money in the “chase” but there was no chase that followed. Goldberg worked Scott Hall and Bam Bam Bigelow on the next two pay-per-views, wasn’t booked on the March pay-per-view and had a rematch with Nash in April where Goldberg wins and that led to Nash winning the title the next month. Goldberg is slotted in upper mid-card programs with Sting, Rick Steiner, Diamond Dallas Page, and Sid Vicious throughout the year and doesn’t headline another pay-per-view until December 1999.

It is staggering when you chart out the decline of WCW and this episode would have benefited by illustrating that data.  By 2000, their pay-per-view business was in the toilet from the year prior with Souled Out drawing 115,000 buys (down 65% from the year prior), SuperBrawl 2000 at 70,000 buys (a decline of 85%), Uncensored at 60,000 buys (down by 81%), and Spring Stampede at 115,000 buys (a moderate decrease of only 55%).

The episode ends in September 1999 with Bischoff being sent home and replaced by Bill Busch and sets the stage for Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara’s arrival the next month. By this time, WCW was a mess and business had tanked but was salvageable and had the core talent to right the ship but then it fell off a cliff in 2000 and by the summer there was no turning this ship around.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from WCW and yes, factors were working against them as outlined by the lack of support in certain areas of the Turner executive side, but they also had their allies and support when the company was hot. It was not Turner’s infrastructure that contributed to this fan base disappearing for a year at astounding rates or forcing inane finishes to kill off your hottest market in Atlanta.

WRESTLING NEWS

**Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer ruled in favor of placing a hold on the Janel Grant civil case for a stay of six months, which means it can resume after December 11. A request was issued by the plaintiffs last week to allow for the federal investigators in the Southern District of New York to continue their investigation into the case. Due to its sensitivity, little is known about the federal investigation, although it was disclosed by WWE that federal law enforcement agents did execute a search warrant on July 17, 2023. A grand jury subpoena for Vince McMahon was issued, although McMahon has not been charged. In WWE’s 10-Q filing last summer, they stated the company received both voluntary and compulsory legal demands for documents related to the federal investigation. The judge ruled against the defendant’s request to move the case to private arbitration but did so with the ability of the parties to request arbitration once the case resumes.

**Brandon Thurston at Wrestlenomics has obtained records related to WrestleMania 40 from the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission. Thurston confirmed that the first night of WrestleMania sold 56,147 tickets with an additional 3,889 comp tickets given out. The second night had 56,758 tickets sold and another 3,445 comps. The public figures WWE released were 72,543 for the first night and 72,755 for the second night at Lincoln Financial Field. The shows also generated gates of $18.4 million and $17.6 million each night, which make this year’s events the top two drawing events in the history of professional wrestling (without adjusting for inflation). Wrestlenomics added that The Undertaker’s 1 Dead Man Show grossed a gate figure of $180,325 from 928 tickets sold or an average ticket price of $194.32 at The Fillmore on Thursday, April 4.

**AEW Dynamite is at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa tonight and airs opposite Game 3 of the NBA Finals on ABC. It is a stronger lineup than usual including an AEW International title match, which has the potential to be one of the best TV matches of the year. Rush will have his first match on Dynamite this year and it’s building toward a match with MJF down the road. The last report from WrestleTix lists 2,686 tickets distributed which is the first time AEW has been at the venue. Below is the lineup:
*AEW International Championship:
Will Ospreay © vs. Rey Fenix
*TBS Championship:
Mercedes Mone © vs. Zeuxis
*TNT Title – Qualifying Match:
Jack Perry vs. Dustin Rhodes
*Orange Cassidy, Kyle O’Reilly & Mark Briscoe vs. Roderick Strong, Konosuke Takeshita & Kyle Fletcher
*Rush vs. TBA
*TV Time with Private Party
*Swerve Strickland speaks

**WWE Raw averaged 1,609,000 viewers and 655,000 (0.50) in the 18-49 demographic on the USA Network. The show’s viewership dropped by four percent and the demo average fell by seven percent from the previous week. It was Raw’s lowest viewership since May 13 and while it didn’t air against the NBA Finals, it did face competition from the Stanley Cup Finals. The Edmonton Oilers vs. Florida Panthers game averaged 3.56 million viewers on ABC. Raw averaged 1,628,000 viewers and 650,000 in the 18-49 demographic in the first hour, it grew to 1,680,000 million and 687,000 in the second hour, and down to 1,518,000 and 634,000 in the third hour. (Wrestlenomics, Sports Media Watch)

In Canada, Raw averaged 165,700 viewers and 48,900 in the 25-54 demographic on Sportsnet 360, which represent declines of 24 and 17 percent respectively. Raw was going to take a larger hit in Canada due to the Stanley Cup Final, which averaged 2.88 million viewers in the country. Raw ranked sixth among sports in Canada on Monday and was behind both the Oilers vs. Panthers and a Toronto Blue Jays vs. Milwaukee Brewers game.

**On Raw, WWE promoted a “post-show” after Clash at the Castle as opposed to labeling it as a press conference. We have contacted WWE PR for clarification if there will be a press conference this Saturday but have not received a response yet.

**Drew McIntyre noted that it was ten years ago today that he was released by WWE. McIntyre was part of a group of cuts including JTG, Jinder Mahal, Aksana, Curt Hawkins, Teddy Long, Camacho (Tonga Loa), Evan Bourne (Matt Sydal), Yoshitatsu, Brodus Clay, and referee Marc Harris.

**Samantha Schipman of Daily DDT has a great interview with Deonna Purrazzo. In the chat, they spoke about the positioning of her recent match with Thunder Rosa on the Buy-In portion of Double or Nothing, the state of the AEW women’s division, and the behind-the-scenes changes at TNA. Purrazzo was asked about the recent incident in Edmonton where a group of guys was ejected after catcalling Skye Blue during her match and the pressures female performers are under both online and in-person such as Blue was:

I get really, really upset and I think for Skye, who dealt with that while she was wrestling, it takes you out of the match. You don’t perform your best because you’re focused on that and not what you’re supposed to be doing. That can cause a lot of issues in terms of can you perform to the best of your ability, but also can you do it safely? Thank God she didn’t go out there and get hurt because that guy was making nasty comments and I mean, I could go on about it all day. But it’s just that men think they have the right to comment on women’s bodies.

**Sean Ross Sapp spoke with Sami Zayn before his match with Chad Gable at Clash at the Castle. Zayn spoke about the increased number of international events and the heated crowds attending and wanting to see a PLR in Chile.

**Marc Raimondi of ESPN will be releasing his book on the N.W.O. next March. The book is titled Say Hello to the Bad Guys and is available now for pre-order through Simon & Schuster. The book focuses on the legacy of the group and how it merged with popular culture and is still a recognized brand nearly thirty years after it was created in 1996.

**Pollstar has released figures from several recent shows including WWE Raw at the Bell Centre in Montreal on April 15. The show was a legitimate sellout with 11,614 and a gate of $766,949 (U.S.) and an average ticket price of $66.04.

**TNA sold 199 tickets for its second night at the MegaCorp Pavilion in Newport, Kentucky on May 19. The event grossed $8,887 and had an average ticket price of $44.66.

**Tony Khan was interviewed by Scott Fishman at TV Insider about Forbidden Door, the Timeless Toni Storm character, and would not speak about Ricochet.

**Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling on AXS TV will feature The System traveling to the Hardy Compound, Nic & Ryan Nemeth vs. Chris Bey & Ace Austin, Masha Slamovich vs. Marti Belle, Mike Santana vs. Zachary Wentz, Tasha Steelz vs. Dani Luna, and Ash by Elegance in action. This is the go-home show before Against All Odds this Friday at Cicero Stadium featuring Moose vs. Matt Hardy for the TNA Heavyweight Championship.

**The ECW One Night Stand event occurred nineteen years ago today on June 12, 2005. The idea for the show came from Rob Van Dam as he made the pitch to Vince McMahon noting how many ex-ECW talents were under contract. His pitch was bolstered by the tremendous sales of the “Rise and Fall of ECW” DVD the previous fall and led to the company booking the Hammerstein Ballroom for a nostalgia-based card. Initially, Paul Heyman was not involved but in time, he became a cornerstone of the show. It was the most authentic of the WWE-produced ECW shows, although there was no follow-up despite the success of the pay-per-view show. One year later, they staged another ECW pay-per-view but this time, there was an idea to revive the brand as an online digital property. Once it was known that WWE was launching the series, they secured a television deal with Sci-Fi (later SyFy) and launched in June 2006. The irony always brought up is that ECW eventually did make money, however, it was WWE that reaped the rewards after securing the IP in bankruptcy court.

**The anniversary of the ECW comes days before A&E presents a one-hour documentary on the brand this Sunday night.  

**The TKO stock closed at $107.94 on Wednesday.

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POLLOCK & THURSTON
John Pollock and Brandon Thurston chat about the status of Janel Grant’s lawsuit after the latest ruling, AEW’s attendance woes, and Clash at the Castle.
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“Who Killed WCW?” Ep. 2
John Pollock & Wai Ting share their thoughts on Who Killed WCW? Episode 2: “The Streak is Over”, documenting the beginnings of the promotion’s decline through pivotal events such as the end of Goldberg’s Streak, The Fingerpoke of Doom, and continued executive interference from Turner.
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upNXT
Braden Herrington and Davie Portman review the fallout from WWE NXT Battleground as they talk all about WWE NXT featuring Lexis King vs Dante Chen in a Singapore Cane Match.
****
REWIND-A-RAW
John Pollock and Wai Ting review the final WWE Raw before Clash at the Castle featuring Bron Breakker vs. Ilja Dragunov and Ricochet’s likely WWE send-off.
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About John Pollock 5659 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.