The name "World Championship Wrestling" was first used as a brand and television show title in 1982. Jim Barnett (who had worked for the World Championship Wrestling promotion in Australia) came to Atlanta in the 1970s during an internal struggle over Georgia Championship Wrestling. Barnett ultimately became majority owner of the promotion, and began using his previous employer's name for his new promotion's television program in 1982. The promotion was eventually purchased by Jim Crockett Promotions.
Influential wrestling magazine Pro Wrestling Illustrated and its sister publications thereafter habitually referred to Jim Crockett Promotions as "World Championship Wrestling", "WCW" and most commonly "the World Championship area" and continued to do so until early 1988 when it began referring to the company solely as the NWA, reasoning that "it has become apparent that the NWA and the World Championship area are one and the same."
However, it was not until November 2, 1988 that an actual, National Wrestling Alliance (NWA)-affiliated promotion called 'World Championship Wrestling' appeared on the national scene. This entity was under the ownership of media mogul and cable-TV pioneer Ted Turner, based in Atlanta, Georgia. While initially the new company was called the Universal Wrestling Corporation (launched October 11, 1988), very shortly following the purchase the decision was made to utilize the familiar "World Championship Wrestling" TV show name, as the brand name for this new promotion.
Leadership and booking
WCW went through various changes in business and creative leadership during its existence. Some figures, like Jim Herd and
Kip Frey, were mere TV executives completely lacking in wrestling-promotion experience; others, like Bill Watts, Ole Anderson, and Dusty Rhodes had extensive experience in the business, but were so entrenched in the outdated "territory" ways of operating (which their respective careers had thrived under) that they were ineffective at growing WCW's largely regional audience, into a national—and international—one (as Vince McMahon had successfully done with the WWF).
While Eric Bischoff has received much criticism for some mistakes in judgment as Executive Producer (and later, WCW President), he combined an understanding of wrestling (largely gained as a staffer with Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association) with a willingness to make the changes needed to raise WCW's profile with mainstream media, its target audience and especially, TV advertisers. These changes including moving some television tapings from Atlanta to Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida, and, signing a mix of veteran U.S. main-event performers, and younger stars from promotions around the world (e.g., Rey Mysterio, Jr.).
Some of the creative freedoms that Bischoff granted main-event-level talent hurt the promotion, as such performers were less-than-cooperative in making stars out of the young performers—even though doing so (known in the industry as "doing what's best for the business instead of for just yourself") has been a staple of the industry, worldwide, since its inception. Once Bischoff was relieved of his duties in 1999, Vince Russo (a former senior storyline writer for the WWF), came aboard as lead writer of all of WCW's storylines. Although Russo would not last long in this role (departing for the first time in January 2000), WCW opted to bring Russo and Bischoff back in April 2000, in hopes that the duo might re-spark flagging fan interest in WCW. The two, however, did not get along well and Bischoff soon resigned from the sinking company. It was only a few months later that Russo would also depart after suffering from a concussion at the hands of Bill Goldberg (although he remained under contract for the rest of WCW's existence). Following Russo's departure, creative was handled by a booking committee which included John Laurinaitis and Terry Taylor.
WCW in other media
From 2000 to 2001, Monster Jam had a series of monster trucks based on wrestlers' names. These include nWo (2000), Sting (2000–2001), Nitro Machine (2000–present; currently Inferno), Madusa (2000–present) and Goldberg (2000–present; currently Max-D). The first to go was nWo, which only ran for a season. Next, all but Goldberg, Nitro, and Madusa were retired after the WCW sponsorship was lost. Nitro then became 'Flashfire', and then was converted into 'Inferno'. 'Madusa' has stayed the same since its creation, driven by its namesake Debrah Miceli. As for 'Goldberg', it was changed to 'Team Meents' in 2002, then into 'Maximum Destruction' (later shortened to 'Max-D'), which debuted in 2003 and continues to compete in the series and rivals the legendary Grave Digger in popularity on the circuit.
WCW also had a presence in NASCAR from the mid-1990s to 2000, sponsoring the #29 team in the Busch Grand National Series full-time and the #9 Melling Racing team in the Winston Cup Series part-time. In 1996, Kyle Petty's #49 car in the Busch Grand National series was sponsored by the nWo, and Wally Dallenbach Jr. briefly drove a WCW-sponsored for Galaxy Motorsports.
Several WCW video games were made in the 1980s and 90s, including WCW Mayhem,WCW/NWO Revenge,WCW/NWO Thunder,WCW vs the World, and WCW Backstage Assault. Several other games were made as well.
Sale to World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.
In mid-2000 until the end of the year, a number of potential buyers for WCW were rumored to show interest in the company. Ted Turner, however, did not have influence at Time Warner prior to the final merger of AOL and Time Warner in 2001, and most offers were rejected. Eric Bischoff, working with Fusient Media Ventures, made a bid to acquire the company in January 2001 (shortly following the AOL/Time Warner merger), and it appeared that WCW would continue.
One of the primary backers in the WCW deal backed out after AOL Time Warner refused to allow WCW to continue airing on its networks; leaving Fusient to take that offer off the table while it attempted to bring a new deal around. In the meantime, the World Wrestling Federation founded W. Acquisition Company in late-2000 and began speaking to the new AOL Time Warner about acquiring the WCW brand. Jamie Kellner was handed control over the Turner Broadcasting division, and deemed WCW, along with Turner Sports as a whole, to be out of line with its image. As a result, WCW programming was cancelled on TBS and TNT, leaving Vince McMahon's company, which at the time had an exclusive deal with Viacom, free to acquire the trademarks, video libraries and a few contracts of World Championship Wrestling through its new subsidiary W. Acquisition Company and was renamed WCW Inc. afterwards.
During the sale, WCW was in litigation, with various lawsuits pending, and AOL Time Warner still had to pay various performers their guaranteed deals, as many had contracts directly with the parent company, and not with WCW. Since WCW Inc. had acquired select assets, the company that was once World Championship Wrestling was reverted to the Universal Wrestling Corporation once again.
Two separate subsidiary companies existed as immediate successors to WCW. WCW, Inc. is the WWE subsidiary established in Delaware in late 2000, initially as W. Acquisition Company, which holds the rights to the WCW video library and other intellectual property. The former WCW entity, which retained liabilities not acquired by WWF, was renamed back to the Universal Wrestling Corporation; it was listed as a subsidiary of Time Warner until 2017, when it was merged into Turner Broadcasting System. Its only purpose was to deal with old contracts and lawsuits.