Thanks to everyone for reading this column. I know my subject may be an unpopular one. In fact, I may be writing for just two people. (I hope ekedolphin and redsoxnation appreciate the effort.) This limited audience is the only people interested in buying Scott Keith’s next book.
WCW Nitro: Ratings Analysis
Most Memorable Moment
The moment I pick is when Scott Steiner was feuding with DDP. They had a bitter feud. The highlight was when Scott Steiner kidnapped Kimberly, DDP’s wife. He put her in his car and drove away. Then when DDP was running after the car, he opened up the door and pushed Kimberly out the car while the car was still speeding away. Kimberly was laying on the ground and DDP swore vengeance in a touching scene.
5/6/96 – This was their lowest rated show at 1.9. The main event had the Giant against “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. It sucked and you could tell the Giant wasn’t bringing in ratings during his title run.
10/26/98 – This night after Havoc was the last time WCW would ever beat the WWF in the ratings war. However, this could be attributed to the PPV main event match between Goldberg and DDP being shown in full on Nitro. At the PPV, the Hogan/Warrior match not only sucked, but took up too much time. As a result, the Goldberg main event could not be seen by many customers when the PPV cut off at 11 PM. They got a 5.11, but it came at a price. They had to doubly screw over their PPV customers by showing the main event on free TV. That night also saw DDP beat Bret Hart for the US title in a pretty good feud.
4/3/00 –Special Nitro clip show scored a 1.8…Worst Rating Ever. It showed the History of Nitro: Pillman/Liger, Hogan/Bossman, NWO clips, Goldberg, Bischoff, Russo, etc. The theme of the show is the following; Bischoff beat Vince McMahon once before, Can he do it again? This time he has the DIStint ADVANTAGE of Vince Russo by his side.
Here are the nominees for the person who made the biggest impact on Nitro: Hogan, Sting, Goldberg, Flair, and Savage. This is also the order of importance that I give them due to their contributions. Poor Macho Man only spent 9 weeks on Nitro as the champion. Long-time star, Ric Flair may have been a 16-time Champion(?), but if you blinked you’d miss his title runs in this decade. Sting and Goldberg each had solid runs as Nitros champion, but Hogan was the champion for the longest time on Nitro. He spent 105 weeks as the champion of Nitro. This is longer than anyone else nominated.
Longevity at the Top
105 Hogan 26 Sting 25 Goldberg 18 Ric Flair 9 Randy Savage
Best Ratings Impact:
I’d like to take a look at all champions who had at least 7 straight weeks of appearing on Nitro as the champion. This will determine who made the biggest difference in ratings from the previous champion. I’ll include all regular shows up to the end.
The biggest impact on Nitro’s ratings was when Hollywood Hogan had his second of five title reigns. This title reign lasted an incredible 71 weeks and was averaging a 3.60 rating. This is an increase by .71, 24%, over Giant’s ‘96 title reign. This was the second biggest percentage increase of any title reign. It was the title run that allowed WCW to win the ratings war. Many see the year 1997 as WCW golden age when Nitro beat Raw by its biggest margin; 3.7 to 2.7.
A lot of people knock Hogan for various reasons. He wasn’t a fighting champion and he played politics. But, the fact is during this time, when he was the champion, WCW beat the WWF in the ratings Each and Every week for 71 weeks. Months before and months after Hogan this wasn’t the case. Without him, there is no NWO. It was like the WCW team was undefeated with Hogan at quarterback.
People may credit the ratings to a hot NWO angle, but Hogan was the leader of the NWO. To not give him credit is like giving credit to the Beatles for revolutionizing rock music, but not giving credit to Paul McCartney. Even during the shows Hogan wasn’t on; he was always the focal point of their storyline. If a WCW member won the title, then WCW won the war with the NWO. If Hogan retains the title, then the NWO wins the war. By these terms, the NWO won the war more often than not.
For the time Nitro got it’s best ratings ever, you must also credit Hogan. It was during Hogan’s 1999 title run. This was his fourth title run, which began when he “defeated” Kevin Nash via the finger-poke of doom. Ratings soared to an all-time high of 4.72. Judging in terms of pure numbers, this first quarter of 99 was WCW’s peak.
The second biggest ratings impact is Sting’s title run in early 98 for 16 weeks. He won the title from Hogan in a Starcade Screwjob. At the time, everyone was dying for a Sting title run as ratings were 4.64. Under Sting, ratings increased by 1.04, 29%, compared to Hogan’s title run. This was Sting’s most popular incarnation as the silent Crow. He came from the shadows and hit people with his baseball bat. He was the only WCW member allowed even a little bit of success against the NWO, but it didn’t last long.
Sting’s second title run in late 99 was more of a failure as ratings decreased by 8%. It lasted 10 weeks and took place after he joined the NWO Wolfpack and switched to being the Red Sting. He could no longer help the ratings.
Goldberg’s title run in 1998 is one of the most talked about. His 25 week title run got a ratings bump of .58, 15%., compared to the previous title reign of Hogan. At the time, Goldberg was running up his undefeated streak. He won the title at a huge July 6 match on Nitro. I’m not saying he could spike Raw’s ratings today, but he sure did a good job for Nitro when he got the ball.
Ric Flair’s title run in 1996 is very underrated. His 9 week title run got a ratings bump of .48, 20%. He had won the title at Starcade 95 from Savage and his Horsemen were over at the time. This was also Flair’s longest title run. His title run in early 99 was more of a failure and lasted only 4 weeks before DDP took over.
Worst Ratings Impact:
Here Hollywood Hogan had his worst title run in 1998, after Sting. Ratings dropped .66, -14%, compared to the Sting. It lasted 8 weeks before he lost the title to Goldberg. Right after his 71 week title run, it was too soon for him to get the belt back.
Sid Strikes Again: Remember when I said he took down the WWF in his 96 title run. Well, history repeats itself with his 2000 title run. Ratings decreased by .48, -15%, compared to Bret Hart’s title run, which wasn’t so great either. Sid’s Millenium Man was funny, but not good for ratings.
Ratings Crash – Bash Nash:
Kevin Nash caused the worst ratings decrease in WCW history. Ratings decreased by 1.38, -29%, compared to Hogan’s title run. Nash wasn’t helped by the short, crappy title runs of Flair and DDP that preceded him, but he made matters worse. His 8 week title run in mid-99 was so bad that everyone was wishing Hogan would return. He was averaging a 3.34 rating, just compare that to Goldberg’s 4.57. He could blame the booking except for the fact that he was the guy holding the damn book. He had the book, he had the title, and he had a feud with DDP that nobody cared about. His buddies weren’t around to bail him out any more.
Ratings Don’t Always Equal Quality:
Nitro may not have invented the screwjob finishes, but they sure used them all the time. The card was always good on paper, but the show always sucked at the end.
The Nitro “No-Contest” was in full effect starting in February 24, 1997. Here was the main event cards for the next 4 weeks. Giant & Lugar vs. Harlem Heat, Giant & Lugar vs. Steiner Brothers, Kevin Sullivan vs. Hardbody Harrison, and Harlem Heat vs. the Steiner Brothers. I have no idea what the third match is doing with the others, but that must’ve been a slow day. If anybody knows why Sullivan was headlining the March 10, 1997 Nitro, please tell me cause I haven’t a clue. That match resulted in a Double Countout anyway. The three tag team matches all ended in No-Contests. It was meant to show that all three teams were equally good, but it made me wonder why people kept watching them.
The Reason for No-DQ matches:
They say you can fool some of the people some of the time. It is also true that you CAN fool all of WCW fans EIGHT times in a row. All of these matches were good on paper and all of them ended in a Disqualification. Here they are starting from October 27, 1997: Flair vs. Savage, Hennig vs. Luger, Luger vs. Flair, Giant vs. Scott Hall, Giant vs. Hogan, DDP vs. Hennig, DDP vs. Scott Hall, Flair vs. Hennig. They all got good ratings proving that as long as the NWO would give someone a beatdown, the match result didn’t much matter.
How Does Russo Keep Getting Hired?
Somehow Vince Russo keeps convincing people that he is good for ratings. He has taken credit for Raw’s ratings success and was given charge of WCW. Here is what happened to WCW’s ratings when he was in charge. For 14 weeks at the end of 1999, with Russo running the show, Nitro got ratings of 3.10. For the prior 14 weeks in 1999 without Russo, Nitro got ratings of 3.36. So ratings with Russo decreased by 8% and he was fired. He may say that 3 months wasn’t enough time to get good ratings, but it seems long enough for me. Word of mouth travels quickly. The next time he was in charge in 2000 was for 28 weeks and Nitro averaged 2.77. Before he took over that year they were averaging 2.80. The bottom line is that Russo is not that bad for ratings, but he isn’t that good either. He shouldn’t be running any major wrestling show.
Random Nitro Fact:
Nitro used this matchup in their main event four times. Hogan vs. the Giant. Each time it ended with the Giant getting a victory by DQ. The most humorous time was call the Robin Hood main event. They spent the entire show hyping the Hogan/Giant matchup and started it 2 minutes before they had to go off the air. So, they promised that during the TNT premiere of the Robin Hood TV show, they’d continue the match during commercials. It was a classic bait and switch. If you wanted to see glimses of the match, you had to sit through another TV show. It was also funny how the Giant kept getting screwed out of the title by the NWO, yet he joined the group anyway.
Quick Hits: ECW Ratings
Here is a quick recap on ECW on TNN. Mike Awesome was good for ratings and Justin Credible was bad. When Awesome was champion for 28 weeks, ratings increased 21% to a high of 1.07. When Credible was champion for a long 23 weeks, ratings decreased 14% to .85. If they wanted better ratings, they could’ve replaced Credible with RVD.
Excellent analysis, I'd just like to add a few points: I actually have no problem with Hogan reign 2. Hogan reign 1 where he buried the title for a year after showing up in WCW is my main problem with him. However, the 71 week stretch might have to be broken in two, while even though Hogan held the Title going into Nitro for the entire 71 week stretch, he did lose the title to Luger on the first three hour Nitro in the summer of '97. A good breakdown is Hogan 2 compared to Hogan 3 and the build-up to the Sting match-up. You can really see that the death sentence for WCW was the Russo Title run, as the Booker ratings just tanked from that point. The point where the drop really shows is the Hogan to Flair switch in early '99. This shows that the double turn was a complete mistake, and brings up an episode of Nitro where the inmates running the asylum was really evident. It was the last three hour Nitro, but instead of having matches for the first hour, it was all Hogan/Nash skits taking up the hour. Even more than the finger-poke of doom that self indulgent tripe by Nash and Hogan began to show the downward spiral that was WCW. Of course I'd buy the WCW book. I mean, it is right up there with the ultimate train wrecks of all time. Now, onto the ECW ratings. The point where I believe Heyman lost his mind and began the death of his program was right after Awesome/Tanaka had the great X-Mas Eve/New Years Eve title switches, matches that had great action and very good ratings. Now, instead of building upon this, Heyman decided to flush his promotion down the drain by making his pissing war with TNN public with the Network angle. After a while, snide remarks for the first quarter of the ECW flagship program about Rock 'n Bowl and Rollerjam started to drive away any casual fans they had developed. When Alpo finally was given the title run, that was the final sign that Heyman had completely lost his mind.
The only military skill provided by the French is demonstrating the methods of surrendering.
Thanks for the feedback guys. I’ve got an idea for another WCW column soon. Also, I’d like to do a Goldberg column, if he really does sign with the WWE. I’ll believe it when I see him on TV.
To break up Hogan’s 71 week run into the 50 weeks before and the 20 weeks after his fluke loss to Luger. The first part was a 3.38 and the second part was a 4.11 averaging out to a 3.60. Still a good run for it’s time.
With ECW’s ratings I think they would’ve liked to keep the belt on Awesome for at least an entire year if they could’ve. But, he wanted to go to WCW instead. The feud with the network was really stupid. It would be like a WWE announcer saying, “Stacker hurts your organs and sends you to an early grave…Don’t buy it.” The only payoff to the feud was TNN canceling the show.
Guys I would’ve liked to see given the ball in WCW (a real Title run lasting at least two months) to see what they could do: Luger (97), Jarrett (00) – not the crappy Jericho-ish title run he had, Sting (Q1 98), Benoit, Lance Storm (01) – when he had all the belts, and Buff Bagwell (Jan. 00) – with DDP feud.
Guys I’m happy never got the WCW belt: Rick Steiner, Scott Hall, Tank Abbott, and Road Warrior Animal.
The second set of numbers you just showed indicated a difference I didn't realize initially. During the first year of the NWO (what some would call their glory days), the ratings were actually on the level of the pre-Russo late '99 era ratings when most people believed WCW had gone downhill. This shows yet again that they had all the momentum in the world building up to the Sting/Hogan blow-off match, and screwed it up only as WCW could possibly find a way to do.
The only military skill provided by the French is demonstrating the methods of surrendering.