When WWE Bought WCW, The Wrestling World Changed Forever

Hamish Woodward

In March of 2001, the landscape of professional wrestling changed forever when World Wrestling Federation (WWF), now known as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), announced their purchase of their main competitor, World Championship Wrestling (WCW).

For years, the two companies had been locked in a fierce rivalry for ratings dominance, but now the war was over, and Vince McMahon’s empire had emerged as the undisputed king of sports entertainment.

The acquisition of WCW had a profound impact on the industry, and its effects can still be felt to this day.

In this article, we will explore when WWE bought WCW, how much it cost Vince McMahon and how Eric Bischoff almost bought the company himself.

When Did WWE Buy WCW?

The WWE completed the purchase of WWE on March 26th, 2001.

That date is one etched in infamy in professional wrestling. It signalled the end of the most successful time in wrestling history, with both WWE and WCW bringing in more viewers than ever before.

Sadly, the wrestling business would never recover.

The news came in just before one of the biggest wrestling shows of all time. WrestleMania X7 was just 6 days away, and the wrestling world was excited to see Steve Austin battle The Rock in the main event.

However, behind the scenes, the wrestling world was changing. ECW had already gone under, with Paul Heyman now employed alongside Jim Ross on commentary.

Meanwhile, Turner Broadcasting had merged with Time Warner, and with Ted Turner now longer in charge to keep in it business, WCW were up for sale.

Vince McMahon snapped up the company, having failed to do so the previous year.

How Much Did WCW Cost Vince McMahon?

AOL Time Warner sold the trademarks for WCW’s name and logo to the WWF for $2.5 million in 2001.

Vince McMahon would also purchase the tape library for a further $1.7 million, brining the total cost of buying WCW to $4.2 million.

On issue with the sale is what it didn’t actually include – the WCW wrestlers.

Most of the WCW wrestlers were contracted by AOL Time Warner, and not WCW. This allowed the company to pay stars like Hulk Hogan and Sting big salaries, without adding it to the WCW payroll.

WWE bought out a number of contracts from WCW, including Booker T and Diamond Dallas Page. However, the deals for the big stars were too much for them, so they neglected to sign the likes of Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Rey Mysterio to deals.

While all those stars would eventually, it would be after their WCW contracts had expired, and they were free to sign for the WWE.

However, it was not just Vince McMahon who wanted to buy WCW…

Eric Bischoff Nearly Bought WCW

In 2001, with reports of AOL Time Warner selling WCW, Eric Bischoff began raising the funds to purchase WCW.

The former Executive Producer of WCW was looking to revive the company, which had gone from the top of the world to the absolute pits in just a few short years.

WCW was haemorrhaging money, with unhappy talent and top stars, like Hogan, who refused to wrestle. It was an absolute mess, and unlikely he would have been able to save it.

Yet, Bischoff persisted.

With Fusient Media, he actually announced he had purchased WCW in early 2001. However, with the declaration that they would not retain their prime-time TV slot, investors soon pulled out, and the company was left open for the taking by WWE.

During a recent interview on ‘Insight’ with Chris Van Vliet, former WCW President Eric Bischoff spoke about trying to buy WCW, revealing just how close he had been to buying the company.

“There was a letter of intent outlining the terms that had been negotiated between between Fusion media [the group Eric was with] and Turner Broadcasting. Everybody had signed off on it. Due diligence had been done, there was close to $1 million in legal fees.

We had assurances from all of the top executives at Turner Broadcasting that it would go through. There was even a Wall St conference call announcing the deal publicly based on the letter of intent.

My kids were young at the time, and I realised that once the deal was done, I wouldn’t see a vacation again for the next 5 years. The deal was due to close in the next month or 2, so I took my kids on vacation because I had a bit of time on my hands.

We all went to Hawaii, thinking as soon as the plane lands back home we have about 2 days and off I go. While I was in Hawaii, I got the phone call saying that the deal was dead.”

As well all know, after that, Vince McMahon announced on Monday Night Raw that he had purchased WCW.

It was one of the most infamous moments in wrestling history, marking the end of the Monday Night Wars and kicking off one of the most disappointing angles in WWE history – the Invasion.

Vince McMahon’s announced WWE buying WCW on the March 26, 2001 episode of Monday Night Raw, but was simultaneously broadcast on the final ever episode of WCW Monday Nitro.

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