This series of articles has information from things I read in Pro-Wresting Illustrated, Wrestling Eye, Wrestling Fury, and New Wave Magazines, Dave Meltzerís column in the National Sports Daily from the early nineties and his Wrestling Observer Newsletter and many website pages including 1wrestling, Pro Wrestling Torch, Herbís Wrestling Tidbits, Solieís Vintage Wrestling, Xavier Doomís Slayground, Scott Keithís Rants, www.tomzenk.com, the defunct Wrestleline, the defunct scoopscentral, the defunct Wrestlecrap, Wrestling Supercards and Tournaments at http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/WSandT/cards/index.html, and, of course, DDT Digest.
Professional wrestling was one of the earliest shows to be broadcast on Ted Turner's WTBS station based out of Atlanta. When Turner began transmitting his station across the country to cable companies, Georgia Championship Wrestling became one of the most popular shows on the station. Due to the larger audience, the promoter changed the show's name to World Championship Wrestling in 1983. In 1984, the TV time was bought by Vince McMahon for his expansion of his WWF promotion. The WWF control of this timeslot lasted less than a year as Vince ended up selling the time to Jim Crockett Promotions. Crockett tried to run a national promotion but was plagued by misfortunes - bad booking decisions, the loss of Magnum TA in a car accident, acquisition costs of several other wrestling promotions, and the guaranteed contracts all combined to put the promotion on thin ice financially. After major losses on Crockett's first two ventures into pay per view, Starrcade '87 and Bunkhouse Stampede, Jim Crockett Promotions had to sell or go bankrupt. Ted Turner, not waiting to lose one of his highest rated programs, showed interest in buying the promotion. It almost didn't happen when Ric Flair nearly quit over problems with booking decisions made by Dusty Rhodes. Without Ric Flair, Turner would not have bought the promotion. The promotion sided with Flair, and Jim Crockett Promotions became the Turner owned World Championship Wrestling promotion in November 1988. At the time of the sale to Ted Turner, WCW remained affiliated with the NWA. After the departure of Jim Crockett, Jim Herd was given control over WCW. Herd came from a non-wrestling background, not knowing how much politics played backstage. He put Ric Flair in charge of booking as Dusty left.
In terms of the action, in mid-January 1989, Ric Flair and Barry Windham had been ganging up on "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert. A match on WCW's Saturday show pits Flair and Windham against Gilbert and a mystery partner. The crowd goes wild when Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, newly arrived from the WWF, joins Gilbert and pins Flair in the ring. A feud is born between Flair and Steamboat. Fans are treated to several great matches between the two over the next four months with Steamboat winning the title at the February Chi-Town Rumble, a classic best two out of three falls match at an April Clash of Champions show, and Flair regaining the title in May at the WrestleWar pay per view. The show ends with Flair being attacked by Terry Funk, who was one of the ringside judges. The war between Funk and Flair would carry WCW through the rest of 1989.
Meanwhile, Jim Herd was acquiring a lot of talent for the promotion. Sting was already there, and he had a wild feud with a newcomer by the name of the Great Muta. Other newcomers were Flyin' Brian Pillman, Tom Zenk, Scott Hall, Mean Mark Callous, Samoan Swat Team, and a new team wrestling together for the first time at the Great American Bash by the name of the Steiner Brothers. While the WWF is better known to the general public, the serious wrestling fans are watching WCW.
As the year goes on, Ricky Steamboat would leave in August as he and Herd can't come to terms. Amazingly, Steamboat's gone less than a year after joining and only a few months after the classic matches between him and Flair. This becomes an omen of things to come later. It also threw off the booking as Lex Luger had turned heel in June to feud with Steamboat.
The feud between Flair and Funk is the focus of a hot Great American Bash show in July. The show ends with a wild fight between Flair, Funk, the Great Muta, and Sting. These four wrestlers would be intertwined for most of the remaining year - including the first Halloween Havoc featuring the Thunderdome cage match. An angle with Terry Funk putting a plastic bag over Ric Flair's head goes too far and is never shown again on television. The feud between Funk and Flair is ended when Flair defeats Funk in an "I Quit" match in November which begins a feud between Flair and Gary Hart's J-Tex Corporation (Muta, Buzz Sawyer, and the DungeonMaster). Funk "retires" after this match, becoming a commentator for a while. Eventually, Funk would also leave WCW a few months later. Flair gets back up in his feud with J-Tex as he calls them out on the Saturday show. The crowd goes wild when Ole and the recently returning Arn Anderson (from the WWF) join Flair to drive off Hart's men. The Four Horsemen have returned to the NWA / WCW as faces (which wouldn't last long).
Other feuds during the year had the Steiners Brothers finally end Rick Steiner's war with the Varsity Club. Jim Cornette started managing the Dynamic Dudes (Johnny Ace and Shane Douglas), upsetting the Midnight Express. Cornette turned on the Dudes during the November Clash of the Champions to a huge ovation from the crowd. Rick Steiner gained a girlfriend by the name of Robin Green who later became Woman when she had a masked team attack his brother, Scott. The team was named Doom, a masked team despite the fans recognizing them as Butch Reed and Ron Simmons.
The year ends with Starrcade '89: Night of the Ironman. A round robin tournament between singles wrestlers Sting, Flair, Luger, and The Great Muta and a tag team tourney with the Road Warriors, The Steiners, Doom, and The Wild Samoans. Sting and the Warriors are the winners as the Horsemen tease a turn on Sting.
The first full year of WCW is hot but things would change next year as a new booker is in charge.
To Be Continued . . .