The cracks beginning to show in 1998 and then a disastrous 1999 were highlighted in episode two of Who Killed WCW?

The second episode also featured the neverending back and forth between Bret Hart and Bill Goldberg, Eric Bischoff trying to survive against Turner executives and the infamous finger poke of doom from Jan. 4, 1999.

The show opens with WCW getting another two-hour block of programming in early-1999 with Thunder. Bischoff couldn’t believe he was getting more programming and reluctantly took it.

“No way I thought it could work,” he said of Thunder. “But I didn’t want to tell Ted [Turner] no and that was my mistake.”

Bischoff also pointed out that TBS was fine with taking the show, but that they had no budget to pay WCW for it. Thus, the show was paid out of WCW’s budget – a completely bizarre decision in hindsight.

Bischoff stated that audience fatigue was a challenge and that he wanted a unique roster to be anchored by Bret Hart, who had just left the WWF.

Hart said that he negotiated with Bischoff for $2.8 million per year to sign with WCW. That always seemed like poor business to me. Hart had nowhere else to go and it’s not like Bischoff needed Hart or even used him consistently.

A number of wrestlers were shown talking about the schedule increase with Nitro, Thunder, Saturday Night, pay-per-views and house shows. This portion could have used a little fact-checking, as the top stars rarely, if ever, worked house shows. Saturday Night was taped in blocks and did not feature a lot of top stars, and house shows were also very infrequent in WCW as a whole.

Bischoff spoke about how the nWo was still hot in 1998, but others stated that the cool factor was gone.

Goldberg then emerged in 1998 and was catapulted into one of the top stars in wrestling. Bischoff seemed to take some credit for the plan with Goldberg, but didn’t mention his feud with Steve McMichael in 1997. The plan didn’t really come into effect until Kevin Sullivan molded him into the character that became successful.

Kevin Nash and Bret Hart still seemed unhappy about the rise of Goldberg, as Bret brought up his lack of skill and Nash called him a mark.

An interesting and new wrinkle to the story was how high TNT president Brad Siegel was on Goldberg. “Goldberg was the phenomenon that could bring in advertisers and all the other things people were consuming,” he said. “Kids loved him.”

Goldberg’s streak and run in 1998 was a high point for WCW, with Booker T calling his title win on July 6, 1998 the height of WCW. He pinned Hulk Hogan in front of over 40,000 inside the Georgia Dome, but Bischoff revealed the entire plan was Hogan’s idea. The show drew a great crowd and rating, but WCW producer Neal Pruitt questioned why the match wasn’t on pay-per-view. It also boggles the mind that WCW never went back to that match.

The show then shifted to discussion from Turner higher-ups about how the ratings were good, but the situation wasn’t ideal.

“Wrestling didn’t always translate into the highest value you could get for ad dollars,” said Turner’s Stu Snyder.

“The disconnect between the advertising dollars and the size of the audience became an issue,” added Siegel.

WCW also had the added issue of Turner ad reps not being excited to sell time on wrestling, as it was programming they felt they were above.

Bischoff’s challenges of the summer of 1998 were also discussed, as Turner wanted the company to focus on kids and become more PG. This strategy flew in the face of the WWF’s Attitude Era, which showcased characters based on porn stars and pimps, as well as much more violence than WCW. These new handcuffs did not help Bischoff in his quest to lead WCW to success.

Bischoff’s frustrations with Turner led to Kevin Nash offering to take the booker job from him. Nash would now have the final say on all storylines, which made it even more challenging because he was still a talent himself and had co-workers he liked and didn’t like.

“It was a bad situation but it was a best case scenario,” Bischoff said of handing Nash the book.

Nash joked that he wished he had just offered to take Bischoff to a strip club.

As mentioned earlier, Nash wasn’t a big fan of Goldberg as a wrestler and one of the first things he decided to do was to end his undefeated streak at Starrcade 1998. The finish of that match saw Scott Hall taser Goldberg behind the ref’s back and then Nash powerbomb him. Nash correctly pointed out how over he was at that time and Bischoff said that Nash was one of the few believable wrestlers to beat the undefeated star.

Both Bischoff and Sullivan hated the finish of that match, but it’s unclear why they chose not to change or adjust it. Nash justified the win by stating that the money is in the babyface chasing the title. Of course, he failed to mention that he was also a babyface in that match. Goldberg also never was booked to chase the title after that loss and never held the title again.

Guy Evans, the author of the Nitro book, added that there was no clear direction for the Goldberg character after the loss.

Nash instead decided to move forward with the finger poke of doom on Nitro on Jan. 4, 1999.

WCW originally promised a rematch between Nash and Goldberg, but Goldberg was “arrested” for stalking Miss Elizabeth (an important plot point not brought up on this show) and Hogan then challenged Nash for the title. The swerve was that Hogan and Nash were in cahoots, Hogan poked Nash and then pinned him. This led to both sides of the nWo reforming.

WWF RAW on that night saw Mick Foley defeat The Rock to win the world title. Bischoff instructed his commentary team to spoil that result, but it backfired with many fans turning to RAW to watch that match.

“WCW had chronic bad finish disease,” Bischoff said, in a massive understatement. “Sometimes a clean finish is the best thing.”

Bischoff said Jan. 4, 1999 was a terrible day for WCW, while Nash admitted that some mistakes were made, but his check didn’t change.

More discussion is made of how WCW was used by other Turner properties to enhance their bottom line. Bischoff explained that WCW’s budget was moved to other divisions and it made WCW appear to not be as profitable as they actually were. Siegel stated that if WCW received money from TBS or TNT to carry wrestling, then the promotion would have been far more profitable but, because Turner owned it, the licensing fee was low.

Bischoff shared a story of how he was being investigated for misuse of funds by WCW, but was found not to be receiving a kickback from wrestlers. He said that the accusation in 1999 was when he stopped being loyal to Turner and WCW.

The Hart/Goldberg discourse is explained, with Hart blaming Goldberg for being unsafe and ending his career and Goldberg being apologetic but clearly wanting Hart to move on. This has been all over the Internet for years and to me, it doesn’t explain what killed WCW. Hart was misused badly by WCW, but he should probably also find new things to talk about 25 years later.

Bischoff is then told to go home in September of 1999. He said that he was confused, but relieved. He also wasn’t disappointed and didn’t fight it.

Wrestlers and other Turner execs stated that Bischoff had done a good job up to that point.

Episode two definitely had a lot more meat on the bones than the premiere and it effectively told the story of WCW losing its way. Personally, I would have liked to see more focus on the spring and summer of 1999, as WCW programming was horrendous during that time period and contributed a lot to its death.

The next episode will see the Vince Russo era begin and likely more tall tales.