Lex Luger: I Knew TNT Wanted To Get Rid Of WCW In 1997
The AOL/Time-Warner merger eventually spelled doom for WCW
Much has been made of WCW’s dismal final years, until the AOL/Time-Warner merger all but killed the promotion, allowing Vince McMahon to swoop in and buy his competition, and end the Monday Night Wars.
In conversation on the Stories with Brisco and Bradshaw show, former WCW World Heavyweight Champion Lex Luger has revealed he felt the writing was on the wall from 1997, when WCW were at the peak of their popularity:
“I went to this big event at the opening of the old [Atlanta] Braves stadium at the time. It was opening like ‘97. They had all the big executives come in for TBS, TNT, all the big advertisers. They had this ice sculpture, shrimp, and lobster. They had it overlooking the Braves stadium. It was quite the setting. I was in there with all these suit and tie guys. I was kind of just like something for them to look at. They laid out the vision for TBS and TNT because AOL Time Warner had come in on the business merger there. We were like their black sheep. Pro Wrestling got really good ratings. The top guys at the top of CNN Tower with the big windows and the big desks were all there laying it out. They talked about where they were going with TNT and where they wanted to go with TBS. They were talking to the big advertisers, Coca Cola and all of them.
“They laid out Hill Street Blues and all these programs they were going to be putting on and what they were going to do with the vision of the networks. They didn’t mention one word about wrestling. I went home to my wife that night and said, ‘Peg, I don’t think Turner’ - and Ted was always the guy, but now it’s AOL Time Warner - and I said, ‘Peg, if our ratings ever drop, we’re gone. They have no desire to carry wrestling on their program. That is not in their plan. I was a conversation piece at that event. They are not going to keep wrestling.’
“So I knew when push came to shove and it really went head to head, and this is just my personal feeling, that ‘97 event I was at, that I was privy to, they showed their hand. AOL Time Warner had no interest in keeping wrestling. Instead of fighting back and continuing the war, they sold all their content like a fire sale and gave it to Vince when Vince surged ahead. Really that glimpse I got back in ‘97, the guys in the towers way above the WCW brand that they had, I was convinced they were looking for a way to dump it the first chance they got.
“Ted used to come see us at some of the television tapings and would say, ‘You guys are my wrasslers.’ He said, ‘As long as I’m here, you’re here.’ At that point, he finally didn’t have the final say so. He was not a majority shareholder anymore. He was still involved, but his role was more minor at that point. Once he wasn’t a majority shareholder anymore, he had no say so over the wrestling. They were looking to get rid of it. Our ratings were so high they couldn’t get rid of us. We were kind of low cost production, high ratings. Once they dipped, they were looking to unload it. That’s why I was convinced Vince would end up winning because Vince, it’s his life, it’s his passion. He is going to stay with wrestling. We did not have that commitment from AOL Time Warner.”