NITRO Excerpt: A Made Man

The following is an excerpt from NITRO: The Incredible Rise and Inevitable Collapse of Ted Turner's WCW. Purchase the NEW, EXPANDED, HARDCOVER version of the book at this link!  

*Includes bonus chapters and new foreword from Eric Bischoff*

Four bonus chapters!
A new foreword from Eric Bischoff!
Dozens of new tidbits!
Expanded image section!
Show formats and scripts!
Over 100 footnotes to the original story!


Chapter 29: A Made Man

AS HISTORY WOULD remember it, Hogan’s idea involved wrestling at the Dome opposite WCW’s hottest property - Bill Goldberg. According to revered journalist Dave Meltzer, the match was first proposed as a ‘dark match’ - occurring untelevised to the audience at home - before being added to the main card on short notice. “No, it wasn’t going to be a dark match,” retorts Rob Garner. “It was too good for that, and there would have been some angry people [if that were the case].” 

With Raw looking formidable in the ratings - and enjoying a sweep of Nitro throughout June - WCW looked for the match to spark some momentum. On the July 2nd edition of Thunder, WCW commissioner J.J. Dillon announced its occurrence via an impromptu on-screen address, informing fans (and watching at home, Goldberg himself) about Hogan’s forthcoming title defense:

I would suggest that you don’t miss this coming Monday night, because it is now official. Hollywood Hulk Hogan - the WCW champion - is contractually obligated to be in the Georgia Dome…this coming Monday night for Nitro…to defend the WCW Heavyweight Title belt…against what I feel is the number one contender…GOLDBERG!

Come Monday, the atmosphere at the Dome was electric. An astonishing 41,412 fans rushed through the turnstiles - comprising the largest crowd in WCW history - although erroneously, the company claimed a number of 39,000 on its telecast. “The energy was high and there was a lot of anticipation,” remembers Bischoff of the preparations. 

While some fans could foresee the arena becoming WCW’s spiritual home, it wasn’t a distinct priority for the company, remembers its President. “It wasn’t on the forefront of our minds,” Bischoff admits. “Naturally, we wanted to do really well there, but nobody ever sat around a room and said, ‘ok, this is going to be our Madison Square Garden’. That wasn’t the case - at least not from my point of view. Other people may have saw that, or had that conversation, but it wasn’t a prevailing thought in my mind.”

Bischoff’s decision to ‘give away’ Hogan-Goldberg attracted a lightning rod of criticism from industry experts, who argued that WCW was neglecting millions of dollars in potential pay-per-view revenue. Interestingly, Bischoff concedes that he shared a similar outlook. “There was some trepidation,” he acknowledges, “and there were some people who thought it was a mistake - business wise - to put something that big on free TV. And I was one of them. I wasn’t 100% sure it was the right thing to do.

“But no-one would have ever expected a match like that on free television - just like they never expected 99% of things we did - which is [one] reason I did it.”

“We started losing in the ratings just a little bit,” recalls DDP, “and they figured, ‘we gotta push Goldberg through the roof, so he’s gonna win the U.S. title - and [later], the World title’. It’s like, ‘what? He’s not ready for that.”

As the fans filed in, David Crockett enjoyed an aside with Bill Shaw, the Turner executive who promoted Bischoff in 1993. “I turned to Bill,” remembers Crockett, “and said, ‘did you ever think, three years ago, that we would be here?’ 

Backstage, the inexperienced Goldberg found Hogan in the locker room, and proceeded to ask a rather fundamental question: what are we doing for the match? 

Don’t worry, brother, responded the seasoned Hogan. We’ll call it in the ring.

While typically self-assured, Hogan had reason to feel even more secure than usual. On May 29th - the same day as tickets to the Dome show went on sale - he signed a four-year contract extension with WCW, attaining previously unheard of terms for a wrestler:

“In consideration of Bollea’s performance hereunder, WCW shall pay to Bollea a bonus in the amount of Two Million Dollars ($2,000,000) to be paid within fourteen (14) days after Bollea’s execution and delivery of this Letter of Agreement…

“…in consideration of Bollea’s participation in [pay-per-views], WCW shall compensate Bollea the greater of Fifteen percent (15%)…of domestic cable sales received by WCW for each Event or a Six Hundred Seventy-Five Thousand Dollars ($675,000) guarantee payment…per Event.

“…During Years One (1) through Three (3) of this Agreement, Bollea shall promote, appear, wrestle and perform…at WCW Nitro and WCW Thunder events. In consideration of Bollea’s participation in any such events, WCW shall pay Bollea twenty-five percent (25%) of the (after tax) arena ticket revenues for each WCW Nitro and/or WCW Thunder in which he appears and wrestles, however, in no event will Bollea’s compensation be less than Twenty-Five Thousand Dollars ($25,000) per event.

…Bollea shall receive a royalty of fifty percent (50%) of the Net Receipts (as defined herein) received by WCW on all merchandise sold directly by WCW to any consumer incorporating “Hulk Hogan,” “Hollywood Hogan” or Bollea’s name, likeness or character.

…During the period in which Bollea is a member of the New World Order (“NWO”), Bollea will receive a promotional fee for promoting the NWO (wearing the name while wrestling, on-air, in photo shoots, etc.) of Twenty Thousand Dollars ($20,000) per month.

…Should WCW create a 900#/call-in hotline featuring “Hulk Hogan” or “Hollywood Hogan” and should Bollea be available to provide recordings for said 900#, Bollea shall receive one hundred percent (100%) of WCW’s Net Revenues (as herein defined) from Bollea’s feature(s) on such Hotline.

…When required to travel for WCW as contemplated hereunder, Bollea will receive first-class air travel, first-class hotel accommodations, limousine transportation and One Hundred Seventy-Five Dollars ($175.00) per diem.

…Bollea shall have approval over the outcome of all wrestling matches in which he appears, wrestles and performs, such approval not to be unreasonably withheld."

As per the agreement, Hogan retained his creative control clause, meaning that theoretically, he could end Goldberg’s streak in their match. Early in the broadcast, he promised to “kill” the undefeated phenom in a hyperbolic promo, but as the challenger made his entrance - standing in the middle of sparkling pyrotechnics (following a now-customary escort from a team of security guards) - it felt palpably like Goldberg’s night. “Fans, you’re not gonna have to wait much longer,” promised Tony Schiavone on commentary. “When we come back, the World Champ Hollywood Hogan will come out, and Goldberg and Hogan will battle for the World Title - next!”

Moments later, a menacingly low pitched sound bite (actually taken from a clip of Bischoff enunciating ‘n…W…o’) introduced the cocksure champion. With the nWo music blaring in the background, Hogan looked dismissively at the ring, and then directed a rather tame threat to the ringside cameraman. “I am gonna kick…,” he began, his words hanging in mid-air, “Goldberg’s…butt!

As Schiavone would note, the Georgia Dome crowd - many of whom were familiar with Goldberg prior to wrestling, by virtue of his football prowess - erupted loudly at the bell. As the combatants locked up, there seemed to be magic in the air, and after Goldberg shoulder blocked Hogan to the canvas, the buzz reached an even higher plateau.

In a classic ‘spot’ to demonstrate the strength of a babyface, Goldberg then won a ‘test of strength’, causing Hogan to bail outside. Realizing that he couldn’t outmuscle the monster, Hogan began to cheat, raking the eyes of Goldberg and whipping him with his weightlifting belt. Subsequently, in a simple yet effective use of wrestling psychology, Goldberg grabbed Hogan’s belt - but only to throw it away instead.  “He doesn’t want to take any shortcuts,” observed color commentator Mike Tenay. He wants to earn the victory over Hogan.”

Low-blowing his way out of a Full Nelson hold, Hogan next took Goldberg down to the canvas. “A blatant chokehold,” protested Schiavone, “right in front of the referee!

Hogan on the outside…is a master,” continued Schiavone, witnessing Hollywood use a chair to great effect. Within seconds, Goldberg was sprawled on the canvas mid-ring, and Hogan seemed primed to take advantage. “There comes a time,” mused Schiavone as Hogan delivered his patented leg drop, “where you gotta dig down deep…you gotta suck it up. You gotta prove without a shadow of a doubt…that you belong here. For Goldberg, the time is right now, because the Champ is leveling him with everything!

Suddenly, the camera cut to the entranceway, as Curt Hennig - Hogan’s nWo stablemate - decided it was time to intervene; meanwhile, almost lost in the commotion, Goldberg kicked out after three of Hogan’s leg drops.  Dramatically, Hennig was soon stopped from interfering in the contest, courtesy of a timely Diamond Cutter from Karl Malone, the Utah Jazz forward who would oppose Dennis Rodman - as part of a tag-team main event match - at the upcoming Bash at the Beach pay-per-view. 

Springing to his feet, Goldberg rebounded to deliver his spear to Hogan. “There’s part one!” screamed Bobby Heenan on commentary. “Now finish him off! Finish him off! This place will erupt when he picks him up…

He’s got him up!” rejoiced Schiavone, beholding Goldberg’s Jackhammer maneuver in progress. “Oh hell yeah!”

Time stood still as referee Charles Robinson made the count.




In the years that followed, many in attendance would contend that at this precise moment, the arena began to shake. At ringside, grown men jumped up and down in excitement, seemingly losing themselves in the spectacle. Arena security looked overwhelmed in the chaos; spectators rushed from the upper levels to the aisle way, seats buckled around the ring from the weight of standing fans, and inexplicably, a roll of toilet paper flew across the ropes - in full view of the five million people watching live on TNT.

Fireworks erupted from the ceiling, and the defeated Hogan rolled out of the fray. The crowd reaction, or pop in wrestling parlance, reached an extraordinary level as Goldberg hoisted both his titles. “It was pretty magical, actually,” says Rob Garner. “It was electric. That place was amazing - amazing. It was just…gosh, it’s hard to describe. It was kind of surreal…people were just going crazy. It was probably one of the best moments ever.”

Much like a sporting event, the noise reflected a genuine outpouring of emotion - and eventually, even as the fans walked to the exits - they continued to serenade their new hero: Gold-berg…Gold-berg…Gold-berg…

By any tangible metric, the title switch appeared to have been a huge success. More people watched Goldberg’s coronation than any other match in the history of cable television; moreover, the combined revenue from ticket sales and merchandise easily exceeded a million dollars, and the reported crowd of 41,412 constituted the largest ever assembled for a WCW show. In sum, it had been the single most profitable Nitro in the company’s existence.

Recalling their conversation from several years earlier (“if you can’t talk, you can’t wrestle”), Harvey Schiller placed a call to Eric Bischoff. 

“I said, ‘Eric…’, chuckles Schiller, “Goldberg just grunts - he never speaks!’”

Bischoff was quick to respond, remembers Schiller.

“Eric said, ‘he doesn’t have to!’”

The above is an excerpt from NITRO: The Incredible Rise and Inevitable Collapse of Ted Turner's WCW. Purchase the NEW, EXPANDED, HARDCOVER version of the book at this link!  

*Includes bonus chapters and new foreword from Eric Bischoff*

Four bonus chapters!
A new foreword from Eric Bischoff!
Dozens of new tidbits!
Expanded image section!
Show formats and scripts!
Over 100 footnotes to the original story!