First episode date
25 December 1971
Also known as
'WCW Saturday Morning'
Country of origin
Final episode date
19 August 2000
See World Championship Wrestling alumni
Theme music composer
Richard Harvey ("Dynamics")
World Championship Wrestling, Jim Crockett Promotions
Ric Flair, Sting, Bill Goldberg, The Undertaker, Chris Benoit
WCW Saturday Night was a weekly Saturday night TV show on TBS produced by World Championship Wrestling. The program existed through various incarnations under different names before becoming WCW Saturday Night in 1992. Although initially the anchor show of the Ted Turner-backed wrestling company, the September 1995 premiere of WCW Monday Nitro airing on sister station Turner Network Television usurped the show's once preeminent position in the company, as the primary source of storyline development and pay-per-view buildup.
- Georgia Championship Wrestling 1971 1982
- World Championship Wrestling TV series 1982 1992
- Black Saturday July 14 1984
- Under Jim Crockett Promotions 1985 1988
- WCW Saturday Night April 4 1992 April 8 2000
- Live episodes
- Decline and end January 8 1998 August 19 2000
- Title changes
The show's place in the company was further devalued by the advent of WCW Thunder in 1998, airing on TBS and providing the secondary wrestling and storyline development that WCW Saturday Night had produced in the wake of Nitro's burgeoning three-hour-long format. Once the cornerstone of the WCW wrestling empire, WCW Saturday Night ended its run in 2000 as the company struggled creatively to meet the demands of producing over six hours of new broadcast material on a weekly basis. The rights to WCW Saturday Night now belong to WWE as a result of that company's 2001 purchase of selected assets of WCW (including its video library).
WCW Saturday Night premiered on April 4, 1992 as the showcase for the company's top talent. It grew out of two previous wrestling programs on TBS - Georgia Championship Wrestling, which began on the station (then known as WTCG-TV) in January 1972 and ran under that name until August 1982, when it became World Championship Wrestling. In addition, there was also a Sunday edition of World Championship Wrestling; however, in later years, Sunday editions became infrequent. In spring 1988, TBS replaced the Sunday edition with a new Sunday wrestling show called NWA Main Event.
In all of its incarnations, WCW Saturday Night would normally air for two hours. During baseball season, however, it would typically air for one hour, to be immediately followed by an Atlanta Braves game.
Georgia Championship Wrestling (1971-1982)
On December 25, 1971, Georgia Championship Wrestling aired its first show, which was considered a Christmas special, since the rest of the programming did not air until late January 1972. Beginning in 1972, the promotion switched its Atlanta television outlet from its longtime home, WQXI-TV (now WXIA-TV) to upstart UHF independent station WTCG, owned by Ted Turner. Later in the decade WTCG became a national superstation, and in 1979 it was renamed WTBS. (The station in now called WPCH-TV after being spun off from the national TBS cable channel in 2007.)
When WTCG went on satellite in 1976, making the station available to cable systems all across the United States, the renamed Georgia Championship Wrestling became the first NWA promotion to be broadcast nationally. Many of the NWA's regional promoters were unhappy, but promoter Jim Barnett claimed since he was only using Georgia-based wrestlers, that there was no harm. Whether or not Barnett was in fact taking the promotion national is a matter of dispute, some wrestlers, such as Roddy Piper, say that he was in fact doing so, but prevented by fears of crossing organized crime figures involved with the sport. Throughout the 1970s, Georgia Championship Wrestling was one of the main shows that kept the Superstation alive.
The Georgia Championship Wrestling TV series, hosted by Gordon Solie, was taped before a small (yet enthusiastic), live in-studio audience, as were most pro wrestling TV shows of that era. The show featured wrestling matches, plus melodramatic monologues and inter-character confrontations—similar to the programming offered by other territories, including the Northeast-based World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
World Championship Wrestling TV series (1982-1992)
In 1982, Georgia Championship Wrestling changed its main programming name to World Championship Wrestling. Ted Turner had requested the name change in hopes of giving the wrestling programming on the Superstation a less regional scope. Also, by this point, GCW had been running shows in "neutral" territories like Ohio and Michigan. Much like Georgia Championship Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling was taped in Atlanta, Georgia, at WTBS' studios at 1050 Techwood Drive until March 30, 1989, when the taping location was moved to the Center Stage Theater, in Atlanta.
Black Saturday (July 14, 1984)
On July 14, 1984, Vince McMahon, hoping to expand the national reach of his Stamford, Connecticut-based World Wrestling Federation (renamed World Wrestling Entertainment in 2002), bought the Georgia territory for $750,000, retaining the World Championship Wrestling moniker. Freddie Miller, an announcer, was the only member of the original Georgia Championship Wrestling on-air cast who did not quit in protest or was immediately replaced by the new owner.
McMahon had underestimated two major factors, however. The first was the differences in tastes between fanbases of different geographical regions. The WWF's soap operaish, "sports entertainment" style of wrestling sharply differed from that of GCW's more athletic, "rasslin'" style. Whereas the Georgia promotion featured an emphasis on in-ring action with talented workers, the WWF show featured a bunch of one-sided "squash" matches. WWF World Championship Wrestling was mainly used as a recap show, featuring matches which had previously aired on the WWF's main programming venues such as WWF Championship Wrestling and WWF All-Star Wrestling, and which were originally produced in the Northeast. This was despite the fact that McMahon had originally promised WTBS owner Ted Turner to produce original programming for the TBS timeslot in Atlanta. Eventually, the WWF would have in-studio squash matches on the show on an infrequent basis. During this time, the show was co-hosted by Freddie Miller and Gorilla Monsoon, with Monsoon serving as the play-by-play announcer and Miller serving as the ring announcer.
In hopes of appeasing the over 1,000 fans who complained to the Superstation over "Black Saturday", Turner gave Ole Anderson a 7:00 a.m. timeslot so that he could open up Championship Wrestling from Georgia, Inc. The following year, Turner gave Bill Watts' Mid-South Wrestling, based around the New Orleans and Oklahoma areas, a one-hour timeslot on Sundays. This upset Vince McMahon, who thought that his purchase of Georgia Championship Wrestling would give him an exclusive on WTBS. Ted Turner disagreed because he felt that McMahon reneged on the aforementioned stipulation in the contract that required him to produce a separate weekly program from an Atlanta studio.
Under Jim Crockett Promotions (1985-1988)
The decline in ratings for the Saturday evening show, and the fans clamoring for GCW, began to make the WWF's move one that lost the federation money. Also around this time, it is rumored that Ted Turner attempted to purchase the WWF, though Vince McMahon refused to sell. This chain of events and McMahon's refusal to sell to Turner were critical in Turner's later decision to purchase Jim Crockett Promotions and form WCW in its wake. Eventually, McMahon cut his losses and sold the ex-GCW timeslot to Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) for $1 million in March 1985. Jim Crockett Promotions was a Charlotte, North Carolina-based promotion run by Jim Crockett, Jr. JCP ran National Wrestling Alliance-branded shows in the Mid-Atlantic states.
Crockett's first order of business was to merge his promotion with Georgia Championship Wrestling. This would bring talent from the Mid-Atlantic promotion to CWG's Saturday morning WTBS program and vice versa.
The deal (in which former Georgia Championship Wrestling promoter Jim Barnett helped broker), however, forced the elimination of the Mid-South Wrestling program from the TBS schedule. Mid-South Wrestling quickly became the highest-rated program on TBS. Bill Watts had positioned himself to take over the two-hour Saturday block occupied by the WWF. But ultimately JCP became the exclusive wrestling promotion for TBS.
JCP retained the World Championship Wrestling name. Crockett filled the timeslot with two hours of original programming filmed in Ted Turner's Atlanta studios. The program name would also become the promotion's name following the purchase of JCP by Ted Turner in 1988. In addition, the Championship Wrestling from Georgia program would become Championship Wrestling and use the same set as the Crockett-era World Championship Wrestling Saturday evening program.
Superstars in Supertowns (February 7, 1987)
The February 7, 1987 edition of NWA World Championship Wrestling was a special called Superstars in Supertowns. It promoted the return of Magnum T.A. (who was forced to retire due to a near fatal car accident in October 1986) and opened up with a first-person view of a car driving on the road. Tony Schiavone and David Crockett, dressed in tuxedos, hosted the show which showed different matches from cities like Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and St. Louis. The opening contest was Barry Windham vs. Arn Anderson from the Philadelphia Civic Center.
November 5, 1988 - World Championship Wrestling
The November 5, 1988 edition of NWA World Championship Wrestling began with "Nature Boy" Ric Flair cutting a promo and pointing out a large group of Turner executives in the crowd. This was a subtle nod to Ted Turner purchasing Jim Crockett Promotions. This program launched the WCW brand under the banner of the National Wrestling Alliance, initially designed as a mutually beneficial arrangement, but ultimately one that proved divisive. On this first program, the infamous Jim Cornette–Paul E. Dangerously feud took center stage as their dueling versions of the well-known tag team Midnight Express commenced an intense feud that would last until the following February.
WCW Saturday Night (April 4, 1992-April 8, 2000)
World Championship Wrestling would be renamed WCW Saturday Night on April 4, 1992. This reflected an overhauled look and a new home studio-arena at the CNN Center, although months later, they would be held in either the Center Stage Theater in Atlanta or in Columbus, Georgia. The show was presented in a "neon" style, with a blue and pink color scheme. Neon signs displayed the show's logo, and the wrestlers entered through a silver mylar curtain. The show was given a new look again in March 1994, with a futuristic design with a unique entry way of slide-open doors and billowing smoke as the performers made their way to the ring.
When the show originally premiered, it was hosted by Jim Ross and Jesse Ventura. Bruno Sammartino also appeared sporadically as a guest color commentator during certain weeks in 1992. Tony Schiavone took over the hosting duties following Ross' departure for the WWF in 1993 and remained until 1998. Bobby Heenan would replace Ventura after joining WCW toward the end of 1993. Dusty Rhodes, who affectionately referred to Saturday Night as "The Mothership", replaced him in 1995 and continued until January 1998. Rhodes and Schiavone were removed from the broadcast so Schiavone could focus on his other broadcasting duties and Rhodes could take a managerial role. They were replaced by Scott Hudson and Mike Tenay, who was later replaced with Larry Zbyszko. Gene Okerlund often handled interviews after he joined WCW in 1993, as did Tenay, Schiavone, and Lee Marshall.
In the summer of 1996, WCW Saturday Night was taped at WCW Pro's Disney–MGM Studios set in Orlando, Florida due to all of Turner's mobile production units being used by other broadcasters for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Episodes of WCW Saturday Night were usually filmed well in advance, with the exception of three live editions.
The second aired from downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, on May 27, 1995. It started raining halfway through the outdoor show, causing the ring mat to become slippery at times.
The third live airing, again outdoors, took place on August 10, 1996, from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. The show took place right before the Hog Wild pay-per-view event, which was held on a Saturday night instead of the usual Sunday night slot for WCW pay-per-views. Hence, WCW Saturday Night was used as a lead-in to the pay-per-view show, much like WCW Main Event was used as a lead-in for Sunday pay-per-views until 1996.
Decline and end (January 8, 1998-August 19, 2000)
As previously mentioned, when WCW introduced the live programs Monday Nitro and Thunder, Saturday Night became WCW's third-tier program. The majority of airtime would be used to display up-and-comers and recent graduates of the WCW Power Plant (with the occasional squash match) as well recapping the major events of the other shows. The main event would often feature mid-card performers such as the current Cruiserweight Champion, World Television Champion, or U.S. Heavyweight Champion in a non-title match. Hudson, Tenay, and Marshall manned commentating and locker room interviewing duties throughout this period. Backstage, "Mean Gene" Okerlund would regularly promote his WCW Hotline for "just a buck sixty-nine a minute," which provided fans with insider information on recent events in the company.
Starting on April 8, 2000, WCW Saturday Night became purely a recap show and no longer featured exclusive matches. Then from July 1, 2000 the show was retitled WCW Saturday Morning, and moved from its established evening timeslot to a late morning timeslot. The last episode aired on August 19, 2000.
Throughout the years, WCW Saturday Night has had numerous title changes.