Much of my recent conversation with WWE Hall of Famer J.J. Dillon can be found in the new WWE 50 book. The portions that didn’t make the book, however, have been published here in recent weeks, including Dillon’s thoughts on Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon Sr. In addition to these pieces, here is Dillon’s recollection of WCW demise:
What was it like once WCW finally closed its doors?
J.J. Dillon: My contract was paid out, so I got paid for another nine months. Kevin Sullivan got paid for another two years. I had gone there and hoped to retire, so I was disappointed. But I had come to terms with the fact that it was inevitable. It was like sitting in the Titanic and seeing this huge iceberg ahead on the radar screen and yelling to everybody to come look. But everybody looking thought that WCW was a huge indestructible vessel and didn’t even bother looking at the screen until they hit the iceberg and sunk the thing.
The sad part is that WCW had approximately 70 people who were full-time in the business making a living wrestling. It was a talent pool from which Vince McMahon could pick from. And you could go back in time and look at talent that came out of WCW and became huge stars working with Vince: Undertaker, Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Mick Foley … and that’s just four names off the top of my head that WCW didn’t know what to do with, but Vince did. But Vince couldn’t hire everybody in the business, so it put guys out of work. At least with WCW, there was an alternative product that was never a threat to Vince, even when they were winning the war. All they were was a pool of talent that Vince could’ve tapped into from time to time when he needed a top talent. I was disappointed for the guys who worked there and their families.
On a personal level, I was disappointed because I hated that after my lengthy career, I was involved with something that failed so miserably, even though I was not directly responsible. Every time they talk about the failure of WCW, you don’t hear about my name mentioned as being a contributing factor.
And the third one that I felt bad for was Ted Turner. Here’s a guy who had a vision of taking his small UHF station and making a superstation. And the core of his programming was two things: Wrestling and the Atlanta Braves. If you ask Ted in order, wrestling would be No. 1 and the Braves would be No. 2. Ted worked so hard to protect wrestling from the vultures that looked down their nose at it. He loved it. He had it at 6:05 p.m. for well over 25 years, and then Eric Bischoff undermined that program and killed it.
If you have a successful program with a consistent timeslot, there’s nothing of any greater value in the industry. People always used to tell me that they planned their Saturdays around 6:05. They made sure they were home in front of their televisions at that time to watch wrestling. They were loyal followers that Bischoff didn’t understand the value of.