Wrestling Rivals Find Integration Isn't Easy

World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. executives made a lot of noise when they acquired rival World Championship Wrestling from AOL Time Warner Inc. in March, teasing the idea of a joint pay-per-view event and other combined programming.

But six weeks after the deal was announced, no WCW wrestler has appeared on any of the WWF programs that run on Viacom Inc.'s TNN: The National Network, MTV: Music Television or UPN.

WWFE executives originally hoped to launch a dedicated WCW series by June. But last week officials said that program has been delayed, and no firm date has been set for the premiere.

"We thought that we would start it as early as June, but I don't think it would start that quickly," WWF spokesman Jayson Bernstein said. The need to book arenas, plan fan promotions and sign contracts with WCW performers contributed to the delay.

TNN spokesman David Schwarz said the network is in talks with WWFE about running a WCW series.

WWFE was shooting to get a WCW series on TNN by June 9, but the premiere has been pushed back indefinitely, one source said. When ready, it will run on Saturdays from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on TNN, and will contain the "cutting edge" material WWF could only run late at night, the source said.

It remains to be seen if big-name WCW wrestlers such as Goldberg, Sting or Hulk Hogan will ever be on a WCW or WWF telecast.

Bernstein said WWFE acquired the contracts of about 20 WCW wrestlers when it bought WCW from AOL's Turner Broadcasting System Inc., but not WCW stars with long-term Turner deals.

So matches pitting Goldberg or Sting against the WWF's The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin no longer appear likely, according to Dave Meltzer, publisher off the Wrestling Observer
newsletter. That could hurt WWF ratings, he added.

"The ratings for WWF are dependent on them making WCW a success, and having really interesting story lines going back and forth [between the rival factions]," Meltzer said. "If they fail with the WCW project, I think WWF will have a very, very hard time maintaining ratings."

WWFE hasn't signed the higher-priced WCW talent, including Goldberg and Hogan, Meltzer said. The company has only picked up the contracts of less expensive wrestlers WCW had signed under contracts with 90-day cycles, he added.

WWFE did demonstrate that combining the leagues could spark ratings. WWF president Vince McMahon showed up on the final Turner Network Television edition of WCW Monday Nitro
on March 26, a few days after the WCW acquisition was announced.

The 15-minute segment, simulcast on TNN and TNT, drew a combined 7.9 rating, according to WWFE.