Former WWE and longtime referee Nick Patrick was a recent guest on JBL and Gerald Brisco’s podcast series Stories with Brisco and Bradshaw. Throughout the episode Patrick discussed his experiences throughout the industry, growing up with a wrestler for a dad, blade jobs, his time at WCW, and more.
During the interview JBL asked Patrick if WCW thought that they had won the Monday Night Wars. Patrick revealed that in the mid-‘90s that WCW did in fact believe they were going to win the wars. He then discussed why WCW felt that way at the time.
“Yeah, at that particular time everybody thought we [were going to win],” Patrick admitted. “There was a time [that] we were on fire everywhere we went. And there were so many people that were starting to jump ship and come down there. It created the illusion that we were in firm control and were going to win it. Yeah, we did have that feeling, everybody did think that we had seized control and that [we] were going to stay number one forever. Little did we know.”
JBL admitted that he felt the same way, and recalled how WCW was dominating RAW in the ratings. JBL went on to ask Brisco what the morale of the WWE higher-ups were and if they thought that they might lose to WCW.
“I was sitting next to Vince McMahon at the time, when [WCW] was kicking our *ss every week,” recalled Brisco. “We travelled together and weren’t really allowed to talk about it. But it got so bad that Vince would literally say, ‘We [have] got to start picking this sh*t up or we’re not going to be around much longer. They’re going to kick our butts.’ So, there was fear that we were going the wrong direction.”
Brisco went on to talk about how it took the WWF finding the right pieces and pushing the right guys before the company was able to gain momentum. Brisco also mentioned how the WWF let go of some negative influences in the locker room, who then went and signed with WCW. He also mentioned that Vince was wary of how much money WCW had at the time.
“As an office employee that would sit next to Vince weekly when we were getting our butts kicked, it wasn’t a pleasant experience,” recalled Brisco. “We were worried, and we were really concerned. Because number one, we knew the deep pockets [WCW had], and Vince knew what his pockets and supplies was, and Vince knew his pockets weren’t near as deep as the guys down South.”
Patrick, Brisco, and JBL then went on to talk about the contrast between the WWF and WCW. Patrick pointed out that WCW was backed by a corporation and didn’t want to stay in a dogfight with the WWF. Brisco then expanded further on the differences between the two companies as well as Vince McMahon and Ted Turner.
“[The WWE] was a family business,” noted Brisco. “Even though they don’t like saying it, we were a family business of wrestling. You guys were a corporation that was in the TV business, which Vince wanted to be. Turner wanted to be in the wrestling business, Vince didn’t want to be in the wrestling business. Turner didn’t care about the TV business, but that’s what Vince wanted to be in was the TV business.”
Brisco and Patrick continued to discuss the differences between the companies. Patrick noted that the corporate influences of the Turner company made things more difficult as time went on. Brisco then identified WCW’s lack of leadership as the reason the WWF felt they could overcome the company. He said having one central leader provided a sense of stability that WCW lacked, which are sentiments similar to what Shawn Michaels has shared in the past.
While on the topic of lack of leadership in WCW, Patrick would then discuss the infamous fast count to Sting and Hulk Hogan’s match at Starrcade 1997. Patrick recalled Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, and Sting all giving him different finishes. He then spent all day attempting to find someone in management that could tell him the finish but couldn’t, resulting in him making a guess as to what the proper finish of the match was.
“[There was] the big match between Sting and Hogan, and there was supposed to be a controversial count,” remembered Patrick. “Something like this would never ever happen in the WWE. But I was the referee for that match. . . It was the first Hogan and Sting match, and I was the ref. So, Eric Bischoff got there early, pulled me aside, and told me what the finish was. [A] basic, easy finish. Then [he] disappeared and was gone, [I] never saw him again until the next show somewhere.
“Then Hulk comes up to me, gives me basically the same finish, but wants me to do a real nice slow, normal count. I’m like, ‘Okay.’ Sting comes up to me [with] the same finish, but wants me to do a fast count. So, I’m like, ‘Okay. Well, let me find out from management what they want.’
“Jerry [Brisco], I went around that freaking building all day long. I went in every trailer, I looked in every god-dang [place], everywhere! And there was nobody, nobody that would give me an answer as to which finish they wanted me to do. So, I split the difference and did a kind of normal count. I was being a heel at that time, so sometimes I’d fast count and sometimes slow [counts]. So, I just did something different than what they’d expected.
“The announcers were dumbfounded because they were expecting one thing and they didn’t get it. I was completely frustrated. I felt like they were setting me up to get fired. I didn’t [get fired]. I think Eric was happy it was over and [that] he didn’t have to get in the middle and pick a side.”
Bischoff himself has talked about the incident in later years since the incident and gone further in-depth as to how it happened. Bischoff also commented on confronting Patrick following the botched finish.
JBL then asked Patrick if anybody from the back got mad at him over the finish. Patrick says no, and that he thinks everyone just wanted to move past it as fast as possible. He also noted that something like that wouldn’t have happened in the WWF.
“No,” replied Patrick. “I didn’t get heat from either one of the guys, nobody from management. I think everyone was just glad it was over. There is a picture of all three of us in the ring. . . you can look at the expression on all three of our faces, it’s like ‘Alright, what the f*ck?’ That’s exactly what that picture captured to me, and I think that was the sentiment of everybody in the ring at that point in time. Which is kind of sad.
“That was the biggest matchup marquee. Damn, Hogan and Sting in their first matchup, my god. And for that to end in that much a cluster [of a] finish, that just dumbfounded me. That was kind of my indication that [WCW] wasn’t going to fight as nearly as hard as [the WWF]. But I was going to ride that wave as long as I could ride it.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Stories with Brisco and Bradshaw with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.