Baseball Great Hank Aaron, Who Changed WCW, Passes Away

Henry “Hank” Aaron, the legendary baseball player who also changed the course of WCW, has passed away. WSBTV reports that the all-time baseball great passed away on Friday morning at the age of 86.

Aaron is known to the world as one of the greatest baseball players to ever play the game. He was the 1957 National League MVP, helping Atlanta win the World Series, and a 25-time All-Star who became the first Major League player to hit 500 home runs and score 3,000 hits. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 and his record of 755 career home runs was the record until Barry Bonds broke it on 2007.

Aaron’s baseball records are world-renowned, but in wrestling he is also known for changing WCW. Aaron’s relationship with Ted Turner led to him appearing at several WCW PPVs, but it was his pressure on Turner to fire Bill Watts in 1992 that had the most impact on WCW’s direction. Watts became WCW’s Executive Vice President in 1992 and made several changes related to his old-school philosophy about how wrestling should be, such as banning top-rope moves and forcing babyfaces and heels to stay separated. He also brought his son Erik Watts to WCW, which was not a popular decision or one that went over well with fans.

It was Watts’ interview for the PW Torch newsletter, which took place in 1991 before he was hired, that proved his undoing, thanks in part to Aaron. Watts said that private business owners should be able to discriminate against queer people and people of color while dropping several homophoic slurs and ranting against Roots and racial equality, along with other inappropriate comments about Black people.

Mark Madden faxed Aaron quotes from the interview in 1993 and asked him if he had any comment. Watts claimed that those in charge of WCW were already aware of the comments and said he resigned, as opposed to being fired. Whatever the case, Aaron publicly slammed Watts for his comments and reportedly pushed for Watts to be fired. Watts was replaced by Ole Anderson, and Watts’ exit led to Eric Bischoff’s rise to executive producer and eventually Senior Vice President.

On behalf of 411, our condolences to the family, friends, and many, many fans of Mr. Aaron. The world would be a very different place without him, in a variety of ways.

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