wrestling / TV Reports

The Monday Night War Review: Episode One – ‘The War Begins’

August 31, 2014 | Posted by Robert Leighty Jr.

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The Monday Night War (Episode One): The War Begins
-When the Network was first announced this show was hyped as one of the big selling points. It was a show I have been waiting for as the Monday Night were a great time to be a fan of pro-wrestling and I’ve always been intrigued by this battle. I am still waiting for someone in Hollywood to try to make a movie out of the Monday Night Wars, but I guess this series will be as closest thing we get. It sure wouldn’t be as bad as some of the other crap that gets adapted into films.

-Brief introduction as voice over guy lays out what to expect with this series. It is called a War 10 Years in the Making and it clearly makes it known that this is a battle between Vince McMahon (“sports entertainment’s reining King) and Ted Turner (“Southern billionaire”).

-Opening video package and it’s pretty awesome

-During the 1980s the WWF rose to the top as the #1 wrestling (or sports entertainment as called here) company in the world. The cast of characters of the WWF in the 80s were led by Hulk Hogan, and naturally the talking heads put over how awesome he is. Case in point Cena mentions that Hogan redefined the industry and took pro-wrestling to heights never seen. Lawler brings up the advent of cable television and voice over guy talks about how Vince used cable to his advantage to make his company a national one instead of a regional one.

-They briefly touch on WWF being on Turner, but don’t give many details as to how it happened. That brings Ted Turner into the discussion and GCW being on the Super Station. The partnership between Vince and Ted sours as they show stock footage of Turner discussing the matter. He says they stopped showing WWF TV on TBS because Vince wouldn’t agree to stop showing WWF programming on USA Network.

-Vince thinks political strings were pulled to get the WWF off TBS and when Ted made it clear he didn’t want to do business anymore, Vince didn’t want to do business either. Stock footage of Shane McMahon from 2006 and he says that moment (Black Saturday and the fallout) were the start of the War.

-Things were great for WWF though as they just brushed things off and continued to redefine the industry with WrestleMania while Jim Crocket Promotions ended up back on TBS. According to voice over guy JCP was unable to stay competitive so Ted bought the show and rebranded things World Championship Wrestling.

-Vince relates the story of Ted calling him and telling him he is in the “Rasslin Business” and Vince tells him they are in different businesses as he is in the entertainment business. Flair says Turner gave different parts of WCW to his friends and nobody knew what to do with it.

-WCW struggled under Turner to start and they do actually mention that the WWF was struggling as well in the early 90s (though make sure to mention they were still clearly #1). The WWF was peddling comedy and in studio crap on Prime Time Wrestling on Monday Nights. Vince had the idea for a live show and that became RAW as it debuted on Jan 11, 1993.

-Going live was a big deal and it even worried Vince a little at first because of the risks involved. Linda says the big thing with RAW is that it looked different as it had a edgier feel and the set was kind of bare. They show some of the top moments from the early RAWs including the 1-2-3 Kid upsetting Ramon, and they put over the crowd at those early shows. The Manhattan Center was an intimate setting in front of a passionate bunch of fans (mixed with a decent amount of early day smarks).

-The New Generation came from Monday Night Raw and it gave the younger guys a platform to show what they had that the guys from the 80s didn’t. This meant Vince didn’t need guys like Hogan anymore and Hogan even mentions there was a youth movement in the WWF. Hogan leaves in June of 93 and Vince says Hogan told him he would never compete against him, and Vince admits he thought Hogan’s career had reached as high as it would go.

-Lex Luger was pegged as the next Hogan and Patterson admits that nobody was going to fill Hogan’s shoes so it was kind of unfair to him. RAW started to move to bigger venues outside the Manhattan Center and because of that they stopped broadcasting live every week, but again things were ok because they were #1 in the sports entertainment world.

-Back in WCW there was a change in leadership as a guy named Eric Bischoff was named the Executive Producer. All the Bischoff commentary is the stock footage that was used on the Monday Night War DVD from a few years ago. Gene says that Eric was a good promotional mind and good at branding.

-Eric mentions that WCW was perceived as a Southern territory (and it was), so he wanted to fix the announce team. He wanted to get rid of the announcers with Southern accents (Jim Ross) and brought in Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan. Sticking with the theme here, Eric apparently stole these guys from the WWF because he needed to be like them. Holy Shit they actually have Tony Schiavone as one of the talking heads. Awesome! Off topic for a second but go listen to JR’s podcast with Schiavone as his guest, you won’t be disappointed.

-Things in WCW started to grow a bit as Ted was a wrestling fan at heart and he wanted to have the biggest and best wrestling promotion in the world. Stock footage of JR from 2005 and he tells that Bischoff used Ted’s ego and competitiveness to talk him into spending more money. That leads to Bischoff hounding Hogan for months on the set of Thunder in Paradise and eventually Hogan agrees to come back.

-Hogan gets a ticker tape parade at Disney MGM Studios (now Disney Hollywood Studios) and Arn mentions that Hogan is and always will be the biggest star in the history of the business as everyone knows who he is. Miz says Hogan joining WCW was a slap in the face to him. I had a differing view as a kid because I was such a Hogan fan that I followed him to WCW and became a fan of their company more than I was of the WWF at that point. Vince was hurt that Hogan signed even though he understood why he did and he now knew WCW was competition because Hogan legitimized them.

-Hogan still believed in Hulk-a-mania and thought there was still gas in the tank. His acquisition raised WCW’s profile and helped them close the gap. As it closed the gap Ted basically handed Eric a blank check to do what was needed to get them over the top.

-Randy Savage was put behind the announce desk by Vince as they were going with a youth movement. Lanny Poffo says Randy’s feelings were hurt as he didn’t want to just sit behind a desk and a deal was made between Savage and WCW. They show Vince on an episode of RAW explaining Randy’s absence and it is rather classy. They then immediately cut to Randy debuting on WCW Saturday Night and that also blew the Miz’s mind. Nash says that is the one that they never saw coming. Again, I would blame Vince for that one as Savage may have had some years on him, but the man still had a lot in the tank and would have had a hell of a run as the elder statesmen in the WWF fighting guys like Hart, Michaels, Hall, Nash, etc.

-WCW continued to spend and brought in more former WWF stars and within 18 months of Bischoff taking over WCW finally made a profit. Good for them, but things were great in the WWF with the New Generation apparently. Shawn and Bret said they had younger and better athletes and in the ring they were better. The WWF focused on building in house talent and basically ignored what was happening in WCW.

-Turner asked Bischoff what he needed to do to top the WWF and Eric panics and says give me prime time thinking it would never happen. Ted decides to give him a time slot on TNT on Monday Night. WCW rubs things in the WWF’s face as they announce the launch of the show at a press conference in New York City of all places. That was the first shot fired as they basically came into Vince’s back yard to tell him we are going heads up against you on Monday night.

-Everyone was skeptical as they thought it would split the audience and neither party would survive. Vince felt Turner could have chosen any night he wanted and Turner’s rebuttal was that Vince could have changed nights as well. Awesome! DDP felt there were only 2 million fans watching wrestling on Monday Night and figured that would only split the audience, but didn’t realize there were WCW fans and WWF fans.

-Bischoff had 6 weeks to figure out a way to stand out from RAW and that leads to the discussion of Luger’s contract in the WWF coming to an end. Bischoff didn’t really want Luger, but decided to talk to him because Sting made a push for it. He offered Luger $100,000 (less than he was getting in the WWF) and he shocked Eric by taking the deal. As they got closer to the debut of Nitro it came to their attention that his deal with WWF was ending just days earlier, so they kept his signing with WCW under wraps.

-Nitro debuts on Labor Day in 1995 from the Mall of American in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Some mock that move now, but it definitely gave the show a different feel, and Vince mentions that after watching the show he knew he was in for a battle though makes sure to mention they tried to emulate the WWF in every way from a production stand point. The debut of Nitro aired unopposed as RAW was pre-empted that night. Ryback mentions he was flipping through channels and came across Nitro and that introduced him to WCW.

-Luger was hid all day and was brought into the Mall with towels over his head 30 minutes prior to showing up on camera. The Miz continues to act as the ultimate WWF fanboy as he was shocked and appalled that Luger would leave as well. Luger says he did a WWF house show the previous night and Foley calls it the wrestling version of the shot heard around the world. Luger mentions that he was brought up in the business that you had to give a two week notice, but Eric wanted it as a surprise so while Lex didn’t like it, he opted not to let Vince know. JR says the mistake was embarrassing and a failure for them not to know that one of their major stars weren’t signed to a new deal.

-The first episode of Nitro drew over 2.5 million viewers and everyone in WCW was happy with the first show. The real test came the following week when they went head to head for the first time. This lead to Eric breaking some long standing unspoken rules by giving away the results of RAW live on Nitro since the WWF already had their show taped (“Shawn Michaels beats the big guy with a superkick he couldn’t earn a green belt with at a local YMCA”). In a nice visual they show the two programs side by side as Bischoff makes the comment and give us the ratings for each underneath: RAW 2.5, Nitro 2.4.

-Vince thought it was dirty to give away his results and always worked under the idea that you do what you can to help your side of things and not hurt the other guy. I couldn’t help but laugh at that one. Big Show mentions Eric was a prick back then, but he was being told by a billionaire to do what he needed to do to win the War. Eric said he would do the same today and asked to go on 3 minutes earlier at 8:57 to beat RAW on the air so they could give their results away even earlier. Brilliant! I will side with Bischoff on that one as he should use any advantage he had as the underdog.

-The ratings graphic pops up again and it’s a nice little feature as it shows the head to head battle at various weeks. In this case: Oct 23: Nitro 2.6, RAW 2.2; Oct 30: Nitro 2.3, RAW 2.1;

-As we neared winter the battle was still even: Dec 4: RAW 2.6, Nitro 2.4; Dec 11 Nitro 2.6, RAW 2.5, but WCW was about to fire another shot with Madusa. She called Eric after she signed and said she still had the WWF Woman’s Title. She wanted to send it back but Eric told her to bring it to television. He talked her into throwing the title in a trash can on Nitro (against her will) and it was glorious. Again, to me all is fair when battling like they were. Vince thought it was tawdry, and finally started to respond in his own way.

-Billionaire Ted’s Wrasslin War Room debuts after months of silence. The WWF mocked Turner, Savage, Hogan, and Okerlund. Bischoff says he thought they were funny and Turner says he wasn’t bothered by them as he thought it meant Vince was hurting. Hogan brings up that it may have backfired and brought fans to WCW. Russo says the same as if you are #1, you shouldn’t recognize #2, but the tide was turning to WCW and they needed to do something.

-WCW was now legit competition and Vince’s reign as king was being threatened. Because of the War Monday Nights had turned into must see TV. That led to new stars being brought in and pushed as both sides started to load up for a fight. CM Punk mentions that competition brings out the best and the real winners were the fans. Brodus Clay says he stacked 2 TVs so he could watch both at the same time. DDP brings up a good point as there were WCW fans, WWF fans, and then the group in the middle that both companies were trying to win.

-Things wrap up nicely with Piper saying everyone loved it except 2 people: McMahon and Turner as they were knee deep in the battle. HHH mentions that it ending up becoming a fight for survival as losing meant they were probably going out of business. This all just sets up what it to come with The Monday Night War.

-Thoughts: This was a pretty decent start to the series as it did a solid job of establishing where each side was coming from as they entered the War. With this being a WWE Network deal, you knew it would be pro-WWF, but the spin wasn’t that bad. We just got the normal stuff about WCW having unlimited resources, but that has been beaten into the ground for years now. I appreciate them getting some of the younger guys, who were fans at the time, as part of the group of talking heads, but the good stuff comes from those that were deep in the battle. It was really cool to see they got guys like Schiavone and Schiller to be part of this and the stock footage of Ted speaking was appreciated as well.

-The next part seems to touch only on the n.W.o as apparently this won’t follow any chronological order and just focus on certain aspects of the War.

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Robert Leighty Jr.