WWE Monday Night War

Written by: Tom Hopkins

The Main Characters
–The WWF, led by Vince McMahon was a giant in the wrestling industry, until WCW and Monday Nitro came along. Bischoff led Nitro against WWE’s flagship show, Raw, and actually came out on top, leading to a long feud between the companies.

The Setting
1995-2001 was when the war for sports entertainment ratings occurred. Well, 1995 was when it started; the war really ended about 2000.

The Film (1:35:00)
In 1995, wrestling would change forever. Monday Night Raw had been on the air for two years when Ted Turner and his WCW company (led by Eric Bischoff) started their own Monday night television show called Nitro. This led to a fierce 6-year competition between the two companies that saw wrestling rise to heights it hasn’t seen before, and hasn’t seen since.

Gene Okerlund talks about the origins of Raw in 1993 and a brief history of WWE on television, as well as the origins of Turner buying Crockett promotions and Vince’s WWE appearing on Ted’s stations and WCW being poorly run, which led to Ross jumping ship to WWF. Raw was run in a small venue, to capture a real live audience. Meanwhile, Eric was taping shows out of the Disney MGM studios, where Hogan happened to be. Hogan would sign with WCW, and Savage would follow. Bischoff would later go to a PPV every month. Eventually, Turner asked Bischoff what he needed for WCW to survive and Bischoff said primetime television, which Turner gave him, 2 hours of wrestling on TNT every Monday, against Raw. Vince is still sore about this, even years later. For the debut of Nitro, Bischoff got Luger, but only at Sting’s request because Bischoff just didn’t like him, the night after his WWE contract ended. Cornette said this was Vince’s first mistake, that Lex gave Vince his word that he would work for WWE. So the first blow was struck. Nitro and Raw would exchange ratings wins each week for the remainder of 1995 as Bischoff tried everything, by telling them the results of the taped Raws, which Vince didn’t appreciate, and Eric didn’t care.

Another blow was struck when Alundra Blayze of the WWE, now known as Medusa, threw away the WWE Women’s title on the air of WCW. This led to a massive amount of legal battles and Vince had to respond, with the Huckster and Nacho Man skits, as well as the Billionaire Ted skits. As 1996 unfolded, WWE was in control of the ratings was when two of their biggest stars left, Kevin Nash (Diesel) and Scott Hall (Razor Ramon). So Scott Hall appeared on WCW (doing his Razor character, which caused a lawsuit since he was doing a WWE character), then Kevin Nash. They talked about an invasion of sorts, and at the Bash at the Beach PPV, and along with the Hulk, the New World Order was born. This led to WCW just destroying WWE in the ratings, for two years. Eric talks about showing fans things they haven’t shown before, like going to the production truck, and chucking Rey Misterio like a dart. Eric would later join the NWO.

Vince talked about helping the industry, not hurting it, and to help it, you need to ensure the survival of the other guys. That’s a load of bull as he destroyed a ton of territories in the 80’s without any remorse. 1-2-3 Kid and DiBiase would leave the WWE, leaving DiBiase’s protégé, by himself. The writers decided to let Austin be himself and he would start his ascent into wrestling superstardom, and eventually putting WWE back on top. It would start with the King of The Ring victory in 1996, and his promo that set the world on fire. WCW was still winning by a large margin, due to the NWO, and its great wrestlers (like Benoit, the lucha’s, etc). WWE would eventually start going lower and lower, into a more sexually driven material, led by D-X (Shawn Michaels, HHH, and Chyna). WWE suffered a big blow when Austin suffered a neck injury at Summerslam, but he was still on TV all the time. It culminated on the 09/22/97 Raw, at MSG, where Austin stunned McMahon, who at that time was still an announcer and no one knew at the time he was the president of WWE. Rock was also turning into a star at the time, going from the blue-chip prospect to a pissed off leader of the Nation, an African-American gang featured in the WWE. Later on in 1997, Bret would leave to WCW after being screwed by McMahon, leading to a memorable promo in the coming weeks by McMahon, that Bret screwed Bret. Vince became the biggest heel in the entire business, and he played that up.

So Bret was out of the WWE and for WWE fans, there was only one guy, Steve Austin. Steve had a run-in with Mike Tyson on Raw, and Bischoff thought that Crash TV wouldn’t work and dismissed the whole over-the-top stuff WWE was doing. Austin would go on to win the WWE title and the tide started turning in the War. WCW had won the war some 83 weeks in a row, until Austin had his first match with McMahon, and Mankind appeared as Dude Love. HHH would also bring out X-Pac (formerly the 1-2-3 Kid, who defected to WCW and now back to the WWE) to join D-X in another blow to WCW’s momentum. DX would cause all sorts of mayhem, even invading WCW’s CNN building. Bischoff countered with an open challenge to McMahon to wrestle at their PPV. Of course, Vinnie no showed of course. The one big thing that WWE did that WCW didn’t at the time was develop new stars. You had guys like Austin, Rock and HHH, while WCW only had Goldberg. Goldberg won the title on free TV, winning the ratings battle after 11 weeks, but WCW had a big problem, the monster that was the NWO. WWE kept winning the ratings, with WCW getting another reprieve when Ric Flair reappeared on TV with the Horseman being recreated. Flair still felt he was mistreated by Bischoff, who felt he was creating two cultures, Flair representing the history and everything else was the new school. There’s still heat to this day between the two.

One of the biggest turning points was the night Mick Foley won the WWE title. It was a taped show, while Nitro was live, and WCW actually told fans that Foley would be winning the title. So, people watching WCW had a massive drop in ratings so people could go watch Foley win. They actually play the part of Nitro where Schiavone says it, and Mick was really pissed at that, until he saw the ratings. WWE soon starting kicking WCW’s ass in the ratings, and Benoit says the corporate structure stopped them from rebounding. WCW soon had a number of talents that jumped ship, starting with Big Show in 1999, Jericho later on in that year. Meanwhile, Bischoff was slowly losing control in WCW, and he lost his job in September 1999.

WWE would start Smackdown later in 1999, and Vince Russo and Ed Ferriera was brought into WCW. Russo booked WWE during the golden years (1997-1999), and they tried the same tactics they used in WWE, but the whole thing was just a massive failure including making fun of the disability of Jim Ross. The only difference was that WWE had Vince McMahon to control them, while in WCW, they had no one. In early 2000, WWE struck what would be the final blow, getting Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit from WCW and they would become known as the Radicalz. The Russo thing was not working out and he was fired. Bischoff was brought back, and he was very close to buying WCW, until he find out that he wouldn’t be given TV time, so the deal was off. It all culminated when Vince McMahon bought the company, and the War was officially over. What a nail in the coffin, Vince showing up on WCW TV, on their last episode no less. Flair was happy that WCW went down, but was worried about the people who lost their jobs.

Movie Review
This could’ve been a lot longer, with more of the things that put WCW over the top, and then what WWE did to rebound. As it stands, it is a highlight reel of things that happened during this time told by the people who lived it. Some of what they say is complete crap, especially the ego of Bischoff and the bravado of Vince McMahon. I thought it was a good re-telling of what happened, and we saw some of the key points, but it could’ve been fleshed out more, like those early Raws, the early battles, and the crash TV WWE used to get over. This was early on in WWE’s DVD making days, so it was still a work in progress for them, and it shows based on other features they have done since.

DVD Features
A) Extras

1) Steve Austin & Shawn Michaels vs. British Bulldog & Owen Hart (12:48)
From 05/26/97. Bulldog and Owen are the champs at this time, and Austin and Michaels attack right away. Austin and Owen end up in the ring and Austin takes Owen down with a knee to the gut, and drives the elbows to Hart. He goes for a sharpshooter but Bulldog stops that. Austin with a slam and an elbow from the second rope gets two. Michaels is tagged in and heads upstairs for an axe handle on Owen’s arm. Owen flips out and tags in Bulldog. Michaels with a hurricanrana take down. Michaels ducks a clothesline and gets an enzugiri for two. The Hart Foundation makes their way onto the entrance ramp as Austin is tagged in. The duo double-teams Bulldog in the corner. Austin is sent off the ropes and Owen hits him from behind, and then takes him outside, dropping him on the barricade. The Hart Foundation makes their way to the ring, drawing Michaels as we cut to commercial. We return a split second later with Owen holding onto a side headlock. Austin breaks free, shouldberblocks Owen down, but walks into a sleeper, which Austin counters with a jawbreaker. Owen tags out to Bulldog as Austin makes the hot tag to Michaels. Michaels with a flying forearm and a kip-up. He knocks Owen off the mat and dropkicks Bulldog. Bulldog counters with a military press, then drops Michael’s onto the top rope, crotching him, and Michaels hurtles outside. Owen is out there, and slams the back of Michaels into the ring post. Owen rolls him back in, and is slingshot into the turnbuckles, which prompts a Bulldog cover for two. Michaels is sent to the corner, and does his flip up. Bulldog with his running powerslam, but Austin breaks up the pinfall. Owen comes in with a reverse chinlock, as Jim Ross refreshes my memory and tells me that this is Michael’s first match back since, “losing his smile.” Owen with an overhead release suplex and again Austin has to break the count. Austin distracts the ref allowing the champs to double-team. Bulldog is in and Shawn gets a sunset flip. Owen distracts the ref and when he releases the pinfall, Michaels only gets a two. Bulldog comes back with a clothesline and a legdrop for two. Austin is tagged in but the ref doesn’t see it, so it doesn’t count, leading to more double-teaming. Owen tries for a superplex, but Michaels knocks him down and hits a flying body press for two. Owen responds with a spinning heel kick. A blind charge from Owen misses, and Michaels finally makes the hot tag. Austin comes in and cleans house. Austin goes for a stunner, but Owen breaks it up. Shawn comes in, hits Bulldog with Sweet Chin Music and Austin covers for the pinfall and the titles at 10:29. The Hart Foundation comes in and destroys Michaels as Austin walks out with the belts. Austin charges Bret Hart, who is standing alone at the entrance with his busted leg. Michaels is laid out in the ring, and the rest of the Harts charge Austin. We return to Raw with a Austin interview, and Michaels is pissed Austin bailed. This would be the first of the classic WWE tactic of teammates who hate each other becoming champs, something they just did on a Raw recently with Batista and Cena. Match was energetic, and was good enough. ***.

2) Stone Cold Stuns McMahon (6:08)
This is from the MSG Raw, 09/22/97, the first time WWE returned to MSG in many years. This was really Austin becoming the anti-authority and the foil for McMahon and his business like ways. It starts with Austin attacking Owen Hart, and Vince McMahon getting pissed and going into the ring. This was really the first we saw of McMahon as owner of the company, as before he was just an announcer to the fans. Austin would end up getting arrested after Vince got stunned.
3) Jim Cornette Commentary (2:54)
This is from the 10/27/97 edition of Raw. Cornette talks briefly about talking on Raw, and venting his opinions, which was predicated by his rants on his WWE online column. In this one, he talks about the Hogan/Piper Cage Match and how WCW called it the best cage match ever, and blasts both workers for being too old. He said the current icons in wrestling are Undertaker, Ric Flair, and Steve Austin. Great promo, especially the last line, “Hulk Hogan, you may be a household name but so is garage, and it stinks when it gets old, too.”

4) Vince McMahon Interview (3:13)
This is the infamous Bret screwed Bret interview from 11/17/97. They show the screwjob at Survivor Series, which caused the whole mess. Very simply, Vince says Bret screwed Bret by not accepting what is right in the wrestling business, and that means not wanting to drop the title before leaving for another promotion, or even losing a match.

5) Shawn Michaels & HHH vs. The Legion of Doom (11:47)
From 12/15/97, and I guess this is the legacy of the Monday Night Wars, as both WWE matches were Shawn matches. Shawn and Animal start, and Animal tosses around Shawn a couple of times, and shoulderblocks him down, showing his power. HHH is tagged in, and he can’t match up to the power of Animal, either. Cornette is calling the action and calls the LOD the Road Warriors by mistake. The LOD work over Michaels with a series of clotheslines, and Michaels heads to the exits. HHH has to pull him back in by the rights, leading to a gratuitous ass-shot. Michaels finally gets to the ring and he’s had enough, tagging in HHH. HHH gets his own clotheslines, this time courtesy of Hawk. A Michaels cheapshot turns the tide, and DX works over Hawk in the corner. DX with a drop-toe-hold, elbow drop combination. HHH with a kneedrop to the face gets two. We take a brief break to miss a whole lotta restholds, and we return with Hawk fighting back. Michaels gets tossed, but can’t make the tag yet. Hawk is sent to the corner, but Michaels runs into him and their heads smack into each other. Animal is tagged in and he cleans house with clotheslines. Michaels is powerslammed, and HHH is shoulder blocked, but the New Age Outlaws come out, and knock out Hawk with an ether soaked rag. Chyna comes in and lowblows Animal and we get a DQ at 7:41. This is the legacy you want to show in the Monday Night Wars? I guess DX was one of the things that put them on the map back in the day, and DX embarrassing LOD (by shaving Hawk and powerbombing Animal through a table) is a representation of what they did to fight back against Nitro. Crappy match, just there to play up the DX angle and nothing more. *1/4.

6) D-X Invades Nitro (6:05)
On 04/27/98, the Invasion began. DX (HHH, Billy Gunn, Jesse James, X-Pac, and Chyna) showed up in Norfolk, where WCW was holding an episode of Nitro. A whole bunch of “WCW” fans turn on WCW and people saying they got their tickets for free. Bischoff was pissed. Unfortunately, they closed the gates, and HHH says they should’ve let it open since people would’ve watched that show.

7) The Last Nitro (7:24)
This is just highlights of the last Nitro, as well as reactions by the workers. Flair got to wrestle Sting one last time, they show the WWE producers shadowing the WCW ones, to show who was really in charge. Flair called it one of the best nights of his life. They should’ve included the Raw and Nitro from that night on a second disc, as well as the first Nitro.

8) nWo in the Production Truck (3:42)
From Nitro 07/22/96. They interrupt a match to go backstage, where Hall and Nash are invading the production area.

9) Eric Bischoff Challenges Vince McMahon (2:48)
From 05/11/98, Bischoff challenges McMahon to a match at the next WCW PPV, Slamboree. Not a great promo.

10) Chris Benoit vs. Booker T (8:23)
From 06/01/98, and hopefully the announcers will tell me if this was part of their 7-match series. They lock up, but Booker gets a quick scoop slam. Booker with strong forearms sends Benoit down for one and a half. Fit Finley, the TV champ comes out to watch the match, and I guess the winner faces Finley at Great American Bash. Benoit walks into a powerslam for two. Booker with a side suplex, and he goes to the top. He hits Benoit with a splash, and Benoit rolls outside the ring. Booker follows and dumps back inside, but Benoit us up first and takes advantage of Booker by just stomping him. Benoit with some wicked chops, then a snap suplex. The announcers say that Booker s down 2-1 in the series, so I guess it is the 7-match series. We see Fit Finley, and he’s not more interesting than the match, and we miss Booker’s heel kick (I assume, the camera was on Finley) knocks down Benoit and Booker gets two. He puts Benoit in a rear chinlock, but Benoit fights out of it. Booker with a big clothesline, and the two exchange forearms. Benoit ducks a clothesline but falls victim to a flying forearm for two. Another rear chinlock kills time. Benoit elbows out, Booker misses his spin kick and Benoit gets a German suplex. Both men are slow getting up, but Benoit is up first. Short-arm clothesline gets two for Benoit but Booker comes back with an axe kick. Booker takes his time, and hits a belly to back suplex. Booker is slow again to getting Benoit, he goes for a suplex, but Benoit reverses that to a Crippler Crossface and Booker has no option but to tap out at 8:17. It was a good match, **, but hardly representative of what WCW was doing during the War years, as they were pretty much defeated by then.

11) Goldberg vs. Hulk Hogan (8:33)
From 07/06/98, a PPV quality match they gave away for free on live television. Hulk was champ at the time, Goldberg was the biggest WCW star at the time. Side headlock starts things for Goldberg. They really do every resthold in the book, from a test of strength, a full nelson is involved, choking, etc. Hogan bodyslams Goldberg, but twice misses an elbow drop. Goldberg responds by sending Hogan outside. More stalling. Now Goldberg is sent outside, and Hogan uses a chair in one of the most boring matches I’ve seen in a long time. Hogan with a slam, hits the leg drop not once but twice. Curt Henning walks out for reasons unknown, as well as DDP. While they were walking out, we missed Goldberg kick out of Hogan’s finisher. Hogan watches in shock as DDP’s friend, Karl Malone, hits the diamond cutter on Henning. Goldberg spears Hogan, then hits his finisher (suplex into a powerslam) for the pin and the title at 8:10. The crowd goes wild, and I am just happy this match is now over. ¼*. There was no wrestling at all.

12) Ric Flair Returns to WCW (10:04)
This is from way back in 09/14/98
This is longer than three of the four matches on the DVD, showing a common trend in the last 3 years of the War. Arn Anderson really “hosts” this shindig, and unveiling a new Four Horsemen, with Ric Flair as their leader. He goes over the new ones first, then introduces Flair, who gets a monstrous pop. Flair goes apeshit on the mic, even calling out Bischoff. Bischoff comes out, and they go off on each other.
13) Rick Rude Appears on Nitro and Raw on the same night. (2:40)
This happened on 11/17/97. See, Raw was taped, and Nitro was live. Rude was with DX at the time, at least introducing him, and since Rick was without a contract, he showed up at Nitro to stick it to the WWE.

B) Audio/Video
All the footage is in great condition, considering it is from the source material. It’s presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, though it doesn’t sound like all the channels are used, and the presentation is in fullscreen.

C) Packaging / Liner Notes
This is a rare single-disc offering from WWE, and liner notes just include the chapter listing and extras, and there’s a WWF Home Video insert as well.

D) Easter Eggs
None

Overall Review
Mick Foley’s DVD, Wrestlemania XX, and the don’t try this at home PSA start off the DVD. Well, the feature presentation was pretty much just decent at best, and the extras featured some interesting choices. The extras shown were decent, but this screamed for a double-disc feature. They should’ve extended the main feature, showing more of the reaction to McMahon buying WCW, more of the early years of the war, and more of the highlights. The extras needed a whole disc, maybe even two, showing the first and last Nitro, as well as the Raw when Nitro was purchased. More segments should’ve been added, more matches we haven’t seen in a while, including ones with the nWo at their peak (no New World Order matches and only one segment? Nowhere near enough), and DX and Austin. This was a collection that could’ve been so much more but really just seemed like it was rushed together. Seeing the DVD’s WWE has put out since, this one was criminally underwhelming.

Overall Rating
6.0

10.0      Perfect
9.0-9.5  Near Perfect, Highly Recommended
8.0-8.5  Really good disc, Recommended
7.0-7.5  Good DVD, Mildly recommended
6.0-6.5  Above Average DVD. Mildest of mild recommendations
5.0-5.5  Decent all around disc, but catch it on TV
4.0-4.5  Great Movie but horrible DVD
3.0-3.5  Horrible movie but great DVD
2.0-2.5  There’s at least some merit to this DVD, but not much.
1.0-1.5  Horrible DVD, don’t even bother
0.0-0.5  Worst DVD ever