The professional wrestling industry has seen its share of ups and downs. From the Golden Era to the boom of professional wrestling during the ‘Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection’, to the steroid scandal in the early 90s, the industry has witnessed the good and the bad. However, there is one period that is fondly remembered by the fans, and is considered to be the greatest period in the history of professional wrestling.
In late 80s, Ted Turner acquired WCW, and decided to create an organization that would rival Vince McMahon’s WWE. With Hulkamania sweeping the entire nation, Vince McMahon managed to get a firm grip over the North American audience, rendering all the other territorial organizations obsolete. However, Ted Turner’s decision to pour money into World Championship Wrestling led to the Monday Night Wars between WWE and WCW.
Today, we take a look at the top 10 pivotal moments during the Monday Night War, which you can watch exclusively on the WWE Network.
Monday Night RAW goes live
In the early 90s, Vince McMahon and the WWE were doing good business, but weren’t able to take it to the next level. While the gates were decent, they weren’t improving by any means, leading to Vince and the WWE superstars believing that they might have reached the zenith in terms of popularity and potential. However, Vince McMahon – being the innovator he is, thought otherwise.
There is always room for improvement, and Vince McMahon thought about experimenting by taking RAW live, instead of taping shows in advance. This led to more people coming to the shows, and also brought the “anything can happen on live TV” mantra, which brought about the unpredictability factor to the shows.
Hulk Hogan in WCW
The 80s was one of the most pivotal periods in professional wrestling history. Promotions followed a territorial system, while Vince McMahon Jr. envisioned a global takeover. This resulted in WWE expanding across North America, which changed the landscape of the industry. This was also when Vince handpicked Hulk Hogan to carry the organization through the next decade.
Hogan became the first performer to transcend the business, and became a global icon. The “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection” popularized the business, making WWE mainstream. However, in 90s, Vince McMahon chose to focus on the future, which resulted in Hogan quitting the company, and joining forces with Ted Turner’s WCW.
WWE Women’s championship trashed on Nitro
With Eric Bischoff at the helm, WCW was soon gaining momentum. Eric took a business which was flailing under Ted Turner, and completely altered the fortunes. However, WWE under the McMahon regime was still comfortably placed as the biggest sports entertainment organization in North America, and Eric Bischoff understood the importance of halting WWE’s momentum.
This was when Eric started bringing superstars from WWE. From “Macho Man” Randy Savage to later Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, Eric began “stealing” talent from Vince McMahon’s WWE. In ‘95, the then WWE Women’s Champion Madusa jumped ships from WWE to WCW, and proceeded to throw the WWE Women’s Championship belt into a trash can! This was Bischoff’s way of making his intentions clear to dethrone WWE as the leading North American wrestling promotion.
The night NWO took shape
With Shawn Michaels calling shots in the WWE locker room, Eric Bischoff brought in reinforcements in the form of Kevin Nash and Scott Hall to WCW. While WCW and WWE were involved in the Monday Night War by then, the turning point came at Bash At The Beach in ‘96, with The Outsiders trying to take over WCW.
It was then that the perennial good guy turned on the world, and sent shock waves through the entire industry. Hulk Hogan dropped his “American hero” monicker, and turned on the fans by aligning himself with Nash and Hall. The New World Order took shape, and WCW started beating WWE in the ratings, with edgier angles and compelling storylines.
Rise of Austin 3:16 and birth of the Attitude Era
In June 1996, Austin and Jake Roberts collided in the finals of the King Of The Ring tournament. The King Of The Ring tournament was seen as the stepping stone for future world champions, and was one of the major tournaments in the organization. Austin defeated Jake in the finals, and proceeded to cut one of the most famous promos in wrestling history, coining “Austin 3:16” in the process.
The birth and the rise of Steve Austin in the WWE was pivotal for the company, and the direction they were heading into. With New World Order taking the professional wrestling by storm, WWE needed to retaliate in a major way, and the rise of Steve Austin through the ranks laid the foundations for one of the greatest periods in professional wrestling history – the Attitude Era.
The “Montreal Screw Job” incident and Attitude Era in full swing
The history between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart has been well documented, and both the performers genuinely disliked each other. With HBK telling Bret that he would never “job” to him, Bret took it as an insult, and both the superstars were involved in a backstage fight. Their rivalry would culminate at Survivor Series in 1997, with Bret defending the WWE Championship against Michaels in what was Bret’s final match before leaving for WCW.
While Vince told Bret that he wouldn’t have to drop the title to Shawn in Montreal, Vince, Triple H and Shawn Michaels “screwed” Bret, when the referee rang the bell while Shawn had Bret trapped in the Sharpshooter. This incident became the most infamous incident in professional wrestling history, and also led to the Attitude Era getting into full swing in the WWE.
The likes of Austin, Triple H and The Rock started climbing the ranks, while Shawn Michaels had to retire from professional wrestling due to a back injury. Austin became the most popular superstar in the industry, and WWE started showing signs of resurgence, especially with the Austin – McMahon storyline gaining the attention of the fans.
Fall of WCW – Fingerpoke of Doom
With WWE beating WCW in the ratings, WCW had to do something drastic. In early ‘99, WCW announced a match between Kevin Nash and WCW’s most popular superstar, Goldberg for the WCW Heavyweight Championship. However, Goldberg was detained due to false accusations made by Miss Elizabeth, resulting in Kevin Nash – leader of NWO Wolfpac taking on the former leader of NWO Hollywood – Hulk Hogan.
While both factions were at war, once the match began, Hogan poked Nash in the chest, resulting in Nash taking a theatrical fall. Hogan won the match and the Heavyweight championship, as the two factions reunited, while the crowd started booing and throwing debris in the ring. After the match, Tony Schiavone on orders from Bischoff, gave away the ending of RAW where Foley won the WWE Championship. The match was taped a week prior, and Tony giving away the ending resulted in hundreds of thousands of fans switching from Nitro to WWE RAW!
Hogan abandons sinking ship – Retirement and walk out
While Hogan “retired” leading up to his match against Nash in January 1999, he took time off from October, but not before he was booked against Sting. Hogan however came out in street clothes and laid down for Sting. In July 2000, Hogan and Russo were involved in a controversial segment, with Jarrett laying down for Hogan during their match for the WCW Heavyweight Championship.
Russo then came out and publicly buried Hogan, resulting in Hulk walking out of WCW and later filed a defamation lawsuit against Russo. Hogan wasn’t seen in WCW after the incident.
Jericho and Radicalz show up on WWE TV
With WCW losing the ratings war, young talented performers such as Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko started jumping ships to WWE. While Jericho debuted before The Radicalz showed up, Chris Benoit, who was the then WCW World Heavyweight Champion, came to WWE along with Eddie, Malenko and Saturn, which was considered to be the final nail in WCW’s coffin.
Vince McMahon shows up on WCW Monday Nitro
In 2001, there were whispers about WCW going out of business. While the performers were left in the dark, during the final edition of Monday Nitro, Vince McMahon appeared on screen, and informed the fans and the performers that he had purchased WCW, bringing the Monday Night War to a screeching halt. While the performers had no idea what was going on, WCW breathed its final breath. Vince McMahon had won the war, and WWE was the sole survivor.
WCW was many things to many people – a place where the fans could cheer their heroes, a source of income, to put food on the table for the WCW employees; WCW provided the performers with the opportunity to make a name for themselves, but in the end, Vince McMahon took over the competition. The image of Vince gloating about running WCW out of business is still fresh in the memories of the fans, and will go down as the most shocking moment during the Monday Night War.