The SmarK Rant for The Monday Night War – Episode 1
“The War Begins”
I mean…given how popular the Ruthless Aggression rants are, I don’t know why I never thought about reviewing this show before now!
We’ll certainly have some stuff to talk about, I’m sure.
We begin with a discussion of Hulk Hogan, of course, as WWE grows from a “small regional territory” to a national promotion thanks to Vince McMahon. The magic of syndication and cable networks meant that they were hitting fans from multiple sides.
Meanwhile, Ted Turner’s TBS became the first station to broadcast nationwide via cable, with wrestling as the constant ratings grabber via Georgia Championshp Wrestling. But soon the partnership between Vince and Ted turned to SOUR GRAPES. Ted wants out of their contract and goes with Jim Crockett, and Vince remains on the USA Network. And then Wrestlemania happened and instantly became a mainstream sensation. Well that’s a bit simplistic.
Meanwhile, Jim Crockett “couldn’t stay competitive” in the wake of WWE’s success. WHAT? So Ted Turner had to step in and the company, renaming it WCW. This of course gives us the famous soundbite of Vince saying “he’s in the entertainment business” in response to Ted’s “I’m in the rasslin’ business”. But even Ted Turner couldn’t turn WCW around because all he did was hire his friends in executive positions regardless of their experience. But even WWE was struggling afterwards because the whole business was dropping, which I’m sure was nothing to do with anything WWE was doing.
So Prime Time Wrestling was becoming formulaic with boring pre-taped squash matches and needed a shot in the arm. So Vince wanted to do a live show as something different (although ironically it was only “live” every few weeks). And this was all super different from anything that been seen before, because GOD KNOWS wrestling had never seen a live show or a stripped down set before. INNOVATION. So this was a platform for new guys who weren’t around in the 80s, like Bret Hart, Razor Ramon, Bam Bigelow and Shawn Michaels. So Hulk Hogan decided that this youth movement was the perfect time for him to go do something different, with Lex Luger being chosen as his successor. Pat Patterson sums it up as “He was good but not great”.
And now RAW was getting bigger and going to bigger venues thanks to its increased popularity, but live TV cost a lot of money. So they went live “like every other week” according to Vince. Math is hard.
Next we meet Eric Bischoff, who came into WCW as a C-show announcer and saw how mismanaged the company was, but then became Executive Producer for the company and decided to replicate the production quality of the WWE shows in order to catch up. So he cleared out the announcers with southern accents (like Jim Ross) and brought in Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan. Next, we move from the “grungy dingy arenas” to the Disney sound studios. And that apparently drove such amounts of success that Ted Turner opened up his wallet because Turner wanted to compete.
Back to Hogan, who has started filming Thunder in Paradise in Orlando, and Bischoff kept pursuing Hulk while Hulk kept saying “No, I’m done with wrestling, brother!” until finally he caved in and went to WCW. This was apparently a slap in the face to all the WWE fans, although it did legitimize the WCW product. The success of Hogan’s giant contract, Turner started giving out “blank cheques” to sign guys like Randy Savage, who was bored being a color commentator and had hurt feelings from the “youth movement” in the company. So Savage jumps ship and now it’s a war, because Ted Turner is just signing all these guys with abandon and giving out huge contracts. Bischoff claims that he turned WCW into a profitable company within 18 months, which it had never been before.
So poor little WWF keeps staying the course with their lame “youth movement”, which gives us a montage of “high flying, high impact” moves from guys like Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Lex Luger and Undertaker.
Eric relates the story about getting called in the office by Turner and asked what they needed to compete, so Eric asks for prime time on TNT and gets it. No one thought it was going to work, and Vince complains that Ted was deliberately trying to hurt them. But no one realized that there was…GASP…different wrestling fans watching! Wait, you mean that some people liked one company and some people liked another one? This is astonishing information.
On the first episode of Nitro, Lex Luger’s contract expires with the WWF, but Bischoff was never a fan. But Sting asked Eric to give him another shot, and Eric offered him a lowball deal of $100,000 as a shot in the dark. Luger agreed because he wanted to do something different, and they agreed to keep it completely quiet as Luger’s contract expired the night before Nitro. Actually, Luger’s contract was up way before then and he was working without a deal for weeks beforehand, but that’s the least of the whoppers told here.
Vince watched the first episode of Nitro and thought they were trying to emulate WWE in every fashion possible, which made him think it might be real competition. So Nitro debuts while RAW is pre-empted and Lex Luger shows up unannounced during a Flair-Sting match, to the shock of everyone in WWE. Jim Ross was pretty embarrassed by this whole thing.
The first episode was a big success with 2.5 million viewers and a lot of buzz. So the next week they went head-to-head for the first time, and Bischoff took the rulebook and THREW IT OUT THE WINDOW. So why not stop the audience from channel surfing by giving away the results of WWE’s taped show? Vince responds here with his famous “My philosophy has always been to help myself, not hurt the other guy” soundbite. So the more they complained about the dirty pool, the more he did it, to the point where he outright listed the results of RAW at the beginning of the show. Vince took it personally, so Eric asked to go on the air at 8:57 and give away the results three minutes before the other show even went on the air. Kevin Nash describes Nitro as “giving the appearance of being WWE because they had taken so many of their guys”.
Then in December, noted WWE star Alundra Blayze jumped ship while still Women’s champion, so Eric told her to bring the belt and drop it in the garbage can on national TV. The wrestlers talk about how this was such an awful thing to do because you “respect the championship”, but they don’t mention anything about how WWE sued them for violating their intellectual property and scored a huge win.
This leads to a discussion of the Billionaire Ted skits, which actually didn’t offend Ted, because he realized that Vince must have been hurting if he was stooping to this stuff. This gives us our first Vince Russo soundbite, as he points out that if you’re #1, then you shouldn’t even acknowledge the competition. This was the first time ever that WCW had ever threatened Vince’s reign atop the wrestling world! Apparently Jim Crockett and Dusty Rhodes were just flailing around blindly in the 80s and never drawing a dime.
And with that, we leave off the first episode. Next up: The nWo!
Oh dear, this is gonna be quite the series to review for the next 20 episodes or whatever it is. Hopefully my bullshit meter is properly calibrated because it was almost broken just from this introductory episode.