Stone Cold, HBK, and Bret Hart, WWF in the second half of 1996.

Stone Cold Steve Austin, after winning King of the Ring, was on the path to becoming the WWF’s new big star. What no one could have known was that he was about to become one of the biggest stars in the history of the business.

Steve was brought into the WWF under the Ringmaster gimmick, and was seen at the time as only a midcard talent. Steve knew the Ringmaster gimmick wasn’t getting him over, and one night he saw an HBO  documentary about a serial killer for hire nicknamed the Iceman. Richard Kulinski was notorious for putting his victims in freezers and dumping the remains a year later. After watching this documentary, Steve conceived of the idea of a cold blooded wrestler (Austin 141)  

He pitched the idea to Debbie Bonnanzio, Senior VP of WWE Creative Services, who was in charge of gimmick characterizations. The company faxed Steve several pages of possible names for his new wrestling character, including “Fang McFrost,” Ivan the Terrible”, and “Ice Dagger.” Steve himself was considering the name Iceman, but in World Class Wrestling out of Dallas there already was an Iceman King Parsons. Then one day Steve’s wife Jeannie, who is British, made a cup of coffee for her frustrated husband. She then remarked “go ahead and drink your tea before it gets stone cold.” Then inspiration hit her. “That’s your name, Stone Cold Steve Austin. (Austin 142) It was this cold blooded character that would win the 1996 King of the Ring and cut the Austin 3:16 promo.

After King of the Ring, the character continued to evolve. Steve was going bald anyway, so he decided to get a buzz-cut. He liked how Bruce Willis looked in Pulp Fiction where he was bald (Austin 147) and Woody Harrelson’s shaved head in Natural Born Killers also provided inspiration. The office saw a problem with his promos, not because they were to bad. He noticed some of his promos were being edited on TV. Vince McMahon said, “Well, Steve, your stuff is making people laugh back in the studio. We are concerned because, as a heel, we want the fans to not like you.”  

Steve responded, “Man, if you take my personality away from me, I can’t compete with anybody here. You got guys here six-ten, seven feet, three hundred and fifty poinds or whatever. But if you give me my personality, I can compete with anybody. I guarantee it.” (Austin148)

Still using million dollar dream of his former manager Ted Dibiase as a finsiher, veteran wrestler and now agent Michael Hayes suggested the stunner. (Mikey Whipwreck in ECW also used it.) Johnny Ace also did a version of it in Japan called the Ace crusher (Austin 152),  Commentator Jim Ross called it the Stone Cold Stunner, and Hayes suggested kick to gut first, as at first Steve was going straight to the stunner. (Austin 153) As for DTA, don’t trust anybody, Steve came up with that on his own.

While Austin’s star was rising, an old veteran of the business pondered where his future lay. On September 25th of 1996 Bred Hart flew to Los Angeles to voice an episode of The Simpsons. Hart’s agent, Barry Bloom knew WCW President Eric Bischoff. Before leaving, Barry told Bret that Bischoff wanted to meet him. Bret wasn’t considering making a jump, as Nash and Hall had in the spring of that year, but he hit it off when meeting Eric for the first time. They bonded over talking about gunfighters from the Old West, including Butch Cassidy who had spent time in Hart’s home of Calgary Alberta Canada. 

According to Bret Hart’s autobiography, the conversation about Bret coming to WCW went something like this

Eric asked Bret, “So what’s it going to take to bring you to WCW”

Bret replies “I would want the exact same contract as HulkHogan, plus one penny.”

Eric, surprised at his answer, said he couldn’t put anything like that together at the moment,

to which Bret said “That’s fine, I’m not really looking to go anywhere. I’m happy where I’m at.”

Eric keeps prodding though, saying “C’mom, At least give me something that I can go back to my people with. Anything.”

Bret, thinking off the top of his head, and figuring they would tell him no anyway, asked for three million and a later schedule.

Again, according to Bret’s autobiography, Bret himself was surprised when three days later he received an offer for 2.8 million. On October 3rd he talked with Vince McMahon, who told him he couldn’t match the offer (Bret 394)

Bret says, “I wasn’t asking him to match it, just to make me the best offer he could….I hated the thought of being an assassin against him and a company that I’d devoted my life to,” but, he also, quite sensibly, pointed out that “Saying no to this is like tearing up a lottery ticket.”

Vince understood, and also is quoted as saying “WCW would never know what to do with a Bret Hart.” (Hart 395)

Six days later Vince flew to Calgary to present his offer in person. During this visit Vince also approved the idea of a documentary crew following Bret Hart around backstage. This would later become the now well known wrestling documentary Wrestling With Shadows. Its origins lay in the European tour in the spring of that year, during which Hart did an interview where he spoke very honestly about his career. Film maker Paul Jay was impressed by Hart’s sincerity, and later met Hart at the Banff film festival and pitched the idea of the documentary.

Regarding staying in WWF, Hart was offered a twenty year deal for 10.5 million. It would break down to 1.5 million a year for three years as a wrestler, half a million for seven years as a senior adviser, and a quarter of a million for the remaining  ten years. Bret quotes Vince as saying “I’ll never give you a reason to want to leave.” Vince was quite happy when  Bret agreed to the deal.

(Hart 395)

One person that was not happy about the new contract was Shawn Michaels, who earlier that year signed a contract for $750,000 a year and was told that was the biggest contract WWF had. At the time, he says in his autobiography, he told Vince, “I’m just asking that you don’t pay anyone, except Undertaker, any more than you pay me. That would be an insult. Taker is seperate. What he gets he deserves, but I don’t think anyone else deserves more than me.” At the time, Vince agreed. (HBK 241)

After Bret’s deal, Vince and Shawn talked about Wrestlemania and a possible Hart/Michaels match. Learning about Bret’s deal, he now did not want to work with Hart, however, Shawn would injure his knee and not perform at Wrestlemania anyway. In his autobiography Michaels says “If Vince would have pressed me to put Bret over, I would have. I’m sure I would have made life miserable for a lot of people, but I would have done it. When push came to shove, I always did what Vince wanted. (HBK 242) 

As 1996 closed, the seeds were planted for Stone Cold Steve Austin to be one of WWF’s top stars, but not before 1997 would bring the most controversial event in professional wrestling history.

Sources used were the autobiographies for Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Stone Cold Steve Austin, all published by WWE. Will update with more details in the future.

WWF 1996 Post Wrestlemania to King of the Ring.

At Wrestlemania XII Shawn Michaels fulfilled his boyhood dream of winning the WWF title. However, reaching the top of the mountain brought a lot of pressure, with the rival WCW about to launch their biggest angle ever, and internal problems making it appear the WWF was losing steam. 

Among other issues facing Shawn Michaels were that two of his closest friends, and two of WWF’s biggest stars, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, were about to go to WCW. In April of 96, Shawn and his friends were on a post Mania European tour, where one night, over dinner in Hamburg Germany, they were discussing what would be their last show together. This was a house show (a non-televised show) on May 19th. Someone threw out the idea that Shawn, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Hall, and Nash all come out to the ring at the end of the show and say goodbye to the fans. What was initially drunk talk would have immense and unforeseen consequences for the wrestling industry. (Michaels 225)

Hall and Nash’s last televised matches were at the In Your House 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies PPV, on April 28th in Omaha Nebraska. On this night Hall/Razor Ramon lost to Vader, and Nash/Diesel lost to Shawn in a no holds barred match. During this match, “Mad Dog” Vachon, an Omaha resident known from the AWA days, was in the audience. Pat Paterson had the idea for Mad Dog’s artificial leg to be used as a weapon during the match. Nash would be the culprit, who took the artificial leg to hit his opponent. ECW was gaining steam at the time, and the WWF was trying to adapt with their first hardcore style match. Here was also the first time Michaels “loaded up”, meaning stomping his foot on the mat, before delivering his finisher, the sidekick known as Sweet Chin Music. (Shawn 226)

Just a few weeks later was the house show at Madison Square Garden. The bit about saying goodbye to the fans never came up again in conversation, but that night Hunter brought it up. Given that Hunter doesn’t drink, he was probably the only one who remembered it, and Vince gave his approval for the gesture. Shawn and Kevin again main evented the evening. After Michaels got the win, Scott and Hunter came into the ring and they all hugged and bowed to the fans. (Sean Waltman, the 1,2,3 kid, would have been there too, but he was in rehab) Wrestling fans were long aware of the predetermined nature of the business, but you never saw the wrestlers, heels and faces, acknowledge in front of an audience that they were friends. This was what they called breaking Kayfabe. No one knew it at the time, but this action was a turning point in the industry.

It wasn’t a big deal at the moment though. Backstage Vince asked Shawn, “Was that important to you.” Shawn acknowledged that it was, and Vince said “Then it’s important to me.” (Michaels p227)

It became a big deal a week later, when, in Florence, South Carolina, at the Beware of the Dog PPV, Vince called Shawn and Hunter in his office. Vince took a lot of heat from the old timers about what is now known as the Curtain Call, and informed them; “Shawn, you are the champion. I can’t punish you, but I want you to apologize to everyone. Hunter I can punish, and I have to. If I don’t punish you and show everyone that I am serious, I’ll lose credibility. You are going to have to eat this.” (Shawn p227) Hunter would job for the next year.

At that night’s PPV the power went out. Only two matches aired, and the whole event had to be repeated two nights later. Overall it was not the best night in Shawn Michaels’s career. 

In another match that night Savio Vega defeated Steve Austin in a Carribean strap match. The two had been feuding over the last few PPVs. Per stipulation that night, Austin would lose his manager, the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase. He would go on to the WCW, and briefly be known as the money man behind the NWO. In the meantime, Austin was now left to cut his own promos, which, in the very next PPV, would begin his great legacy in the WWF.

King of the Ring, a tournament themed PPV, was held on June 23rd in Milwaukee Wisconsin. In a non-tournament match, Ultimate Warrior defeated Jerry Lawler. Warrior had written a comic book about himself, published by Ultimate Creations. Lawler, himself an illustrated, feuded over the Warrior claiming he should have drawn this comic. King of the Ring would be Warrior’s final WWF appearance until 2014, when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Originally Hunter was scheduled to win the King of the Ring Tournament, but in light of the Curtain Call, Steve Austin was now set to win. In the first round of the tournament Steve Austin beat Marc Mero, but during the match he legitimately busted his lip and had to go to the hospital to get 14 stitches. Coming back to the arena, WWF official Michael Hayes told Austin that his final opponent would be Jake the Snake Roberts, who had just cut a religious promo on him. Austin then came up with one of the most popular phrases in wrestling history. (Austin DVD)

After winning his match, Austin was interviewed by Hayes, and said “You sit there and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn’t get you anywhere. Talk about your Psalms, talk about John 3:16… Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!”

At the next Raw, the audience was filled with Austin 3:16 signs. It was an organic phenomenon, the audience, not the office, decided that Austin was a star. Soon he would have one of the top runs ever in the business, and Shawn Michaels would soon face his replacement for the stop spot in the WWF.

Michaels, Shawn, and Feigenbaum, Aaron, Heartbreak and Triumph, The Shawn Michaels Story, Pocket Books, New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, 2005

The Legacy of Stone Cold Steve Austin DVD, WWE 2007

Iron Man: WWF 1996 to Wrestlemania

While WWF fired back via their Billionaire Ted Skits at the start of 1996, soon to be champion Shawn Michaels was nervous as two of his close friends, Kevin Nash/Diesel, and Scott Hall/Razor Ramon, were rumored to be WCW bound. Diesel was the WWF champion, but dropped the strap to Bret Hart at that previous years Survivor Series. The plan for 1996’s Wrestlemania was for Shawn Michaels to win the title against Bret Hart, in, as WWF official and former wrestler Pat Patterson proposed, a 60 minute Iron Man match (Michaels 220). In this kind of match, the two would wrestle for an hour, and whoever had the most pinfalls, submission etc at the end, would be champion. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were considered two of the best pure athletes in professional wrestling, and few if any other people on the roster would have been able to deliver in a match of this type.

On the road to Wrestlemania, Bret Hart retained his title at Royal Rumble against the Undertaker, via interference from Diesel. Shawn Michaels, who previously teased retirement in an injury storyline, would eliminate Diesel to win the battle royal style Rumble match, which in storyline granted Shawn a title shot at Wrestlemania.

1996’s Royal Rumble, held on January 21rst,  was also the PPV debut of Steve Austin under his Ringmaster gimmick. Fresh off his ECW run, Austin debuted on the January 8th Raw, and was awarded the Million Dollar Championship by his manager Ted Dibiase. The following week he had his first WWF match against then jobber Matt Hardy. A former wrestler known as the Million Dollar Man, Dibiase created the Million Dollar Championship for himself during his own WWF run, after several failed attempts to win the world title.

The following month was In Your House #6: Rage in the Cage, held in Louisville Kentucky on February 18th. Here Bret Hart defended his title against Diesel. This match was held in a steel cage, intended to prevent outside interference. Undertaker emerged from underneath the ring to attack Diesel, as revenge for the  Rumble match interference, leading to Hart retaining via disqualification. In the planning meeting of this match, Hart objected to having two title defenses in a row ending in interference that saved him. The story goes that Undertaker yelled at Hart saying it’s not always about you. Kevin Nash said this incident led him to seriously consider WCW’s offer to jump ship.  

Also at this PPV Shawn Michels defeated Owen Hart, who had kayfabe injured Shawn, starting Shawn’s concussion/retirement angle. Shawn put up his Wrestlemania title shot in the match.

In the Wrestlemania build up, WWF owner Vince McMahon conceived of the idea of Shawn’s victory being labeled as “The Boyhood Dream.” (Michaels 219) The WWF shot vignettes of Shawn training with his former partner Jose Lothario, and the two telling stories etc. Hart was also featured in vignettes training with his father, the legendary Stu Hart. Stu was the patriarch of the Hart family, and trained countless wrestlers in his basement, known famously as the Dungeon. 

Wrestlemania XII was held on March 31rst in Anaheim. The card included the Undertaker defeating Diesel, avenging the Rumble interference, and bringing his mania record to 5-0. 

Rowdy Roddy Piper returned to the WWF to face Goldust in a Hollywood Backlot Brawl (Piper had appeared in Hollywood films and Anaheim is close to Hollywood). While the WWF was not in its Attitude Era yet, the Goldust character pushed the envelope (as did Piper). Played by Dustin Rhodes, the son of legendary Dusty Rhodes, Goldust was an androgynous drag queen obsessed with movies and all things gold. He debuted that previous August, and starting at the Royal Rumble, was accompanied by Marlena, a sexy blonde who would watch Goldust’s matches in a directors chair while smoking cigars. She was played by Terri Runnels, who at the time was married to Dustin. In the buildup to the backlot brawl, Goldust expressed sexual attraction towards Piper, something he often did to his opponents. In an era when homosexuality was still not widely accepted, the Goldust characer pushed the buttons of the audience. Piper won the match, which included an appearance by a white Bronco, an allusion to OJ Simpson’s famous police chase. In fact, the initial idea was for Piper to wrestle O.J. Simpson himself. (Piper Born to Controversy DVD).

Also returning was the Ultimate Warrior, who beat then undefeated Hunter Hearst Helmsley in a squash match. Before being known as HHH, Hunter played the character of a New England snob. Sable made her WWF debut here, accompanying Hunter to the ring. 

Regarding the Iron Man Match, while Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels later had a real life legendary dislike of each other, at this point they got along well. When discussing the outcome of their Wrestlemania match, Shawn quotes Bret as saying “Vince spoke with me and I’m on board. I’m more than happy to do it for you. I don’t have a problem putting you over. I just want the match to be good. (Michaels 220-221) Shawn says “He then made it very clear that he was doing me a favor, and he reminded me that he had told me a few years ago that he thought I would be the guy to take his spot.” (Michael HBK) Bret knew that WCW was getting hot, but speculated that eventually Vince would come out on top. Hart felt like a loyal soldier and wanted to help, figuring that a Hart/Michael’s rivalry would be just the thing.

Specifically planning for Wrestlemania, Bret came up with a numbers system to pace their match, below five was good, eight was time to slow down, and at ten one of them would grab a hold for a breather. (Michaels 221) Shawn made a spectacular Wrestlemania entrance, flying down to the ring on a zip line. The main event would go 60 minutes without a pinfall, known in the business as a Broadway. Shawn’s idea was after the bell Bret would walk up the aisle with the belt, assuming he’d won, but on screen WWF President, and former wrestler Gorilla Monsoon, would order Bret back to the ring for over time (Michaels 222). Then Shawn Michaels would hit his signature move, Sweet Chin Music (a side kick to the jaw), for the win at one hour, one minute and fifty six seconds. Bret had the idea to not shake Shawn’s hand after the match (Hart 381), a move designed to make the perception among wrestling fans and the locker room that the two really did have animosity toward each other, planting the seeds for a return match.

In the moment though, Wrestlemania ended with Shawn Michaels as the WWF champion. The torch had been passed, and the WWF was in the dawn of a new era, but it was an era Shawn would almost face alone. 

Hart, Bret. Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, Grand Central Publishing, New York and London, 2007.

Michaels, Shawn, and Feigenbaum, Aaron, Heartbreak and Triumph: The Shawn Michaels Story. Pocket Books, New York, London, Toronto and Sydney, 2005.

Rowdy Roddy Piper: Born to Controversy DVD. WWF 2006

Billionaire Ted Skits

New Years Day of 1996 was a Monday, and WWF started the new year by finally firing back against WCW with a series of Billionaire Ted skits, Billionaire Ted was a parody of WCW owner and media mogul Ted Turner. Featured in the skits are the Huckster, the Nacho Man, and Scheme Gene, intended to parody former WWF and then current WCW wrestler Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, and the interviewer/announcer Mean Gene Oakland. Throughout the whole series of skits the two wrestlers are portrayed as old, out of shape, and ridiculous, while Gene is portrayed as a conniving scam artist. 

The first sketch shows Ted in a meeting the three pardodied characters and various unnamed WCW officials (It is notable that Eric Bischoff was not parodied). Clips are shown of then current WWF superstars, with said unnamed officials asking the two WCW wrestlers if they can attempt their moves. Ironically Vince Russo is the first of those officials, who asks “You think you can pull it off Huckster?” regarding a clip of Razor Ramone, to which the Huckster answers “No way brother.”  Diesel is also featured in the sketch (Two weeks later Russo would refer to the trio as “greedy, disloyal, has beens from the 80’s”). The point being that these “old” wrestlers cannot keep up with the younger talent. The skit ends with the WWF logo and the words New Generation, with a voice over reading “On top of the hill, not over it.” 

Next week in the war room Nacho Man suggests the slogan “This is where the Big Boys Play,” a slogan which WCW did use. In an incredible irony, just a few years after their own steroid trial, WWF took a shot at WCW’s drug policy. “What if our stars have to take legitimate tests for steroids.” Nacho Man asks, Huckster responds saying not to worry about it as they are not in the WWF anymore. This skit ended with text reading “For a WWF Drug Program Advisory Sign on to America Online Tonight.” 

During the first four weeks, these skits, called “Billionaire Ted’s Wrasslin’ Warroom” would  parody not only Hogan and Savage’s age, but also Turner’s business practices, including his tendency to buy and repackage old content, such as the MGM film library through which he made the Turner Classic Movies network, and Hannah Barbera through which he made the Cartoon Network. In fact in the third week of sketches Ted bemoans his inability to buy WWF, the skit ending with the statement that the WWF New Generation is “not for sale.”

On January 29th, WWF official Michael P. Hayes said on Raw that a WCW official wrote to WWF on January 17th, threatening litigation, before introducing a new skit that would see Billionaire Ted at a Press Conference. This particular press conference skit would conclude the following week. Here Ted takes fire for undercutting WCW advertising, WCW losing money, and trying to put the WWF out of business. Turner’s then current Time Warner merger was also mentioned. Things got personal the segment brought up Ted Turner’s father, whom he had a contentious relationship with. In part one of the sketch it is announced that the Nacho Man will face the Huckster, who, via his contract with Ted, never loses. This match would air on the free show before Wrestlemania on March 31rst.  Also after part one there is a voice over from McMahon showing a rejected ad in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal criticizing Turner. An updated ad was to appear in the New York Times Financial section that following Wednesday. 

These sketches would return on February 19th with a two parter parodying Turner’s CNN show Larry King Live, Here his show is called Larry Fling live, airing on BNN, the Billionaire news network. Larry King himself was not spared from parody, shots were taken regarding his five girlfriends and four ex-wives and his massusse. The first week the guest is Billionaire Ted, Larry hits him with questions regarding Ted’s personal vendetta against the WWF, monopolistic/predatory activity, the Huckster’s salary, and WCW losses, the Federal Trade Commision investigation, and Ted’s financial advisor’s in the Warner merger being a “stock swindler”  Many of these issues apparently were covered by a Wall Street Journal report. Nacho Man calls in as Randy from Sarasota (Where Randy Savaged lived) but he called by mistake, thinking it was the number for rogaine. Terry/the Huckster calls in from Tampa/the Huckster to ask Ted for Monday off. Then Jane calls from Hanoi, which is a reference to Ted’s wife Jane Fonda, who was infamous for visiting Hanoi during the Vietnam War.

The sketch on March fourth opened, possibly due to threat of legal action, with this text; “The following satire is intended to entertain and inform. The quotes contained herein are actual quotes by the man who could control 50% of America’s cable system.” Here  Ted Turner was on Tee Vee Trivia, a game show where he played against a busty blonde named Candy. The gag was various controversial quotes were read, and the contestants had to guess who said them. Ted Turner said them all.

Scheme Gene was featuring the following week, and the bits culminated just before Wrestlemania with a mock FTC (Federal Turner Commision) hearing. This sketch was a parody of A Few Good Men, the 1992 military legal thriller starring Jack Nicholsen and Tom Cruise. Throughout all these skits, Billionaire Ted is portrayed as a hapless buffoon, but, in a scene mirroring A Few Good Men’s famous line “You can’t handle the truth” line, Ted breaks down in a rant of megalomania, saying “I determine what you watch and what you don’t watch.” Finally, he admits wanting to put the WWF out of business, a question he avoided in prior skits with reporters and Larry Fling. 

In addition to this admission, the sketch ends in a call to action for WWF fans. A statement is shown and read stating that Ted Turner will testify that month before the FTC regarding the Turner/Warner Brothers merger. Should the merger go through (as it did) Turner would control 50% or the nation’s cable outlets. Fans were urged to write to the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commision, Mr. Robert Pitofsky. His Washington address was given. I am unaware if anyone followed through on this.

The Billionaire Ted skits culminated in a Huckster vs Nacho Man match, airing for free on Wrestlemania Free for All. This aired as a pre-taped segment before an audience of elderly people, and an attractive blonde (presumably Jane Fonda) waving a Vietnamese flag. Vince McMahon and Jerry the King Lawler appear in silhouettes. This mimiced the style of the cult TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000, in which characters are seen watching notoriously bad science fiction films, and make fun of them for the audience to hear. Lawler and McMahon mercilessly mock Huckster and Savage, as well as special referee Billionaire Ted, and ringside commentator Scheme Gene. The match is brief, and the bit ends with the two wrestlers having heart attacks. Billionaire Ted is bewildered at this predicament, then a character in black appears with FTC written in white on the chest (presumably in NWO style), then Ted himself collapses to the canvas. This was the end of the Billionaire Ted sketches.

In retrospect, given the contributions Hogan and Savage made to the WWF, it is easy to understand Bret Hart when, a few years later, he was concerned Vince would bury him once he left WWF. While one might expect WWF to make fun of Hogan and Savage for their age, particular maliciousness was shown to Ted Turner. It is evident the WWF truly believed Ted Turner was trying to put them out of business. WCW executive Eric Bischoff has said that while Ted Turner was certainly competitive, Bischoff was never aware of Turner having any personal vendetta against Vince McMahon (Turner did have a very public feud with Rupert Murdoch). Eric himself was known to make boastful statements in the late 90s about the WWF going out of business, but he says in retrospect his personal goal was simply to turn WCW profitable and successful.

Either way, the gloves were off, less than 6 months into the Monday Night War WWF fired back and fired back hard. However, it would take more than comedy sketches to compete with the then red hot WCW. 

New Years Day of 1996 was a Monday, and WWF started the new year by finally firing back against WCW with a series of Billionaire Ted skits, Billionaire Ted was a parody of WCW owner and media mogul Ted Turner. Featured in the skits are the Huckster, the Nacho Man, and Scheme Gene, intended to parody former WWF and then current WCW wrestler Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, and the interviewer/announcer Mean Gene Oakland. Throughout the whole series of skits the two wrestlers are portrayed as old, out of shape, and ridiculous, while Gene is portrayed as a conniving scam artist.

The first sketch shows Ted in a meeting the three pardodied characters and various unnamed WCW officials (It is notable that Eric Bischoff was not parodied). Clips are shown of then current WWF superstars, with said unnamed officials asking the two WCW wrestlers if they can attempt their moves. Ironically Vince Russo is the first of those officials, who asks “You think you can pull it off Huckster?” regarding a clip of Razor Ramone, to which the Huckster answers “No way brother.” Diesel is also featured in the sketch (Two weeks later Russo would refer to the trio as “greedy, disloyal, has beens from the 80’s”). The point being that these “old” wrestlers cannot keep up with the younger talent. The skit ends with the WWF logo and the words New Generation, with a voice over reading “On top of the hill, not over it.”

Next week in the war room Nacho Man suggests the slogan “This is where the Big Boys Play,” a slogan which WCW did use. In an incredible irony, just a few years after their own steroid trial, WWF took a shot at WCW’s drug policy. “What if our stars have to take legitimate tests for steroids.” Nacho Man asks, Huckster responds saying not to worry about it as they are not in the WWF anymore. This skit ended with text reading “For a WWF Drug Program Advisory Sign on to America Online Tonight.”

During the first four weeks, these skits, called “Billionaire Ted’s Wrasslin’ Warroom” would parody not only Hogan and Savage’s age, but also Turner’s business practices, including his tendency to buy and repackage old content, such as the MGM film library through which he made the Turner Classic Movies network, and Hannah Barbera through which he made the Cartoon Network. In fact in the third week of sketches Ted bemoans his inability to buy WWF, the skit ending with the statement that the WWF New Generation is “not for sale.”

On January 29th, WWF official Michael P. Hayes said on Raw that a WCW official wrote to WWF on January 17th, threatening litigation, before introducing a new skit that would see Billionaire Ted at a Press Conference. This particular press conference skit would conclude the following week. Here Ted takes fire for undercutting WCW advertising, WCW losing money, and trying to put the WWF out of business. Turner’s then current Time Warner merger was also mentioned. Things got personal the segment brought up Ted Turner’s father, whom he had a contentious relationship with. In part one of the sketch it is announced that the Nacho Man will face the Huckster, who, via his contract with Ted, never loses. This match would air on the free show before Wrestlemania on March 31rst. Also after part one there is a voice over from McMahon showing a rejected ad in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal criticizing Turner. An updated ad was to appear in the New York Times Financial section that following Wednesday.

These sketches would return on February 19th with a two parter parodying Turner’s CNN show Larry King Live, Here his show is called Larry Fling live, airing on BNN, the Billionaire news network. Larry King himself was not spared from parody, shots were taken regarding his five girlfriends and four ex-wives and his massusse. The first week the guest is Billionaire Ted, Larry hits him with questions regarding Ted’s personal vendetta against the WWF, monopolistic/predatory activity, the Huckster’s salary, and WCW losses, the Federal Trade Commision investigation, and Ted’s financial advisor’s in the Warner merger being a “stock swindler” Many of these issues apparently were covered by a Wall Street Journal report. Nacho Man calls in as Randy from Sarasota (Where Randy Savaged lived) but he called by mistake, thinking it was the number for rogaine. Terry/the Huckster calls in from Tampa/the Huckster to ask Ted for Monday off. Then Jane calls from Hanoi, which is a reference to Ted’s wife Jane Fonda, who was infamous for visiting Hanoi during the Vietnam War.

The sketch on March fourth opened, possibly due to threat of legal action, with this text; “The following satire is intended to entertain and inform. The quotes contained herein are actual quotes by the man who could control 50% of America’s cable system.” Here Ted Turner was on Tee Vee Trivia, a game show where he played against a busty blonde named Candy. The gag was various controversial quotes were read, and the contestants had to guess who said them. Ted Turner said them all.

Scheme Gene was featuring the following week, and the bits culminated just before Wrestlemania with a mock FTC (Federal Turner Commision) hearing. This sketch was a parody of A Few Good Men, the 1992 military legal thriller starring Jack Nicholsen and Tom Cruise. Throughout all these skits, Billionaire Ted is portrayed as a hapless buffoon, but, in a scene mirroring A Few Good Men’s famous line “You can’t handle the truth” line, Ted breaks down in a rant of megalomania, saying “I determine what you watch and what you don’t watch.” Finally, he admits wanting to put the WWF out of business, a question he avoided in prior skits with reporters and Larry Fling.

In addition to this admission, the sketch ends in a call to action for WWF fans. A statement is shown and read stating that Ted Turner will testify that month before the FTC regarding the Turner/Warner Brothers merger. Should the merger go through (as it did) Turner would control 50% or the nation’s cable outlets. Fans were urged to write to the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commision, Mr. Robert Pitofsky. His Washington address was given. I am unaware if anyone followed through on this.

The Billionaire Ted skits culminated in a Huckster vs Nacho Man match, airing for free on Wrestlemania Free for All. This aired as a pre-taped segment before an audience of elderly people, and an attractive blonde (presumably Jane Fonda) waving a Vietnamese flag. Vince McMahon and Jerry the King Lawler appear in silhouettes. This mimiced the style of the cult TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000, in which characters are seen watching notoriously bad science fiction films, and make fun of them for the audience to hear. Lawler and McMahon mercilessly mock Huckster and Savage, as well as special referee Billionaire Ted, and ringside commentator Scheme Gene. The match is brief, and the bit ends with the two wrestlers having heart attacks. Billionaire Ted is bewildered at this predicament, then a character in black appears with FTC written in white on the chest (presumably in NWO style), then Ted himself collapses to the canvas. This was the end of the Billionaire Ted sketches.

 

In retrospect, given the contributions Hogan and Savage made to the WWF, it is easy to understand Bret Hart when, a few years later, he was concerned Vince would bury him once he left WWF. While one might expect WWF to make fun of Hogan and Savage for their age, particular maliciousness was shown to Ted Turner. It is evident the WWF truly believed Ted Turner was trying to put them out of business. WCW executive Eric Bischoff has said that while Ted Turner was certainly competitive, Bischoff was never aware of Turner having any personal vendetta against Vince McMahon (Turner did have a very public feud with Rupert Murdoch). Eric himself was known to make boastful statements in the late 90s about the WWF going out of business, but he says in retrospect his personal goal was simply to turn WCW profitable and successful.

Either way, the gloves were off, less than 6 months into the Monday Night War WWF fired back and fired back hard. However, it would take more than comedy sketches to compete with the then red hot WCW.

A Billionaire Ted Playlist can be seen here.

WWF At the End of 1995

Just before the Monday night wars began, Shawn Michaels retained the Intercontinental belt from Scott Hall at 1995’s Summerslam, held on August 27th. This was their second ladder match, following their first classic at Wrestlemania of that year. This Summeslam is also noteworthy for being Lex Luger’s last appearance on WWE TV, as the very next week he would appear on the first episode of WCW Monday Nitro.  95, numbering in your houses, 1 was in 95

WWF, in October of that year, held a show in Binghamton, in upstate New York. On October 14th, Michaels was traveling with Sean Waltman/The 123 Kid, and the British Bulldog/Davey Boy Smith. Shawn’s friends Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were doing shows in Europe at the time. Shawn and friends stayed in Syracuse overnight while they were en route to a show in Utica New York the next day/15th. Shawn Michaels doesn’t remember what happened that night, but it was reported that at a bar Shawn hit on a waitress who was a Marine’s girlfriend. Apparently the waitress offered to drive Shawn, Kid, and Davey to their hotel, and when they got outside several Marines assaulted them. The story goes that Shawn’s head was slammed into a car and then he was punched, and Shawn was so high he didn’t raise his hands to defend himself. Davey and Kid were also reported to be so high they couldn’t intervene. (Hart 369-370 and Michaels 212) 

Shawn reports that he got back to his hotel where Sunny/Tammy Sytch and Chris Candido found him at their hotel room door. They called for an amulence, and Shawn woke up the next day in the hospital to find Sunny sleeping in a nearby gurney. (Michaels 213)

Winnipeg was the sight of In Your House #4, held on October 22cnd. In Your House was a series of monthly PPV’s that began that year. Golddust, an androgenous/cross-dressing wrestler played by Dustin Rhodes, made his live debut here. He had previously appeared in vignettes on Raw, and at this show would defeat Marty Jannety.

WWF owner was upset over the Syracuse incident, and did not allow him to wrestle at this PPV. On camera President Gorilla Monsoon revealed at the show that Shawn was unable to wrestle.

Shane Douglas was awarded the Intercontinental Championship, but had to defend it and lost it that night to Razor Ramone. Shane would leave WWF by the end of 1995.

At the next night’s Raw in Brandon Manitoba, Shawn did an interview regarding the Syracuse incident, which Shawn remembers in his autobiography. “This was one of the first times we ever used a real life incident and integrated it into a TV Angle.” (Michaels 215)

The angle would continue in November. During a match with Owen Hart, Shawn received an enziguri, a move that ends with a kick to the head. Only the two wrestlers, Vince, and the two commentators (Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler) knew what would happen next. Shawn collapsed to the mat and didn’t get up, as if he were actually injured. The announcers dropped their head-sets and emts came to the ring. In broadcasting terms, this is known as dead air, where no one is speaking and nothing is happening. Vince was naturally hesitant to have dead air on the programming, but obviously he agreed to have it. With the announcers not talking, it looked like Shawn was legitimately hurt, and this is how the broadcast ended.The work continued into the hospital Shawn was taken to, Hunter Hearst Hemsley arriving, playing the role of a concerned friend. Shawn even had to sign release forms in order to leave the hospital. (Shawn 215)

The following week on Raw it was announced that Shawn had post concussion syndrome, and the week after that he was no longer medically cleared to wrestle. Vince narrated a video package where he said the WWF wrestlers may seem superhuman, but they are mortal men. This culminated in Todd Pettingill interviewing Shawn at his home in San Antonio for the following Raw. Todd talked to Shawn about how he never won the WWF Championship, and now it looked like his career was over. When asked how he could deal with that, Shawn walked off the interview.

It all made for a great story, as towards the end of 1995 Vince told Shawn in private that he in fact would be WWF champion. (Shawn 215)

Hart, Bret “HItman” Grand Central Publishing, New York and Boston, 2007

Micheals, Shawn, and Feigenbaum, Aaron, “Hearbreak and Triumph: The Shawn Michaels Story” Pocket Books, New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, 2005.

Before Stone Cold: Steve Austin in ECW.

The biggest star in wrestling to come out of the Monday Night Wars was Stone Cold Steve Austin. Born Steve Williams in Victoria Texas, Williams wrestled under the name “Stunning Steve Austin” for a stint in WCW before the Monday Night Wars began. A rising midcard talent, Austin had ideas about working with Hogan. He pitched to Bischoff ideas of Austin being a long lost relative, and going his own hulk like gimmick of Steve 0-Mania. Bischoff had Hogan working with Ric Flair, WCW’s long time top star, and dismissed Austin’s idea. After an injury in Japan, he was fired over the telephone. Feeling slighted by the company, Steve accepted an offer from ECW’s Paul Heymen, who hired Steve knowing he couldn’t wrestle, but put him on the mic to cut promos.

ECW’s Hardcore #127 was Steve Austin’s first appearance at ECW. He was featured in a backstage skit mimicking Hulk Hogan while wearing a yellow shit. He then breaks character saying “this lame ass shit” won’t get the job done.

At the time the ECW champion was the Sandman, who came to the ring drinking beer, something Austin would borrow from in his later WWF run. In a match that aired on 9/23/1996 from the Sportsland Cafe in Middltown NY, the Sandman defended his title against Mikey Whipwreck. Before the match Austin came to the ring saying “This place is a complete shit hole. I’m (Bleeped) horrified to be here. World Championship Wrestling wouldn’t take a (Bleep) in this building, much less book a god dam wrestling match here. (At this point the crowd chants ”Bischoff sucks.”) The fact of the matter is I appreciate the fact you (The Sandman) had to whip somebody’s ass, you had to kick somebody’s ass, not lick it, to get a god dam championship belt. Down in Atlanta you couldn’t get shit because I didn’t operate the right way.” Austin then wishes the Sandman luck, “But you’re name’s not Hogan so I can whip your ______ ass. Good luck.”

The following week, on October first, Hardcore TV opened with an Austin promo. He talks about how before Bischoff fired him Austin suggested programs with Sting, Macho Man Randy Savage, and Hogan, and even putting his old tag team the Hollywood Blondes back together. Without saying his name Austin mocks Dusty Rhodes, explaining how Austin was told to just wait, and soon he’ll get the US title, then get a world title shot. “All that _____ never happened.” Austin continues “The politics in WCW kept the biggest potential superstar in wrestling on the god dam ground.” He goes on about how he ate garbage in WCW, but stayed for Ted Turner’s checks. His former “Stunning Steve” gimmick he “tossed it out the window.” He was now in ECW, where Hogan, Savage, Dusty Rhodes, and Bischoff aren’t around to hold him down.

The following week Sandman again retained against Whipwreck, before which Austin comes out again. Sandman canes him, calling him a Hulk Hogan wanna be.

The 10/31 Hardcore TV opens with Austin dressed like Bischoff, wearing a suit jacket and a black wig, but without pants. He refers to his show as “Monday Nyquil where the big boys play with each other.” (Later the 12/5 episode would open with the graphic “Where the big boys don’t play, they fight.”) and pretends to fires people over the phone “I’m not very brave man, and that’s the bottom line.” He talks about giving away results but doesn’t duplicate a bottle of Jeritol on a pole match. He refers to the old talent “trying to keep their dentures in” and finally “If I don’t put you to sleep, the matches probably will.”

The wrestling in this episode includes a ladder match between the Sandman and Whipwreck. Austin comes out again complaining that with his long blond hair fans called him a Hogan wanna be. He’d been crapped on for four years and deserves a break. He mocks the Sandman for smoking and drinking, (ironic in hindsight), and calls both Whipwreck and the Sandman “jabronies,” a term The Rock would popularize years later. Austin leaves and Whipwreck becomes the new ECW champion. The night ends with the locker room hoisting the new champion on their shoulders.

Weeks later on 11/21 Austin beats up the Sandman on the way out to a rematch with Whipwreck. Austin gives him the Stun Gun (His signature move he used as “Stunning Steve Austin” in WCW.) Joey Styles remarks that he’s not sure if it’s still called that now. It’s noted that in WCW Austin had the Tag, TV, and US title belts, but never the World title. Styles says “Even Ric Flair wouldn’t wrestle Steve Austin.” Steve, still carrying his anger at WCW, says that Mikey’s name tonight is Eric Bischoff. The fans chant Hogan to get at Austin, and Austin obliges the crowd by giving the Hogan big boot and leg drop. Mikey kicks out however, as Styles says “That lame ass crap aint gonna get it done here.” While on commentary Joey also calls Austin “Stevester” to Hogan’s “Hulkster.” Mikey later kicks out of the Stun Gun and eventually wins the match.

Other notes on that show were the last ECW match for the tag team Public Enemy, consisting of Rocco Roc and Johnny Grunge. The crowd gave them “Please don’t go” chants, and Styles said that both WCW and WWF were calling them. Joey referred to both organizations as “much easier competition.” Also episode ended with the return of Sabu.

ECW’s special event, December to Dismember (12/9), had a triangle match between Austin, Whipwreck, and the Sandman. Austin came to the ring with a crue cut, a look he would keep the rest of his career. The fans chanted “Where’s your hair.” During the match Steve pinned Mikey after hitting the Stun Gun. Austin then did the Hogan putting his hand up to his ear bit, and mocked how the Sandman drinking beer (which again is ironic looking back on it).

Sandman wins the match. His manager is Woman, (Nancy Sullivan), who also managed 2 Cold Scorpio, the ECW Television Champion, and 2 Cold and Sandman were also the ECW Tag Team champions. At this event it is noted that Woman now manages all three ECW titles. Woman would soon sign with WCW. On the 12/24 episode the ECW hotline is plugged to get news on the controversy of Woman going to WCW. Woman was said to have denied this, but the apparently Pittsburgh Post Gasette journalist Mark Madden reported that then WCW champ Macho Man Randy Savage wanted her services. Woman was said to have denied this, but she did end up going to WCW the following year.

December 19th was the last appearance of Austin in ECW. He cuts a promo where he mockingly calls Biscoff “One of the best announcers in the sport.” He sarcastically begs Bischoff for his job back and goes on about how he’s better than everyone in ECW and better than the people that buy tickets and watch it on TV. uses the phrase “that’s the bottom line.” He talks about how during his last match people were chanting Hogan, Goldust, and Forest Gump, and he ends with saying he’s taking some time off.

Austin would go on to the WWF the following year under the Ringmaster gimmick, but soon would develop the Stone Cold Steve Austin persona and become one of the biggest superstars in the history of the business. Undoubtedly the Stone Cold character had it’s roots in ECW. That, if nothing else, will forever cement ECW’s role in the Monday Night Wars.

Monday Night Wars Episode: War Goes Mainstream.

This episode focuses on celebrity involvement in both WCW and WWF programming. It opens with Mike Tyson ripping up a WCW sucks sign at what I believe was the Royal Rumble. We get a recap of early WWF celebrity involvement, and how Mr. T and Shaq were at WCW’s Bash at the beach in 94 when Hogan fought Flair. We get yet another recap of the beginnings of the Monday Night War, but this time we do get an interesting tid bit in that Nitro and Raw collectively drew 5 million viewers a week.

As the WWF was looking for a new crop of superstars, they sponsored Olympic hopeful Mark Henry, who was a wrestling fan and apparently hung up on Vince McMahon at one point. Interestingly enough he was originally packaged as a patriotic character. UFC star Ken Shamrock was also brought in with some success. Tyson’s involvement at Wrestlemania is covered, and Bret Hart says Bischoff told him Tyson called WCW, but Bischoff felt they didn’t need him.

One of the more interesting celebrity appearances was on 6/8/98 when NBA star Dennis Rodman, who played for the Chicago Bulls, missed practice to appear on Nitro. Hogan on air even joked about missing practice. The Bulls were in the NBA playoffs at the time, and this made ESPN news. Michael Jordon even commented on it at a press conference. Dennis Rodman is interviewed for this episode, about how he and Hogan appeared on the Jay Leno show, only to be chased off by DDP and NBA star Karl Malone. Malone played for Utah, and had back to back losses in the NBA championships to Rodman and the Bulls. The angle seemed to be that Malone had a chip on his shoulder about this, leading to WCW’s highest grossing PPV, 1998‘s Bash at the Beach. The main event was Hogan and Rodman against DDP and Malone. While Raw was still slightly ahead in the ratings at this point, Nitro’s ratings did increase from this celebrity involvement.

Jay Leno would continue to be involved with WCW, as Hogan and Eric Bischoff took over the Tonight Show, leading up to the Road Wild PPV with Hogan and Bischoff against DDP and Jay Leno. (Yes Jay Leno actually wrestled in the match, and got a pinfall win over Bischoff). The Nitro ratings in late August reached 4.8 and 5.2, their highest ratings ever.

A clip from a news show at the time (I believe it was Entertainment Tonight) said that between 9 weekly hours of wrestling shows WCW reached 28 million viewers.

Other mainstream crossovers are mentioned, including MTV’s beach brawl with Kid Rock, Raven and Jimmy Hart (WWF also did MTV but that was not mentioned), Austin and McMahon on Celebrity Deathmatch, Goldberg on POV magazine, WWF’s Superbowl add and Arnold Schwarzenneger on Smackdown. They again cover Sable in Playboy, and Goldberg on TV Guide and at NASCAR, and the Rock’s mainstream celebrity status. Also covered was WWF stock, Foely’s Chef Boyardee ad and his #1 New York Times best selling autobiography.

WCW’s Ready to Rumble movie is covered, (the movie bombed), and it’s infamous Thunder episode on 4/26/2000 where actor David Arquette actually won the WCW heavyweight championship. DDP says that David actually had a negative reaction when he heard he was to win the title. Booker T says that David asked him how many times he was the champion, and at that point he’d never been champion (He would win it later). Vince Russo is interviewed in this episode, and still defends the decision to put the belt on Arquette. His defense is the next day USA today had a picture on the front page about this wrestling angle.

Things not covered on the WCW side that I remember are the musical tie ins. I know Megadeth appeared on Nitro at one point when Goldberg appeared in the movie Universal Soldier 2 with Jean Claude Van Damme. Megadeth had song on the soundtrack called Crush Em, which if I remember right was Goldberg’s new theme for a while. Also not covered was the infamous KISS appearance on Nitro, that segment debuted the KISS wrestler. That initial segment was apparently one of the lowest rated segment of Nitro ever. The rap group Insane Clown Posse also is not mentioned, interestingly enough, they started out as wrestlers before being rap stars, and actually had a run on WCW. Other acts not mentioned are the Misfits and No Limit Soldiers, who also appeared on WCW.

It should also be noted that ECW also had celebrity involvement. Numerous celebrities appeared in pre-taped segments giving shout outs to ECW, and Smashing Pumpkins Billy Corgan, a legitimate wrestling fan, appeared on the show several times.

Dawn of the NWO: Hogan wins WCW Title.

After the Bash at the Beach PPV, the next few Nitro’s aired in Orlando, which was not too far from the 96 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Hogan was not on the Nitro following Bash at the Beach, but throughout the episode various wrestling personalities gave their reactions to Hogan turning bad. (The following week NFL star Kevin Green would put his two cents in) It was here that Macho Man referred to Hulk as Hollywood Hogan, the first time that phrase was used. The Outsiders did appear that night. Nash explained that Hogan was on set doing a movie. In this outdoor arena there were three large letters on set which spelled out WCW.

The following week the Outsiders posted the letters NWO in what looked like home made banners over the WCW letters. The night ended with a Lex Luger/Bubba match which the Outsiders broke up. At this point Hogan made his first appearance in which he was dressed in black (however the black and white NWO shirt would appear later). He cut a promo on how Hogan is bigger than wrestling, the fans can stick it for booing him, Macho Man blamed him for his divorce, and without Hogan, neither the fans or the next generation of wrestlers would be here. He then teases who else will join NWO, and challenges the Giant for a match at the Hog Wild PPV, proclaiming he’ll win the world title and make it the NWO belt.

In the next few weeks the Outsiders do more reality based angles. On 7/22, the Outsiders go in the control truck and mess with the camera etc. Security throws them out. The following week, 7/29, was their infamous backstage attack. During a match, Jimmy Hart runs out to the ring and yells for help. The camera goes backstage and the Outsiders are beating up people with baseball bats. Rey Mysterio Jr, leaps onto Kevin Nash, who lawn darts him, throwing him head first into a trailer. They take off in a limo, and in following segments the paramedics are seen tending to the wrestlers. The paramedics take Rey’s mask off, and Rey covers his face with his hands. Announcer Tony Schiavone notes that in Mexican wrestling they never take their mask off. Hogan is not seen during this segment, but Rey is heard saying there were four attackers, leading to a mystery of who the fourth man would be. These segments were filled with people yelling in pain, and others shouting about how they (NWO) can’t come in here and do this. It had a real life feel to it that most wrestling fans hadn’t seen. Bischoff claims that the Orlando police were called by people who thought this was really happening. I do believe what Bischoff says, but if anyone out their reading this can confirm this I’d appreciate it.

Also of note in that particular episode, the WCW sponsored race car, #29 driven by Greg Sacks, is acknowledged. That previous Saturday #29 won the 500K Busch Grand National Series event in Talladega Alabama.

On August 5th the first NWO video promo aired. Craig Leathers, a wrestling director and producer who worked with Bischoff, designed the NWO logo that would appear in the video, and later on the wildly successful T-Shirts. Nash recalls “It looked like something a bunch of guerrillas would just throw together.” (1) In the segment it was said to be paid for by the NWO. Nash had the understanding that story line wise they weren’t working for WCW. In the story line if the NWO wouldn’t appear on a taped segment, they would get edited out. Hence it the NWO video package was presented like a commercial paid for by the NWO.  The WCW company didn’t fully understand this concept. For example early on WCW made a new set of T-shirts, there was a shirt for Hogan, Flair, Sting, and the Outsiders. They were all black and white shirts with matching outfits. Nash insisted these Outsider shirts couldn’t be sold by WCW because in the story line they don’t work for WCW. However, 10,000 shirts were already made, so Nash had vans set up in the back of arenas at WCW events with hot girls on bullhorns selling them bootleg style. (2)

The Hog Wild Pay Per View was on 8/10 at the Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis SD. (In later years it was changed to Road Wild because of a possible trademark issue with Harley Davidson). It was actually on a Saturday, as opposed to Sunday when most PPV’S were. The next day was Hogan’s birthday, which was noted in the broadcast. The PPV opened with this statement in text, “Due to the previous intentions conveyed by the NWO‭ (‬New World Order‭)‬,‭ ‬WCW would like to emphasize that ‬all views & ‬opinions expressed by the NWO, do not reflect those of World Championshiop Wrestling,‭ ‬Inc.‭ ‬a Turner Company.”

During the main event, announcer Larry Zybysko called Giant the Eight Wonder of the world, something Andre the Giant was reffered to as. ‭ ‬Bobby Heenan, also in the announce booth, said he managed Andre in front of 93,000 against Hogan, this was referencing Wrestlemania III, considered one of the all time great wrestling events. Hogan won the belt at Road Wild, and after the match Hogan spray painted in black the letters NWO onto the WCW Championship belt. Hogan’s belt was then reffered to as the NWO title. In the context of this story line, the NWO now ruled the wrestling world.

Monday Night Wars Episode 13: Divas Gone Wild.

This episode focused on women wrestlers in my opinion is easily the best episode of the series, even though it primarily focuses on WWF talent. It starts out with how in the 80s women wrestlers were a minor attraction that really didn’t catch on with the audience. Because of this the women’s title was vacated in 1990. This was curious to me because from my childhood I don’t even recall them having a women’s title that late.

However once Raw started in 1993, the women’s title was brought back to add to the variety show feel that was Vince McMahon’s philosophy. Alyundra Blaze was the centerpiece of the women’s division, and held the title for years. While she was a great wrestler, the problem was there weren’t enough good opponents for her to fill up the division.

Once WCW Monday Nitro aired, the WCW signed her while she still had the WWF women’s belt. She has previously wrestled in WCW under the name Madusa, and went back to that identity with them. The opening segment of 12/18/95 is one of the most famous incidents of the Monday Night Wars. Alyundra Blaze/Madusa walked onto the Nitro broadcast booth, said who she was, and threw the WWF women’s belt in the trash. My biggest gripe with this episode is that Madusa is not interviewed in this episode or anywhere in this whole documentary. Eric Bischoff is on camera talking about how it was his idea and how Madusa was reluctant to do it.

The impact of this event is huge, although strangely they never say this, it almost had to be a factor in the Montreal Screwjob. A more certain and concrete effect was the WWF retired the women’s title and did not have a women’s division for the next 3 years.

Women in the WWF went back to being managers, but still their role was not as passive, as say Miss Elizabeth (who signed in WCW in early 96) was in the 80s. Sunny was the original WWF Diva, and was the most downloaded AOL celebrity in 1996. Chyna, who not surprisingly was not interviewed, fortunately was profiled. Nicole Bass, another large muscular woman who I remember from WWF at the time, is not mentioned or shown at all. I can’t help but wonder what the bigger reason was for Chyna not being interviewed, her personal history with HHH, or her becoming a porn star.

The Nitro Girls are mentioned, as they were like cheerleaders for WCW Nitro, doing a dance routine at the beginning and end of commercial breaks. I recall WCW having an answer to Chyna in a large muscular woman they called Asya, but she is not mentioned at all.

Sable is mentioned, how she was a valet for Marc Mero, but got the spotlight when Mero was out with an injury. There is no mention of her later lawsuit against WWF or her appearance in the audience of Nitro. They repeat the clip of Nash saying how at one point Sable beat anything Nitro had in the ratings.

At this point the WWF was going to more racy and sexual content, with characters like Sexual Chocolate Mark Henry, Val Venis, who was basically a porn star, and the pimp character the Godfather, who brought a line of women called Hoes with him to the ring. Female talent had bra and panties matches and bikini contests, and Sable appeared in Playboy, which turned out to be one of their best selling issues ever.

While this change in content was happening in the WWF,the WCW was going through the merger between AOL and Time Warner, Time Warner having just acquired Turner broadcasting. This change in corporate culture led to more creative restrictions for WCW. Kevin Nash explained how Standards and Practices representatives now sat in on WCW creative meetings telling them what they were and were not allowed to do.

The WWF women’s title did return on the 9/21/98 edition of Raw. In a match between Sable and Jackie, Jackie won the new title. From here more female wrestlers were brought in, women like Lita and Trish that were attractive but were also very capable of having a good wrestling match. Women’s accomplishment from here are highlighted, like Chyna becoming the first woman in the Royal Rumble and the first woman Intercontinental Champion. The episode is capped off with the first time Raw had a female main event on 9/6/04 (after the Monday Night Wars were over) with Lita defeating Trish Stratus for the Women’s title.

This episode did an excellent job outlying the history of women in the WWF. I wish they would have done a counter episode to show how they did not do as well in the WCW. They did mention how Stacey Keibler and Torrie Wilson had success in the WWF after the demise of WCW. Still there were plenty of other women in WCW who’s stories were not told, and somebody needs to tell those stories.

The Beginning of the NWO

Eric had spent time in Japan watching Japanese wrestling and recalled a New Japan Pro-Wrestling Angle where a rival faction “invaded” the company. This helped Bischoff develop the idea of Hall and Nash, who he had just signed to WCW from WWF.  appearing to be WWF stars invading WCW.

On the May 27th edition of Nitro, during the Mauler vs Steve Doll match, Scott Hall came down from the crowd and into the ring. In the episode you can see the audience look away from the ring watching Hall, who they would have recognized him as Razor Ramon. The announcers played up on the idea, wondering aloud what he’s doing here, just as they did when Lex Luger showed up on the first Nitro. Hall entered the ring and the match had already stopped. The normal wrestling thing to do would have been to have Hall beat up one or both of the wrestlers, but Maul and Steve and the referee simple left the ring in shock. Hall got on the mic to say “You people you know who I am, but you don’t know why I’m here. Where is Billionaire Ted. Where is the Nacho Man? That punk can’t even get in the building. Me, I go wherever I want, whenever I want. And where o where is skeen gene, cause I got a scoop for you. When that Ken Doll look alike (Bischoff), when that weather man wanna be comes out here later tonight, I got a challenge for him, for Billionaire Ted, for the Nacho man, and for anybody else in uh dubuya C dubuya. Hey, you wanna go to war, you wanna war, you’re gonna get one.”

(As a side note, WWF had been airing skits making fun of Ted Turner, Hogan, and Savage. The skits featured a “Billionaire Ted” character, skeen gene, and old actors playing geriatric versions of Hogan and Savage.)

Bischoff’s initial idea for the story was that Hall was “a rebel, pissed off, coming back to WCW with a chip on his shoulder. The chip was that he had been disrespected at WCW. The company had held both him and Kevin back (giving them ridiculous gimmicks etc), and now they wanted revenge. They were the Outsiders. They had reached a level of stardom at WWE and decided to come back because they’d been disrespected.” (EB 211)

At the end of the broadcast Hall comes out again, this time approaching the broadcast booth He says to Eric “You got a big mouth, and we, we are sick of it.” Bischoff asks who he means by we, to which Hall responds “You know who. This is where the big boys play, what a joke. You go tell Billonaire Ted to get three of his very best We are taking over. You wanna go to war, you wanna war, you got one. Only only lets do it right, in the ring where it matter s not on no microphones not in no newspapers or dirt sheets lets do it in the ring where it matters.We are coming down here, and like it or not, we are taking over” At that point the show ends.

At the end of the next week’s show, on June 3rd, Hall confronts WCW star Sting and tells him “Just relax chico.” Chico was something the Razor Ramon character would say. Sting slaps Hall, and Hall says “I got a big surprise for you next week.”

The end of the June 10th show had Hall coming to the broadcast booth to confront Bischoff. Kevin Nash appears behind Bischoff, and soon Nash grabs the mic saying “You’ve been sitting out here for six months running your mouth. This is where the big boys play huh. Look to the adjective, play, (play is not an adjective) we aint here to play. Now he said last week, that he was gonna bring somebody out here. I’m here. You still don’t have your three people, and you know why? Because nobody wants to face us. This show’s about as interesting as Marge Shot reading excerpts from Mein Kampf.
… You couldn’t get a paleontologist to get a couple of these fossils cleared. You aint got enough guys off a dialysis machine to get a team. Yeah where’s Hogan? Where’s Hogan, out doing another episode of Blunder in Paradise? Where’s the Macho Man huh, doing some Slim Jim commercial? Hey were here.” Bischoff replies that tomorrow he’ll be in Atlanta to figure out who the three WCW guys will be. Bischoff then challenges Hall and Nash to show up this Sunday at the Great American Bash PPV in Baltimore.

At the PPV Bischoff asks Hall and Nash point blank if they work for the WWF. They both say no. They still tease their surprise third partner, saying that when they meet their WCW opponents they “are going to carve them up.” which was another Razor Ramon saying. Bischoff says he’ll reveal the three WCW team members tomorrow on Nitro. Then Kevin Nash power bombed Bischoff through a table.

(Side note: It should also be noted on that same PPV NFL star Kevin Green teamed with Mongo Michaels (the former Nitro announcer) against Flair and Arn Anderson. Mongo turned on Kevin and joined Horsemen.)

That next day on Nitro, June 17th, Mean Gene uses the term Outsiders for the first time to refer to Hall and Nash. It is explained there was a list of talent, Hogan, Giant, Flair, Luger, Sting, Macho Man, and going by their win loss records, Luger, Savage, and Sting would represent team WCW. They would have a match against the Outsiders at the July 7th PPV Bash at the Beach. During the next two weeks Hall and Nash are seen in the crowd on Nitro. First they come through the crowd with baseball bats, the next time they’re shown to have tickets to be there. Both times security comes out and they Outsiders leave. On the July first episode Nash is heard saying “Get the fuck off” to security, and chants “Attica” as they get kicked out.

The mystery at this point was who the third person would be. Bischoff actually wasn’t sure himself who it would be at first. He actually approached Sting about it. Sting agreed but was not overly enthusiastic about it.

Hulk Hogan had been off WCW TV for a while, as he was filming a movie called Santa with Muscles. Hogan asked Bischoff to meet him in LA, and Hogan asked who the third man was. Eric still wasn’t sure, but Hogan said it would be him.

Early on in his career, Hogan was a heel managed by classy Freddie Blassy, but the traditional red and yellow Hulk Hogan character that the general public was familiar with was always a good guy. By the mid 90s the Hogan gimmick was growing stale. In fact on early episodes of Nitro the crowd can be heard booing Hogan, particularly in matches in Charlotte and across the south against Ric Flair. In early 96 Bischoff went to Hogan’s home and actually pitched the idea of Hogan turning heel. Bischoff recalls, “He stroked his Fu Manchu (mustache) for what seemed like twenty minutes. Then he said “Well, brother, until you’ve walked a mile in my red and yellow boots, you’ll never really understand.” After which Hogan basically showed Bischoff the door. (EB 205)

Wrestler and booker Kevin Sullivan also talked to Hogan about being heel, citing the WWF’s Undertaker, a walking dead man that the crowd cheers for. (Monday Night Wars 2)

Even after talking with Hogan in LA, Bischoff still wasn’t sure if Hogan would really go through with it. Sting was on standby, but once Hogan showed up at the arena, Eric knew he would do it. (217) He says only about 12 people knew Hogan was about to turn heel (MNW2). Hall and Nash didn’t even know, nor did the announcers. During the PPV they played up on who the third man would be. Mean Gene was backstage talking about how he heard a familiar voice talking in Hall and Nash’s locker room, but couldn’t be sure who it was.

When the main started, Macho Man Randy Savage, Sting, and Lex Luger came to the ring, Luger and Savage wearing face paint like their partner Sting. Hall and Nash came out without their third partner, which further fueled the speculation of who it might be. Mean Gene got in the ring before the match started asking about the third man, and was told to just wait, everyone would find out soon enough.

The match started, at first appearing to be a three on two handicap match. However, Lex Luger accidentally knocked his partner Sting off the apron, and Sting appeared to be hurt and was carried to the back. The match continued, now seemingly two on two. Near the finish of the match, Hulk Hogan began walking down the aisle to the ring. Again, Hogan hadn’t been seen by wrestling fans in several months. They cheered Hogan as he entered the ring and tore his shirt off. Nash and Hall left the ring, and Macho Man, the legal man on team WCW, was hurt, lying on the mat. Suddenly Hogan hit the leg drop on Savage, threw the referee out, and Hall counted the one, two, three. Hogan high fives the Outsiders and Mean Gene comes to the ring. The crowd was so shocked they were throwing trash into the ring. Here Hogan cut an evil promo where he told fans to stick it. Words can’t do it justice, but the NWO was formed.

This new group was to be called the New World Order, or NWO. Bischoff thought of NWO on the spot. (Biscoff 218) New World Order was a phrase that had been used a lot in 90’s conspiracy culture. The first President Bush used the term to describe the new era of international relations after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Of course people took it to mean something more sinister.

Regardless, NWO as a wrestling story line became one of the hottest angles in history. Hogan can be seen in all his evil glory here.

Bischoff, Eric with Roberts, Jeremy “Controversy Creates Cash” Simon and Schuster 2006

Monday Night Wars Documentary Episode 2: Rise of the NWO