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