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.

Monday Night Wars: The Video Game!

A few years ago I blogged about an idea I’d obsessed over for a while. What if they made a Monday Night Wars video game? Here I’ll discuss an updated version of my idea.

I should say up front that I’m a completist. In my mind this game would have every wrestler, gimmick, TV show, Pay Per View, match type, title belt, and announcer that ever appeared on WWF, WCW, and ECW programming from September of 1995 to March of 2001. Realistically that’s impossible, as there must have been literally hundreds of wrestlers that appeared on TV during those 5 and a half years. Also a good portion of those wrestlers had short lived careers, hence there wouldn’t be as much of a demand from fans to see those wrestlers in a video game. Some of this could be amended with an initial roster followed by downloadable content packs of various wrestlers like they do these days anyway.

If they ever actualy made a game like this, for the announcers they’d likely just have the current RAW announcing team do the in game commentary. Again in my mind I’d love to have all the announcers, Eric Bischoff, Bobby Heenan, Joey Styles, Paul Heyman, Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, etc. It would also be amusing if you could mix and match the announcers during exhibition mode and unlock some unique exchanges and humorous dialogue. For example have Lawler and Heyman, or Bischoff and McMahon, or a three man announcing team of McMahon, Bischoff, and Heyman. At the very least they could do Shivanoe and Bischoff for WCW, Lawler and J.R. for WWF, and Joey Styles for ECW. For simplicity sake they’d probably just have one ring announcer, but it would be cool to mix those up as well. For big name WCW matches it would be awesome to have Michael Buffer on the mic with his famous line “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

Nitro, Raw, and the ECW arena would all be playable settings, along with all the PPVs. Other arenas could be included along with some unlockables, like Sunday Night Heat, Thunder, and Smackdown.

Wrestling video games usually have the different match types, like singles, tag team, triple threat, survivor series, royal rumble, etc. This game would have to have the WCW specialty matches like War Games, World War Three, and the triple steel cage. I’d want to see all the belts, like the different hardcore titles, women’s belts, TV championships, etc. Some of these belts could be unlocked by playing championship modes. Games in the past had a championship mode where you play through a series of matches to win one of the secondary or tag team belts.

In the last few years the WWE games have had features where you play through a timeline of different matches from different periods of wrestling history. I envision a similar mode for this game. I see it broken down by different eras for each company. For example, WCW would start with the pre-NWO era, from 9/95 to 96’s Bash at the Beach. The next era would be NWO, then NWO Wolfpac, then New Blood/Millionaires, etc.

Career mode could be pretty sophisticated. You pick one wrestler, and choose a company to start in, WCW, WWE, or ECW. Your goal is to win the world titles in all three companies. Secondary goals are to win at all the PPV and match types of each company, and finally to simply survive the Monday Night Wars. This could also be like a role playing game where you have to train your character, develop different skills, avoid injury, and make money to buy other unlocked characters, PPVs, match types, outfits, etc.

For this mode each company would have advantages and disadvantages. ECW would earn you the least money, but would make you the most popular. Their training would be average. WWE would have the best training, average money, but not make you as popular. WCW would pay the most, give average popularity, but the lowest training.

There’d be lots of unlockables, like different wrestlers or old gimmicks, (Like Austin’s ring master gimmick, etc.) The look of each years PPV would be unlockable as well. (Example, Wresltemania XVI, XVII, XVIII etc)

One feature they tried a few times in the Smackdown vs Raw series that always sounded interesting never seemed to turn out right was the general manager mode. I don’t know how to make that interesting, but there has to be a fun mode where you actually run WCW, WWE, and ECW. You have to fight off invasions from other brands, deal with network and locker room politics, etc. One idea is for WCW you invade the WWE taped shows to steal there results. If you win a backstage brawl, then you get the results back to WCW for a ratings bonus. For WWE, you’d defend against the same thing. This opens up possibilities to see different outcomes of the era. Like what if WCW ended up buying WWE, or what if by some miracle ECW emerged victorious?

Other “what if” scenarios could be played out, such as what if the Montreal Screwjob turned out differently? After the wars, what if the NWO lasted longer in the WWE? What if ECW kept all it’s big stars? The possibilities are many.

The final mode would be Fantasy Match, where you get to play big matches that never occurred. Hogan/Austin, DX/NWO, Sting/Undertaker, etc.

A game like this, and wrestling games in general could use a trivia game.

Celebrity involvement was a huge part of the Monday Night Wars. Jay Leno, the Insane Clown Posse, and NBA stars Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone actually had matches on WCW PPVs. Other celebrities that made appearances include Mike Tyson, Pete Rose, and rapper Master P. There was also the KISS wrestler, and WWF’s Gangrel was liscenced from a vampire role playing game published by White Wolf. Realistically I imagine these people would not appear in a video game due to liscence fees, however Mike Tyson was once included in a WWE game.

Regarding a game about this era, the two elephants in the room are Owen Hart and Chris Benoit. It would be nice to have Owen Hart in the game, just exclude his Blue Blazer gimmick and the Over the Edge Pay Per View. Benoit has been erased from history, so he’ll never appear in a wrestling video game again.

Unfortunately I’m afraid the ship has sailed on this game anyway. If they would have done it I think it would have been done a few years ago. ECW had appeared in the last few Smackdown vs Raw games. WWE 2K13 was a nostalgia trip on the WWF Attitude Era. 2K14 showcased 30 years of Wrestelmania (and finally made beating the Undertaker at Wrestlemania a thing in video games). 2K15 was pretty much just the current roster. It would have been nice to at least have seen a WCW video game that would have covered it’s existence from 1988 to the end. That could have been followed by an ECW game covering 1993 to the end. Those two games plus an Attitude Era game could have led into a Monday Night Wars game that you could have uploaded the rosters too. Oh well, here’s to dreaming.