Monday Night Wars Episode 12: The War Gets Electrified

This episode focuses on the Rock. We get yet another recap of how the Monday Night Wars started, and then some coverage of the history of the relationship between the McMahon family and the Maivia family that the Rock is from. We see his debut at Survivor Series on 11/17/96, how his initial baby face character didn’t work out, and how he eventually turned heel joining the Nation of Domination. This is one of the few episodes where the Undertaker is interviewed. We get an interesting compare and contrast between the Rock and Goldberg, along with his feuds with Mankind and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Rock and Sock connection is also covered, along with the famous Rock: This is Your Life segment (which had 9 million viewers). We also see how he became a mainstream celebrity. The Rock is the only wrestler to ever have legitimate success in the entertainment industry outside of professional wrestling. We see clips from when he hosted Saturday Night Live along with his being on the cover of Newsweek and TV Guide.

While the Rock’s story is certainly interesting and worth telling, and he certainly was a factor in the Monday Night Wars, this episode almost seemed unnecessary. The episodes about Jericho or Mankind or Austin were good for this series because they all worked for WCW (and ECW) before finding stardom in the WWF.

The Rock introduced the word Smackdown into the English language, another accomplishment perhaps no other wrestler has done. This word became so popular that it became the title of the WWF’s new network prime time show. WWF Smackdown debuted on 8/26/99, and in a reversal of roles, aired head to head against WCW’s Thunder on TBS. Smackdown won that ratings battle immediately.

The Thursday night war is something that I don’t believe has ever been covered in wrestling history. It is noted a few times throughout this series that Thunder was seen as the B show, that bigger name wrestlers didn’t want to be on it etc, while Smackdown had their big superstars like the Rock, Austin, and HHH. Personally, instead of an episode about the Rock, whose story has been told very well elsewhere, I would have been curious to see an episode about this seemingly untold story in wrestling history.

Monday Night Wars Documentary Review Episode 3: Embracing Attitude

The Attitude Era is considered by many fans to be the WWF’s greatest era, featuring the height of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s popularity, along with the Rock, Mankind, and DX.

This episode opens with the more cartoon-ish gimmicks of the pre-Attitude WWF, such as the Sultan, Steve Austin’s Ring Master gimmick, and Ron Simmons in that goofy looking helmet.

Eric Bischoff was riding high with Monday Nitro and the NWO story line. At the time he believed WWF would never recover. Someone warned him that WWF was about to try Howard Stern/Shock Jock type programming, but he dismissed that thinking it would never work.

The Austin/Pillman gun incident is covered, where they filmed a segment at Brian Pillman’s home during which he fired a gun at Austin. Hugely controversial at the time, Vince apologized on air the next week. However, announcer Jim Ross said they got a 75% positive response from their audience to that segment.

Sports journalist Bill Apter is interviewed for this documentary. He supplies a few quotes as it is explained that from here the WWF roster became more edgy. Acts like the black militant group the Nation of Domination formed, as well as De-generation X.

Vince McMahon’s opening speech on the 12/15/97 edition of Raw is shown, where he explains how his programming will now be more contemporary, and away from the older formula of good guys vs bad guys.

By January of 1998 Raw was still losing the ratings battle to Nitro but was on the rise with its new edgier gimmicks like Val Venis (basically a porn star), sexual chocolate Mark Henry, Mr. Ass (Billy Gunn), and the pimp character the Godfather.

Meanwhile, Eric Bischoff still wasn’t impressed. Jericho says that Bischoff was telling people in six months McMahon will lose his TV sponsors and go out of business. Meanwhile Sable (who is not interviewed here) is shown on TV guide, and Nash says that she beat any segment Nitro had at that point.

Just as WWF was embracing the Attitude Era, the corporate structure of Turner Broadcasting was becoming more restrictive on WCW. Standards and Practice representatives were in the WCW creative rooms while porn star Jenna Jameson did a segment with Val Venis on Raw, and WWF introduced their hardcore title.

WCW embarrassingly tried to compete with the Attitude Era while wearing the Standards and Practices handcuffs. They tried their own hardcore title, and we see that clip where Terry Funk almost legitimately almost got kicked in the head by a horse. We also see the infamous junkyard invitational, the viagra on a pole match, and Judy Bagwell on a forklift match. WCW Stunt Coordinator Ellis Edwards is interviewed here and says “I would tell them the things I would do in the stunt business and they would write it into the storyline.” This is the one part of the episode I would have liked to have seen more elaborated. I would have like to have seen who thought of trying to have a WCW Hardcore title and how they balanced that with standards and practices, etc.

This episode layed out the interesting parallels of the shifting creative direction of WWF that mirrored the more restrictive environment of WCW, but I would have like to have seen more of the struggles that came with the latter.