Posted on September 30, 2012
Monday Memoirs – An Introduction
So you have chosen to read my column on wrestling’s now legendary Monday Night Wars.
Your first question would have to be what makes me qualified enough to write about the Monday Night Wars? I was not there, I wasn’t involved on marketing, and I don’t work for a TV network.
I am qualified however because I, like you, am a fan of professional wrestling.
Every Saturday morning from the ages twelve to twenty three I used to take a VHS tape up the road to my Granddad’s. The contents of this tape? It was that week’s latest wrestling shows.
Little did either of us know how much the wrestling we loved would change over the next few years. In the years of the Monday Night Wars wrestling went from being a traditional family fun show to a cutting edge piece of trash TV.
Wrestling was not the only thing that was changing. The “Attitude Era” was not isolated to wrestling. Television shows like Jerry Springer and South Park pushed the censors work into overtime. Eminem was asking for the real Slim Shady and the Simpsons entered what many believe was it’s golden era. Late nineties TV took convention, turned it sideways, and shoved it…
Well you know exactly where.
So what was going on in the wrestling word way back in 1995? The WCW, an organization funded by Ted Turner, had been splashing a lot of cash on its wrestling show. They had bought a lot of the biggest WWF stars from the 1980s. Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage were among the WCW main draws, both formally huge names under Vince McMahon’s WWF, having been lured over to the WCW with some huge paychecks. Under the leadership of a man named Eric Bishoff, a name all wrestling fans came to either love or loathe, they had taken their product out of its traditional small arenas and took it into a studio at Disney. It’s interesting to point out that this model, pioneered by WCW, is similar to the one TNA Total Nonestop Action is using today.
The result of this action meant that there were now two big budget promotions offering sports entertainment. Taking this further Turner granted Bishoff and the WCW a slot on his TNT (Turner Network Television) on Monday Nights. This was a move that lead them to compete directly againt the then king of sports entertainment Vince McMahon and his WCW.
The WWF were adjusting to life without mainstay stars like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and Ultimate Warrior. Vince tried to use a Hogan-esque American superhero gimmick with Lex Luger however it had failed in capturing the audiences attention in the same way Hulkamania had a few short years earlier. The WWF’s main stars at the time were Bret “The Hitman” Hart, The Undertaker, and ever increasingly Shawn Michaels. The WWF marked the era with a new logo, the old WWF logo at more of an angle, and were focusing on building and developing the next generation of stars to be set for super stardom in much the same way they had developed talent back in the 1980s.
Both WCW and the WWF were family friendly products at the time. They included cartoon like characters and storylines and often included pantomime style elements with the hero taking on the “cowardly” villains. Shows largely consisted of squash matches and hype for the next big pay per view event. WWF had established RAW in 1993 as a show with a different feel to it compared to their previous TV shows. Originally the arena was the Manhattan Center and included wrestlers in the crowd seemingly to bulk up the numbers. It was a small scale show that bears little resemblance to the RAW show we see on TV today.
The business model that had been so successful in the 1980s was starting to wear thin and the crowd wanted and expected more and this time? They got it. If you talk to any wrestling fan they will inevitably talk about the Attitude era, mostly in glowing terms, and definitely wearing rose tints. It is the one constant throughout the Internet, that no matter what happens in wrestling, fans miss this era. I have to think that a bit of healthy competition played its part.
So now now we are going to take a look at what happened next. In this column we are going to take a month by month look at what was happening starting with the very first WCW Nitro way back in September 1995.