It was the single greatest time in the history of wrestling. One fateful meeting, which saw Ted Turner ask his employee, WCW president, Eric Bischoff how they can compete with Vince McMahon. Bischoff's answer: going head to head in prime time against the WWE. The result, Monday Night Nitro.
Plenty of historians like to point to Nitro's 80-plus weeks of rating dominance as one of the highlights of the Monday Night War, but true fans know a whole lot better. While fans were tuning into Nitro by the droves, there was still plenty of great moments happening on Raw as well. It wouldn't have been much of a war without two great shows to cull moments from. Let's take another look back on the Monday Night War, grab our remote controls and get ready to once again to surf between Raw and Nitro as we relive some of the great Monday Night Moments.
20 Nitro: Luger Arrives
The debut edition of Monday Nitro would and should be remembered as a well timed, smart bomb, signaling the start of the Monday Night War. The event was aired during an off week for Raw, meaning that there was no competition and all eyes would look to Nitro, live from the Mall of America. Besides an epic match between the revolutionary Flying Brian Pillman against the greatest Cruiserweight of all time, Jushin Thunder Liger, we saw the Total Package, Lex Luger come out to watch the show as well. At this time however, Luger was known more for being a WWE guy than his prior WCW experience. The background of how and why it happened makes the moment all the more surreal. Luger had just finished the weekend house show loop and had been riding with the 1-2-3 Kid. However, feeling his time was coming to and end in WWE, he reached out to Eric Bischoff, who admittedly didn't like Luger and offered him a lesser contract. He also more or less demanded that Luger not tell his soon-to-be former bosses that he was leaving to keep the element of surprise. It all worked and created a buzz right from for the start of Monday Nitro.
19 Raw: The Simulcast
From the surreal beginnings of the Monday Night War to its far more surreal end. While some debate the exact beginning and end of the Attitude Era, the Monday Night War lasted the entire duration of Monday Nitro as well. On March 26, 2001, three days after purchasing many of the assets of WCW, the purchase that shocked the world took center stage on Raw. On the road to what went down as the greatest WrestleMania of all time (X-Seven), Vince McMahon spent most of the night's proceedings on Raw, gloating about who in WCW he was going to fire (so long Jeff Jarrett), and pea-cocking around like a conquering King. Nitro, of course hailed from one of its home bases, Panama City Beach and under the WWE banner had a Night of Champions, celebrating the company's history. Then, at the end of the show, the wrestling world was stunned as the unthinkable happened - Shane McMahon appeared in Panama City to let daddy know that it was in fact Shane-O Mac who purchased wcw.
18 Nitro: Arn Gives Up His Spot
He was the backbone of The Four Horsemen, The Dangerous Alliance, and for a time, The Heenan Family. He made an entire career out of playing second fiddle and he made it look easy. The Enforcer, Double A, Arn Anderson spent fifteen years getting it done and getting it done well without a shred of flash. Similar to The Revival, he didn't need any because he was that good in the ring and still has the greatest Spinebuster, which is actually one of the greatest finishers in the business. But on August 25, 1997 it was all over. After catching a few bad bumps several months prior, Arn stood in the ring with his fellow Horsemen and described how his left hand was damaged beyond repair for his in-ring career to continue. Long before the heartbreaking goodbyes of guys like Edge and Daniel Bryan, one of the most respected men in the business had to call it a day. He would also offer up his spot to the very capable and deserving Curt Hennig. A few weeks later, it would all be for naught as Hennig would betray the Horsemen, but for one special night on Nitro, the greatest Television Champion of all time shined one last time.
17 Raw: It's Triple H's Ball Now
For several years, Hunter Hearst Helmsley was just a good hand; someone who the company relied on to keep interest in the mid-card. Then it came time to work a good long program with Shawn Michaels, but the Curtain Call ruined that, and instead of being a sourpuss about it, the future COO took his lumps and liked it. D-Generation X formed shortly after all of that nonsense and he and HBK kept the company afloat in the beginning stages of the Attitude Era. Backstage, Triple H kept Michaels afloat and made sure his friend would make it to WrestleMania XIV and his date with Stone Cold Steve Austin. For all the grief he withstood over the years, the night after 'Mania, he was granted his own opportunity and cut a promo that showed a newer, more intense side to Triple H. This segment was topped off with a right from the hip shoot promo by the returning X-Pac. The DX Army was just beginning, and later that night The New Age Outlaws would enlist as well. Over the course of two hours, Triple H was minted as a true leader as his version of DX would reign supreme and ensure that the group would not die in the absence of HBK.
16 Nitro: Madusa Trashes the Gold
In the late eighties, Madusa helped shape what a valet was. More than just eye candy, she was second-in-command of The Dangerous Alliance. To run with Paul E. Dangerously (Heyman), along with Rick Rude, you needed to be tough as nails, which she was. She previously worked for Verne Gagne in the AWA and All Japan Wrestling. Then in 1993, the WWE would bring her in to build a new Women's division around her. She won a tournament to be crowned Women's Champion and then asked the company to bring her some competition. Thanks to the rechristened Alundra Blayze, American fans were introduced to brutal Japanese females like Bull Nakano and Aja Kong. Sadly growing financial woes for the WWE, led to her release. Little did anyone realize that she still had the title in her possession. She would show up on Nitro in December of 1995, tossed the title in the trash, and declared that WCW was "where the big girls play." One of the most replayed moments of the Monday Night War. The move not only blacklisted Debrah Miceli (real name) from WWE for 20 years, it would set the WWE's Women's Division back. Many believe the division is only beginning to recover now.
15 Raw: Cactus Debuts at MSG
Mick Foley had already bled on just about every continent. He was King of the Death Match and he had already worked for WCCW, ECW and WCW. He had wars with Vader and Sting, and delivered some of the best promos ever in ECW with his Anti-Hardcore speeches and "Cane Dewey." His career was already a memorable one. Then he signed with WWE. As Mankind, he blazed a trail of destruction like no other, including a Boiler Room Brawl and of course the infamous Hell in the Cell. But even after wars with The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels respectively, it was the Connecticut Blue Blood of all people, Triple H who would bring out the darkest, most twisted and vile side of Foley's psyche. The future Game was set to take on Dude Love in a Falls Count Anywhere match. Prior to the event, Dude explained that the match wasn't his kind of bag and tried to get Mankind in the fighting spirit. But Mankind knew of one person who wanted to hurt Helmsley even more. What could have been one of the silliest, pointless vignettes in company history wound up one of the greatest, thanks to the dedication Foley put into it. That night, Cactus Jack, Foley's greatest personae made his WWE debut in the same arena the Micker hitchhiked to to see Jimmy Snuka face Don Muraco in a cage - the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden.
14 Nitro: Goldberg Wins the Gold
There has been so much hullabaloo made over the years about why this was given away for free on a Monday Night, let alone why a match like this was barely hyped. On Nitro's sister show, WCW Thursday Thunder (July 2, 1998), WCW Commissioner JJ Dillon announced that just several days later, with no chance to hype the show, the July 6th edition of Monday Nitro would host the epic battle: Goldberg would be challenging for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship against the scourge of the WCW, Hollywood Hogan. In what was the biggest crowd ever assembled for a WCW event, Atlanta's Georgia Dome was packed with over 40,000 fans all screaming from the heavens for their hometown hero, the challenger. Goldberg was already built up to be a modern day gladiator, and now he would step into his own modern-day Roman Coliseum. Industry insiders will always debate whether or not it was the wisest move to leave so much money on the table, but the eruption of the fans in Hotlanta when the bell rang, when Goldberg jerked Hogan up for the Jackhammer, and for the three count are some of the most scintillating roars the industry has ever heard.
13 Raw: Undertaker ALMOST Marries Stephanie
Virtually every Superstar during the Attitude Era found realism in their characters and their storylines, even The Phenom got into the act. A while before he'd become a more human version of himself as the motorcycle riding American Bad Ass, the Conscience of the WWE became a darker version of himself. Instead of getting more realistic in the same way his coworkers had, The Deadman started to buy more and more into his character. He became a gothic cult leader, asking fans and followers to accept the purity of evil. He formed one of the greatest stables of the Attitude Era, The Ministry of Darkness. The Demon of Death Valley was even taking prisoners, sacrificing them and brainwashing them to join his cult. The Undertaker would also try to embalm Stone Cold Steve Austin alive, send Kane to an institution, and hang The Big Bossman from Hell in a Cell. No doubt about it, the Lord of Darkness was positively insane and the goal was simple enough - complete control of the WWE. The highlight of this dark period came when The Undertaker almost married Stephanie McMahon following an abduction. With Stephanie strapped to his symbol and Paul Bearer begin performing the Black Wedding vows, Vince's daughter was saved by an unlikely source, Stone Cold Steve Austin.
12 Nitro: DDP Takes Out the nWo
Nowadays he's known more for saving lives of wrestlers and ordinary men and women through his yoga program, but at the beginning of the Monday Night War, Diamond Dallas Page was a mid-card guy striving to make it to the top. It definitely pays to have friends in high places; as Page's neighbour was Eric Bischoff, his former tag team partner was Kevin Nash (as Vinnie Vegas), and he had convinced Scott Hall to dye his hair black and start chewing on a toothpick (as the Diamond Stud). All of this made for a great back story when the nWo were still selectively recruiting members. Why not bring in the boss' neighbour and the master of the baddest finish on the planet, the Diamond Cutter. On the January 13, 1997 edition of Nitro, in the New Orleans Superdome, DDP handedly took out Mark Starr, all while nWo commentators Bischoff and Ted DiBiase were gushing over what they thought was their newest acquisition. Hall and Nash made their way out after the match to celebrate and gift Page with an nWo shirt. Then the double-cross as Page laid waste to The Outsiders and darted through the crowd. One of the great moments of a WCW guy rebelling against the nWo, a fact made even better when you realize DDP was one of the few guys who never jumped ship and always stayed true to the ideals of WCW.
11 Raw: "This is Bull$#!+"
In the "Wrestling with Shadows" documentary, Bret Hart laments over the edgier direction the WWE was heading. Oddly enough, that very direction helped make him one of the top heels in the company during the early stages of the Attitude Era. As every Superstar around him became an outlaw of sorts, doing whatever they pleased to maintain their spot, Bret was getting screwed left and right, usually at the hands of the "Texas Rattlesnake" Stone Cold Steve Austin. One fateful night on Raw, the Raw before WrestleMania 13, Bret would challenge Sid for the world title in a cage. Throughout the match, the combatants respective WrestleMania opponents (Austin for Bret and The Undertaker for Sid) would come out and try to help their opponent win the match. Bret, still trying to be everyone's hero would refuse help from his opponent which ultimately cost him the match and the title. Afterwards, Vince McMahon would try to interview The Hitman, but he snapped and let loose a explicative-filled verbal tirade venting his frustrations about constantly being screwed and everyone turning a blind eye. It was clear where Bret's Attitude Era character was going - he was turning into a whining brat, complaining every time he didn't get his way. While not a good look for the legendary Hitman, the shoot-promo was a doorway into everything that was to come during the Attitude Era.
10 Nitro: Excellently Executing Goldberg
Despite a few decent moments in WCW (like this one), in some ways, the Montreal Screwjob was the end of Bret Hart's career. With many failed or pointless angles with Bret as a background player or just another lackey for Hollywood Hogan, WCW proved Bret's greatest fear: Bret and Vince's knowing that WCW wouldn't know what to do with The Hitman. But every now and again, there were glimpses of glimmering hope that Eric Bischoff was going to figure out how best to monetize "the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be." Mayhem in Canada for example, where the commentators, especially Bobby Heenan put over unbeatable Bret in his home country. Even more memorable was several months prior at the Molson Centre in Toronto when Bret arrived and called out current WCW World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan for ducking him. Then he called out the franchise player, Bill Goldberg, stating he'd beat him in five minutes. Big Bill was not as chicken as The Nature Boy or Hollywood and came out to answer Bret's challenge, he tried to spear The Hitman but knocked himself out in the process. Bret would reveal he was wearing a metal plate underneath his hockey jersey and had in fact just excellently executed Goldberg.
9 Raw: The Countdown is Over
1999 was a simpler time. Instead of worrying about attacks from anywhere and anyone, seemingly all we worried about was a massive computer crash, the Y2K Bug. WCW wasn't worried about creating new stars since they had signed every top star they could think to sign, so breaking through the glass ceiling was not possible unless you were Goldberg or neighbours with the boss. So Chris Jericho left the company and not coincidentally, a Countdown to the Millennium clock started appearing on Raw. But for the WWE Universe, the Millennium came early as the clock struck 0:00 right in the middle of The Rock's promo on the August 9th edition of Raw. One of the most underrated Superstars ever signed by WCW was now on Raw. Chris Jericho began to showcase his excellent mic skills before the obligatory "...it doesn't matter!" from The Great One. It would take a few more years for Y2J to get over with the entire WWE Universe, but he was finally in a company that allowed him the opportunity to shine.
8 Nitro: Sting Arrives by Helicopter
Similar to his WWE counterpart, The Undertaker, Sting's run during the Monday Night War deserves an entry all to itself. Already the franchise player of WCW, it was then the Stinger went dark that the crowd really began to get behind The Icon. He was proof positive that no matter how cool the nWo was, the fans still wanted a hero to rally behind, and for a time Sting was that hero. After declaring he'd show up from time to time, he would be seen skulking around in the rafters, feeding vultures, delivering strange loyalty tests, and descending from the heavens and underneath the ring. He appeared to deliver his new move, The Scorpion Death Drop to the fake Sting, and came from underneath the ring to nail Bischoff with it too. But he was most famous for repelling from the ceiling to assault any all members of the New World Order, with his black baseball bat in tow as well. However, Sting's greatest entrance came in Panama City Beach, one of Nitro's strongholds, when WCW's saviour repelled from a helicopter to annihilate the nWo.
7 Raw: DX Invades Nitro
Through D-Generation X, WWE would begin to bring the War literally to WCW's doorstep. Triple H and company were ready to fire direct shots at WWE's competition. On April 27, 1998, the Cold War between two companies for ratings dominance had the possibility of breaking into a full-blown donnybrook between the wrestlers from WCW and WWE. With both Raw and Nitro taking place in Virginia, D-Generation X dressed in army gear, prepared themselves for war and headed to the Norfolk Scope, where Nitro was broadcast that night. DX arrived to invade the production. First, they revealed that in order to sell the scope out, WCW gave out tickets for free. Triple H, X-Pac, and Road Dogg were banging on doors and screaming in bullhorns to let their people (Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Dogg's brother) go, and even attempted to get into the building. The move was so revolutionary that no one on either side had any idea what to do next. DX didn't know what to do if they actually got in and Bischoff didn't know if he should allow them into the building. In hindsight, Bischoff probably would have had every fan switch over to Nitro that night.
6 Nitro: "They Got Baseball Bats, the Cowards!"
One of the reasons the nWo worked so well and got over like gangbusters is because of how real it felt. Case in point - Monday Nitro in from Daytona Beach, Florida and a match which featured the team of Sting, Lex Luger, and Randy Savage against The Four Horsemen. During the match, announcer Tony Schiavone would get word from his head-set that there was some sort of commotion going on backstage. Jimmy Hart would confirm it when he ran to the ring screaming for anyone to listen. He finally got Luger's attention and Luger would stop his assault on Ric Flair in order to get everyone to follow him to the back. The cameraman got there first and it was revealed the nWo had taken out Arn Anderson and Marcus Bagwell. The Outsiders, Hall and Nash wielding baseball bats were taking out anyone who got in their way, including Nash using Rey Mysterio as a javelin and launching him into the side of the production truck. The moment didn't just feel like a shoot to wrestling fans, but to nearby residents as well. When the authorities were called (in real life), fire trucks started arriving on the scene.
5 Raw: Tyson
There were plenty of moments in the Monday Night War that have been replayed over the years at nauseam and plenty of celebrity filled matches and moments that both companies used to try and get a few extra ratings points from fans. But when Mike Tyson showed up in the McMahon's box at the 1998 Royal Rumble, it was certainly one of the opening salvos of the Attitude Era. The next night on Raw would wind up being the opening shot in the Austin-McMahon saga that pretty much dominated the rest of the Monday Night War. Stone Cold had just won the Royal Rumble the night prior, guaranteeing him a shot at Shawn Michaels and the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XIV, but Mr. McMahon wasn't about to let The Texas Rattlesnake roam around Raw boasting about his accomplishment. He invited Iron Mike Tyson to the show to announce the former boxing champion's involvement at WrestleMania. Clearly, these two in the same ring was going to be a volatile situation, and the pull apart brawl wound up on every major news network and was the push McMahon needed to garner interest in WWE, WrestleMania, and soon-to-be top star, Stone Cold Steve Austin.
4 Nitro: Sting's a Free Agent
It was the perfect hoax. On the Nitro prior to the nWo's match against Sting, Lex Luger, Ric Flair, and Arn Anderson at Fall Brawl 1996, the nWo had hired a fake Sting to attack long time friend, Lex Luger. Of course, Luger, along his partners and the fans were all led to believe it was the real Stinger. Upset that everyone, including his best friend Luger (who was a tweener at the time, no less) couldn't and wouldn't believe him, Sting still tried to explain that it wasn't him. Still no one believed him. So during the War Games match, Sting came out, destroyed the nWo and then left his team on the vine. The nWo would win and on the next night on Nitro, Sting would deliver a promo with his back turned to the hard camera, explaining his actions. Every doubter could stick it, but for every fan who stood by The Icon, he'd stand by you. Declaring himself a free agent, the franchise of WCW left the ring and would begin the transformation into the brooding, silent avenger that would save WCW from the nWo. This kind of promo and the thought behind how it would be presented (with Sting's back to WCW's cameras) was WCW at its finest. This is something the company should be remembered for as opposed to the silliness of their declining years.
3 Raw: Beer Bath
It might be the quintessential moment of the Monday Night War. As his most badass, rebellious self, Stone Cold Steve Austin, the challenger for the WWE Championship against the chosen corporate champion, The Rock was heading towards the big showdown at WrestleMania XV in the kind of vehicle that Austin could truly love - a big truck hauling more than its fair share of Steve-Weisers. Like any beloved outlaw would do, The Texas Rattlesnake pulled right up to The Rock's ring. The champion stood with Vince and Shane McMahon as Austin proceeded to warn The Great One that he better be ready for their match at WrestleMania, because he was going to burn the SmackDown Hotel strait to the ground. It all ended in Austin wasting a bunch of beer when soaking his adversaries down in the ring. The beer bath was completed with the Chairman overselling his role while pretending to swim his way out of the ring. The message was clear: no matter what The Rock had planned for The Bionic Redneck at 'Mania, no one was going to be able to stop The Rattlesnake.
2 Nitro: "You Want a War"
May 27, 1996 - Scott Hall debuts in WCW. In the middle of a match, the former Razor Ramon comes out in street clothes and tells the WCW faithful, "you know who I am, but you don't know why I'm here." The promo he delivers would set the stage for all that was to follow as the foundation of the entire hostile takeover/New World Order angle was set in this promo. While Vince would eventually sue WCW over confusion of intellectual property, the beginning stages of Hall's arrival blurred the lines. Fans were convinced that Vince had sent Hall and Nash to WCW; this moment had to go down as perfectly as did it or else, there might not have been such drama and intrigue. The mystery continued Hall was bringing with him and who the third man was. Scott Hall's arrival on Nitro signaled a new beginning for WCW, one that would eventually carry them to ratings dominance. Bischoff might get a lot of credit for signing Hall, Nash, and many others, but it was still Hall who had to get the job done and for that, the bad guy deserves all of the credit.
1 1. Raw: Foley is God
"Mick Foley, who once wrestled here as Cactus Jack is going to win their world title tonight...ugh that gonna put some butts in the seats." The infamous statement made by WCW announcer, Tony Schiavone on the January 4, 1999 edition of Nitro in an effort to curtail fans from switching back and forth Raw and Nitro. The Nielsen ratings reflected that not only did seemingly everyone flip over to Raw to watch Mankind win the WWE Championship, but also that bush league tricks pulled by Eric Bischoff were not always appreciated by the fans. He had made a bold gamble, underestimating the drawing power of one of the most charismatic performers of all time, and this was after Hell in a Cell! But on this night, while WCW was gearing up for the Fingerpoke of Doom, the Hardcore Hall of Famer would defeat The Rock for his first championship. If that wasn't touching enough for long time fans, Foley would have his Rocky Balboa moment, get on the mic and tell his kids back home, "big daddy-o did it!" in the most emotional, inspirational, and greatest moment of the Monday Night War.
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