The greatest feud in professional wrestling history was not Austin vs, McMahon. It wasn’t Bret vs. Shawn, Sting vs. Flair or even Hulk vs. Andre. No, the greatest feud of all time saw two promotions themselves square off for supremacy: WCW vs. WWE!
WCW debuted Monday Nitro on September 4, 1995 in direct competition to WWE’s already established Monday Night RAW. With that, an unmatched rivalry was born, bringing with it a time period unlike any other the business has ever seen. It lasted for nearly six years, until one fateful day. Vince McMahon’s face was the first image seen on the final episode of Nitro, and WCW was soon declared dead by its new WWE ownership.
The Monday Night War was exactly that. It was a war! Shots were fired each week on both sides, some behind the camera and others right there on screen for the world to see. While many memorable moments in wrestling history happened prior to the War and while WWE has carried forward as a successful entity post WCW’s death, it’s hard to argue that no time was better to be a wrestling fan than during those years.
Some of the greatest, most loved moments of all time came to fruition during the Monday Night War. Along with it, however, came some of the absolute worst. Here are 8 reasons we loved the Monday Night War and 8 reasons we hated it.
16 Loved: Utilized Talent
The hottest commodity during the Monday Night War was, of course, the on-air talent. With over 24 hours of weekly programming combined from both companies at the height of the competition, even those considered B-list and D-list stars were given time to shine. While high profile names on both sides were given the most and the best air time, there was still room for names like Barry Horowitz or Sgt. Craig Pittman to make an appearance, something lacking from WWE’s programming today, even with more weekly content and an entire network to fill.
15 Hated: Celebrities And Ratings Stunts
At the end of the day, the Monday Night War was all about the ratings and PPV buy rates. Neither side cared in the least if those dollars came from actual wrestling fans or not. If they could get more revenue by having folks like Jay Leno wrestle Hulk Hogan instead of, oh I don’t know… a deserving wrestler, well then that’s what they were gonna do and they did it at a fairly consistent rate.
14 Loved: Poking Fun
WWE didn’t mention WCW much on TV. They tossed in a few tongue-in-cheek jabs here or there, but even after WCW was successfully beating them in the ratings it was almost sacrilegious to mention them by name. Back when Vince McMahon was still commentating, Jeff Jarrett returned and Vince nearly choked on the words WCW when he said one of their old champions would make an appearance. Aside from the quasi-lame, sorta-funny Billionaire Ted vignettes, WWE mostly just stuck to themselves.
13 Hated: Politics
WWE has always been forged under Vince McMahon’s vision, with his being the final say over anything that aired, regardless of who joins him in the confines of creative. Backstage politics happen everywhere, but it always seemed like Vince was better at putting out fires before they became too hot to handle. While WWE surely had problems backstage over the years, it rarely seemed to affect the on-air product and therefore the fans as well.
12 Loved: Having A Choice
As a fan, it’s nice to have a choice. Having two (sometimes) equally entertaining products to choose from was nice when one or the other became stagnant or went in a direction that didn’t sit well. While many fans likely tuned in to both products, some certainly chose a line in the sand and stood their ground. It was this choice that actually gave fans the feeling that their voices mattered when it came to what the big two put on television and brought to the arena when they’d swing into town.
11 Hated: Copycats
All too often during the Monday Night War, both promotions would fall prey to trying to copy what the other brand was doing instead of coming up with their own fresh and new ideas to set their own bar higher. Most of the time this happened, the copycat company would produce a poor man’s version of something that was never nearly as successful as they’d hope, let alone as big of a hit as what they were copying in the first place.
10 Loved: Surprising Pushes And Rising Stars
Not everyone on the roster for either company could be a main event star; there has to be a pecking order from World Champion to bottom of the barrel jobber. Fortunately though, many names deserving to be bigger than they were found their stocks rise and ran with the ball when their time came.
9 Hated: Exploiting The Past
I’m as big a fan of nostalgia as the next guy, but sometimes you gotta know when enough’s enough and to leave things alone. This is something for which the WCW was certainly more guilty at the time as WWE was quickly on to the Attitude Era and moving forward with its next generation of stars. Even their old acts like The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels were reinventing themselves.
8 Loved: Second Chances
The Monday Night War provided a big enough stage that it allowed some of the greats from the past who were never considered the greatest to stay relevant as the wrestling landscape was changing around them. While most of them were never able to maintain the popularity they perhaps once had, it was still nice to see them around.
7 Hated: The Lies
“This is going to be, without question, the biggest night in the history of our sport!” This is a quote that Tony Schiavone, play-by-play man for WCW during the entire Monday Night War, liked to say on almost a weekly basis. Both WCW and WWE were guilty of stroking their own egos. They had to remain confident as the Monday Night War progressed with each week of TV needing to be bigger and better than the last. Not because it was, but because they couldn’t risk fans changing the channel to the competition.
6 Loved: The Risks
In order to be the best, to take the competition down a peg or two, both companies would take risks, and not necessarily risks as in high spots like a Mick Foley dive off a Hell in a Cell (although those types of risks happened too). Rather, they took risks like trying something new or, dare I say, actually giving fans what they wanted. While they didn’t happen all the time, they did happen seemingly more frequently during the Monday Night War than in the WWE today.
5 Hated: The Same Old Thing
Sometimes when something works in wrestling, when it clicks with fans or becomes popular, it isn’t always a good thing. It is at first, of course, but in a world where anything can become stale or boring, it’s tough to justify repeating it as often as some things tend to be in wrestling. Both WCW and WWE went to the well too often with certain things because they were too afraid to try something new.
4 Loved: Jumping Ship
Was there ever anything more exciting during the Monday Night War than when a superstar jumped ship to the competition? The internet age was alive and well and smart marks everywhere would flock to their wrestling rumor sites to let the world know someone from the competition was backstage at either RAW or Nitro ready to make their debut. It was enough to make any wrestling fan buzz with excitement.
3 Hated: Lack of Dream Match Impossibilities
The ship jumpers opened doors that made wrestling fans salivate with possibilities. When The Radicalz jumped to WWE, all anyone could talk about was dream matches like Benoit or Guerrero against the likes of Kurt Angle. That’s what made jumping ship so exciting because that was the only way you were ever gonna get some of the biggest dream matches of all time.
2 Loved: The Competition
Marvel and DC… Disney and DreamWorks… Xbox and PlayStation… competition breeds excellent work because it forces your hand before the other guys beat you to the punch. For all the good and bad things about the Monday Night War, the bottom line is each side pushed one another to their limit. Being obsessed with ratings and buy rates may have caused a lot of lame situations to go down over the years, but more often, it forced bold decisions and exciting television in a fight to stay on top.
1 Hated: The Death of WCW
Unfortunately, when you have a battle between two opposing forces and each side openly declares war, one of those two sides has to win and the other has to lose. WWE may have a successful and thriving product today, some 15 years after WCW closed its doors for good, but where could it be had that never happened? Competition is almost necessary. WCW lit a fire under WWE that, had it kept pumping, would’ve made them even bigger, better and certainly more entertaining than they are today.
WCW, with all its faults and darkest times included, was still an outstanding, game-changing product. They were able to do the unthinkable by dethroning WWE as the premier sports entertainment federation in the world. There’s a sense of legacy that died along with it, all the while creating a monopoly in the wrestling world that nobody has come even remotely close to touching. Even though I personally was always a WWE fan first, the one thing I would change about the Monday Night War would be WCW still going strong today.
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