Monday represents something different for everybody. Monday to most is simply the beginning of another work week, another five days of drab repetitiveness. Monday to the youth represents another week of unwanted education, an education they will wish for when they find themselves as burnt-out adults and joining the aforementioned work-week-warriors.
When Monday night rolls around, the fall provides millions of football fans with a game in which to escape the horrors of their day. For wrestling fans, this very escapism is provided through a weekly television program: Monday Night Raw. This telecast has been running for many years and continues to provide its audience with a place to go at the end of that dreadful Monday. However, that place has become rather stagnant.
In the mid-90s, wrestling was the hottest thing available on Monday night as WWE would go head-to-head with WCW in what was dubbed: “The Monday Night War.” This battle of ratings would culminate in the early part of the new millennium with WWE emerging victorious over their sworn enemy. Thus, the wrestling industry was changed forever and to be completely honest: for the worse.
Well then, how exactly did WWE win The Monday Night War? Who was responsible? Obviously, there were a number of backstage writers and agents and production team members who helped along the way and yes, Vince McMahon himself is to be given a lot of credit but really it was the wrestlers. Those who the people paid to see and more importantly at that time, would change the channel to watch.
This piece is dedicated to the squared-circle-sickos who helped take on WCW during the most interesting and intense period of professional wrestling. Those WWE Superstars who helped their company win the Wrestling War.
These are the top 15 wrestlers responsible for WWE winning The Monday Night War:
15. Shawn Michaels
Before anybody has a conniption fit about Shawn Michaels’ ranking on this list, let’s review Michaels’ role during the Monday Night War:
Shawn Michaels served as WWE Champion during a time when WWE was trailing WCW in the ratings battle. However, Michaels remained the top star in WWE and would eventually help introduce D-Generation X to the audience.
While the DX faction would play a major role in WWE’s victory, Shawn Michaels himself would retire (for the first time) in 1998 when WWE was not quite in the driver’s seat. However, Michaels did contribute the Degenerate factor to the War.
Let’s continue with another member of D-Generation X, the man who came along in the absence of Shawn Michaels: X-Pac.
You may not think much of X-Pac but his role in the Monday Night War flew under the radar. X-Pac would actually fight for both sides but it was his return to WWE that helped finally place him in a favorable light.
X-Pac was just as much a hooligan as the rest of the faction and while many rankings of D-Generation X as a whole would probably place Pac at the bottom of the list, let’s not forget that he did contribute to the fight from the winning side.
13. The New Age Outlaws
You may be thinking: “more DX? Why not place them all in one entry?” Well, the truth is: that wouldn’t be fair to those who participated.
Everybody involved in D-Generation X played their own unique role in The Monday Night War. The New Age Outlaws were not only controversial but one of the first new tag teams of the Era.
The New Age Outlaws were funny and in touch with the Generation X crowd. The fans loved The Outlaws alone but when they sided with DX in 1998, the people would love them even more.
12. Big Show
Say what you want about Big Show nowadays but back in the ’90s, Show was a young and agile giant who could do things most men his size could only dream of doing.
Evidently, Big Show also had some foresight as he knew when it was time to jump ship over to WWE from WCW, where he once worked as The Giant and was underutilized.
In WWE, a new platform was presented and a new character was born in Bog Show. And yes, he did play a part in WWE gaining the upper hand over WCW as Show would feud with the top guys WWE had to offer.
11. The Dudley Boyz
In 1999, the Monday Night War had reached a point where WWE victory seemed imminent. However, it wasn’t over and the company couldn’t slow down.
They would bring in an ECW favorite and renown tag team, The Dudley Boyz. Bubba Ray and D-Von would take part in a newly formed tag team division that is perhaps the greatest in WWE history.
While acquiring ECW talent was nothing new to either company, The Dudley Boyz were a major score as they were the hottest non-major tag team around at the time and would find mainstream exposure in WWE.
10. Chris Jericho
Keeping with 1999 and talent coming for outside promotions, we make our way to the most misused talent in WCW and Chris Jericho.
Chris Jericho debuted in WWE in a big way by immediately finding himself involved in a feud with The Rock; which is certainly not a spot given to just anybody, especially during The Monday Night War.
While Chris Jericho would only become a mega-star following the conclusion of the War, his presence in WWE was enough to inspire other misused WCW talents to jump ship and help put WCW out of business.
9. Edge and Christian
The Brood once existed within WWE as a trio of vampire-like-wrestlers who entered through a ring of fire and spat blood at the fans.
From this unholy trio would emerge the tag team of Edge and Christian, two Canadian kids who helped set the new tag team division on fire with innovation, comedy, and superior athletics.
Edge and Christian helped bring more eyes over the WWE when fans decided that they wanted to see younger and more exiting action in the tag team division during the Monday Night War.
8. The Hardy Boyz
All right, we have already covered The Dudley Boyz and Edge and Christian and you all know that there is a third team to include: The Hardy Boyz.
The Hardy Boyz were without a doubt the coolest tag team of The Monday Night War. With the addition of Lita – the cool chick – there was this certain aura that surrounded this team that you could not ignore.
It all worked: the girls desired Matt and Jeff while the guys desired Lita. On the flip side, the guys wanted to be cool like Matt and Jeff while the girls wanted to be cool like Lita. Thus, people paid attention.
7. Kurt Angle
Immediate impact in WWE: it is rare but has happened. One of these cases involved the Olympic Gold Medalist, Kurt Angle.
Kurt Angle made his WWE debut in November of 1999 and would have a rookie year like no other, winning the European and Intercontinental Championships in the same month, the King of the Ring tournament, and the WWE Championship.
Yes, Kurt Angle arrived nearing the end of The Monday Night War but “Your Olympic Hero” certainly helped with the hammering of the final nail into the WCW coffin.
Throughout the Monday Night War, loyalties were tested almost every week. The guessing game of “who would show up where” was continuous.
However, certain wrestlers held true to their company and through thick-and-thin, remained with their chosen promotion. One of these men – who was perceived more as a monster – was Kane.
Kane debuted as the long lost brother of The Undertaker and helped provided WWE with a brand new Superstar. Kane was intriguing and the fans wanted to watch the story of the little brother unfold.
5. Triple H
The beginning of this list dealt with a lot of D-Generation X material and now we move on to (like it or not) the most impact member of the faction.
Triple H took on D-Generation X following the retirement of Shawn Michaels and made it his own group while remaining true to the original nature of DX. This was no easy task considering how much of a star Shawn Michaels had become.
Triple H not only led D-Generation X but would eventually break off and break through to the main event scene; becoming WWE Champion and helping WWE along the way in The Monday Night War.
4. The Undertaker
During The Monday Night War there was much uncertainty. However, one thing that was certain: The Undertaker was not leaving WWE.
The Undertaker was already an established WWE veteran, an aspect that greatly appealed to WCW as their company was essentially built around former WWE talent. However, there was seemingly no worry about The Undertaker taking off.
One must believe that WCW would have loved – and probably pursued – The Undertaker to come over and join their side of the War but such a thing with such a man was definitely not going to happen.
3. The Rock
Perhaps the biggest problem facing WCW during The Monday Night War was their inability to create new Superstars.
While WCW were piggybacking on the past, WWE were busy creating the next generation of Superstars. One of whom would become “the most electrifying of the all,” a young man known as The Rock.
The Rock could hold the crowd in the palm of his hand like no other and, although a massive trash-talker in his own right, he could present a sense of untamed cool with a simple look and raise of an eyebrow.
January 4th, 1999: what is considered by many to be the turning point in The Monday Night War.
On a pre-recorded episode of Raw is War, Mankind would capture his first WWE Championship; prompting Eric Bischoff to give away the results to his audience who responded with a massive channel switch.
Over on Monday Nitro, Kevin Nash would give Hollywood Hogan the World Heavyweight Championship in what is known infamously as “The Fingerpoke of Doom.”
1. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Is there much of a surprise here? You knew all along which wrestler was most responsible for WWE winning The Monday Night War.
While the rest of the team played their part, it was certainly the ass-whooping captain of the squad who played a bigger role than anybody else en route to becoming the most revolutionary WWE Superstar of all time.
To think that the other team had this man and blew their opportunity is astonishing. All they had to do was allow him to be himself, as he was allowed to do in WWE. All they had to do was allow him to be “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
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