From 1995 to 2001, Monday Night was the best night of the week on television. Not only did you have Monday Night Football, which gave us the premier matchups of the NFL season, but also Monday Night Wrestling. WCW and WWE (then known as WWF) was in a very intense war for ratings and wrestling supremacy, that gave us the best period in wrestling history.
Wrestling in the 80's was at its highest point. With the likes of Hulk Hogan, who was one of the most popular persons on the planet, wrestlers were starting to become larger than life attractions. The big dog of the wrestling world was the WWE. They had all the premier talent and of course Wrestlemania, which is basically the Super Bowl of the wrestling world. But once Ted Turner purchased the WCW, a wrestling company that was on the brink of extinction, the billionare called Vince McMahon and told him "I'm officially in the Wrasslin business".
That was 1988 and WCW wasn't a factor in the WWE dominance but the tide would soon turn in the early 90's.
Turner hired Eric Bischoff as Executive VP in 1993, and by 1995, Eric had full control of the company as far as promotion and direction of the WCW. Bischoff made an instant impact especially when he signed former WWE superstar, Hulk Hogan, to the WCW in 1994. Signing Hogan was the beginning of the rise, because along with Hogan came other WWE superstars.
Along with Hogan came Macho Man Randy Savage and two stars that would change the wrestling world, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. Both Nash and Hall were bonafide stars in the WWE but when they came to the WCW in 1996 they were on a mission to take over the WCW claiming themselves as "The Outsiders". WCW also began their 2 hour show, Monday Night Nitro, that was on the same time as WWE's Monday Night Raw, which began in 1993. Turner asked Bischoff what would the WCW have to do to compete with the WWE and jokingly Bischoff replied with "prime-time television". Turner took Bischoff joke seriously and granted him 2 hours on his TNT network.
People thought the WCW was crazy for trying to compete with the established WWE on prime-time TV but Bischoff had a whole lot of dirty tricks up his sleeve that would help Monday Nitro rise to the top. One of which that was pivotal was turning the All-American good guy, Hulk Hogan, into a bad guy which caused instant reactions, both negative and positive. In July of 96, Hogan joined Nash and Hall creating the best and most notorious wrestling click ever, the NWO.
June 10th 1996 would be the last time Monday Night Raw would beat Monday Night Nitro in ratings for another two years. One reason is because Nitro was live while Raw was a taped broadcast. Another one of Bischoff dirty tricks was he would tell exactly what would happen on Raw 3 minutes before it started. Mr. McMahon didn't think to kindly of this tatic because he felt that Bischoff was trying to completely eliminate the WWE and McMahon thought right.
The fact Nitro was live, attracted wrestling fans like myself because we never knew what could happen, especially with the NWO around. They became stronger and more dominant as the weeks went on. The NWO became their own faction that went completely against the WCW and fans loved it. Also Bischoff was still stealing the WWE's premier talent and in 97' Brett Hart came to the company after the Montreal Screwjob.
Raw barely had answers for what was happening since they were losing all of their stars but that turned out to be a good thing for them.
WWE didn't lose all their stars though. They still had the likes of Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, who were big players in the Monday Night Wars, but what helped Raw in the long run was the rise of their young talent.
Stone Cold Steve Austin was the biggest wrestling star of the 90s but he didn't start out that way. He started his career in the WCW ironically, but came to the WWE for new beginnings.
On June 23rd 1996 after winning the King of the Ring tournament, Austin said "Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass" and from then on a star was born. Austin became savior of the WWE because they realized to start letting these stars be themselves which gave it more of a genuine effect with the fans.
We also started seeing the rise of The Rock, who went from a baby face wrestler named Rocky Maivia that fans was supposed to like but didn't, to one of the best entertainers to use the microphone. Raw was making a slow progression back to the top of the Monday Night Wars but once 1998 hit, they wouldn't relinquish the throne.
1998 is when the WWE started to make a comeback and it was because Vince realized that he had to fight fire with fire. With Bischoff and Nitro doing any and everything to demolish the WWE, Vince started to create storylines and factions that could compete with Nitro which was starting to become repetitive.
On January 19, 1998, Iron Mike Tyson appeared on Raw and of course Stone Cold came to the ring but no one expected him to flip off the baddest man on the planet. 2 months later, Stone Cold won the World Championship at Wrestlemania XIV thanks to Iron Mike's 3 count. And a few weeks after that on April 13, 1998, Monday Night Raw finally beat out Nitro after losing 85 straight weeks.
2 weeks after that, Degeneration X, the click that was comparable to the NWO just less in numbers, tried to invade Nitro with a tank but WCW close the doors to the arena. DX still manage to interact with the fans outside the stadium and even had them chant WCW sucks. You can definitely tell the momentum was shifting but Monday Nitro wasn't completely done yet thanks to a streak by a man name Bill Goldberg.
Goldberg saved the WCW because like I said they were becoming repetitive. It was the same matches and it seem like the entire WCW roster was trying to be apart of the NWO. But Goldberg manage to put together a streak of 173 wins that was definitely great for TV.
For that summer of 1998, the WCW did their best to regain the lead in ratings, even having Goldberg defeat Hogan for the world championship in front of 45,000 fans in the Georgia Dome, a match that could have been a PPV main event. We also seen the return of Ric Flair and the 4 Horsemen, the Ultimate Warrior, but it wasn't enough in the long run.
WCW never tried to push their younger talent that included Rey Mysterio, Chris Beniot, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, and many others that eventually departed from the WCW for the WWE. For the next year WCW was on a major decline to the point some nights no one knew what the run sheet was for Nitro. In September of 1999 Eric Bischoff was dismissed from WCW and that essentially was the end.
On March 26th 2001, Monday Nitro had their last telecast and that marked Monday Night Raw as the winner of the Monday Night War. I was into wrestling heavy during this period and I can say it was wonderful. Some of the greatest wrestlers ever emerged from this era. Monday night memories like when Stone Cold sprayed Mr. McMahon with beer from a beer truck will forever be a childhood memory of mine. WWE is now a global enterprise and continue their reign as wrestling best organization. Even though the WCW does not exist anymore, it help transform wrestling into something more than meat heads slamming each other. Without the WCW I don't know if wrestling would be what it is now.