image Vince McMahon vs. Ted Turner: “The Monday Night War”

wwe_monday_night_war___wwe_vs_wcw_logo_by_wrestling_networld-d858igcFor someone who, by all honesty – I kid you not, didn’t have cable television until September 2004, my recollection on the Monday Night War was rather limited prior to watching the 2015 WWE documentary on the WWE Network.  While I have had some opinions and criticisms towards certain individuals & events for many, many years, my understanding of the circumstances of the entire affair has been pieced together quite correctly and without prejudice.  Having finally been able to watch the documentary series at lease, it’s becoming a bit clearer that some of the events may or may not have been what I thought or envisioned; thus decided to piece together some of the talking points that shaped the television rating wars on Monday night back in the 1990s between WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and WCW (World Championship Wrestling).  Before going on, however, let’s make this crystal clear that not everybody shares same opinions, yet this article is an attempt to compile many details that were presented in publications, podcasts, “dirt sheets” (i.e., internet wrestling sites), online encyclopedia plus the series itself and some personal recollection, and organize in such a way so that everyone would easily follow what had occurred during that time period.  Therefore, strap on and here we go.

First thing the series had mentioned was the genesis of the entire affair, and according to my extensive research and recollection, it began with the backlash against Vince McMahon mr_mcmahon_statbought Georgia Championship Wrestling and took over the timeslot on TBS on July 14, 1984, which was known as Black Saturday.  In an attempt to expand WWE’s audience to the South, McMahon attempted to buy that timeslot outright only was being rejected by Ted Turner, Founder of TBS; however, the undeterred McMahon discovered an alternative way to obtain the timeslot by approaching the Brisco Brothers and Jim Barnett via sidestepping Ole Anderson, who had alienated the Briscos & Barnett with his booking and operation, to discuss a potential sale.  Once the transaction was complete, however, out came an onslaught of backlash against Turner & TBS from the loyal GCW audience as the southern audience were furious that not only their favorite promotion went off television, they demanded to know why Gordon Solie, who ironically enough became a member of WWE Hall of Fame in 2008 posthumously as WWE recognized his talent for play-by-play announcing, as well as mentorship of those where had partnered with Solie, was not on the air.  The situation was not helped by McMahon’s contents similar to those were syndicated on USA Network, and the reception was, needless to say, a total dismal as ratings took a dive as GCW audience utterly rejected WWE product.  Turner, in return, made offers with Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling and Championship Wrestling from Georgia, a promotion that was run by a rather disgruntled Ole Anderson, who have since harbored a grudge against WWE & Vince McMahon for the backhanded purchase of GCW.  Vince McMahon soon turned to Jim Barnett, who in turn redirected the sale to Jim Crockett Jr., who explained in “Rise & Fall of WCW” that the purchase was essentially paid for the first WrestleMania in order to obtain the rating-diving timeslot, and forced the NWA to focus upon the Mid-Atlantic promotion that was run by the Crocketts (Jim Crockett Jr., and Davey Crockett).  Such transaction would later motivate Turner, tedwho had a fallout with McMahon due to that calamity, to compete with WWE by purchasing NWA-Jim Crockett Promotions in 1988 when the Crocketts had a major financial mismanagement due to overspending.   In Lehman’s term, the entire feud began with one fateful deal between McMahon and Turner on Turner’s network that went sour and awry, thus leading to Turner’s decision to essentially “buying” his way into professional wrestling in competition with WWE.

Another talking point I have noticed has to do with a terminology called “creative control”, specifically with many allegations against the biggest names in sports entertainment such as Hulk Hogan, who was the lynchpin of WWE’s “Rock ‘N Wrestling” era back in the 1980s before joining WCW in 1994, Kevin Nash and Goldberg.  Before I made my opinion about this topic, however, a few questions need to be answered: What exactly is “creative control”? Who came up with that terminology? Why does anyone want that clause written into their contracts? “Creative control” in professional wrestling is someone who wants to dictate decisions made for the final script on matches that a promotion is trying produce for television.  The terminology is also known as “artistic control” which is associated with media production in music, theaters, and movies alike.  Certain numbers of musicians, actors and actresses, directors, and producers use such authority given to them in their contracts to decide how the final product will put together.  For professional wrestling, it is the job of a booker and the promoter to decide how a match-up would proceed over the course of the evening after series of lengthy discussions for months at a time.  Under normal circumstances, the promoter would make the final decision on which matchup or storyline would be written for television, saved for another time, or outright scrapping them.  In WWE, the final decision would always be called by, whether people like him or not, Vince McMahon.  But who made the final call for WCW?  Tragically, according to all the former WCW talents have recollected, it’s not Eric Bischoff, who Scott Hall stated that his style of management didn’t have the “boss vibe” unlike McMahon, nor it was anyone from the Turner Broadcasting, Time Warner, or even Ted Turner.  So who was running the program anyway? In spite of having rating victories for more than 18 months, WCW Monday Nitro was running storylines on the fly all the time, as in a production meeting was totally foreign to the company.  That was just for starter.

Hulk-Hogan-PNG-ImageAccording to Ric Flair, Booker T, Kevin Nash, and even Hogan himself, many of the high-salaried wrestlers like Hogan, Nash, Bill Goldberg, and, of all people, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, all had agents to include such clause in their contracts.  What that meant was they had the authority to overwrite what storyline that was originally scripted, and rewrote in a certain way to favor them that “made sense” for the audience.  Now, here’s something that I’m not for certain if anyone have ever discussed in various media sources.  We know for a fact that Hogan & Nash had creative control written into their contracts, however, at least they have some sense of realizing “passing the torch” and having great matches with someone who wants to work with them had the others approached them.  I began suspecting that when Eric Bischoff included that clause into Savage’s contract, nobody realized that Savage didn’t really like the notion of being pushed as a spectacle rather than the top superstar, and that clause gave him authority to veto any match that would have required him to lose by “passing the torch” to younger talents.  The reason why I even make this point is that when McMahon was forced to rebuild WWE back in 1994 due to the infamous steroid trial that almost crippled his credibility as a promotor, Randy-Savage-PNG-ImageSavage, who was told of the youth movement by McMahon, and Savage was frustrated by not being able to wrestle all year around like it was at the height of Hogan/Savage feud, didn’t realize that McMahon had already figured him in as an annual spectacle a year of two prior.  That resulted in Savage bailed on WWE and joined WCW.  While it may sound like a speculation at best, has he ever really had any matches with the likes of Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, and Booker T at all and made them superstars overnight? Food for thoughts.  As for Hogan’s creative control clause, however, I suspect that Ultimate Warrior may have been the center of the issue.  What occurred was no sooner that Warrior won the WWE Heavyweight Title from Hogan at WrestleMania XI, the thinking of “passing the torch” to up-and-coming star like Warrior would benefit the overall wrestling business as a fresh character now leads the charge for the next few years.  Sadly, Warrior got roughed up by “Ravishing’” Rick Rude one night and Hogan heard about that incident, and then during the main event of SummerSlam 1991, which Hogan & Warrior were supposed to be tag team partners opposing Sgt. Slaughter’s team, Warrior essentially held up for past payment and burned the trust with Hogan.  In addition, the real-life rift between Hogan & Savage since 1988 had also weighed heavily into Hogan’s mind Since then, Hogan has become very cautious with who he wants to pass the torch with unless that participant is willing and able.

Eric-bischoffSpeaking of Eric Bischoff, let’s clarify some of his claims while providing some of the backdrops that Bischoff may have missed by accident or intentionally omitted altogether.  First, Bischoff was with American Wrestling Association (AWA) as an announcer when Ted Turner bought Jim Crockett Promotions from Jim Crockett Jr., in 1988.  Second, WCW wasn’t even an actual promotion during the purchase; instead, the show on TBS at that time was called WCW while JCP was wrestling at the CNN Tower, and WCW brand wasn’t being called as such until 1990 or 1991.  Only then Bischoff, who by then was out of the job after AWA had collapsed, was hired by Turner as a “C squad” announcer after he had a job interview with WWE just weeks prior.  One of the most interesting soundbites coming out of Bischoff was his work interaction with Paul Heyman, who they have a working relation back in AWA during the latter’s run as the manager of “Original Midnight Express”, and the relevancy ECW’s involvement during Monday Night War, specifically to do with Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, and Chris Jericho’s entry in both WCW & ECW by claiming that Paul Heyman made up the story of how the trio winded up joining WCW as BS while stated that he was in negotiation with New Japan Pro Wrestling as part of talent exchange.  While I have to admit that Heyman may have been exaggerated about losing the trio; in Heyman’s defense, Paul_Heyman_prodoes he care where to find talents to wrestle for ECW?  Of course not, because an independent wrestling scene allows freelance talents to go wherever they can learn the craft from, while they can also get paid in various rates depending on how well an evening draws.   That’s the one thing Bischoff has never really learned to scouting, because Bischoff, at that time, just splashed Ted Turner’s money left, right, front, back, and center with little recourse towards budget problem that cost his job but September 1999.  Instead of keeping people like Heyman and Jim Ross, who have since been proven that they know how to recruit and develop new talents, instead they were dismissed by not fitting into Bischoff’s vision.  Compounded by the inclusion of “creative control” into contracts of the above mentioned WCW stars, many in the lower and mid-card talents met with an invisible “glass ceiling” when attempted to move up the ladders.  Eventually, WCW had pissed off the entire Lucha Libre wrestlers in the months followed and several young talents like the above mentioned trio of Malenko, Guerrero & Jericho, there’s also Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn, Sean Waltman – who had been on rehabbing when he too was fired unceremoniously via FedEx, and even Paul Wight, who had wrestled as The Giant in WCW and was a member of n.W.o. twice.  These seven wrestlers would join WWE with a 21-month span between April 1998 to January 2000 and turned the tie in WWE’s favor.

While Bischoff may have garnered success by heavily recruiting Japanese wrestlers and built the cruiserweight division, the glass ceiling treatment caused an unrepairable rift up between established veterans and up-and-comers until his first dismissal by Turner Sports.  Before his dismissal, however, the infusion of Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone was a masterpiece, as well as creating the rebellious n.W.o. faction in the faction’s early days.  Like the above mentioned success, however the rebel organization storyline would also become Bischoff’s biggest failure as he never really had a plan to cap the numbers of wrestlers who joined that group.  Next time I watched WCW Worldwide, and it was half of the entire promotion, if not more toward two-thirds, by the time that the broadcasters counted the exact numbers who were in that faction.  How did he make that sort of error in judgment? During his post episode analysis in the documentary, even Bischoff admitted that he was too close to many of the high-salaried wrestlers who some should have been released instead of keeping in the roster.  He also admitted that WCW Thunder was a rating disaster as many of those highly paid superstars declined to appear on that show due to their invocation on appearance clause; in contrast, when WWE Smackdown! was launched a year later, all the key players performed in that show with the only complaints from WWE’s lower card talents were they wanted more focus to put on them.  To compound Bischoff’s miseries, his arrogance in handling Ric Flair’s time-off request and his willful ignorance in dismissing an idea to bring in Mike Tyson into WCW programming had also cost the promotion’s reputation.  Furthermore, the constant reliance of N.W.O. storyline eventually stalled any new momentum when the “finger-poke of doom” occurred in the main event of January 4, 1999 Monday Nitro live episode on TNT (Turner Network Television), which also included a controversial comment made by Tony Schiavone per Bischoff’s order to degrade the importance of WWE title changed hand to Mick Foley, who had a run as Cactus Jack during his time in WCW 7 years prior to his WWE run.  Talent dissension departures and viewership had steadily declined maturely, and led to Bischoff’s “benching” by September 1999 as executive vice president of WCW.

I have done a lot of extensive reading concerning the decline & death of WCW, many people have their theories on who was to blame for the downfalls.  Some suggested that it’s on Bischoff, it was on Jim Herd, herdJamie Kellner, and Brad Siegel,  a section of them even blamed Vince Russo as the sole reason, yet they seemed to be the symptoms and not the cause.  In truth, the corporate culture within then-TimeWarner/AOL TimeWarner, which was essentially any and all executives other than Ted Turner (founding father of Turner Broadcasting, ironically), Bischoff and Bill Shaw, who was part of that board for a brief period, laid the seed of WCW’s eventual demise as none of those executives had ever supported WCW from the beginning when Ted Turner purchased Jim Crockett Promotions back in 1988.  They didn’t want anything to do with sports entertainment, never mind if they didn’t have enough things to worrry about already as they had the television networks, Time Magazine, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks, and then-Atlanta Thrashers, Warner Brothers.  All of those divisions, plus WCW, meant each executive in that company would compete for revenues that were generated from advertising sales and broadcasting rights.  Turner even once said that WCW would always be on his network as long as he was in charge, something that the rest of the board didn’t share at all.  In fact, they considered sports entertainment was a sideshow even when during the heights of the Monday Night Wars, never mind the fact that those executives wanted WCW to be dead & buried as they knew absolutely nothing about the wrestling audience, the production of any wrestling programs, and how wrestling contracts are written, none whatsoever.  To the point that a department called “Standard & Practices”, which not even Bischoff realized it had existed, would demand a review of Nitro’s “scripts, to which Bischoff were too shock to hear such notions since Nitro was produced with nothing but bullet points.  Tragically, Bischoff thought Turner would back him regardless despite of Turner began losing control of his company when TimeWarner merged with Turner Broadcasting.  Little did he know, Turner’s pull were diminishing steadillly and was eventually given a lesser role once AOL bought TimeWarner/Turner, and Bischoff’s position in the company was essentially in dire jeopardy that led to his dismissal in September 1999.  The search of Bischoff’s successor took a strange turn as Vince Russo, who was until then the lead in creative in WWE, came on board.alongside Ed Ferrera.  They brought in quite a few changes in terms of structuralized creative rather than making changes on the fly, thrusted a numbers of cruiserweights and mid-carders who were otherwise considered as afterthoughts such as Malenko, Billy Kidman, Eddie Guerrero, and Buff Bagwell, who was never really given much of a chance as a single wrestler even after joining the n.W.o, into main event status, something that Bischoff has since been regretting not having the foresight to do so during his height.  Sadly, most of the veteran wrestlers other than Sting and Ric Flair weren’t too happy being “relegated” from their spots, and they revolted against Russo, who were barely getting his feet wet in WCW, was “fridged” by Turner management.   Replacing his would be long-time booker named Kevin Sullivan, and he defaulted those main event status to the veterans.  Benoit, Malenko, Saturn and Eddie Guerrero had seen enough of such complacency and bailed to WWE, where they made most of their opportunities and achieved stardom – even though it was only Eddie Guerrero (Benoit, different story) reached the true legend status, only after he had truly & finally recovered from substance abuse from years past.  The quartette made their debut on January 31, 2000, on the same day that an Alaska Airline flight crashed near the coast of San Diego upside down, and on a rather personal note, my maternal grandfather suffered a devastating stoke that very morning and passed away 48 hours after, by jumping on tag team New Age Outlaws at the barricade after a brief argument. WCW, meanwhile, dismissed Sullivan and re-appointed Russo with a condition of Bischoff being part of bookmaking team.  In theory, the combined talents of Russo and Bischoff would have created new storylines to recapture the magic WCW once had during the heights of n.W.o. just 2 years prior; in truth, the bickering within the locker room concerning Russo’s WWE accolades combined with Bischoff’s absence due to his father’s death seethed into the fiasco that was in Bash at the Beach PPV in July 2000, essentially hastened the downfall of World Championship Wrestling.  As for which version you would rather believe in, however, all I could say about this is that they were both at fault pertaining to the blowup, though I am leaning towards Russo than Bischoff as I have been listening to both men’s podcasts and other commentaries from elsewhere, much to do with Russo being more honest and forthcoming about what happened than Bischoff for admitting errors.

AOL Time Warner.svgBy February 2001, AOL, then-principal owner of WCW, put the company for sale as the merger with Time Warner was completed, and the financial tolls caused by the combination of rifts within talent pools, lagging of box office incomes, stale booking with mass confusions, and overspending during the height of the Monday Night War in spite of bringing up up-and-coming talents like AJ Styles and Chris “Wildcat” Harris into their talent pools, was too much for the corporate to keep Turner’s pet project around. Bischoff, meanwhile, mistakenly thought that an opening for him to keep wrestling on Turner Network by forming a consortium to buy WCW without realizing the new ownership would rather distancing themselves from it at all costs, and once the news of AOL axing WCW from their programming broke, his hope, chance and dream of being an actual owner of World Championship Wrestling faded, all because of the decision made by one Jamie Kellner, who told Bischoff’s consortium partnership Fusient Media that “you can buy the ring, the video library, etc., but Turner will NEVERbe airing any wrestling programming on any and all Turner television channels ever again. In doing so, Kellner had essentially devalued WCW into “pennies in a dollar” worthless status.  Within days, one man arose from all the people that could have purchased WCW was someone who opposed WCW from the beginning of this rating warfare: Vincent Kennedy McMahon, whom almost lost his wrestling promotions twice fold – first had to do with the infamous steroids trial and then with the ensuing “lean years” just before the Attitude Era – only to have survived both times due to the mismanagement of the competition, decided to purchase WCW with mere $4.2 millions US Dollars ($2.5 millions for the copyrights to WCW brand and $1.7 millions for the entire WCW media library, which included the audo and videotape libraries) by 2002, which Chris Jericho had referenced that he could have come up with the money due to such devaluations. Now, as a reference to the most famous quote from “Highlander” The Series in “there can be only one”, WWE became that ONE who is victorious in the television rating war for the supremacy of pro wrestling programming.

Yet, such act has also left a huge void for competition to this very day as there isn’t anyone else who could compete with WWE, though Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling attempted to reignite the competition in 2010 by bringing back Hulk Hogan and Bischoff, but it was an unmitigated disaster at best as then-owner of TNA Wrestling Dixie Carter, dixiecarter1-1419660366whom was brought into the fold due to lack of funding by Jerry Jarrett, who could have taken the reign of WWE had Vince McMahon gone to the jail during the above mentioned trial and his son Jeff Jarrett  was suspended by Carter due to the extramarital affair with Kurt Angle’s wife Karen, never had a prior experience in running an independent promotion, and she was eventually bought out first by Billy Corgan and then by Anthem Sports in Canada in early 2017. In the meantime, WWE decided to split their programmings RAW and SMACKDOWN into separate competitions to fill the void – though they once stopped such practice around 2011, it was resurrected in 2016 with deeper talent pool than previous incarnation.  For Turner, however, his ambition to challenge wrestling supremacy had cost dearly. First, he began losing his grips in control during the merger between Time Warner and Turner Network; then, he was out of power during the merger with AOL (America Online); soon after that, Turner lost most of his fortune in an estimate worth of $7 billion when the stock collapsed in the wake of the merger, so much so, he stated that he couldn’t afford them now when asked about buying back his former assets, such as the 1280px-Atlanta_Braves.svgAtlanta Braves, which was sold to Liberty Media in 2007, had moved away from their previous home at Turner Field in 2017 to their new home, SunTrust Park, built in Cobb County as a result of end-of-lease.  The Braves had won the World Series in 1995 at Fulton County Stadium, the same year that Randy Savage joined WCW, have not won since they moved to Turner Field, has not returned to the World Series since 1999 and missed the playoffs altogether since 2014 – on a side note.  Though WCW folded in 2001, the legacy never really left in some degree asWWE managed to incorporate the United States Championship, Cruiserweight Championship, and then-WCW World Heavyweight Championship into their programming, its video library are featured extensively in various WWE media, which included their home videos, superstars intros and profiles, and of course, WWE network with programs like all episodes of Mondy Night Nitro, all PPVs and Clash of Champions. They’ve even reintroduced The Great American Bash a decade earlier.

With regards to WWE post-MNW Attitude Era, while it’s true concerning the lacking in domestic competition has reduced choices for audience in the in-ring products unless it’s to above-mentioned failed attempt by then-TNA promotion, one cannot deny that had not been the fall of both ECW & WCW, a new crop of independent promotions and talents may not have emerged at all in my estimation. I must emphasize that, though, rumors and innuendo regarding to “alleged” talent mistreatment since March 2001 is not something I would go in depth to for whatever, as I have never been part of wrestling’s inner circle at all; nor would I care about who should or should not be pushed according to the marks or so-called “insider” like Dave Meltzer. For instance, Marcus Alexander “Buff” Bagwell’s accusations against Jim Ross for his dismissal, constant complaints on John Cena’s performance with certain matches, or the push on Roman Reigns, that are not my concerns. It’s true that certain wrestlers didn’t get the push they thought the promotion should have given, yet they never thought why Mr. Mahon didn’t push them: more those talents moan about why they weren’t being pushed while they weren’t really listened to those who were more experienced, such as Tyler Reks, or Kenny Dykstra (I guess), more likely their career would stay where they are in the near future. Granted, though, personal issues that broiled into arguments and fights in the locker room between superstars and/or management may also affect if and how they got pushed in the long term: Alberto del Patron, CM Punk, and aforementioned Dykstra and Reks. Others like A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe, Drew McIntyre, and Jinder Mahal weren’t necessarily be readied during their first run as Styles and Joe were up-and-coming talents before their extensive stints at TNA, while Mahal and McIntyre flopped during their initial run despite of having potentials to be better. The pro wrestling culture, truth be told, is just as rough, if not tougher than NFL, NHL, or rugby players in both league and union disciplines, not everyone makes it through to stardom. For every Brock Lesnar, Ric Flair, Cena and Randy Orton who became superstars, many more spend their times reflecting what had gone wrong as they performed in the independent scenes. While we, the wrestling fandoms at large, certainly want them to feel the winning attitude, it’s obvious that not everyone of them have that lucky streak, not everyone can shine brightly as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who is now a global entertainment and wrestling superstar, and not every promotion is as lucky and solid as WWE even though some troll-marks would seem to believe otherwise.

That’s my take. So, until next time.

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