WWE – The Monday Night War Vol 1 – Shots Fired (Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD/BD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 620 minutes approx.
“History is written by the winners” is a phrase that has never been more applicable to a project than the Monday Night Wars. As part of the WWE Network, this topic was revived (there was a DVD in 2004) for a twenty part series taking an in depth look into this famous period of wrestling history, with this release containing the first ten chapters, along with bonus discussions featuring Triple H and Sting, hosted by Renee Young.
The format is standalone episodes looking at one specific element of the Monday Night War, rather than a chronological look at the unfolding events. Originally broadcast on a weekly basis this means there is a lot of repetition of key clips and pertinent narration, so you will intimately familiar with the basics of this story in no time.
The list of contributors represent those that were involved – including: Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan, Triple H, Eric Bischoff, Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Booker T, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Kevin Sullivan, Vince Russo, Chris Jericho, Mick Foley – and those who were fans at the time: Daniel Bryan, John Cena, Kofi Kingston, Natalya, The Miz, Jack Swagger, Ryback, Wade Barrett and erm…CM Punk!
What is amusing about these interviews in that many are from the archives so we see Daniel Bryan with short hair and light beard in one clip then full shaggy beard and long hair in the next, while Kevin Nash goes from dyed hair to grey hair!
Perhaps more disconcerting than hearing the narrator say the stupid term “S****ts E***********t” despite everyone else saying “wrestling”, is the mendacious revisionist history presented here, with readily available facts either omitted, distorted or ignored in order to appease the ego of the eventful winner (WWE of course).
The story begins with a brief history of WCW and how they came to challenge the then WWF on a Monday night, and already we have our first example of Vince McMahon being economical with the truth WWF programming appearing on Turner’s TBS network. Vince complains that Turner wanted to end their contract “for some reason”. Actually there was a very good reason.
NWA promotion Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) was the top ratings draw on TBS and in 1984 Vince wanted GCW’s Saturday night 6:05pm slot. When GCW co-owner Ole Anderson turned Vince’s offer of a sale down McMahon went behind Anderson’s back and bought out his GCW co-owners, Jim Barnett and Jack and Gerry Brisco, to get controlling ownership of the company and the TV slot. However when WWF’s show debuted – now known as Black Saturday – the fans hated it, causing a huge drop in ratings.
After fans demanded their NWA wrestling back, Turner gave Bill Watts’s Mid South Wrestling a morning timeslot which vastly outdrew WWF’s show and upset with not being the only wresting show on the network, Vince eventually sold the evening timeslot to Jim Crockett Promotions, who Turner bought in 1988 and renamed World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Of course Vince isn’t going to admit any of this on his own programme but whitewashing it isn’t the answer either.
From here we go through how WCW was badly managed until Eric Bischoff took over the reins in 1993, his first big move being to sign Hulk Hogan a year later which saw a reversal of fortunes for the first time in the company’s existence. This is another issue about this title – with the WWE having distanced themselves from Hogan due to his litany of current public embarrassments, the timing of this release, in which Hogan features heavily, is unfortunate.
From here the rest of the story is familiar – WWF stars like Randy Savage, Jim Duggan, Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan all jumping ship to WCW, the creation of Monday Nitro to challenge WWF’s Monday Night RAW head-to-head and via dirty tricks and a re-energised product, eventually winning the ratings war. WWE is very open about their product becoming stale and the gimmicks passé but the real blow was the defection of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to WCW and the subsequent formation of the nWo.
Again the complaints of talent jumping ship to WCW are risible when you consider Vince did the exact same thing in 1984 when taking the WWF national, luring top talent away from the AWA – including his future franchise player Hulk Hogan! But we’re not supposed to remember that.
With Nitro and WCW now on top, WWF had to fight back and Vince is forced to update his product by creating new stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, DX and Mick Foley. However he ended up alienating and older and loyal one in Bret Hart and when Vince couldn’t honour the twenty-year contract he signed Bret to in 1996, he allowed Hart to negotiate with WCW. We all know what happened next…
It’s ironic how the importance of making new stars is an abundantly repeated factor in the WWF’s resurgence against WCW’s reliance on the same tired old faces and storylines, and how the company listens to the fans, when this is the one thing Vince has been unable (unwilling maybe?) to do with his current stale product. As the saying goes, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it…
Individual players get their own chapter including Austin, nWo, DX (natch), Bret Hart, Goldberg, Mick Foley and a joint one featuring Undertaker and Sting, reflecting on the two mainstays of their respective promotions. Even the cruiserweights get a moment in the spotlight although one person in particular has understandably been airbrushed out of the picture for the most part.
Perhaps it is a little churlish to be so hung up on the biased tone and twisting of the facts but if you know the real story this abuse becomes glaring. That said this is one of the most comprehensive and remarkably candid documentaries the WWE has produced.
For those of us that were there this is a great trip down memory from both perspectives, giving us a chance to relive the best and worst of these six historical years in wrestling. While it might be a slightly unbalanced retelling of history newer fans will get a decent taster of what it was like to be a wrestling fan curiously and eagerly switching between TV channels twenty years ago!
English SDH Subtitles
WCW Monday Nitro – September 4th 1995 – Hulk Hogan vs. Big Bubba Rogers
WWF Monday Night RAW January 4th 1999 – WWF World Tile No DQ Match – The Rock (c) vs. Mankind
WCW Monday Nitro – September 22nd 1997 – Goldberg vs. Hugh Morris
WCW Press Conference – August 14th 1995 – The Announcement of Monday Nitro
WCW Monday Nitro Announcement Promos
A Montreal Conspiracy
DX Invasion – “Raw Footage”
Rating – **** ½
Man In Black