WWE – The Monday Night War Vol 2 – Know Your Role (Cert 15)
4 Discs DVD/3 Discs BD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 591 minutes approx.
This comprehensive look into the most successful and exciting period of pro wrestling, the Monday Night War, continues with a look at more of the singular components and major events that contributed to this once in a lifetime phenomenon.
As before the format is sixty minute documentary feature but this time the bonus discussion features the catalyst for this whole movement, Eric Bischoff adding his own candid opinions and his own clarifications. Easy E is often, as you might expect, quite contrary, openly denying and disputing the comments of some (Paul Heyman, Bret Hart, Vince Russo) while showing signs of regret over some of his hastier actions.
Topics range from looking at Chris Jericho, who openly admits he used WCW as a stepping stone to get to WWE, ECW’s indirect contribution to the wars, the women of wrestling, The Rock, The Kliq, celebrity involvement and the ultimate rise and fall of WCW. Since this is a WWE production, even with the candour of the interviewees, the ultimate message that shines through is “WWE Good, WCW Bad” and it takes a hardened psyche not to be brainwashed by such overt propaganda.
The ECW episode is possibly the most fun of the lot purely as it offers a literal alternative to the main WCW/WWE bickering as Paul Heyman and his bunch of misfits (as they refer to themselves) went about their business without paying the least bit attention to what the “Big Two” were doing, while they on the other hand couldn’t help but notice this upstart promotion from Philadelphia.
In his post show comments, Bischoff claims he never saw ECW and thus had no direct intention of raiding Heyman’s talent, saying he made the acquisition deals through Masa Saito of New Japan Pro Wrestling instead. It’s clear from his pointed words that Bischoff has no love lost for Heyman.
When looking back at the Divas from the Attitude Era, the message is that sexualising the woman was the right thing to do in attracting the male viewers, while throwing in the usual token line about how their involvement and interaction with the men “empowered” them. This comes across as insincere when moments later guys like Jerry Lawler gleefully endorse the bikini contests as a fond memory of the era.
That is not to say that the ladies who could wrestle aren’t given their due – Chyna is put over strong, while the Trish vs. Lita rivalry is highlighted but we are never short of a reminder that “these girls were hot”. In retrospect seeing the Godfather and his Ho Train makes one appreciate the current “Divas Revolution” even more.
One of the more fascinating subjects is the rise of wrestling’s mainstream presence during this era which saw both sides capitalise on celebrity endorsements and ultimately their in-ring contributions. Dennis Rodman is heavily praised for his efforts (despite the fact he actually FELL ASLEEP during this match at Bash At The Beach in 1998) while everyone now agrees in hindsight that Jay Leno was a bad idea.
The infamous David Arquette WCW World Title reign is investigated with even Arquette himself saying he didn’t want to be champ but the idea of helping WCW get mainstream attention won him over. To this day, Vince Russo says he has no regrets about it while everybody else saw it as the ultimate slap in the face for the business and the death knell for WCW.
Speaking of Russo he becomes a huge focus in the episode detailing the fall of WCW, and while admits it was a failure, Russo blames everyone else for not understanding and supporting his vision. While Russo has a litany of horrific ideas and controversies to his credit the one which gets the most attention is the infamous Bash At The Beach 2000 debacle.
As detailed here, Russo had booked the PPV in which Hogan would lose in his title bid against Jeff Jarrett. Hogan – supposedly using his creative control powers for the first time in his six years with WCW (yeah right!) – insisted he should win the belt instead. N impasse was reached so Russo ordered Jarrett to lay down, let Hogan pin him then let him go on his way, while Jarrett faced Booker T later in the show.
Needless to say it didn’t end well and both sides are blaming each other, with Bischoff siding naturally with Hogan. To play Devil’s Advocate, how, in the midst of a youth movement in WCW, does it make any sense to put the World Title on a man closing in on 50 years old whose drawing power had diminished? That is why the Radicalz quit as did the audiences!
Anyway, the war was eventually settled in March 2001 when Vince McMahon bought WCW for a pittance and he has crowed about it ever since as is the theme her. We get a look at the ill-fated Invasion angle to close this series (ECW’s contribution is oddly omitted from this) the failure of which was blamed on WCW not having any big names and nothing to do with it being a Vince vs. the McKids feud rather than WWF vs. WCW.
Similar mendacity is manifest in the constant insistence that Vince’s “forte” (per Jerry Lawler) is his ability to adapt and create new stars rather than relying on the same old faces. One look at the WWE product in 2015 suggests otherwise, but hey, this is Vince’s show so who cares about the facts?
Regardless of how myopic the overall tone is in relating the history of this fruitful and groundbreaking period in wrestling, this series does a great job in reviving memories for those of us who were there while providing a suitably in depth retrospective for younger fans watching for the first time.
Economy with the truth aside, The Monday Night War one of the more revealing, frank and engrossing releases from the WWE and deserves to be in any true wrestling fan’s DVD collection.
English SDH Subtitles
WWF LiveWire – October 5th 1996 – Paul Heyman Calls Into The Show
WCW Press Conference – June 1994 – Hulk Hogan WCW Contract Signing Parade
Post Wrestlemania XIV Press Conference – March 29th 1998 – Stone Cold Steve Austin and Mike Tyson Q&A
Bash At The Beach Press conference – June 18th 1998 – Denis Rodman & Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs. Karl Malone & DDP Contract Signing
WCW Monday Nitro – February 7th 2000 – Scott Steiner Thinks WCW Sucks
ECW On TNN – April 14th 2000 – ECW World Title Match – Mike Awesome (c) vs. Tazz
Rating – **** ½
Man In Black