Monday Night Wars
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Monday Night War(s) is the common term describing the period of mainstream televised American professional wrestling from September 4, 1995, to March 26, 2001. During this time, the World Wrestling Federation's (WWF) Monday Night Raw went head-to-head with World Championship Wrestling's (WCW) Monday Nitro in a battle for Nielsen ratings each week.
The ratings war was part of a larger overall struggle between the two companies, which included the use of cutthroat tactics and the legitimate defections of several wrestlers and writers between the two companies. Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), while not a party to the ratings battle, was also involved as a tertiary player. It ended with the sale of WCW's assets by its parent company, AOL Time Warner, to World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Before the Wars
- 1.2 The Monday Night Wars begin
- 1.3 The end of the Wars
- 2 Aftermath
- 3 Legacy
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
Before the Wars
1980–1987: Cable television
By the early 1980s, cable television was rising and one genre of programming responsible for this was professional wrestling, which was relatively cheap to produce and scored high ratings. When Atlanta TV station WTCG (now WTBS) became a superstation by the late 1970s, its Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) program reached a national audience. Though based in Atlanta, the company also ran live wrestling shows throughout its geographic "territory" of Georgia (the American professional wrestling industry was a patchwork of self-contained, regional and sub-regional companies—there was no single, nationwide promotion at the time). GCW was affiliated with what had been the world's top sanctioning body of championship titles for decades before, the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA).
The company's TV show, hosted by Gordon Solie, was recorded in one of WTBS' studios at 1050 Techwood Drive, in downtown Atlanta. Shows were taped before a small (yet enthusiastic), live, in-studio audience, as were most professional wrestling TV shows of that era. They featured wrestling matches, plus melodramatic monologues and inter-character confrontations, similar to the programming offered by other territories, including the Northeast-based WWF. GCW's show, which aired on Saturday evenings, was complemented by a Sunday evening edition. Jack and Gerald Brisco had major stakes in the organization, while Ole Anderson was head booker and was basically in charge of operations.
In 1983, the WWF started its own cable show called WWF All American Wrestling, airing Sunday mornings on the USA Network. Later that year, the WWF debuted a second cable show, also on USA, called Tuesday Night Titans (TNT), a talk show spoof hosted by Vince McMahon (also the WWF owner) and Lord Alfred Hayes.
While still running steadily, both Briscos sold their entire stock in GCW (including the TV deal) to Vince McMahon, and on July 14, 1984 (otherwise known as "Black Saturday"), the WWF took over the GCW slot (by this time, GCW's TV show was entitled World Championship Wrestling). With this move, McMahon controlled all nationally-televised wrestling in the United States. However, the WWF show on TBS was a ratings disaster as GCW fans, disliking the cartoonish characters and storylines of the WWF, simply turned off their television sets. Two weeks after Black Saturday, TBS debuted the show of a successor promotion to GCW created by holdout shareholders, Championship Wrestling from Georgia, albeit on early Saturday mornings.
Moreover, despite originally promising to produce original programming for the TBS time slot in Atlanta, McMahon chose instead to provide only a clip show for TBS, featuring highlights from other WWF programming as well as matches from house shows at Madison Square Garden, Boston Garden, and other major arenas. This format would eventually be the cornerstone of the WWF Prime Time Wrestling (PTW) program. In May 1985, McMahon sold the TBS time slot to another Southern-based and NWA-affiliated wrestling company, Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP), under heavy pressure from Ted Turner. This set up a rivalry between McMahon and Turner that would continue for 16 years.
That same year, PTW replaced TNT on USA Network, which expanded to two hours the format of the WWF's WTBS program. The most-remembered Prime Time format featured Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon introducing taped matches and analyzing them afterward, with Monsoon taking a neutral/babyface position and Heenan unashamedly cheering on the heels. The chemistry between Monsoon and Heenan made this show popular with fans for many years despite the fact it was not considered one of the WWF's "primary" shows for most of its history, and many other wrestling programs attempted to copy this formula, with varying degrees of success.
1987–1993: Scheduling conflicts and Monday Night Raw
During a span of five months between November 1987 and March 1988, a bitter event-scheduling war broke out between Vince McMahon and Jim Crockett, Jr., the owner of JCP. Throughout the 1980s, Crockett had steadily bought out other NWA-affiliated promotions in an attempt to make his organization a national one similar to the WWF. As a result, the term "NWA" became virtually synonymous with JCP. On Thanksgiving night 1987, McMahon's WWF aired Survivor Series on pay-per-view (PPV) against the NWA's Starrcade, which Crockett marketed as the NWA's answer to WrestleMania. However, many cable companies could only offer one live PPV event at a time. The WWF then threatened that any cable company that chose not to carry Survivor Series would not carry any WWF PPV events sixty days before and twenty-one days after the show. Therefore, the WWF PPV was cleared 10–1 over Starrcade, as only three cable companies opted to remain loyal to their contract with Crockett.
After this incident, the PPV industry warned McMahon not to schedule PPV events simultaneously with the NWA again. However, he was still not willing to fully cooperate with Crockett. On January 24, 1988, another scheduling conflict took place between the WWF and NWA: the NWA presented the Bunkhouse Stampede on PPV, while the WWF aired the Royal Rumble for free on the USA Network. Later that year, with the WWF's WrestleMania IV around the corner, Crockett decided to use McMahon's own tactics against him, developing his own PPV-caliber event and airing it for free on TBS opposite WrestleMania. The result was the Clash of Champions, which was later renamed Clash of the Champions. On March 27, 1988 – the same night as WrestleMania IV – the first Clash of Champions aired. This show made Sting a star after he wrestled NWA World Champion Ric Flair to a 45-minute draw. The NWA repeated the practice again the following year, with a Clash coinciding with the WWF's WrestleMania V. Although the main event of the Clash saw NWA World Champion Ricky Steamboat defeat Flair in a best-of-three-falls match that lasted for almost an hour, ratings and attendance for the event fell well below expectations compared to WrestleMania V. Thus, the practice of conflicting major events would cease for six years.
By 1988, Crockett's acquisition spree had severely drained his coffers. As a result, he was forced to sell his company to Ted Turner, whose TBS aired JCP television programs. Turner renamed the company Universal Wrestling Corporation (which was founded on October 11, 1988) and then later, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) after the popular former GCW show; it remained affiliated with the NWA until it seceded in 1993.
As 1993 began, Prime Time Wrestling was struggling in the ratings and was cancelled by USA. The show that succeeded it, Monday Night Raw, changed how wrestling on cable TV would be presented. The WWF decided that it should use its cable time as a showcase for original matches and storylines that would serve as the major build-up to the quarterly pay-per-view broadcasts. The original Raw broke new ground in televised professional wrestling. Traditionally, wrestling shows were taped on sound stages with small audiences or at large arena shows. The Raw formula was very different than that of its predecessor, Prime Time Wrestling: instead of taped matches, with studio voice-overs and taped chat, Raw was a show shot to a live audience, with storylines unfolding as they happened. The first episode featured Yokozuna defeating Koko B. Ware, The Steiner Brothers defeating The Executioners; WWF Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels defeating Max Moon; and The Undertaker defeating Damien Demento. The show also featured an interview with Razor Ramon.
Raw originated from The Grand Ballroom at Manhattan Center Studios, a small New York City theater, and aired live each week. The combination of an intimate venue and live action proved highly successful. However, the weekly live schedule became a financial drain on the WWF, and the company began taping shows; sometimes up to a month's worth of shows were taped at a time.
1993–1994: Eric Bischoff enters WCW
In the same year as the premiere of Monday Night Raw, WCW promoted former commentator and American Wrestling Association (AWA) announcer/sales associate Eric Bischoff to the position of Executive Vice President. During Bischoff's first year at the top of WCW, bookers Ole Anderson and Dusty Rhodes concocted cartoonish, unbelievable, and poorly built-up storylines (such as the "Lost in Cleveland" amnesia storyline involving Cactus Jack and the B-style "White Castle of Fear" and beach mini-movies used to build up the SuperBrawl III and Beach Blast PPV events respectively). The summer of 1993 saw Ric Flair return to WCW after his WWF tenure, but since Flair was constrained by a no-compete clause from his WWF contract, WCW gave him a talk show segment on its television shows called A Flair for the Gold. At Slamboree 1993, WCW promised a Four Horsemen reunion, but former WWF superstar Paul Roma replaced Tully Blanchard, who failed a drug test prior to leaving the WWF, resulting in WCW rescinding their offer for Blanchard to join the company. Ole Anderson was part of the group as an advisor, but made only one appearance on A Flair for the Gold.
In another infamous incident that took place during A Flair For the Gold on a live Clash of the Champions building up the Fall Brawl pay-per-view, WCW decided to introduce a "mystery partner" for the babyfaces, a masked man known as The Shockmaster. The Shockmaster was supposed to crash through a fake wall and intimidate the heels. However, he tripped through the wall, fell on live television, and briefly knocked off his helmet. That same year, WCW began taping matches months in advance for syndicated programming like WCW WorldWide from the Disney/MGM Studios in what would become known as the "Disney Tapings". Because the footage recorded would often be shown on television months later, the tapings often exposed bookings and storylines well in advance. WCW was usually forced to have wrestlers appear with title belts before they had won them in regards to the current storyline. This was regarded as a major breach of kayfabe at the time, and ultimately led to WCW's departure from the NWA in September 1993.
By the end of the year, WCW decided to once again base the promotion around Ric Flair. This was seen as more or less a necessity, as prospective top babyface Sid Vicious was involved in a legitimate altercation with fellow wrestler Arn Anderson in which Vicious attacked Anderson with a pair of scissors (both wrestlers involved were injured in the end) four weeks before Starrcade while on tour in England, and was fired. Before the Sid/Arn incident, several weeks of syndicated programming had been taped with Vicious as WCW World Heavyweight Champion. He had been scheduled to defeat Big Van Vader for the title at Starrcade 1993, and the taped footage would have begun airing in early 1994, but the program was scrapped after Sid's attack on Anderson. Flair won the title at Starrcade and was once again made booker.
In 1994, Bischoff declared open war on McMahon's WWF and aggressively recruited high-profile former WWF wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, using Turner's funds. Because of their high profiles, Hogan and Savage were able to demand and get several concessions not usually allowed to wrestlers at the time, such as multi-year, multi-million dollar guaranteed contracts and significant creative control over their characters. This would later become a problem during subsequent years of competition with the WWF, as other wrestlers were able to make similar demands, and contract values soared out of control. Hogan, in particular, was able to gain considerable influence through a friendship with Bischoff.
WCW's first major pay-per-view event since Hogan's hiring, Bash at the Beach, saw Hogan defeat Ric Flair for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. The two had worked for the WWF at the same time from 1991 to 1992, and a feud was teased between them, but the big-money match originally planned for WrestleMania VIII was changed to Flair/Savage and Hogan/Sid. When WCW delivered the match, the PPV drew a high buy rate by WCW standards. Despite being a critical and financial success, the glory would not last long as the Hogan/Flair feud was only a one-off match and the hoped-for long-term effects on PPV buy rates and ratings did not materialize.
1994: Extreme Championship Wrestling
Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) had its origins in 1991 as the Tri-State Wrestling Alliance, owned by Joel Goodhart. In 1992, Goodhart sold his share of the company to his partner, Tod Gordon, who renamed the promotion Eastern Championship Wrestling. When Eastern Championship Wrestling was founded, it was a member of the NWA, and "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert was its head booker. After a falling-out with Gordon, Gilbert was replaced in September 1993 by Paul Heyman (known on television as Paul E. Dangerously), who had just left WCW and was looking for a new challenge. In contrast to professional wrestling of the time, which was marketed more towards families, Eastern Championship Wrestling was geared more toward adults and fans who craved a more athletic and violent wrestling product. Its eventual successor, Extreme Championship Wrestling, aimed its product at males between 18 to 35, breaking a few taboos in professional wrestling such as blading. Heyman saw ECW as the professional wrestling equivalent to the grunge music movement of the early 1990s, and focused on taking the company in a new direction.
In 1994, Jim Crockett's non-compete agreement with Ted Turner, to whom he had sold in 1988, expired and he decided to start promoting with the NWA again. Crockett went to Gordon and asked him to hold a tournament for the NWA's top prize, the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, in ECW's home city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 27, 1994. NWA President Dennis Coralluzzo alleged that Crockett and Gordon were attempting to monopolize the title (akin to Crockett's actions in the 1980s), and stated Crockett did not have the NWA board's approval, which resulted in Coralluzzo personally overseeing the tournament. Gordon took offense at Coralluzzo for his power plays and began contemplating a plan to secede ECW from the NWA in a controversial and public manner that would attract attention to ECW and insult the NWA organization. Gordon and Heyman planned to have Shane Douglas, who was scheduled to face 2 Cold Scorpio in the tournament finals, throw down the NWA World Heavyweight Championship upon winning it as an act of defiance.
Heyman pitched the plan to Douglas, noting that the only negative would be that NWA traditionalists would just see them as traitors to tradition. Additionally, there was animosity between Douglas and Coralluzzo, who had publicly criticized Douglas and advised NWA-affiliated bookers not to schedule him for shows, as he believed Douglas was a "bad risk" and had the tendency to not appear at shows he was scheduled to wrestle at. Douglas ultimately decided to go through with Gordon and Heyman's plan, inspired by his father's motto of "doing right by the people that do right by you." He threw down the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, stating that he did not want to be champion of a "dead promotion." He then raised the Eastern Championship Wrestling title and declared it to be a World Heavyweight Championship, calling it the only real world title left in professional wrestling. When recalling this event years later, Paul Heyman stated the following:
|“||The National Wrestling Alliance was old-school when old-school wasn't hip anymore. We wanted to set our mark, we wanted to breakaway from the pack, we wanted to let the world know that we weren't just some independent promotion.||”|
With this event, Eastern Championship Wrestling seceded from the NWA and became Extreme Championship Wrestling. The revamped promotion's unorthodox style and controversial storylines made it popular among fans in the 18- to 35-year-old male demographic. It showcased many different styles of professional wrestling, popularizing hardcore wrestling matches as well as lucha libre and Japanese wrestling styles. ECW was promoted as counterculture and a grittier alternative to multi-million dollar organizations such as the WWF and WCW.
The Monday Night Wars begin
1995–1996: The debut of WCW Monday Nitro
WCW Monday Nitro premiered on September 4, 1995 as an hour-long weekly show, and Bischoff was instrumental in the launching of the show. During their mid-1995 meeting, Turner asked Bischoff how WCW could compete with McMahon's WWF. Bischoff, not expecting Turner to comply, said that the only way would be a prime-time slot on a weekday night, possibly up against WWF's flagship show Monday Night Raw. Surprisingly for Bischoff, Turner granted him one live hour on TNT every Monday night, which specifically overlapped with Raw. This format expanded to two live hours in May 1996 and later three. Bischoff himself was initially the host; he handled the first hour along with Bobby Heenan and former NFL football player Steve "Mongo" McMichael, with Tony Schiavone and Larry Zbyszko hosting the second. Other co-hosts included Mike Tenay (usually for matches involving cruiserweights or international stars), Scott Hudson, and Mark Madden.
The initial broadcast of Nitro also featured the return of Lex Luger to WCW. Luger had worked for the company from 1987 to 1992, when it was still affiliated with the NWA, before joining the WWF the following year. WCW's coup of obtaining Luger was significant for several reasons. Because Nitro was live at the time, premiering major stars on the show would signal to the fans the amount of excitement the broadcasts would contain. Secondly, Luger had just come off a successful run in the WWF and was one of the company's top stars. In fact, he had been in line to get the WWF World Title (he had had several previous title matches), and worked a WWF house show the night before. Since nobody but Bischoff and Luger's good friend Sting knew that Luger would return to WCW, the shock value generated by his appearance was great. Thirdly, Luger's defection created speculation among fans as to which other big-name stars would "jump ship". Notably, Luger would be followed by former WWF Women's Champion Alundra Blayze, who appeared with the WWF Women's championship belt on the December 18, 1995 edition of Nitro and insulted her former employers before throwing the belt in the garbage.
Raw and Nitro traded wins in the "Monday Night Wars" early on, but WWE has conceded that by December 1995 "WCW had the advantage over WWE in the storied Monday Night War". Nitro began airing a weekly segment entitled Where the Big Boys Play! composed of stock footage of matches featuring current WWF wrestlers who had started their careers as jobbers in WCW, all of which ended in the WWF wrestler suffering a humiliating loss. Bischoff also began to give away the results of Raw matches on Nitro, as Raw was usually taped a week prior to airing. These moves prompted retaliatory tactics by the WWF; in January 1996, Raw began airing skits before and after commercial breaks entitled Billionaire Ted's Wrasslin' Warroom, depicting parodies of Ted Turner ("Billionaire Ted"), Hulk Hogan ("The Huckster"), Randy Savage ("The Nacho Man"), and Gene Okerlund ("Scheme Gene"). While the material involving Hogan and Savage usually poked fun at their old ages, the skits aimed at Turner were decidedly more inflammatory in nature and contained material that could have been considered slanderous. The sketches stopped airing on the USA Network at the request of network president Kay Koplovitz, and were ended permanently in a short presented before WrestleMania XII, which killed off all the characters.
WrestleMania XII also began a brief turning point for the WWF, after which Raw would overtake Nitro for two consecutive months. The event saw the return of 1980s fan favorite Roddy Piper, who made a face turn to fight Goldust. Another 1980s fan favorite returning that evening was The Ultimate Warrior, who would go on to enjoy a brief revival in popularity. The main event, a heavily promoted match between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart that lasted for more than an hour, launched Michaels' popularity in addition to marking the beginning of Hart's decline with the organization, both backstage and in the ring.
1996–1997: WCW and the New World Order
WCW was about to gain the upper hand again and retain it for an extended period of time. On the Memorial Day 1996 edition of Nitro, Scott Hall, who had competed in the WWF as "Razor Ramon" and had just signed with WCW, interrupted a match and challenged the best WCW wrestlers to stand up and defend the company against the onslaught of Hall and his companions. Though Hall was employed by WCW, the storyline implied that he was in fact a WWF employee and that his presence represented an invasion by the rival promotion.
Two weeks later, the second WWF defector, former WWF Champion Kevin Nash (who had wrestled as Diesel), appeared on Nitro. Hall and Nash were dubbed "The Outsiders," and would show up unexpectedly during Nitro broadcasts, usually jumping wrestlers backstage, distracting wrestlers by standing in the entranceways of arenas, or walking around in the audience. A week later, they announced the forthcoming appearance of a mysterious third member of their group. At Bash at the Beach, Hall and Nash were scheduled to team with their mystery partner against Lex Luger, Randy Savage, and Sting. At the onset of the match, Hall and Nash came out without a third man, telling Okerlund that he was "in the building," but that they did not need him yet. Shortly into the match, a Stinger Splash resulted in Luger being crushed behind Nash and being taken away on a stretcher, turning the match into The Outsiders vs. Sting and Savage.
Hall and Nash were in control of the match when Hulk Hogan came to the ring. After standing off with them, he attacked Savage, showing himself to be the Outsiders' mysterious third man and thus turning heel. In a post-match interview, Hogan christened his alliance with Hall and Nash as the New World Order (nWo). Hogan's statements, which broke with his earlier face persona, inspired enough vitriol in the audience that they began to pelt the ring with debris: A wayward beer bottle broke Okerlund's nose, and one fan jumped the security railing and attempted to attack Hogan.
The following evening on Nitro, most of WCW's top stars gave interviews, expressing their feelings of betrayal and disappointment with Hogan's actions. The ensuing storyline, in which the nWo waged a campaign of anarchy against WCW, blurred the lines between reality and scripted entertainment, a unique presentation that acknowledged fans' growing awareness of backstage wrestling politics and kayfabe. Another aspect that helped WCW grow was the introduction of young exciting cruiserweight wrestlers like Rey Mysterio Jr, Chris Jericho, and Eddie Guerrero. WCW and the nWo, continued to grow in popularity, and for the next 84 consecutive weeks Nitro beat Raw in the ratings.
At the outset of the storyline, the WWF filed a lawsuit against WCW, alleging that WCW was illegally representing the nWo as a WWF affiliate and that Hall's persona was too close to his "Razor Ramon" character (itself a parody of Al Pacino's character in Scarface), to which the WWF retained the rights. WCW countered that in June, Hall and Nash had emphatically stated on-camera that they were no longer WWF employees, and that Hall's current persona was in fact a reworking of his previous WCW character, The Diamond Studd. The lawsuit dragged on for several years, culminating in the WWF agreeing to drop the suit in exchange for the right to bid on WCW properties should they ever come up for liquidation.
1996–1997: WWF struggles
Raw, and the WWF in general, was considered to be at a creative nadir before Nitro started. Into the early 1990s, the WWF had continued the creative formula that had given the company success in the 1980s: clear-cut face vs. heel storylines, colorful wrestlers with themed gimmicks, and alluring female valets who nonetheless maintained a "PG-13" level of sex appeal. Although the formula had been popular during the MTV-fueled "rock n' wrestling" era of the 1980s, fans in the 1990s began to gravitate towards more morally ambiguous characters, wrestlers whose personas were more grounded in reality, and metafiction storylines that acknowledged their awareness of backstage politics via the use of the Internet. With the introduction of the nWo, the June 10, 1996, episode of Raw would be the last ratings victory for the WWF for nearly two years.
On the November 4, 1996 episode of Raw, the WWF aired the infamous "Pillman's Got a Gun" angle involving Stone Cold Steve Austin and Brian Pillman, two former friends who were feuding with each other. In a series of vignettes broadcast from Pillman's real-life home in Newport, Kentucky, Pillman – supposedly debilitated following an attack by Austin – vowed to protect himself and his wife with the help of a group of friends should Austin appear. At the end of the evening, the final vignette depicted Austin breaking into Pillman's home, prompting Pillman to pull a 9mm Glock on Austin, and the feed being "interrupted" in the ensuing chaos, with Vince McMahon (serving as a commentator) stating that he had been informed of "a couple explosions." When the feed resumed, Austin was shown being dragged out of Pillman's house as Pillman screamed, "That son of a bitch has got this coming! Let him go! I'm going to kill that son of a bitch! Get out of the fucking way!" None of the profanity was censored.
The angle polarized fans and shocked the USA Network, which was not accustomed to airing a program with the profanity and level of violence presented in the vignettes. Although the WWF (and Pillman himself) were forced to issue apologies to avoid Raw being canceled for breach of contract, the ensuing discussion of the incident in the fan community generated the most attention the WWF had received since the beginning of the Monday Night Wars. This prompted the WWF creative team to begin looking into the idea of more adult-oriented storylines and characters and mimicking WCW's metafiction elements. On February 3, 1997, Monday Night Raw changed to a two-hour format. In an attempt to break the momentum of Nitro, the WWF entered into a cross-promotional agreement with ECW. Raw commentator Jerry Lawler insulted and "challenged" ECW on the show's February 17 episode, and in the weeks to come, several ECW wrestlers appeared on Raw in a story arc similar to the nWo storyline playing out in WCW, with the WWF pursuing the "renegade" ECW. On March 10, 1997, Raw was officially renamed Raw Is War in reference to the ongoing ratings battle.
Throughout 1997, Raw Is War began to become more and more controversial. Storyline elements included racist graffiti targeted at the Nation of Domination (a stable loosely based on the Nation of Islam), drinking beer on camera by Stone Cold Steve Austin, and emphasizing the sexuality of valets Sunny, Sable, and Marlena. These women began appearing on-camera in increasingly revealing clothing and in swimsuit and lingerie-oriented spreads in WWF's Raw magazine, a lad mag designed as an alternative to the family-friendly WWF Magazine and a competitor to the likewise family-friendly WCW Magazine. Although these elements helped to garner the WWF more attention than it had enjoyed in the wake of the nWo storyline, the injury of Steve Austin at the SummerSlam pay-per-view, which put him out of action for three months, proved to be a severe blow to Raw Is War's popularity.
1997: The Montreal Screwjob
The main storyline that dominated the WWF throughout 1997, was that of Bret Hart turning heel. Hart had been the arguably the most popular superstar on the WWF roster since winning the WWF Championship from Ric Flair in 1992. After losing the title to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII, Hart took a hiatus from the WWF, returning in late 1996 after signing a long term contract. However, the fans began to sour on Hart and his upstanding character, and would often give reality-blurring interviews on how Vince McMahon screwed him (up to that point, McMahon was only known as an announcer to the general public.) At WrestleMania 13, Hart officially turned into an anti-American, heel (although he was still cheered as a face in other countries, particularly his native Canada.
In October 1997, Hart, who had been one of the few consistent mainstays of the WWF throughout the 1980s and 1990s, signed a contract with the WCW. Hart, at the time the WWF champion, wanted to part ways with the WWF amicably, and had agreed to vacate the title following a farewell speech on a broadcast of Raw Is War. Although McMahon agreed to the arrangement, he later decided to renege on the deal and have Hart unwittingly lose his final match in the WWF at the 1997 Survivor Series, to real-life rival Shawn Michaels. The incident—which took place in Hart's home country of Canada—became known as the Montreal Screwjob, and inspired the documentary film Wrestling with Shadows.
It shook WWF wrestlers' faith in their own company, resulting in a near strike the following evening; Hart himself (who assaulted McMahon in his dressing room later that evening) prevented a walk-out by asking his former coworkers not to risk their careers for his sake. Rick Rude, a wrestler who had been popular amongst both fans and his fellow wrestlers during the 1980s and who had recently made a comeback in the WWF, left the company as a result of the incident and followed Hart to the WCW. Rude would debut in the WCW on a live broadcast of Nitro to insult the WWF for its treatment of Hart the same night that he appeared on a taped edition of Raw Is War. Hart's brother, Owen, likewise attempted to quit the WWF, citing a knee injury, but was unable to get out of his contract.
Hart's departure would ultimately turn the tide of the "Monday Night Wars." With Hart now on the WCW roster, Nitro boasted the most well-known names in wrestling; the WCW had also been highlighting new talent, with up-and-coming stars such as Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero. Additionally, the WCW had also taken advantage of the popularity of wrestling amongst Hispanic, Latin American, and Asian fans by introducing a cruiserweight division, largely made up of stars from Mexico, Central America, and Japan, who performed the acrobatically-based wrestling maneuvers popular in their home countries.
WCW's Starrcade pay-per-view in Washington, D.C. drew WCW's highest buyrate to that date, including the highly anticipated main-event of Hulk Hogan vs. Sting. A match that fans had been waiting to see since Sting first appeared as the leader of an anti-nWo faction a year before. The ending to the match—which saw Bret Hart making his WCW debut to accuse the referee of corruption, making himself the referee, and awarding the championship belt to Sting, only for the belt to be stripped on a technicality—was seen as an anticlimactic finish to an event fans had awaited, and the numerous reversals and technicalities employed to further the storyline were received as confusing and convoluted.
1997–1998: WWF enters The Attitude Era
Despite losing to Nitro week after week, Raw Is War rallied in the ratings when it introduced its new "WWF Attitude" concept, in which the family friendly and clear-cut face vs. heel dynamic of the 1980s and early 90s was jettisoned in favor of morally ambiguous wrestlers and adult oriented, often heavily sexualized storylines. The concept was spearheaded by McMahon along with head WWF writer Vince Russo, who changed the way wrestling television was written and constructed. Russo's booking style was often referred to as "Crash TV": Matches were shortened in favor of story-building backstage vignettes, with an emphasis on shock factor. Like the WCW's nWo storyline, the WWF began to blur the line between real life and kayfabe: Vince McMahon, taking advantage of fans' genuine dislike for him following the Montreal Screwjob, recast himself as the evil Mr. McMahon. This presentation both mimicked Nitro's "Anything can happen" atmosphere, and acknowledged the growing phenomenon of "smarks," wrestling fans who used the Internet to gain a wide base of knowledge on the real-life, backstage workings of the industry.
Many other wrestlers' personas were retooled, and wrestlers who had been growing in popularity were given pushes. Mick Foley, who had been wrestling as the psychotic heel Mankind, was made into a face after a series of out-of-character interviews documenting Foley's career, the toll it had taken on his body and his marriage, and his youthful ambitions of being a popular wrestler with a hippie persona named Dude Love. Foley alternated characters, variously appearing as Mankind, Dude Love, and his former persona of Cactus Jack. The Rock, who had failed as a babyface character named Rocky Maivia, was recast as an arrogant jock who spouted catch phrases. Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Chyna formed D-Generation X (DX), a rule-breaking, frat boy themed stable of wrestlers who laced their vignettes with sexual innuendo and lewd gestures. Although an injury would cause Michaels to take a four-year hiatus from wrestling, the stable soared in popularity under the leadership of Triple H, who added the New Age Outlaws and Sean Waltman to the group's ranks. Waltman, who was a member of the nWo, had recently left the WCW after wrestling there for several years as Syxx, and returned to the WWF as X-Pac. The Undertaker was also rebranded as a dark cult leader instead of the undead gimmick he had run with previously.
The night after WrestleMania XIV, McMahon began a feud with fan-favorite Stone Cold Steve Austin. The rivalry which was cast as a battle between blue collar redneck Austin and white collar executive McMahon, became one of the defining storylines of the Attitude Era, as each engaged in ever escalating acts of sabotage and violence against the other. On April 13, 1998, an advertised Austin vs. McMahon main event was enough for Raw Is War to finally beat Nitro in the ratings for the first time in nearly two years. Two weeks later, the WWF taunted WCW's slipping ratings by sending members of DX to the Norfolk Scope in Norfolk, Virginia in an attempt to crash a live taping of Nitro. The WWF was in town, filming Raw Is War at the nearby Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia. Earlier in the day, Triple H and other wrestlers appeared outside the arena in military fatigues, challenging Eric Bischoff to come out and face them. The event was videotaped by a WWF camera crew for inclusion on Raw. Raw Is War's ratings began to rise steadily, bringing the "Attitude Era" to its highest point.
1998–1999: WCW struggles
Hoping to counter the McMahon/Austin feud, WCW divided the nWo into the Hulk Hogan-led heel "nWo Hollywood" faction and the Kevin Nash-led face "nWo Wolfpac" faction. Although the Wolfpac proved popular with fans, the overall nWo storyline began to grow stale. Ted Turner decided to expand the brand by introducing a second weekly program WCW Thunder, on his TBS channel. The introduction of Thunder troubled Eric Bischoff, who warned Turner that a second weekly program could potentially result in fan burnout, as viewing both programs would require five hours of viewing time a week.
WCW attempted to regain ratings supremacy by marketing ex-NFL player Bill Goldberg as an invincible monster with a record-breaking streak of 173 consecutive wins. Goldberg proved to be very popular with the fans and enjoyed some crossover success in mainstream popular culture. On July 6, 1998, airing from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia, Nitro defeated Raw Is War in the ratings when Goldberg pinned Hulk Hogan cleanly to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. The match drew a 6.91 rating for the quarter-hour, the highest rating recorded in the ratings war up to that time and over 5 million viewers. However, the decision to stage the match on live cable television was questioned backstage at WCW, as some believed (including Vince McMahon himself) that the match should have been the highlight of a pay-per-view, where it could have generated more revenue. Although Goldberg's "invincible" angle waned slightly, Goldberg's popularity remained consistent until the promotion's demise in 2001.
On August 10, 1998, WCW regained the lead for six weeks. During this time WCW brought in The Ultimate Warrior, who was now known as The Warrior, and then later reformed the Four Horsemen for Ric Flair's television return. WCW's final victory in the Monday Night Wars came on October 26, following the previous night's Halloween Havoc pay-per-view. The episode included a repeat airing of the Halloween Havoc World Title match between Diamond Dallas Page and Goldberg after the original airing exceeded the scheduled 3-hour running time and subscribers lost the feed at 11 pm EST.
During this period, Kevin Nash was widely believed to be in charge of booking shows and giving himself undue attention in the storylines. This reputation of being a power abuser would further damage the company. After winning the World War 3 battle royal in November 1998, with the help of Scott Hall and his stun gun, he ended Goldberg's 173–0 winning streak and won the World Title at Starrcade 1998 the following month. In his defense, Nash claims that he did not take up the booking position until February 1999, two months after his victory over Goldberg. Nash's booking was heavily criticized by fellow wrestlers and fans, including Eddie Guerrero in his autobiography Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story. The newfound emphasis on Nash's character set the stage for the beginning of 1999 and what is widely viewed as the beginning of WCW's decline.
1999–2000: WCW's decline
As 1999 began, both shows were consistently getting 5.0 or higher Nielsen ratings and over ten million people tuned in to watch Raw Is War and Nitro every week. Wrestling gained newfound popularity, as wrestlers made the mainstream media, appearing on magazine covers like Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide, and appearing in commercials. By November 1998, however, the momentum would be in the WWF's favor for the remainder of the war. On January 4, 1999, Nitro broadcast live once again from the Georgia Dome. In the second of three hours (the show had expanded to two hours in 1996 and three in 1998), Eric Bischoff, who had learned of the results of the taped Raw Is War that was set to air that night, ordered announcer Tony Schiavone to make the following statement:
|“||Fans, if you're even thinking about changing the channel to our competition, do not. We understand that Mick Foley, who wrestled here at one time as Cactus Jack, is gonna win their World title. Ha! That's gonna put some butts in the seats, heh.||”|
Although the WWF had acknowledged the title change on their website six days previously, ratings indicated that, immediately after Schiavone's comments, 600,000 people switched channels from Nitro on TNT to Raw Is War on USA Network to see Mankind win the WWF Championship. After Mankind won the title, many fans then switched back to Nitro (which still had five minutes of air time left), suggesting that WCW had a show that the fans wanted to see and might have emerged the victor that night had they not given away the Raw Is War results. The final ratings for the night were 5.7 for Raw Is War and 5.0 for Nitro. During the year following the incident, many WWF fans brought signs to the shows saying "Mick Foley put my butt in this seat".
This Nitro's main event was originally scheduled to be Goldberg vs. Kevin Nash for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and was going to be their anticipated rematch. Goldberg was arrested during mid-show storyline, however, and accused of "aggravated stalking" by Miss Elizabeth. He was released when Elizabeth couldn't keep her story straight. Meanwhile, Hollywood Hogan returned to WCW after a hiatus and challenged Nash to a match, which Nash accepted. This led to the infamous moment which saw Hogan poking Nash in the chest with his finger, nicknamed "Fingerpoke of Doom", causing Nash to lie down for Hogan to win the belt. It led to another heel turn for Hogan and the reformation of the nWo. The credibility of the company, which did not present the match that had been advertised (a Goldberg vs. Nash rematch from Starrcade 1998), was damaged. Despite the incident, WCW would continue this bait and switch tactic of booking until its demise in 2001. This "match" may have started the permanent ratings slide that was to follow for WCW, as Nitro- according to Nielsen ratings numbers listed by TWNPNews.com- only got a 5.0 rating three times afterwards.
Some dispute whether the fingerpoke of doom angle hurt WCW. According to to TWNPNews.com, Nitro's Nielsen ratings on January 11, the week following the incident, once again reached 5.0. During the January 18 episode, however, ratings would fall to 4.4, but would recover to 5.0 the following week. Its 5.7 Nielsen rating on February 8 (on a night when Raw was pre-empted by the Westminster Dog Show) was the last time it would get such a number.
Raw Is War was dominating Nitro to the point where WCW was making "quick fixes" to stem the tide, including hiring rapper Master P, as well as bringing in Megadeth, Chad Brock, and KISS for concerts (all of which flopped in the ratings). On September 10, 1999, Bischoff was removed from power. He states in his autobiography that he intended to resign on the day and when word leaked, they decided to remove him before he could resign. Meanwhile, Raw Is War's numbers continued to rise; a 25-minute long This Is Your Life themed skit between The Rock and Mick Foley drew an 8.4 quarter-hour rating on September 27, 1999. It currently stands as the highest-rated segment in Raw history.
On October 5, 1999, Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara, the head writers of WWF television programs, signed with WCW, and were immediately replaced in the WWF by Chris Kreski. Russo and Ferrara contend that their reasons for leaving the WWF was a dispute with Vince McMahon over the increased workload that they were facing, with the introduction of the new SmackDown! broadcast, an attempt by the WWF to compete with WCW's Thunder broadcast on Thursday nights. However, Russo and Ferrara failed to capture the magic of their WWF days at Nitro, and they became known on-screen as unseen management known as "The Powers That Be". Ferrara even became a parody of Jim Ross, named "Oklahoma", who mocked Ross's Bell's Palsy.
In December 1999, Bret Hart suffered a career-ending concussion during a match with Goldberg at Starrcade. The WCW promotion was entering severe financial and creative lows. Nitro's ratings failed to increase, and in January 2000, both Russo and Ferrara were suspended from the company after they considered putting the WCW World title on Tank Abbott. The subsequent promotion of Kevin Sullivan to head booker caused an uproar among WCW's wrestlers. In spite of winning the WCW title at Souled Out 2000, Chris Benoit quit in protest, along with Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko. All four of them entered the WWF as The Radicalz, premiering on Raw Is War's January 31 episode—15 days after Benoit's title win. Nitro was cut to two hours in January 2000 in an effort to bolster the aggregate ratings score, but the elimination of the third hour did not mean higher ratings for Nitro, which by April averaged around a 2.5 (while Raw Is War drew double, or sometimes triple that amount).
In April 2000, the WCW hired the reigning ECW World Heavyweight Champion Mike Awesome, who left ECW over a contract dispute. His appearance on WCW television led to legal threats from ECW owner Paul Heyman. A compromise was reached which resulted in Awesome losing the title at an ECW event to Tazz, who was formerly of ECW and at the time contracted to the WWF. Tazz would later appear on WWF programming with the title. The WWF used this as a symbolic demonstration of superiority over WCW. On April 10, 2000, Bischoff (now a creative consultant) and Russo, returned with equal power to work as a team and attempted to reboot WCW. Bischoff was allowed back with booking powers, but no longer had control of the company finances like he did in his previous reign. The Millionaire's Club, consisting of WCW's veteran stars such as Hogan, Flair and Diamond Dallas Page, were accused of preventing the younger talent from ascending to main event status and feuded with The New Blood, consisting of WCW's younger stars such as Billy Kidman, Booker T and Buff Bagwell. The New Blood/Millionaire's Club rivalry was aborted before the start of the New Blood Rising pay-per-view, which was supposed to showcase the rivalry. WCW became even more desperate, going as far as placing the WCW World Heavyweight Championship upon actor David Arquette, who was making promotional appearances for WCW's feature film Ready to Rumble.
In 2000, Ted Turner was no longer running the company, which had been purchased by Time Warner in 1996 and AOL in 2000. That year, WCW lost US$62 million, due to guaranteed contracts of their older performers, plummeting advertising revenues, dropping house show attendance, controversial booking decisions (like Arquette and Russo winning the WCW Title), and expensive stunts to boost the dismal ratings and pay-per-view buyrates. Goldberg, arguably the biggest star of the promotion at the time, suffered a self-sustained arm injury during a backstage vignette taping that kept him on the shelf for half the year. Upon his return, his momentum was derailed after turning heel at The Great American Bash, despite being the most popular wrestler in the company. A Fall Brawl pay-per-view commercial was later aired after New Blood Rising, revealing that Goldberg refused to follow the script for his match with Kevin Nash at New Blood Rising, and it also claimed that his match at Fall Brawl with Scott Steiner would have no script.
The end of the Wars
2001: WWF/E, Inc. purchases WCW
In January 2001, Fusient Media Ventures, led by Bischoff, announced that they were going to purchase WCW. The deal was contingent on the Turner networks keeping Nitro on TNT on Monday and Thunder on TBS on Wednesday. When Jamie Kellner took over as CEO of Turner Broadcasting, he removed all WCW programming from the network.
With no national television outlet to air the shows, Fusient dropped their offer to purchase the promotion. The WWF, the only company who would not need the television time slots Kellner had cancelled, then made their offer. On March 23, 2001, all of WCW's trademarks and archived video library, as well as a select 25 contracts, were sold to Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. through its subsidiary WCW Inc. WCW's assets was purchased for $3,000,000. Most of the main event-level stars including Flair, Goldberg, Kevin Nash, and Sting were contracted directly to parent company AOL Time Warner instead of WCW, and thus AOL Time Warner was forced to continue to pay many of the wrestlers for years. The actual WCW entity was reverted to Universal Wrestling Corporation solely to deal with both legal and administrative issues.
TNT did allow a final Nitro show to air from Panama City Beach, Florida which had been scheduled for the following Monday on March 26. McMahon opened the last-ever episode of WCW Monday Nitro with a simulcast with WWF Raw Is War, which aired from Cleveland, Ohio, with a self-praising speech. The final WCW World Heavyweight Championship match for the show and the company saw WCW United States Champion Booker T defeat Scott Steiner to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. The main event featured Sting defeating Ric Flair with the Scorpion Deathlock as a culmination of their trademark feud, then both men embraced one another at the match's conclusion. This was a direct parallel to the very first Nitro. After the Sting/Flair match, Vince appeared on Raw Is War to close Nitro and to declare victory over WCW. Vince's son Shane McMahon then appeared on Nitro, declaring that it was actually he who had bought WCW. This initiated the Invasion storyline that would have Shane's character leading the WCW invasion of the WWF, which lasted from March to November 2001 and marked the end of WCW as a brand. The last Nitro drew a 3.0 rating. The final ratings tally in 269 head-to-head showdowns was: 154 wins for Monday Night Raw, 112 for Nitro, and three ties.
Earlier that month, ECW owner Paul Heyman had begun an announcing contract with WWF, as ECW had also fallen to financial problems and was forced to declare bankruptcy and close. Thus, the WWF became the sole prominent professional wrestling promotion in the United States.
WWF business steadily declined in North America after the end of the wars, with a noticeable drop in buyrates and ratings. To compensate for the decrease in domestic revenue, WWF expanded their business outside of the United States. The RAW IS WAR logo and its name were retired in September 2001, following the September 11 attacks and sensitivity over the word war, and because the Monday Night Wars were "over." By 2002, the WWF roster had doubled in size due to the overabundance of contracted workers. As a result of the increase, the WWF was divided into franchises through its two main television programs, Raw and SmackDown!, assigning the now divided roster to either franchise while also designating championships and appointing figureheads to each franchise. This expansion became known as the Brand Extension. The franchises or "brands" act as complementing promotions under the parent company. The institution of concepts like separate rosters, "General Managers" and talent drafts was intended to emulate the rivalry that had ended with WCW.
In May 2002, the WWF was renamed to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) after a lawsuit with the World Wildlife Fund, who also used the WWF initials. Ric Flair, Kevin Nash, and Goldberg eventually signed contracts with WWE only after the conclusion of the Invasion though it is generally thought that their participation in the storyline would have benefited the promotion. WWE later purchased ECW's assets and by 2005 began reintroducing ECW through content from the ECW video library and a series books. With heightened and rejuvenated interest in the ECW franchise, WWE organized ECW One Night Stand in June, an ECW reunion event With the financial and critical success of the production, WWE produced the second ECW One Night Stand in June 2006 and relaunched the ECW franchise as a WWE brand, complementary to Raw and SmackDown. The brand would continue to operate until 2010 when it was replaced with WWE NXT.
In 2004, WWE produced a DVD called The Monday Night Wars. Two hours in length, the DVD left out a large portion of the "wars," breaking off around 1997 before jumping straight to the post-WCW era of WWE. The objectivity of the DVD's content was questioned, as some believed the documentary was simply telling the WWE side of the story. On August 25, 2009, WWE released The Rise and Fall of WCW on DVD. The DVD looks back at the roots of WCW during the days of GCW and Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, to the glory days of Monday Nitro and the nWo, and to its demise and sale to WWE.
Since the launch of the Video on Demand service WWE 24/7 (later WWE Classics on Demand), a show called The Monday Night War (hosted by Michael Cole) shows both shows sequentially for a given date (for instance, a Raw followed by a Nitro from the first official week of the Monday Night War). The sequence of which show would be shown first alternated between episodes, and at times, a short segment called "War Stories" would show following a key moment in the Monday Night Wars would follow a particular segment with interviews by the people involved. Soon, the new episodes were split, with the Nitro and the Raw from each week having their own War show (though they would be on the VOD library selection during the same time). This was to be replaced by new episodes once every two weeks. However, recently, a new feature called Monday Night War: The Beginning has been debuting. It has been claimed to bring viewers back to the "genesis" of the Monday Night War, showing the old episodes of the actual MNW show (more than likely for those customers who were not able to see the episodes due to cable carriage deals being worked out). Since then, new episode would debut for two weeks, then be replaced by two "The Beginning" episodes, then the process would repeat. The length of time in which "The Beginning" shows would air have not been announced.
As a result of the Monday Night Wars, professional wrestling became a prime time tradition on Monday nights in America. It also lessened the prevalence of squash matches (where star wrestlers would defeat jobbers) on television, as both companies were compelled to show competitive, pay-per-view quality matches on a weekly basis in an effort to increase ratings.
The Monday Night Wars resulted in the creation of millions of new wrestling viewers. Consequently, the late 1990s are commonly referred to as professional wrestling's most recent boom period. Stars such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Bill Goldberg and Sting became household names, and some attempted to parlay their newfound fame into other mediums and found success in them, much like Hulk Hogan of the 1980s and early 1990s: notable examples being Mick Foley, who became a New York Times best selling author with his autobiography, Have a Nice Day, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who branched out to become a successful film actor.
WCW's closure left a gap in the market which several companies attempted to fill. In 2001, X Wrestling Federation and World Wrestling All-Stars opened, but both folded by 2004. Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) and Ring of Honor (ROH) both emerged in early 2002 and have enjoyed moderate success since that time. At first running weekly pay-per-views, TNA has since switched to monthly supercard pay-per-views supported by a weekly show on cable television originally entitled TNA Impact! and now Impact Wrestling. In late 2007, ROH also started airing bi-monthly, pre-taped pay-per-views, and in 2009, ROH began airing a weekly wrestling program on HDNet. However, it was announced in early 2011 that HDNet would drop ROH from its schedule. Since September 2011, ROH airs a weekly syndicated television show on Sinclair Broadcasting Group-owned stations.
2010: TNA vs. WWE
On October 27, 2009, Hulk Hogan announced that he and Eric Bischoff had signed with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling in a press conference held at Madison Square Garden, the place considered to be the home of WWE. TNA President Dixie Carter stated "Our goal is to become the world's biggest professional wrestling company. Hulk defines professional wrestling and we look forward to partnering with him in a variety of ways as we continue to grow TNA globally."
In signing with TNA, they would be reunited with the controversial former WCW booker Vince Russo who they had vowed to never work with again after butting heads in WCW. However, they stated that Russo would not be fired, and the three would attempt to work together. A short time after on December 5, 2009, Hogan made an announcement during The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights Finale that TNA Impact!, which normally airs on Thursdays would go head to head with WWE Raw on Monday January 4 in a three-hour live broadcast. This would be the first time since March 2001 that two wrestling promotions would go head-to-head in a Monday night ratings competition. It was also confirmed to be the live debut of Hogan.
The WWE countered by announcing the return of Bret Hart, who hadn’t appeared in WWE since the Montreal Screwjob in 1997. Leading up to the show, TNA President Dixie Carter stated that while MTV (which owns Spike) was not expecting Impact! to beat Raw in the ratings, it would be considered a success if they managed to at least maintain their usual Thursday night Impact! rating. Spike president Kevin Kay also announced there were plans to air Impact! on Mondays quarterly through 2010 and added that if the ratings proved successful on January 4, it could be moved to Monday nights permanently.
The Monday night Impact! featured the debuts and returns of Scott Hall, Sean Waltman, Eric Bischoff, The Nasty Boys, Sting, Jeff Jarrett, Rob Van Dam, Jeff Hardy, Ric Flair, Sean Morley, Orlando Jordan, Shannon Moore and Bubba the Love Sponge in addition to Hogan. WWE Raw featured the return of Bret Hart, who confronted Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels for the first time in thirteen years.
The ratings showed that, much alike the original Monday Night Wars, Raw came out on top, averaging 5.6 million viewers while Impact! averaged 2.2 million viewers. The show peaked with 3 million viewers for the Hulk Hogan segment but then the viewership declined towards the end of the show to near 2.2 million viewers, the replay on January 7, 2010 garnered a 0.9 rating thus giving TNA a combined viewership range of 3.5-4.5 million viewers. However, despite not beating Raw in the ratings, TNA managed to set a new record for Impact!, beating the previous one of 1.97 million viewers, and thus gaining the confidence of Spike representatives.
On March 8, 2010, Impact! moved to Monday nights at 9 pm EST to compete head-to-head with Raw. Eric Bischoff was once again competing on the opposite side of Vince McMahon's WWE and in an interview with Bubba the Love Sponge, he said that he believed "history is repeating itself". This has proved to be true since the new war is beginning the same way as the original did; TNA have hired the same ex-WWE talent that WCW did, they have recreated the "outsiders" storyline from when Kevin Nash and Scott Hall joined WCW and most importantly, they are being led by Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. Ironically, Spike had carried Raw from 2000 until 2005, when Raw returned to USA. WWE spokesman Robert Zimmerman responded to TNA's move by saying "We're not too concerned. We're in good shape." Bischoff later stated that TNA aren't focused on beating WWE in the ratings straight away, but rather gaining a significant share of their audience and growing TNA's own audience.
On the March 8, 2010, Raw beat Impact! with a 3.4 rating which equated to approximately 5.1 million viewers, while Impact! did a 0.98 with 1.4 million viewers, the replay of the show on Thursdays did 1.0 getting TNA combined audience of 2.7 million viewers and 5.6 million eyeballs for Spike. The following week on the March 15 edition, Impact! scored its lowest rating since November 2006 with a .84 rating. No quarter-hour segment of Impact! reached past the previous week's overall rating. The broadcast lost 15% of the audience it opened with, going from a .87 opening quarter-hour to a .72 in the A.J. Styles versus Jeff Hardy main event. Impact! averaged 1.1 million viewers, an overall decrease of 21.4% in viewership from the previous week. Raw scored a 3.71 rating and averaged 5.60 million viewers, an overall increase of 10% in viewership from the previous week. The broadcast's first hour was the most viewed first hour since August 24, 2009, while the second was the most viewed second hour since January 4, 2010. On March 22, days before WrestleMania XXVI, Raw scored a 3.2 and Impact scored a 0.86. Raw's rating was down more than 1 million viewers equating to about 20%. Ratings for Impact! had improved slightly over the last week as they offered a Career vs. Career match between Jeff Jarrett and Mick Foley.
The night after WrestleMania XXVI, Raw scored a 3.7 rating, up from last week and Impact! scored a 0.62. After these declining ratings, Spike executives announced the April 5 live Impact! would air an hour earlier than Raw. The April 5 edition of Raw lost 14% of their viewers with a 3.15 rating while Impact! scored a 0.9 rating, their highest rating since the March 15 episode gaining a 33% in total viewers as they offered Kurt Angle vs. Mr. Anderson in a Ladder Match. After better ratings for the April 5 edition of Impact!, TNA decided to start Impact! one hour earlier permanently. The April 12 edition of Raw made a comeback with a 3.24 rating while the taped Impact! scored a 0.8 rating managing to keep most of their audience. Then on April 19, the night after TNA Lockdown, Raw scored a 3.05 rating their lowest score in two years, while Impact! scored a 0.95 rating their highest score since April 5 as they offered a TNA World Heavyweight Championship match between RVD and AJ Styles. On April 26, Raw gained very few viewers with a 3.08 rating while Impact! lost 48% of their audience with a 0.5 rating and replay on Thursday getting 0.7. 
The feud was short lived, as Impact! moved back to Thursday nights starting with the May 13 show. On the final battle between Raw and Impact, Raw drew a 3.05 and Impact drew a 0.8 rating gaining a 37.5% in total viewers. The replay ratings of most of Monday night episodes were sufficient for survival but showed that average audience is some 2 million viewers that prefer to watch on Thursdays.
- History of professional wrestling
- History of World Championship Wrestling
- History of WWE
- The Attitude Era
- The Invasion
- Doors Open and Doors Close
- Paul Heyman Interview: Talks About The Original Plans For ECW + More"ECW ECW ECW ECW"
- History of the National Wrestling Alliance
- Shane Douglas on throwing down the title
- 2006 Hall Of Fame Inductees
- Douglas on Caruluzzo
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