The SmarK Rant For The Monday Night War DVD


The SmarK Rant for The Monday Night War DVD

– Here’s one that I never thought I’d see in a million years. Well, until 2001, but still. And now we have it all distilled down to one DVD, presented through the eyes of the winners. Well, that’s war for ya.

– Various people from both sides of the fence talk about the general nature of the struggle and how competitive it was, by way of introduction.

– Mean Gene takes us back to the early 80s, in the days of syndication, and we skip ahead to RAW in 1993.

– Vince talks about Ted Turner’s purchase of WCW in 1988, and Jim Cornette accuses Turner of running it into the ground after that. I’d have issues with that viewpoint, to say the least. Not with running it into the ground, but with Cornette’s assertion that they were doing fine beforehand, because Crockett was sure as hell about to go bankrupt and Turner saved him. Ironically, Crockett’s problems were due to the exact same things that would later kill WCW, which no one bothers to mention.

– Bischoff and JR talk about their parting of the ways (which is a very nice way of putting it). The not-as-nice way of putting it was that Bischoff pulled a power play and had Ross punted from the company because he was threatening his shot at being Executive VP.

– Bruce Pritchard explains the original concept of RAW from the Manhattan Center and the differences between that and arena shoots. Gene calls it “a toilet”. This leads to Bischoff talking about going in the opposite direction and going into the glossier Disney studios in 1993. Again, major irony that isn’t mentioned here, as one of the defining traits of the Disney tapings was that they were pre-taped so far in advance that it gave away storylines months down the road, which is exactly the sort of thing that Bischoff would mock Vince for doing.

– We get a clip of Hogan’s contract signing in 1994 and the paid-off crowd who were instructed to cheer for him.

– This leads to the debut of Randy Savage in December 1994 to go along with Hogan. Bischoff talks about wanting to make a profit and cutting costs everywhere humanly possible and increasing the number of PPVs, triggering monthly shows on both sides. Then, in 1995, he went to a meeting with Ted Turner and was given two hours every Monday on TNT, changing the business forever.

– Jim Cornette thought they were nuts, as did most other people, to say the least. Vince whines about Ted’s predatory practices again, despite everything supposedly being fine on the WWF side, according to the narrator. Some of the contradictions are just insane. And on the subject of predatory practices, may I just say Pot, Kettle, Black.

– Eric explains about taking Lex Luger back at the behest of Sting, and bringing him out for the first Nitro, to the shock of Vince McMahon. Cornette attributes the boner to Vince stupidly taking Lex at his word. Well, no one would ever make THAT mistake with him again.

– Eric moves onto giving away the results of taped RAWs and inventing the concept of the overrun, which ironically became something that RAW uses to this day. He has no regrets about doing it, because it pissed so many people off and thus it was working. I hate that attitude, because it’s one of the things that ended up killing kayfabe.

– Onto Medusa, as she showed up on Nitro and dumped the WWF Women’s title into a trash can on live TV. Bischoff thinks she might regret it now.

– Next step: Billionaire Ted’s Wrasslin’ Warroom, Vince’s lowbrow attempts at striking back. Don’t blink or you’ll miss Vince Russo playing one of the sniveling execs in the original skit. They ignore that after whining about Bischoff “making it personal”, these skits got so mean-spirited that they were portraying Ted Turner in a light so unflattering and unfounded as to be completely slanderous.

– And then Hall & Nash jumped ship, which was again apparently a huge betrayal despite everyone on the internet knowing that they were done with the company for months beforehand. Clips of the historic Hall debut follow, as it’s the first tease of a true interpromotional war, with overtones of the WWF “invading”.

– Bruce Pritchard gives a line of bullshit about how the WWF made Hall & Nash into stars and people watching WCW weren’t familiar with them, which is completely ridiculous because both were in WCW just a few years before. This would lead to a childish and petty lawsuit from the WWF, which isn’t mentioned here, probably because they didn’t win.

– Next up, Bash at the Beach and the nWo forms, as Hogan is the third man. Gene got hit in the nose with garbage, but thought it was great stuff. The next night, the New World Order is officially named and Hulk debuts his black look. Eric talks about wanting to create a conflict between WCW and the nWo rather than a standard wrestling storyline. Big Show talks about being so badass that they became “cool heels”.

– Eric talks about breaking the rules of TV production, showing the backstage areas (with clips of Rey getting tossed into the trailer like a lawndart) and sometimes going so far that police would be called in due to residents thinking it was real.

– Onto the ratings wars, as Vince says, and I quote, “My philosophy in business is help yourself, not hurt the other guy”. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. You can’t BUY comedy like that. Everyone from the WWE side denies ever caring about the ratings before WCW did. Uh huh. Bischoff responds by noting that focus groups enjoyed unpredictability and spontaneous happenings, so he gave it to them. Years later he would ignore those same groups for not telling him what he wanted to hear.

– Cornette talks about the creation of Stone Cold Steve Austin after being run out of WCW. We get the famous “Austin 3:16” interview from King of the Ring 96. Mick Foley takes us forward to Wrestlemania 13 and Austin’s face turn.

– Meanwhile, in WCW, the influx of cruiserweights and other great international wrestlers added to the nWo helped make the product fresh and beat the WWF. But don’t forget they didn’t make any new stars.

– Back in the WWF, Shawn sticks a sausage down his pants and gets fined $10,000, but fans react and thus D-X is born. The “State of the Union” speech from Hunter and Shawn is shown censored here, although the full version is on the D-X video from years ago, and yes, he really does say all the bad words.

– Next up, Austin breaks his neck against Owen Hart and somehow manages to finish the match. That one still blows my mind. Anyway, Austin hung around the show without wrestling, and that led to a historic showdown between Vince and Austin, back when that was still a new idea. Vince takes his first stunner, one of millions to come.

– The Rock is born in September 1997, as he turns heel in reaction to a failed babyface push and becomes my favorite wrestler.

– And then, Montreal. There’s already been an entire movie made about that, so we skip to the fateful Sharpshooter and Bret’s departure. This earned Vince the hatred of pretty much everyone, so he decided to change his persona. We get the “Bret screwed Bret” interview that created Mr. McMahon, but Mick thinks Vince didn’t really believe it deep down and in fact knew he had done it himself.

– And then it’s Mike Tyson in 1998, as Steve Austin begins the final ascent to mega-stardom. They have a huge brawl while Vince is trying to announce Tyson as the special referee at Wrestlemania XIV, and the Austin-McMahon feud is born. I don’t know about the US, but this was ALL OVER the news in Canada.

– Eric talks about how he didn’t think that Trash TV would be enough to unseat Nitro again, but history has shown how wrong that was. We get clips of Austin winning the title at Wrestlemania, although we’re skipping a HUGE era in WCW, with the Hogan-Sting feud that carried the company to its absolute peak of popularity in terms of buyrates.

– And then, in April 1998, the ratings war finally swung the other way, as Vince challenged Austin to a match (and we the backstage training skits, with Brisco teaching him to counter the stunner), and Dude Love turns heel to break it up. The other turning point was HHH kicking Shawn out of D-X and replacing him with X-Pac, the first major jump from WCW to WWF. They would try to “invade” WCW, so Eric decided to challenge Vince to a fight to counter. This would lead to the most bizarre lawsuit in the history of wrestling, and that’s saying something.

– JR talks about making new stars during that era and how WCW never did that, with the exception of one guy: Goldberg. This led to their biggest moment and biggest mistake, as they gave away Hogan-Goldberg on TV and screwed themselves out of the biggest PPV revenue in their history.

– Onto the nWo problem, as it got so big and boring that something needed to be done. But first, Ric Flair returned to one of the biggest reactions ever heard in the company, although they totally ignored the reasons WHY he was gone in the first place. Of course, two weeks later, the Horsemen were squashed by the nWo again and put on the backburner. Flair and Cornette talk about Eric’s treatment of Flair, and soon the discussion of never making new stars comes up again. I have to take issue with the idea that WWF was making new stars, however, as many of the people mentioned are still stuck in the midcard treadmill to this day.

– And then, the night that killed WCW off forever, as Mick Foley wins the title from the Rock and Hogan does the FINGERPOKE OF DOOM with Nash, and from there it was all downhill for WCW. Mick talks about Tony’s infamous “butts in the seats” remark and how it drove all the viewers to RAW. Sadly they ignore the Fingerpoke, which was a much bigger turning point than Foley winning the title was.

– The ex-WCW guys talk about the convoluted corporate structure and how everyone had 14 bosses and no one knew what was going on. The rats started deserting the ship as a result. Specifically, Jericho and Big Show jumped in 1999, and we get the awesome Jericho-Rock confrontation from his debut, which ended up going nowhere and could have turned Jericho into the biggest star in the business. This kind of contradicts their company line about making new stars, but then this isn’t exactly the kind of DVD you watch for objective views on the matter.

– And then more revisionism, this time from Bischoff, as he talks about how he was forced out by executives because he was too confrontational, despite still making millions. RIGHT.

– Next, the introduction of Russo & Ferrara, as again the success from the WWF is ignored and the failures are highlighted, and they completely bury Russo. Not that I DISAGREE, but it’s silly to talk about that sort of thing and then in the NEXT SENTENCE highlight the “new talent” like the Hardy Boyz, Edge & Christian, all of whom were solely championed by Vince Russo.

– OK, next big jump, to 2000, and the departure of the Radicalz, and the eerily prescient Revolution group that preceded it. They jumped to the WWF and were promptly buried by D-X, which is of course not covered.

– More changes, as Russo and executives are bounced out of the company and Bischoff offers to buy WCW, but the deal was cancelled when Jamie Kellner cancelled Nitro, and Vince McMahon stepped in to buy WCW. The version of stuff here is crazily and totally incorrect, but whatever.

– The boys talk about how great it was to see the company finally get put out of its misery, but sad that lots of people were now out of jobs.

It’s funny, because all the mistakes they talk about WCW making (no new stars, letting the talent book their own programs, not enough focus in creative) are EXACTLY THE SAME THINGS that killed the WWF’s hot streak in 2000 and brought them back to earth again. The hilarious irony staring them right in the face, which they totally missed while producing a rah-rah fluff piece, is the most striking thing about this DVD.

In fact, let me just sum up the story told here in WWE-speak: In 1983, wrestling was in smoky bars and then nothing much happened until 1993, when Hulk Hogan left for WCW, and that was a huge blow to the WWF (although he was actually over the hill and not needed anymore) and then Randy Savage left (although he too was also later revealed to be past his prime) and that was a bigger blow, but everything was still basically fine and dandy in the WWF anyway. But then Nitro came on and it was hitting them at their weakest point (although everything was still fine and dandy) and soon Hall and Nash and Luger all went behind Vince’s back and jumped to WCW, where they had millions of dollars and Vince had nothing but the shirt on his back and a multinational wrestling company behind him. And then the nWo came along and that was the greatest thing ever until D-X came along and that was the greatest thing ever, and WCW brought in lots of new stars, but didn’t make any new stars, unlike the WWF, who made new stars like Rock and Austin and HHH and Undertaker and then proceeded to keep them at the top of the company for the next 7 years straight because it’s smart when the WWF does it but dumb when WCW does. And then nothing happened for a while until Vince Russo, who had nothing to do with the creation of all the new stars in the WWF, jumped to WCW and destroyed it, and then Vince swooped in and saved the company by buying it and scuttling it immediately afterwards.

There, just saved you the $25 if it was the history lesson from the viewpoint of the WWE that you were looking for. There’s TONS of cool stuff here, though, and this is actually more candid than most of the mockumentaries that comprise Confidential, but there’s still SOOOOOO much stuff they missed or willfully ignored that could have been covered, like the Jericho-Goldberg situation, the Sting rebirth, the nWo split and the effects it had on the company (which are VERY briefly mentioned), the FINGERPOKE OF DOOM, and all the backstage stuff which is only hinted at. What’s here is a surprisingly fair and interesting look back at the war, but it feels more like the Cliff’s Notes summary than a real in-depth look at what was going on.

Oh, and there’s also the extras section

– WWF tag team titles: Owen Hart & British Bulldog v. Steve Austin & Shawn Michaels. In case you’re not familiar with the circumstances behind this one, it might warrant a bit of explanation. Ya see, earlier in the year, Shawn Michaels decided to retire because of a knee injury that was so crippling he couldn’t even get into the ring and drop the title to Sid on TV. And then, six weeks later after missing Wrestlemania, he was back on TV again, bouncing around like a ping-pong ball. Austin attacks Owen to start and hits him with a knee to the gut and drops an elbow, into a Sharpshooter attempt, but Bulldog breaks it up. Elbow off the middle gets two. Shawn comes in off the top, right onto the crippled knee, and works on Owen’s arm, but Owen flips out of it and brings in Bulldog. Bulldog overpowers Shawn and they criss-cross, but Shawn goes to the eyes and gets a rana. He slides under for an enzuigiri, which gets two. Back to Austin, as he hammers Bulldog down and stomps on his nuts behind the ref’s back, then chokes away. They switch off in the corner, double-teaming Davey Boy, but a cheapshot turns the tide and Owen pounds Austin on the floor and drops him on the railing. We take a break and return with Owen headlocking Austin, but they criss-cross and Owen gets a sleeper, which Austin counters with a quick jawbreaker. Tags abound and Shawn hammers Bulldog with a forearm and kips up, into a dropkick, but Bulldog drops him crotch-first on the top rope. Back in, Shawn fights back, but Bulldog catapults him into the post as the match continues to move at 120 MPH. Bulldog whips him into the corner and into a powerslam for two. Austin dives in for the save and it’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA, allowing Owen to gutwrench Shawn into a legdrop for two. The frantic pace slows a bit as Owen hits the chinlock, and snaps off the belly-to-belly for two. Owen again lures the hotheaded Austin into the ring and it’s some shenanigans in the Hart Foundation corner. Shawn comes back with a sunset flip on Bulldog, but Owen is distracting the ref, and it only gets two. Bulldog kills him with a clothesline to regain the advantage and drops the leg for two. Facelock to cut off the ring and it’s a false tag, and back to the heel corner for more punishment. Owen pounds Shawn in the corner and sets up for a superplex, but Shawn blocks and brings Owen down the hard way. High cross gets two. Owen fires off a leg lariat, but misses a charge, and it’s hot tag Austin, as the crazy pace picks up again. Austin goes nuts, pulling a Bertuzzi on the Hart Foundation, and it’s BONZO GONZO. Shawn superkicks Bulldog and Austin pins Bulldog to win the tag titles at 10:25. Awesome, super-fast paced tag match that would prove to be Austin’s last great match in that mode before the neck injury forced him to reinvent the entire style of North American wrestling, more or less. ****1/2

– Next up, the complete promo where Austin has to sign a waiver to compete in the WWF again, which leads to him stunning Vince McMahon in MSG.

– Here’s a real treat: Jim Cornette’s ultra-bitter promo against WCW from 1997, where he went out and did a total shoot against both companies and ended up burning his bridges as a result. His rant against the Hogan-Piper cage match at Halloween Havoc 97 is awesome stuff. Sadly, they don’t show the one where he mocks Sean Waltman for being the Outsiders’ little buddy who only gets kept around because “they think it’s cute when he throws up on himself in the airport”. Ah well.

– Next up, the full Vince interview from 11/97 where he declares that “Bret Screwed Bret” while made up with a “black eye”.

– Shawn Michaels & HHH v. The Legion of Doom. From RAW, 12/97, as this proved to be the end of the LOD’s run on top of tag team wrestling. Animal overpowers Shawn to start, and Shawn takes abuse in the face corner before tagging out to HHH. The disintegration of HHH’s hair still makes me sad. Animal overpowers him, too, so D-X tries working on the arm, but Shawn ducks out of the ring and gets run over by Hawk. Back in (against his will) and Animal clotheslines him right back out again. Shawn and HHH decide that discretion is the better part of valor and take a break on the floor, and HHH gives it a go back in. LOD double-team him and Hawk lays in the chops and grabs a headlock, but Shawn kicks him in the head and HHH USES THE KNEE. Shawn chokes him out and they double-team with a droptoehold into an elbow, and keep drawing Animal into the ring. That allows more double-teaming, as HHH drops a knee for two. They work him over in the corner and we take a break, returning with Shawn holding a facelock. Hawk powers out of it and they collide in the corner, and it’s hot tag Animal. The New Age Outlaws head down to taunt Hawk and use the dreaded ETHER OF DEATH on him, leaving Animal alone with D-X. Chyna comes in with a low blow for the DQ at 7:41, and the beatdown commences, as Gunn shaves half of Hawk’s Mohawk off. Nothing very interesting here, not even sure why it was included. *1/2 LOD would return with several failed reincarnations in 1998 before fading off into indy retirement.

– The Confidential bit on D-X’s “invasion” of WCW is next.

– More Confidential fluff, this time about the final Nitro. Fairly interesting, but just a bunch of people talking about what was going on in their heads at the time.

– The nWo invade the production truck to cement their reps as outsiders. This leads to Rey Mysterio trying to attack them and getting tossed into a trailer in one of the sickest bumps ever seen, which sadly is omitted here. “Everybody to my trailer for pot pies and Mountain Dew” See, Nash CAN be funny.

– From Nitro 5/98, as Eric Bischoff challenges Vince McMahon to a fight at Slamboree 98.

– Chris Benoit v. Booker T. From Nitro, 6/11/98. Booker gets a slam to start and starts throwing forearms, and a back elbow gets two. Booker was down 2-1 in the 7-match series at this point. Booker pounds him in the corner, but runs into an elbow, then recovers with a powerslam for two. Sideslam and Booker goes up with a high cross that knocks Benoit out of the ring, and he follows with a CLUBBING FOREARM off the apron. Back in, Benoit catches him and stomps away in the corner, then starts chopping. Snap suplex, but Booker catches him with a spinkick for two. He hits the chinlock and gets a clothesline, and they slug it out. Booker wins that battle and forearms him down for two. Back to the chinlock, but Benoit fights out and gets a german suplex, and both are down. Benoit gets a clothesline for two as Tony & Mike have a conversation about the NBA finals that would foreshadow one of the worst main events in WCW history. Booker comes back with the axe kick, and a backdrop suplex, but Benoit reverses a vertical suplex into the crossface. Booker taps at 8:13 to put Benoit up 3-1. Not a great representation of the series as a whole. **1/2

– WCW World title: Hulk Hogan v. Goldberg. This was the height of Goldberg’s powers, as he was US champion and pretty much unstoppable, so Hogan decided to get out of the way here rather than get steamrolled later. Goldberg powers out of a headlock to start. The heat here is crazy, unreal stuff. Hogan tries a facelock and Goldberg powers out of that, too. Test of strength and Goldberg overpowers him with ease, so Hogan goes to the ropes. Finally Hogan tries slugging away and raking the back to take over, and the trusty belt. Goldberg shrugs him off and throws the belt away. Back to the lockup and Goldberg tries a full nelson, but Hogan goes low to break and slugs away. Clothesline and choking, and Hogan slams him, but misses an elbow. Goldberg no-sells and comes back with his own clothesline to dump Hogan, who retrieves his belt again. Back in, Hogan tosses him and they brawl, as Hogan uses a chair, and they head back in again. Legdrop gets two as DDP and Malone distract Hogan outside, and he gets speared as a result. Jackhammer finishes at 8:15, and the stadium absolutely goes insane. Match sucked, of course. ½*

– From Nitro, 9/98, as Flair returns from legal purgatory to rejoin the Four Horsemen again, introduced with gusto by Arn Anderson. This was also Dean Malenko’s induction into the Horsemen. This was the end result of WCW’s numerous attempts to bury Flair and the fanbase’s dogged determination to chant “We Want Flair” despite supposedly not wanting to see him any longer. Flair’s very real, very tearful thank you is awesome stuff, probably his finest moment in a business filled with fake moments. The tragedy was that Mongo had no idea what he was being a part of here.

– Finally, one of the most surreal moments in the history of both shows, as Rick Rude appears on a live Nitro and a taped RAW in the same night after jumping to WCW, shaving his beard off for Nitro to really rub it in. Rude would train for a potential comeback, and die the next year of drug-related complications.

There’s no Easter Eggs that I know of.

The Bottom Line:

A good look from the WWE side of the Monday Night Wars, but not a great one, and certainly one that’s lacking in extras this time around, this is more of an interesting primer for new fans than any kind of useful insight into what was going on at the time. I would have liked more matches and angles that SHOWED why things were so competitive, rather than just hearing them TELL us why, but for a quickie 3-hour single-disc DVD, it’s not bad.

Mildly recommended.