Thursday Morning Backlash with How WWE Survived the Monday Night Wars (Steve Austin, Triple H, Jim Ross)

Jake Ziegler is becoming a regular on Thursdays hereabouts and now he checks in with a retrospective on how the WWE survived the Monday Night Wars. Be sure to check in tomorrow for my Survivor Series 2010 preview. Here’s Jake!

Vince McMahon gets a lot of the credit for leading WWE through the torrid Monday Night Wars and ultimately defeating his biggest rival to date (and likely ever), Ted Turner and World Championship Wrestling. As the Boss of the company and the most over heel character of the vaunted Attitude Era, McMahon certainly deserves a lion’s share of the credit. However some of this credit must be shared amongst some others, particularly for a couple of hiring decisions that would change the course of WWE forever. One of the men deserving of credit may surprise you.

I firmly believe that four key signings that may have flown a tad under the radar. While he was given a decent midcard push upon his debut in the spring of 1995, the signing of Paul Leveque away from WCW certainly may not have seemed like a big deal. But after Shawn Michaels’s departure, the Triple H-led D-Generation X became one of the most over acts in the WWE, and further down the road Triple H became a wildly successful singles star. It is important to remind people that he was heavily pushed even before he married the boss’s daughter.

Next to arrive was Steve Austin in late 1995. He was over as an upper midcard performer in WCW, but after being unceremoniously terminated by WCW and a well loved but not widely seen (at the time) run in ECW, Austin made few ripples upon his arrival. Further hurting his initial impact would be the “Ringmaster” gimmick. However, as it so often does, the cream rose to the top, and Stone Cold Steve Austin would go on to become the biggest star in the history of the WWE, one that will be very difficult to top. It was Jim Ross and Kevin Nash of all people who convinced McMahon to sign Austin, and boy did that ever work out for him. That should be reason alone to give Nash some kind of job if he wants one at this point.

Another talent Jim Ross pushed hard for was Mick Foley, who made the biggest immediate impact of this quartet when he attacked and subsequently feuded with the Undertaker. Even with this initial push, few could have predicted that Foley would go on to become one of the most loved performers ever in the company, and would be a key participant in two of the highest rated segments in Raw history: winning the WWE Championship for the first time from The Rock; as well as “This Is Your Life,” also with the Rock. Those are also two of my favorite moments ever as a wrestling fan.

Finally, there’s the man so linked with Foley, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Pat Patterson took the first look at a young Johnson and determined that the third generation wrestler with the terrible haircut and the average dropkick and high cross body could one day turn into a star, and boy was he ever right. Rock would be a key component of the WWE and arguably one of the top three stars ever in the company (with Austin and Hogan). He feuded with all three of the above mentioned wrestlers and produced some of the best and most memorable matches and moments ever.

So while Vince McMahon deserves tons of credit for steering the WWE ship during the Attitude Era, the credit for the signing of the above mentioned individuals must also go to Jim Ross, Pat Patterson, and shockingly, Kevin Nash. Without those four men, WWE may not have won the Monday Night Wars, and the wrestling landscape today would be vastly different.

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