Two months and two victories for WCW at the outset of this re-examination of the Monday Night War. Vince McMahon and the WWF are telling very flimsy and uninteresting stories that seem to form out of the clear blue sky. Nitro, on the other hand, has been able to make every episode feel important and continually raises the stakes on every major program. Things started going off the rails towards the end of the month and it left me curious to see if Eric Bischoff would be able to course correct or if RAW would be able to steal a month.
Remember, this is all subjective so if you don’t agree with my opinions I gladly welcome you to leave a comment and share your thoughts, respectfully.
September was weak. October was weak. November started weak.
RAW 134 kicked off the month and was terribly uneventful. Diesel cut a minute long promo where he never blinked, Undertaker’s return as a “hideously disfigured” creature was teased and Vince McMahon painstakingly hammered home the point that Shawn Michaels is simultaneously the most “resilient and flamboyant” performer in WWF history. It seemed as if I was doomed to experience another month of nothingness. Then something amazing happened. Things got good.
I’ve talked about my affinity for connectedness in stories and that’s exactly what RAW got right in November. The two main catalysts for this marked improvement were Ahmed Johnson and the 1-2-3 Kid. Ahmed’s debut and feud with Sid, mixed with Kid’s heel turn to the Million Dollar Corporation allowed these two stories to intersect and made for some great interplay between no less than 6 different characters (Kid, Razor, Sid, Ahmed, DiBiasi, Bulldog). By having 1-2-3 Kid turn on Razor they were able to resuscitate a dead angle and get me caring again.
The month was also highlighted by a brilliantly written build to the Bret Hart versus Diesel match at Survivor Series. Both men played up their history and the fact that they have yet to have a clean finish to one of their matches. The discussion about strategy and what they want to accomplish next, should they win, advanced the characters and showed a thoughtfulness that I’d yet to see. Bret mentioning his loss to Bulldog at Wembley Stadium and how he wants the title so he can avenge that defeat hit home. As an athlete, you always want to prove you’re the best and this was done in a way that furthered one story while also setting up one for the future.
There were some other significant events to happen, I’ll touch on those in different sections, but overall I couldn’t have been more impressed with RAW. The matches were good, the quotes were memorable, the characters finally showed a little attitude, and it left me, for the first time, wanting more. Whether it’s something as juvenile as the promise of an Arkansas Hog Pen match or the weight of a WWF Championship showdown it’s remarkable what a dynamic story can do for audience engagement. Don’t get me wrong there is still room for improvement, but the good far outweighed the bad this time around.
Nitro had a remarkable two months to start this rivalry. Pardon the pun, but the Big Boys really did come to play and it wasn’t even a close race. Character, story, spectacle; everything was being covered. At Halloween Havoc, however, you could see the wheels start to fall off, and it’s not just because they introduced a Yeti and had Giant “survive” a 5-story fall off of Cobo Hall. Although, when I read that out loud to myself it does sound pretty bad.
If I could sum up Nitro in November in one word it would be “sloppy”. Forget the poorly told story, on Nitro episode 10 alone there was a microphone that cut out, audio alarms that played overtop the broadcast, light switches being flipped off and talent nowhere to be found when commentary announced that they’re storming the ring. It was the first time that their grittier under-produced production backfired and made them look and feel Mickey Mouse in comparison to the WWF.
I didn’t completely hate the character-driven moments in November, although it did lead to a couple pretty uncomfortable stress migraines that I’m choosing to blame on them. Jimmy Hart joining The Dungeon of Doom and claiming that he was Hogan’s “Power of Attorney” was such an idiotic way to justify Giant defending Hulk Hogan’s Heavyweight Championship. WCW pulled a SmackDown Live and doubled down on a bad idea and brought in a “lawyer” from the WCW Championship Committee to discredit the document that claimed Giant would indeed become Champion in the case of a disqualification at Halloween Havoc. This entire angle was used to help set up a 60-Man Battle Royale at the inaugural World War 3 PPV for the WCW Champion. Surely they could have found a more eloquent way of setting this up.
The remainder of the month saw Hogan and Macho Man dressed in black, cutting nonsensical promos and questioning whether or not they can trust Sting, the only person who has been on their side this entire time. The payoff came at World War 3 when Hogan and Macho Man decided that Sting is in-fact “the coolest dude in the world” and want to know if he will be their “best friend forever”. You can’t see, but I’m rolling my eyes very hard right now. Basically, Hogan and Macho Man are dressing colorfully again and they now know who they can trust in WCW. It’s only two people which is kind of sad when you think about it. What does that say about them? Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem like this story gets a completely happy ending as Macho Man won the Battle Royale, controversially, and now has to deal with Hogan’s incessant nagging, which I suppose is justified considering he literally never lost the belt and has been screwed over twice now. The saga continues.
November was a huge step back after an unprecedentedly great start to Nitro. The top program floundered and the mid-card was lost in the shuffle yet again. There was clearly nobody working on continuity this month. On the laundry list of mishaps, we have a new U.S. Champion (Kensuki Sasaki) that went unbeknownst to anybody who only watches Nitro, a new Horseman in Chris Benoit, an addition that I literally didn’t know about until the PPV, and a vanishing Tag Team division. Where in the hell are the champs? There were only two intriguing things to happen on Nitro this month. First is the feud between Johnny B. Badd and D.D.P. The second was the relationship dynamic between Sting and Lex Luger. They’re on opposing sides yet have been the only ones who have been able to calmly stop the other during a post-match beatdown. They were also able to weave this into the World War 3 result, which I thought was brilliant. Their friendship is a nice break from the traditional good and bad character tropes of pro wrestling.
Here’s hoping for a better end to the year for WCW Nitro.
10 BEST QUOTES OF THE MONTH
- “Sid, Bulldog, I’m telling you baby, DO NOT come to that ring high stepping, G. And if you do, I’mma break you off something proper.” – Ahmed Johnson (RAW 135)
- “I’m not getting paid by the hour here. I’m going to try and knock him out and knock him out quickly. I’m not going out there to try and win by points in some collegiate wrestling match. I’m going out to do what Big Daddy Cool does best and that’s beat people up!” – Diesel (RAW 135)
- “The Hitman is kind of like a Timex watch, you know. I take a licking, but I keep on ticking.” – Bret Hart (RAW 135)
- “For the first time in a year I slept like a baby. When I woke up this morning and I looked in the mirror do you know what I saw? I saw a smile on my face. It’s the first time I saw myself smile in a year because I saw myself and not some corporate puppet that you decided to create, Vince. No! You missed the ball on this one, baby! You missed the ball. After I won the title, 24 hours later, I’m up in Titan Tower with the marketing suits and the merchandising suits. “Hey Diesel, we need you to smile a little bit. We need you to be a little more politically correct. A little bit more corporate.” Well baby what you saw last night was the tip of the iceberg. Big Daddy Cool’s back! That same guy you saw in Providence at the Royal Rumble a couple of years ago. (Puts on sunglasses) The only thing that matters to me right now is my family and friends. That includes you Shawn Michaels. I’m not saying that I’m not going to smack hands, but it better have a black glove on it, baby, because I know you’re with me. Whether you like me, love me, or hate me, that’s the way it’s going to be. I’m back!” – Diesel (RAW 136)
- “Now might be a good time to mention, Aja Kong. Much like Lady Di, a proponent of safe sex. But not too likely to be joining Lady Di on the Norwegian Condom Company advertisement.” – Vince McMahon (RAW 137)
- “I’m so proud of myself. Heartbreak Kid you got all busted up by the heartbreaker himself. And now I pity whoever gets that open contract because I’m on a roll, I’m hospitalizing people and whoever it is, at In Your House you’re going to end up just like Shawn Michaels.” – Owen Hart (RAW 137)
- “I have always contended, if it looks like a rat, if it smells like a rat, and it quacks like a rat you can probably rest assured that it probably is a rat and Hogan says something doesn’t smell right.” - Mene Gene Okerlund (Nitro 11)
- "I’d like to know if that’s 10-W40 and what it goes for a quart.” - Mene Gene Okerlund after interviewing Lex Luger (World War 3, 1995)
- “Thank you very much. (*Rolls Eyes*) Two of the biggest pieces of human garbage that I can ever recall.” - Mene Gene Okerlund after finishing an interview with Jimmy Hart and Kevin Sullivan (Nitro 12)
- “Almost a quarter of a million pounds of muscle and mayhem … For the hundreds of millions watching across the world.” - Michael Buffer - Struggling with math during the main event - (World War 3, 1995)
WWF: Bret Hart vs Diesel (C)
WWF Championship Match (Survivor Series, 1995)
Great story and a great match between two of the best WWF has to offer. I’d suggest watching the RAW before and after Survivor Series as well to get the full experience of this match. It’s the best programming WWF has done since the new Fall season began.
WCW: Johnny B. Badd (C) vs Diamond Dallas Page
TV Championship (World War 3, 1995)
Diamond Doll’s services as well as the TV title were up for grab and these two men, who had met many times before, put on their best match yet. Johnny carried the fight with some outrageously impressive high spots, but the engaging story made it even better. D.D.P. has been a jerk to Kimberly as of late and there was an emotional aspect to seeing her get out of a bad relationship. They teased that she may not be completely happy with her choice so I’m curious to see if she winds up staying with the future “Wild Man”.
WWF: Diesel (RAW 136). He talked about being a corporately created puppet and mentioned how it was all Vince’s doing. This was the first time since I started watching that there was a reference to Vince being the boss. That part was edited out of the promo when they showed it again the next week.
WCW: Hulk Hogan (World War 3). There was not a great promo all month and since I can’t just pick random one-liners from Mene Gene I decided to go with Hogan. It was really the only option. He talked about coming back from the dark side and how Macho Man and Sting are his best friends in the world. It’s super pulpy, but it’s the best I could find.
WWF: The workload was evenly distributed this month so I decided to go with Undertaker. He came back from an orbital bone injury and still wrestled twice. I can’t even imagine how painful that must have been. The mask looked creepy and also played into the “disfigurement” angle they’ve been pushing.
WCW: With three matches the winner is Johnny B. Badd. In a weaker month of Nitro he was leaned on heavily to carry the mid-card. His matches with Eddie Guerrero were great and his feud with D.D.P. over Diamond Doll and the T.V. Title were the most compelling on the show.
(OPPOSITE OF) PLEASANT SURPRISE
WWF: Owen Hart vs Shawn Michaels (RAW 136)
On its surface, Shawn versus Owen sounds great, and it was, until HBK collapsed in the middle of the ring in an absolutely terrifying turn of events. After tossing Owen over the ropes, Shawn celebrated with a flex pose, grabbed the right side of his face and hit the canvas. Immediately you could tell this was not part of the plan and everyone at ringside looked absolutely lost and afraid. Vince came into the ring with the medical team, Lawler was doing laps ringside trying to get any information he could, and just like that the show went off the air without warning. The last thing we saw was Shawn with an oxygen mask and someone shouting “do something, guys!”.
It wasn’t until the next week on RAW that they announced Shawn had Post-Concussion Syndrome and was competing when he really should have been resting. Vince gave a candid speech on how dangerous the job can be. Even though I knew the eventual outcome even I felt concern when it happened.
WCW: World War 3 60-Man Battle Royal
for the WCW Heavyweight Championship
A Three Ring Battle Royal sounds a lot cooler than it actually is, especially when the majority of the match is shown on triple split screen. I could barely tell what was happening. To watch 40 minutes and have it all end with a disputed finish pissed me off. The build to the match, the execution and the lack of surprise entrants - despite being teased - were a giant let down to a match that in theory should have been awesome.
PPV OF THE MONTH
This was a tough decision because I honestly didn’t think either show was great, but I’m going to give the edge to WCW and their inaugural World War 3 PPV. The intrigue of seeing a 60-Man Battle Royale was enough to get me excited and even though that match didn’t deliver there was enough good singled matches - D.D.P. vs Johnny B. Badd, and Sting vs Ric Flair - to made it enjoyable. Survivor Series had a great main event, but the rest of the show was littered with traditional elimination matches that had no stakes or story. WCW wins this category for the third straight month.
Notes About Nothing
- Is it just me or does Allen Covert’s character in The Wedding Singer look exactly like Jimmy Hart?
- WWF used a Bill Clinton impersonator to help promote Survivor Series. At the show he propositioned Sunny to be his “under-secretary”.
- I’m pretty sure it’s false advertising to say Milton Bradley’s Karate Fighters feature “authentic martial arts maneuvers.”
- Vince calling Hakushi a “modern day Kamikaze” immediately made me think of “the modern day Maharaja”.
- Jerry Lawler’s attire at Survivor Series 1995 had nearly the exact same pattern as Bo Dallas’ gold jacket. Seriously, look it up!
- There is going to be an “Arkansas Hog Pen Match” at In Your House in December. This is low hanging fruit, but they should bring back something similar for Ellsworth.
- I wonder if Brother Love drank the same thing that turned George Costanza purple. Is Tor Eckman his doctor? Maybe he just needs a tonsillectomy.
- Hogan was backstage, on a cemetery set, wearing a black Polcinella type mask and carrying a sword while talking about his and Macho Man’s hit list. I’m getting Buscemi in Billy Madison vibes! Where’s the lipstick?!
- I hate the way Nick Patrick counts to 3, but I love that he will get in a wrestlers face and push back if need be.
- At World War 3, WCW was advertising their hotline where you could call and get the latest on the “WWF Steroid Scandal”. This was the first noticeably slanderous shot thrown on TV.
AND YOUR WINNER
WWF Monday Night RAW
I honestly didn’t think they had any chance, but RAW steals one from Nitro after corpsing the past two months. The stories they established were more interesting, the payoff to said programs were more satisfying and the in-ring action had some gravitas. WWF’s top end talent was given the platform to show their abilities and they did just that. It felt like they were handcuffed in the past and were finally let loose this month. The mid-card being utilized was also a big game changer. Nitro was sloppy and if you go back and watch I guarantee you’ll be able to notice it as well. There is one month left in the year and it’ll be interesting to see if Vince can keep the ball rolling and head into 1996 tied. As it stands the score now reads 2-1 for WCW.
If you have any suggestions or changes you'd like to see - this feature is fluid - please leave me a comment below. Thank you for reading!