The Monday Night Wars between WWF and WCW created, what I believe to be, the most dynamic and entertaining period in wrestling history. The idea behind this feature is to compare the two shows, in a fantasy sports style head-to-head matchup, and declare a winner for each month. This will not be a short voyage, but I sincerely hope you’ll join me on this journey through the battlefield and relive some of the greatest and most infamous moments of that era.
September 1995 is where we began with the debut of Nitro, and believe me when I tell you the scorecard wasn’t even close. WCW leaped out of the gates taking a quick 1-0 lead over the WWF who had an absolutely pitiful month. Razor Ramon was mired in a feud with a vengeful school teacher, Dean Douglas, and Bret Hart sought revenge against Jean-Pierre Lafitte, a thieving pirate who stole his jacket. Nitro, on the other hand, managed to create a weekly sense of cohesion and connectedness between their three main angles.
I'm hoping WWF stops being random and directionless with their matchmaking. As for WCW, I just want to see what happens next. There is a weekly escalation to each story that makes it feel like you can't miss an episode. I'm anticipating back-to-back wins for WCW, but stranger things have happened.
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.
I'll just cut to the chase, RAW was painfully bad. There was nothing I'd suggest watching. The most interesting thing to happen occurred outside the ring. At In Your House 4, Shawn Michaels was forced to relinquish the Intercontinental Championship due to a concussion. No mention was made as to what happened so I decided to look it up myself. There are some conflicting reports on the exact details, but the narrative seems to be that HBK got beat up outside a Syracuse nightclub by a group of Marines while everyone else stood by and watched. Whether or not he was fit to compete or just didn't want to drop the belt to Dean Douglas is up for debate. Any period of time without Michaels on TV is going to make an already bad show even more insufferable.
For the second straight month, it felt like the WWF was drowning itself in bad habits. The lack of story and character development are astonishing. They were already announcing Survivor Series matches using a wildcard formula. They’re promoting randomness! Even the feuds that are occurring naturally, like Bret and Bulldog, are being neglected because the company seemingly feel tied to their own ideas about what's entertaining and what's not. Right now I’m watching a children’s variety show and I hate every minute of it.
Forget serenity, Nitro's mantra seems to be "insanity now, insanity later." The month started with Hulk Hogan getting his mustache shaved off, his neck "snapped" by The Giant, yet again, and he dropped the ethereal red and yellow for an all-black ensemble. Somebody help, the Hulkster has fallen and he can’t get up! Monster trucks with biceps, a toilet paper Yeti, 5-story death drops off Kobo Hall and a trio of heel turns are just a few of the other things that happened in October.
While I love the outrageousness of their program, the writing could have been a lot tighter. The Giant falling off a building and not getting hurt was too big of a leap, even for me. The Giant not winning, but stealing the Heavyweight Championship and being allowed to defend it makes no logical sense. Ric Flair joining Arn Anderson and Flyin' Brian in a newly reformed Horsemen also did not make sense based on how heated and emotional he was while fighting them the past few weeks. I'd say the same thing about Jimmy Hart and Lex Luger turning heel, but I couldn't care less about The Total Package. He is an absolute bore in the ring. Just to be clear, these are easy fixes, but they need to add some more detail and depth to allow us, the audience, to see the reasoning that led to their decisions. Regardless, I can't wait to start watching November.
10 Best Quotes of the Month:
1. “Now let me understand this. 1000 holds? Now there’s a book out, 101 sex positions, where does he come up with 1000 holds?” - Steve 'Mongo' McMichael (Nitro 05)
2. “He’s 100% absolutely NOT GUILTY! Go Juice!” - Jerry Lawler (RAW 129)
3. “And if that Giant’s not man enough to face me eye-to-eye for the first time in Detroit, Michigan, because he shaved Hulk Hogan’s mustache off, Kevin Sullivan and that Giant they might as well have put graffiti on the Washington Monument, brother. They might as well have burned the American flag, brother. Because when I get him in Detroit, brother, I’m gonna burn machine against machine. And after I put that Giant in his place the last thing I’ll do with my immortality is beat Gorgeous George up in Heaven.” - Hulk Hogan (Nitro 06)
4. “Now it’s time to take care of all the family business. Don Corleone, Hulk Hogan, brother, is here to protect the training, the prayers, and the vitamins with one fell swoop, brother. … So what you gonna do, big stinky Giant and Kevin Sullivan, when the shadow, the darkness, the evil of Hulkamania GOUGES YOU!?” - Hulk Hogan (Nitro 07)
5. Isaac Yankem, D.D.S., Jerry Lawler, you’re both respectively the tartar and abscess of the World Wrestling Federation and tonight inside this 15-foot high steel cage I am going to be your personal hygienist.” - Bret Hart (RAW 131)
6. It’s a good thing it’s not raining in Winnipeg right now or he might drown with his nose up in the air that high.” - Vince McMahon re Hunter Hearst Helmsley (In Your House 4, 1995)
7. SHUT THE F*@# UP!” - Sycho Sid to a young fan in the crowd (RAW 132)
8. “Goldust has that masculine RuPaul kind of look.” - Vince McMahon (RAW 133)
9. “This is the insurance policy! My father went with the sherpa guides to get the Yeti, to bring it back! We thought he surrendered the colors of yellow and red, but now he wears black because he walks in the land of madness.” Kevin Sullivan (Nitro 08)
10. Macho Man: “Your mustache is crooked.”
Mean Gene: “Well, your beard is a little sideways too, but I don’t wanna get into that. I’m not going to take personal potshots at you or anybody else. That’s not my nature.
Macho Man: “Get in line! Everybody’s after me!”
Mean Gene: “I’m a better guy than that! I don’t mind telling ya. I’m a bigger man!
Macho Man: “Cool, cool.”
Mean Gene: “How did we get into this?”
Macho Man: “That’s okay, man.”
WWF: Bret Hart vs Isaac Yankem D.D.S w/ Jerry Lawler in a Shark Cage (RAW 131)
- The in-ring action in October was pitiful with names like PG-13, Al Brown, Avatar, Joe Dorgan, Otis Apollo, Scott D’Amore and Brian Walsh occupying almost every second match. The big names were present, but almost all of their bouts ended in disqualification. In this match the moves were crisp and the blue cage - which I've always loved - looked impeccable. The best part, however, was the visual of Jerry Lawler in a shark cage. Twenty-two years ago they were still running the same schtick they are today. Lawler claimed to have acrophobia, but he put it over the top by somehow mustering an actual nosebleed. The show went off the air, hilariously, with Lawler still suspended above the ring because Gorilla Monsoon couldn't get him down. This match was the one bit of fun I had watching RAW.
WCW: Eddie Guerrero vs Chris Benoit (Nitro 07)
- I’ll admit that I still feel weird talking about Chris Benoit. I’m from Edmonton, grew up a fan of his and while I wish there was a way around it, his in-ring work is going to be hard to avoid. I watched this match and was quickly reminded how incredibly talented both men were. It was hard hitting, technically sound and told a great story. Both men were elevated by their performances. Kenny Omega actually popped into my head because it reminded me of the quality of work he is doing right now.
WWF: Jim Cornette talking about why British Bulldog is a worthy opponent for the WWF Championship. Admittedly this was not outstanding, but I needed to pick something and the other options were somehow worse. (RAW 133)
WCW: Hulk Hogan gave a brief history of Hulkamania, talked about his “old promoter choking on his ego", the escalation of his feud with Kevin Sullivan and The Giant, and how shaving his mustache forcefully shaven is akin to treason. (Nitro 06)
WWF: Owen Hart gets the win this month for having three solid showings against the biggest names in WWF. First he had a tag match with Yokozuna and Bulldog against Shawn Michaels, Diesel and the Undertaker. He was at it again when he won a 20-man battle royal and then finally he lost to Razor Ramon via DQ in an Intercontinental Championship match.
WCW: Eddie Guerrero is quickly making a name for himself by having PPV quality matches on a weekly basis. In October he fought Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit - individually and then again in a tag match with Mr. J.L. - and Sgt. Craig Pittman. He is having matches and performing moves that nobody else could match at the time and that we take for granted today.
WWF: Alundra Blayze vs Bertha Faye (C) w/Harvey Wippleman - WWF Women’s Championship Match (RAW 132)
- This was the only women’s segment on either show in the two months since I began so I thought it deserved some shine. The wrestling was decent and actually impressed me. You hear so much negativity about that era that it's easy to forget what an absolute superstar Alundra Blayze was in spite of the lack of divisional depth. I wish I could have seen her square up with some of today's Superstars.
WCW: Hulk Hogan vs The Giant - Machine vs Machine Showdown (Halloween Havoc 1995)
- Hogan claimed that this was a battle for the “destiny of wrestling”, but from the outside looking in, a monster truck showdown seemed dumb. And it was, but god damn if I wasn’t entertained. This was the most glorious explosion of absurdity that I’ve ever seen. I don't think I'll ever forget Bobby Heenan’s seemingly genuine concern for The Giant. “Is he injured or in the river?” he constantly cried out, forcing Tony Schiavone or anybody in the company to fill him in on what was happening. They made this feel like a big deal and while they may not have stuck the landing the overall journey was more than enjoyable.
PPV of the Month
WCW Halloween Havoc defeats In Your House 4. The amount of storylines and material WCW generated in the last 30 minutes of that show were better than anything WWF did all month long. I like having something to talk about and WCW gave me plenty.
Notes About Nothing
I like imagining Hulk Hogan drunk at karaoke singing The Beatles’ "Baby’s in Black" to himself, about himself.
I wonder if Disco Inferno will ever learn a second dance move?
WWF’s O.J. hotline got more coverage on RAW 129 than any of the matches. 50 cents per call, but the west coast was excluded because “maybe they’re a little too close to it.” 51% voted that he is not guilty.
Who came up with the name “2 Dudes with Attitudes”? Probably the same guy who constantly yells “OH YEAH TAKE A LOOK AT HIM!”
On Nitro 06 the entire commentary team wore Chicago Bears jerseys. Bobby Heenan’s was crested with a question mark rather than a number.
The name Dok Hendrix is not fooling anyone, but I’m always amused by the fact that he dresses like an aging porn star.
Nitro 09 is the first time on either show that the ring announcer was mic’d up and nobody talked over top of them.
I like how WWF would sell it’s merchandise ringside. The promotional notes for the Shawn and Bret cutouts were laugh-out-loud funny. Shawn’s was targeted towards women so that “he can be in your house 24/7 to look at” and Bret was for kids so that he can “watch you sleep.” WHAT!
Fatu’s character design feels like it was lifted entirely from the film, Cool Runnings.
Hulk Hogan referred to himself as “The Big Dog” on Nitro 08.
AND YOUR WINNER
WCW Nitro wins for the second consecutive month taking a quick 2-0 lead on RAW. Some of Nitro’s twists and turns this month may not have coalesced, but at least they’re making an effort to be entertaining. I can’t say the same about the World Wrestling Federation.
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!