In 1995, Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling presented a program entitled Monday Night Nitro. The show was aired on TNT and was presented as competition to the recently un-opposed Monday Night Raw that was produced by Vince McMahon of the World Wrestling Federation. The stars of the WWF at the time included Yokozuna, Bret Hart, The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, all for the most part relatively young. The stars of WCW included Lex Luger, Sting, Ric Flair and the WCW Champion, Hulk Hogan, all who were grizzled veterans of the sport at the time. The fight between Raw and Nitro would produce the greatest time to be a wrestling fan for sure. The Monday Night Wars, mixed with a little bit of Paul Heyman's Extreme Championship Wrestling, allowed every fan of wrestling to watch an alternative, something that is greatly missed today. The WWF, WCW and ECW staged weekly battles, though the WWF and WCW were the center stage promotions. Over the course of six plus years, many memorable moments would come out of these battles. Kevin Nash and Scott Hall abruptly left the WWF to join WCW. Hulk Hogan, the greatest face of all time became a heel and aligned himself with Hall and Nash to form the n.W.o. At the same time, a budding young star named Steve Austin had recently won the King of the Ring Tournament and was on the road to superstardom. WCW staged battles for the WCW Championship with big named talent whereas the WWF was showcasing lesser known but more talented stars in the main events. Nitro and the WCW rose to stardom and nearly put Vince McMahon's WWF out of business.
A "Murphy's Law" scenario occurred where during the 84 week long winning ratings streak by Nitro, WWF suffered some near fatal blows. At the 1997 Summerslam, Owen Hart defended the Intercontinental Title against challenger Steve Austin. Austin was quickly becoming the most popular star in the company. During an exchange in the match, Owen countered a gut wrench and hit an inverted Tombstone Piledriver. The move was botched and Austin would be near motionless for most of the remainder of the match. Austin would wind up finishing the match, weakly rolling up Owen Hart for the victory and the championship. Several officials helped Austin after the match. Clearly there was an issue when Austin held the Intercontinental Title above his head and quickly dropped it. Austin suffered a serious neck injury and was forced to sit out for several months. Perhaps the move that could have really killed McMahon's promotion occurred at the 1997 Survivor Series pay per view in Montreal Quebec, Canada. The main event would feature the proud Canadian Bret Hart defend the WWF Title against Shawn Michaels. There was a lot of build up to this match that was not seen on television. For one, Hart and Michaels did not like each other and still aren't fond of one another these days and that's putting it mildly. Secondly, Bret Hart's contract was expiring. Hart was under the impression that he had signed a 20 year, $20 million deal to stay with the WWF pretty much for life. At the same time, WCW was offering Hart a deal somewhere around three years, nine and a half million. So Hart was willing to stay for a lot less money. Suddenly, Vince McMahon told Hart to take WCW's offer because he couldn't afford to pay him. Hart was still the champion and decided that he would take WCW's offer but told McMahon that he was still loyal to the company, but he did not want to drop the title to Michaels. McMahon was afraid because several years earlier, Madusa, who was Alundra Blayze in the WWF and the WWF Women's Champion, took the belt over to Nitro and dumped it in the garbage can on live TV. McMahon feared that Hart would do the same thing, ignoring Hart's loyalty. Hart had agreed with McMahon for the finish of the match. Michaels would lock Hart in Hart's finisher the Sharpshooter. Hart would then trip up Michaels and reverse the hold, locking Michaels in the Sharpshooter. Triple H would then hit the ring and cause the DQ as members of the Hart Foundation would hit the ring. From there, many ideas were thrown around for Hart to lose the belt. One rumor that I heard was for a Fatal Four Way Match at the December pay per view Degeneration X that would feature Hart defend the title against Michaels, The Undertaker and Ken Shamrock. Michaels would pin Shamrock, win the title and Hart would be in WCW. Things didn't go according to plan however and the "Montreal Screwjob" occurred. Hart destroyed equipment at ringside, painted the letters "WCW" with his hands and the most memorable part of all, spit on Vince McMahon immediately. Bret, his brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith and Jim Neidhart all left the WWF after this.
The WWF was falling apart but towards the middle of 1998, things began to change. WCW was becoming a circus act, as the older veterans would refuse to let the younger guys get over. The main draw for WCW in 1998 was Bill Goldberg. Meanwhile Steve Austin had defeated an injured Shawn Michaels for the WWF Title at WrestleMania 14 that would be Michaels' last match with the company until 2002. Anyway, there was a power struggle within the WWF between Austin and McMahon. The 84 week ratings streak came to an end when Raw televised Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon. Dude Love interfered and the match never got off but the WWF finally won a round. WCW's last ratings win came when Bill Goldberg put his undefeated streak on the line against Hulk Hogan for the WCW Title. Goldberg defeated Hogan and won the Title. From that point on, WCW was on its way out and the WWF would begin to trample them. The WWF created new stars in Steve Austin, The Rock, The Hardy Boys, Kane, Edge, Christian and expanded the credibility of their older stars like The Undertaker and Triple H.
In the early part of 2001, the wrestling world would take a turn for the worse. In January of the year, ECW presented their final show, a simple live event that ended with the roster saluting the fans while drinking beer and bitter enemies in The Sandman and Justin Credible embracing each other. Meanwhile World Championship Wrestling presented their last show on March 26, a Nitro telecast that featured the United States Champion Booker T win the WCW Championship from Scott Steiner and Sting defeat his greatest rival, Ric Flair. Shane McMahon also appeared on the show and said that he owned WCW not Vince McMahon. This appearance was the beginning of the Invasion angle, one that made a lot of money for Vince McMahon but in essence blew his credibility out the door. Indeed the closing of WCW and ECW left the wrestling world in bad shape.
by Steven M. (View/Submit your feedback here)..