Pro wrestling has always been a drawing card around the world, especially in the United States. The WWE (formerly known as the WWF) is a juggernaut and as of now, is the only legitimate company airing on National TV. Sure there’s TNA but let’s admit that company has never been very good and frankly, never stood a chance against Vince McMahon. What happened you ask? I’ll give some history to those who may not know much about the sports entertainment world.
Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s there were two companies with national exposure. One was called WCW (World Championship Wrestling), owned by media giant Ted Turner. Turner currently owns TNT and TBS, possibly the two biggest TV stations in the world. On the other side was Vince McMahon, who owned WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). WCW in the early 90’s had gone through multiple managers and was purchased by a company who didn’t want anything to do with the industry other than the amount of money they could draw from it.
The company had been losing money ever since it had been acquired from Jim Crockett promotions in 1988. In 1993, a commentator named Eric Bischoff, applied for the position of executive producer. Despite having no experience in production, Bischoff had a creative mind and brought the company out of the negative and pushed it into a positive state of revenue. Bischoff had secured a deal with Disney to do his shows at the MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida. Due to renting big arenas and having small turn-outs, he decided to save the money and have an established location to broadcast his wrestling. In 1994, the infamous Hulk Hogan joined WCW, finally providing the newly established organization a legitimate roster, and also a chance to hang with the WWE.
In 1995, Bischoff was giving a presentation to Ted Turner and a few seconds into the presentation Turner informed to him, “Eric, what do we got to do to compete with WWE?” Bischoff said he wasn’t prepared for that question and said the first thing that came to his mind, which was, “give me prime time” and he was thinking, Ted won’t give me prime time. Turner leaned over to Bischoff’s boss and said, “give Eric two hours every Monday night on TNT”. Bischoff was floored and was in awe that his bogus proposal had been granted. This kicked off what is commonly known in the wrestling world as Monday Night Wars.
The first episode of WCW Monday Nitro aired on September 4th, 1995 at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Before the first airing of Nitro, Bischoff had been in negotiations to bring Lex Luger over from the WWE. Luger’s contract with WWE had expired on September 3rd of that same year, one night before the debut of Nitro. When Luger appeared on WCW television, the crowd was shocked and the commentators, Tony Schivone and Bobby “the brain” Hennan, acted stunned. This situation however, would not be the first of WWE stars appearing on WCW TV.
Bischoff wanted WCW television to seem real. At this time, WWE television was very corny and predictable, as it is today and is frankly horrible from an entertainment standpoint. The roster is deeper than ever, but the entertainment aspect of it is dull and dry. In the next segment of this series, I will discuss the Monday Night Wars more in-depth and revisit some of the most controversial moments in its’ history.