On September 4, 1995, professional wrestling changed forever. World Championship Wrestling launched its weekly television program “Monday Nitro” directly in competition with industry leader World Wrestling Federation’s show “Monday Night Raw”. What followed was a six-year long ratings war that paved the way for a king to be crowned.
The documentary takes us back to what prompted the war in the first place. In the 1980s, WWF CEO Vince McMahon began buying out “territories” across the United States. They represented a geographical division that allowed regional wrestling companies to employ independent wrestlers on a regular basis, entertain crowds and earn money.
All this changed when McMahon tried to monopolise the wrestling business and use the advent of television to reach the masses. Vince succeeded in buying out several territories across the US, owing to the success of his 1985 mega show called “WrestleMania”.
WWF was on top of the world, but few territories remained out of reach. One such territory was the southern promotion known as World Championship Wrestling, which regularly featured superstars such as the iconic Ric Flair. Things changed when Turner Broadcasting owner Ted Turner entered the pro wrestling industry and brought his millions to WCW to challenge the dominance of Vince McMahon. Thus, the Monday Night Wars were born.
The War Begins
The documentary takes us back to when Turner employed Eric Bischoff to take the reins for a weekly television program that had the capacity to challenge WWF’s weekly show.
After the capture of wrestling’s most popular superstar in Hulk Hogan, WCW was on its way. Grabbing a few more established names from WWF allowed Turner’s company to launch Nitro live on TNT directly in competition with Raw in the coveted 9 PM slot.
The results were instantaneous. WCW drew high ratings, with fans intrigued by the bold attempt to capture opposition talent and showcase a product that was miles ahead of the outdated content put up by WWF.
Arguably the most exciting part of the documentary features the creation of the “New World Order” (NWO) faction. After signing superstars such as Kevin Nash and Scott Hall from WWF, WCW paired them with Hulk Hogan to create a villainous group called the NWO.
The documentary shows us just how popular the NWO was back in the day, showcasing special clips from the mid 90s where Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman skipped practice to be on WCW programming along with his NWO buddies. Rodman regularly featured on TNT along with 1997 NBA MVP Karl Malone, with both even featuring in a match against each other.
The WWF makes a comeback
The documentary then switches to how the sleeping giant in WWF was awoken by the success of its rivals. Following the loss of most of his main event talent, Vince McMahon rallied and focused on creating new stars out of his expanding roster. The likes of Triple H, The Rock, Stone Cold and The Undertaker steadied the ship and ended WCW’s 84-week long triumph in the ratings.
WWF’s edgy and sleazy product brought fans back to their programming, with a special emphasis on the 18-49 demographic who couldn’t get enough of the violent and often sexualised nature of content on a weekly basis.
The Fall of WCW
WWF’s rise coincided with the fall of WCW. Ted Turner was losing his grip over his network during the late 1990s and the AOL-Time Warner merger spelled the beginning of the end for the company. The documentary shows how backstage politics and overpaid wrestlers only made problems worse and WCW was forced to shut shop in 2001.
WWF had won the Monday Night Wars and McMahon even succeeded in buying out the company and grabbing exclusive rights to its content library and intellectual property.
This documentary gives us an exclusive peek into life during one of the most tense times in pro wrestling, with interviews from icons of the previous era that shaped the industry to where it is today.
It’s hard to argue that this documentary is one of the most well produced shows on the WWE network, with real effort put into providing fans more than they would have ever expected.
They say history is written by the victors, and this is true when it comes to the Monday Night Wars documentary. This program aired on the WWE network, so it was bound to show the company in a positive light even if there were clearly issues during time.
The doc portrays Vince McMahon as the ultimate wrestling king, buying out his competition and taking home the spoils, and while that may be true to an extent, the sheer number of times that is mentioned does tend to stand out a bit and make you wonder.
Overall, the documentary does a great job in telling us what went on during the war, and remains one of the best accounts of a time that turned millions of individuals into professional wrestling fans.