Posts Tagged ‘Vince Russo’

1973 saw the premiere of The World at War. Considered a landmark in the history of British television, this World War II documentary was considered ahead of its time in rekindling interest in military history.

A generation later, World at War producer Jeremy Isaacs returned to produce the Cold War documentary for CNN and BBC.

Last August, the most important documentary of our generation debuted, its final two episodes aired in early January of 2015. This documentary aired on the WWE Network. This documentary, was the Monday Night Wars.

For the uninitiated, the Monday Night War was a period from September 4th, 1995 t March 26th 2001, during which the TNT network aired WCW Monday Nitro, head to head against WWF Monday Night Raw. Considered by many fans to be wrestling’s greatest era, early on WCW was dominant, with a villainous Hulk Hogan leading the groundbreaking NWO faction. WWF later fought back, with it’s Attitude Era and new edgy stars like DX, the Rock, Mankind, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Eventually WWF purchased WCW in early 2001, hence winning the Monday Night Wars.

The first episode features the background of the rivalry between Ted Turner and Vince McMahon, how Eric Bischoff became head of WCW and started the Monday Nitro program. The first episode of Nitro is highlighted, with it airing live from the Mall of America and the surprise appearance of Lex Luger.

The following episode features the NWO, which included the most shocking heel turn ever, Hogan going bad. His reluctance to turn heel is mentioned, as is how innovative and real life the story line felt.

At this point one of the weaknesses of the documentary becomes apparent. Every episode feels the need to spend 5-10 minutes recapping what we already knew, or at least learned in the first episode. So basically there could be up to 190 minutes of material you already heard, that’s almost like losing 3 episodes.

It’s interesting to see who appeared for an interview for this and who did not. We get Vince McMahon, Vince Russo, Lex Luger, Hogan, Nash, HBK. There are a few older clips of Vince, Bischoff, and others. However there are no interviews of Sting, Madusa, Chyna, and very little of the Undertaker. I can’t help but wonder what was a bigger factor in not having Chyna, her past relationship with HHH, or that she is a porn star during the now PG era of WWE. There’s an old interview from Ted Turner from 1998 where he talks about WCW. (This interview, often the same segment of it is played repeatedly throughout various episodes). An exclusive Ted Turner interview would have been gold.

Each episode is given a specific topic. The third episode is about the WWF Attitude Era, followed by episodes for DX, Foely, and Bret Hart. It was interesting to see how Bret and HBK were friends early on, when WWF started its “Youth movement.” It’s generalized how WCW didn’t use Hart well but it’s not followed up on specifically. (And they show Hart with the WCW belt.) An ECW episode follows telling how Vince invested in the company and how they kept losing their roster to WCW. An Austin episode airs before going back to WCW with the Cruiserweights (where see Benoit and hear his name said) and Goldberg, where the numbers of his undefeated streak are called into question, and CM Punk says no, in fact he was not and Austin Clone. Then we go back to WWF with the Rock.

The best episode is easily Diva’s gone wild, even though Madusa isn’t interviewed for it. After the Madusa incident, where she appeared on Nitro and threw the WWF women’s title in the garbage, the WWF legitimately did not have a women’s title for 3 years after this. Chyna is covered even though she wasn’t interviewed for this. They also cover Sunny and Sable and how the Diva’s evolved over time. (It should be said that WCW’s women’s division is given little to no coverage)

The following celebrity episode was very interesting, but the most disappointing episode was about Sting and the Undertaker and how neither of them jumped ship. This episode aired after Survivor Series of 14, where Sting finally made his WWE debut. A good portion of the episode is spent time speculating on why neither of them ever switched sides, and it simply boggles the mind why nobody just asked them. Again Sting does not appear on camera for this at all, Undertaker briefly appears in a few other episodes, but not this one. Why on Earth would they not simply just ask the guys? They both work for the company right now. For God sakes it’s not like they’re both dead!

While that was the most disappointing episode the following one was probably the dumbest. Fifteen episodes in and we keep getting the narrative that WCW lost because they didn’t build new stars. Now this episode tries to say how they did. They talk about the Giant (Big Show) and how he “beat” Hogan to become champion in his first ever match. They don’t mention how that match is considered one of the all-time goofiest things in wrestling, with the YET-TAY (big giant guy wrapped up like a mummy) coming to the ring and he and the Giant dry hump Hogan. Also not mentioned is how in the storyline the title gets vacated anyway and Macho Man wins it at the next PPV (ala WMIV) which was WW3, WCW’s attempt to out-do the Royal Rumble.

We get an episode on the Kliq, how one group of friends influenced both companies. The next to last two episodes are Mistakes on the Battlefield and the Fall of WCW. Here we see Bischoff’s frustrations in the later years and Russo’s tenure at WCW. The lawsuit between Hogan and Russo is mentioned but not covered much. The general disarray of WCW’s final days is covered, from the later gimmicks to the KISS appearance to the Viagra on a pole match. The Oklahoma gimmick mocking J.R. is ignored. Russo still defends putting the title on David Arquette, because it got a mention in USA today. They keep the traditional narrative of Nash and Hogan played politics and didn’t let new talent flourish, but we don’t really get Hogan and Nash’s side of the story. I would have liked some coverage on the Thursday night war too, when Smackdown and Thunder aired head to head.

The final episode covers the purchase of WCW by WWF, and how the Invasion angle was underwhelming due to the contract situations. It is mentioned how WCW had no TV deal, and it is suggested that WWF couldn’t air WCW programming on another network due to the nature of their contract with TNN (on which RAW aired at the time). However they did air Smackdown at this time so I would have like to have seen that clarified more.

The subsequent years of various WCW alumni appearing are covered, as is the return of Hogan/Hall/Nash to WWF and how they came in with their NWO gimmick. Interestingly they say there was this Executive Creative Control table that voted against bringing Hogan back, but Vince over ruled them.

There was a sports writer that appeared for this documentary, and he said that in the history of television, there’s never been two sports federations that went head to head. That was an interesting insight.

The Monday Night Wars is one of my personal obsessions, and because of that I knew a lot about it going into this. However, despite my criticisms above, it did offer a lot of insight into various aspects of that time. I would have liked to have seen a few things be elaborated on, but that’d probably be the case no matter what.

The Monday Night Wars documentary is a fun nostalgia trip that offered some good insights into wrestling’s greatest era. However, ultimately, as a documentary, it was a little disappointing. In conclusion, it’s obvious that someone needs to write a book about the Monday Night Wars, and that someone just might have to be me.