Welcome to Seven Things, a list that will run weekly and consist of very eclectic topics. These are of my opinions and doesn’t express the views of others on WrestlingOnEarth.
This week’s edition is taking it back to the late 90’s. The most popular time frame for pro wrestling was the late 90’s and early 00’s due to the Monday Night Wars of WCW Nitro and WWF Raw being red hot television programs.
Larger than life characters and awe-inspiring athleticism mixed for a time that the culture and society was most ready to accept pro wrestling as an art form and top dollar entertainment option. As the years go by, legacies, mindsets, theories and agendas are passed on as fact and become more matter of fact. I’m going to tackle (or Spear) some of these head on with what I consider to be popular misconceptions about the Monday Night Wars.
7. The unmasking of Rey Mysterio killed his WCW career.
The popular opinion is that WCW buried Rey Mysterio Jr. by having Kevin Nash beat him, stripping his mask away and leaving him for dead. While the premise of unmasking Rey was a foolish idea, it was followed with a big push. Right after that, unmasked Rey defeated Nash cleanly on Nitro in one of the biggest upsets at the time. After that, he defeated bigger and relevant wrestlers like Bam Bam Bigelow and Scott Norton cleanly.
A few weeks after, he had a main event title shot on Nitro on one of the Spring Break shows vs. champion Ric Flair. He was portrayed as the better man as Flair’s rogue referee Charles Robinson ended the match before Rey could get the pin. I really wonder what would have happened in a world with Mysterio winning the title here.
If anything, the signing of Master P and WCW putting him in a team with Konnan that failed due to the WCW audience not liking the No Limit Soldiers slowed his progression down for good. While not something I liked or understand the logic behind, the unmasking wasn’t what did Rey in.
6. The WWE midcard was weak.
An argument I’ve seen made a bit in recent years to boost the current era of WWE and demean the Attitude Era is the difference in talent between the mid-card competitors. This argument is often made about the days before The Radicals arrived in WWE. Guys like D’Lo Brown, Val Venis, The Godfather and Jeff Jarrett are thrown into the mix as less than memorable talents that held the Intercontinental title and card depth picture down.
Not taken into account is the depth of the tag title division back then and the abundance of top tier talents. Towards the end, tag teams like Edge & Christian, The Dudleys and The Hardys made up the mid-card and before then the New Age Outlaws are slept on in terms of rounding out cards as their work as a team and single performers in the mid-card.
In addition to tag teams, the main event scene was packed with Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Mick Foley, Undertaker, Kane and a few others that was rich enough where some of them would fluctuate in their position on the card so the mid-card didn’t need as many performers as they were part of it. Today, WWE tries to do that with someone like a CM Punk but it exposes the lack of top tier depth when it feels like he’s being wasted as opposed to back then when Mick Foley doing god knows what with Al Snow wasn’t as clear a waste of star power.
5. Chris Jericho and Big Show were game changers.
Don’t get me wrong. Chris Jericho and Big Show’s debuts to WWF were among my favorite moments in wrestling. Jericho’s was probably my favorite RAW moment ever and is still the coolest to watch back today. While WCW was stealing the big names and established older talent, WWF looked for two younger guys with a lot of potential and pulled the trigger by placing them in a big time scenario earlier as each tangled with The Rock and Steve Austin on their fight nights in the company.
The thing is both had huge falls quickly after. The Big Show lost a match to Austin on RAW just a few weeks after and quite frankly became a big joke soon following. After Jericho’s epic debut, he was relegated to hanging with Mr. Hughes and doing absolutely nothing noteworthy until he became co-Intercontinental champion with………Chyna. Yes, Chyna.
Both men went on to accomplish great things and have built rich WWE legacies but in terms of the Monday Night Wars, neither were vital in the WWF running further away in the ratings race by jumping ship.
4. Woe is Ric Flair.
One of the more annoying things in the “Death of WCW” book and many WWE documentaries about the time was the portrayal of Ric Flair. The Nature Boy is referred to as a saint who was there to wrestle and put on a good show but was unfairly treated by the egomaniacs Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan. Flair just wanted to hold hands with the locker room and was looking out for the betterment of the industry but these two buzzards prevented it.
Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff were buffoons and Flair was not used properly but the guy was just as egotistical as any of them. In the history of WCW, quite a few future great wrestlers such as Scott Steiner and Diamond Dallas Page would share stories about Flair holding them down when he had a position of power. The tables were turned and some would call that karma striking him down.
In March of 1999, the show became built around Ric Flair again as the champion and heel President authority figure and the main event segments were as uninspiring as ever so he wasn’t a magical fix. Funny to view this years later as Flair has had many questionable moments from a political and less than morally sound point of view. He would go on to work with Hogan and Bischoff in multiple promotions despite them being he-devils as he’d claim on a few WWE DVDs.
3. Eric Bischoff is intelligent.
The narrative is that young and brash Eric Bischoff taking the fight to Vince McMahon with innovative ideas was the reason for WCW’s rise. For years, Bischoff was viewed as a genius of sorts in the world of professional wrestling (or sports entertainment?) and that could not be more false. The WCW appeal was headed by top heavy main event talent. All of those were wrestlers EB poached from WWF with Ted Turner’s check book or an established guy from a past guy regime aside from Goldberg. Turner’s checkbook should probably be named the MVP for WCW’s best years.
What ideas do I credit WCW with under the Bischoff eras? The NWO. The cruiserweight division. Goldberg. The NWO was great but quickly lost its stream and you could argue the butchering of it was as mind blowing as the greatness of the idea and start of it. The cruiserweights never reached anywhere near their ceiling due to a close minded approach by Easy E. Goldberg was more of a perfect storm of things and to be honest, good luck. In all his years following, Bischoff has proved to be a big goof who blames everyone else for his inability to do anything compelling since 1998. Expect him to bury the TNA roster once his contract runs out now that he’s been told to hit the bricks.
2. The last few years of WCW were horrible.
I have been re-watching a lot of WCW 1999 Nitros and PPV’s the last few months and I have to say that it may have been their best year of programming. At least until the end of the year when Russo came around. The main event angles weren’t always great but the personalities were significant enough where the crowd was always red hot. A match I specifically look to is Hulk Hogan under the red and yellow back as a face going against Sid Vicious and his mock undefeated streak for the title. It was as loud as I’d ever hear a WCW crowd.
The mid-card and tag divisions were still spectacular especially with Rey Mysterio and Billy Kidman having an epic stretch of great matches that’s unfortunately forgotten. Throw in Booker T, Chris Benoit, Curt Hennig, just about every single cruiserweight they had, Raven, Diamond Dallas Page and that current WCW roster was probably the best overall roster in pro wrestling history. I highly recommend looking back at February-September 1999 episodes of Nitro for a nice memory of WCW without WWE’s agendas swaying you.
1. The Attitude Era was great.
As better as WCW was in 1999 vs. their opposed perception today, WWF was a complete flip in the year. They started to pull away from WCW in the ratings war, were doing incredible business and was the most relevant year of the Attitude Era but to be blunt, it sucked. The reason WWF did so well in the time frame was because they had TWO A+ superstars. In terms of that caliber, I only consider Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, The Rock and John Cena to be in that level of being “the guy.” With a superstar that rare being hard to find, WWF had two at the same time and it propelled them to a plateau.
Aside from that, the writing was abysmal as the main angle surrounded around the McMahon family soap opera. Perhaps the worst big storyline in wrestling history, Vince McMahon was revealed as “The Higher Power” in cahoots with the Undertaker to make his family’s life a living hell. In the historical memories of this year, it’s said that WCW spat on the face of the viewer with the Finger Poke of Doom spot, when in reality this reveal and storyline was worse than that.
There aren’t many memorable matches from WWF in 1999 that stand through time well. The following year in 2000, things improved dramatically but 1999 was a difficult year to look back on which is an interesting correlation to the Attitude Era. It’s remembered fondly due to nostalgia but the shows were sub par with shock jock angles and crash TV style ideologies. It’s difficult to watch most of those shows today without skipping through a lot.