In Honor Of Tonight's RAW 1000, The Definitive Timeline Of WWE's Victory In The Monday Night Wars (w/ VIDEO)
September 23, 1996 - Jim Ross turns heel and introduces Fake Diesel and Fake Razor Ramon
Shortly after the formation of the New World Order in WCW, around two months after Hulk Hogan hit the leg drop heard 'round the world on Randy Savage, the WWF "leaked" to their America Online site that Diesel and Razor Ramon would be "returning to the WWF!" This sent all of the wrestling-related chat rooms (Ah 1996...when "wrestling-related chat rooms on AOL" were a thing.) into rampant speculation that Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were actually returning to the WWF. Of course, it wound up being two impostors (one of whom, Glenn Jacobs as the Fake Diesel, would wind up playing the role of Kane a year later.), fans everywhere shit on it, and it was forgotten about a few months later. The best thing I can say about this angle is that Jim Ross' promo leading up to the introduction of these two was killer. So that's the part we choose to remember.
October 21, 1996 - Bret Hart returns to WWF with a "lifetime contract"
On the heels of losing Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to WCW, and with other former WWF personalities showing up in WCW almost weekly at that point, Vince McMahon was under intense pressure to hold onto as many of his stars as he could, and in October 1996 Bret Hart (along with Shawn Michaels) was his biggest star. WCW courted Bret, threw a big money offer at him, but in the end Vince was able to hold onto this free agent, trumping Ted Turner's big money with a lifetime contract. Ironic moment in this one: when Bret confirms he's staying by saying he will be in World Wrestling Federation "forever." Yeah, either forever or for about a year.
November 4, 1996 - Brian Pillman/Steve Austin "gun incident"
One thing the WWF did have going for them in late 1996 was the seeds beginning to sprout on the meteoric rise of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. In November of 1996, shortly after he had snapped Brian Pillman's ankle with a chair, Austin decided to pay Pillman a visit at his home in Kentucky on Monday night. Naturally, Pillman decided to greet him with gunfire. This blatant attempt to "shock" viewers back over from watching WCW is best remembered for (a) Vince McMahon apologizing profusely to viewers for WWF going a bit over the top (right after re-airing highlights of the angle on the Saturday Live Wire show) and (b) Kevin Kelly's screaming like a seventh grade girl for someone to call the police. (The seeds for the Rock calling Kelly a "hermaphrodite" during every subsequent interview were planted this day, I truly believe this.)
March 17, 1997 - Bret Hart turns heel, berates Vince McMahon
The template for the Austin-McMahon "evil owner" angle which eventually pushed the WWF back on top was formed from Bret Hart's real life frustrations with how he was being handled since returning the previous October, and the first big blow up at Vince McMahon was this one, right after losing a title match to Sid on Monday Night RAW the week before Wrestlemania 13. Hart's ultimate blow up at McMahon came in November after the Montreal Screwjob, and that one was far more real (and far more spit-laden).