In Honor Of Tonight's RAW 1000, The Definitive Timeline Of WWE's Victory In The Monday Night Wars (w/ VIDEO)
January 4, 1999 - Mankind wins the WWF Title
On my radio show this past weekend, I asked WWE Hall of Fame announcer Jim Ross what he thought was the turning point in the Monday Night wars when he knew that the WWF had seized momentum for good, and he cited January 4, 1999, the night Mick Foley won the world heavyweight title for the first time in his career. The match itself actually was recorded a week before, and because of that it gave WCW Monday Nitro play by play guy Tony Schivaone the chance to get off this little gem:
Schiavone even made sarcastic comments about Foley as a champ not "putting butts in seats." The response from viewers was not what WCW had hoped for. 500,000 of them changed channels to go see Foley, a huge fan favorite, win his first World title.
March 22, 1999 - Steve Austin douses the McMahon's in beer
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin beer truck on Raw - 1999 by GoreShrader
More Austin-McMahon greatness. Not much more you have to say here.
May 24, 1999 - Owen Hart Tribute show
On the night of May 23, 1999, at the Over The Edge pay per view, Owen Hart, in costume as the Blue Blazer character, fell from over 70 feet in the air as he was making what was supposed to be a "superhero type entrance," and later that night was pronounced dead as a result of the impact of the fall. In the face of much criticism, the WWF not only continued the card that evening but went on with Monday Night RAW the next night. Appropriately, they scrapped whatever script they had that Monday and did a show entirely in tribute to the late Owen Hart.
August 9, 1999 - Chris Jericho debuts in WWE
Millennium countdown clock, distinctive ring entrance music, an immediate verbal spat with one of the two biggest stars in the company -- this was the textbook way to introduce a star into the company. People already knew Chris Jericho from his indy career and his three years in WCW, where he managed to become a huge fan favorite despite WCW seemingly wanting him to barely ascend above mid card status. WWE obviously had bigger plans for him.
September 27, 1999 - The Rock: This Is Your Life
Someday when your grandkids ask you "What was the highest rated segment of Monday Night RAW, grandpa?", you will tell them "Well, grandson, it wasn't a match, wasn't an interview, wasn't even something involving the McMahons. It was this..." (And then you'll show them this YouTube clip on the small digital monitor that has been surgically installed on their hands since birth. 2035, I'm telling you, it's happening.)
November 29, 1999 - Stephanie McMahon wedding to Test
It wouldn't be a RAW retro piece without a wedding, so why not the on-screen wedding that was the genesis for the actual, eventual wedding of Stephanie McMahon and Triple H? Who knew that implied date rape could end up being so fulfilling?
January 31, 2000 - The Radicalz debut
By 2000, WCW was such a steaming hot mess that even the guys who were getting a good push in their careers wanted out, even their champion! Yes, that's right, one night after winning the WCW title on pay per view, Chris Benoit quit the promotion in protest to Kevin Sullivan (ex-husband of his real life wife, Nancy) being named booker, and he took three of his best friends to the WWF with him. This was historically significant because it was the last big influx of relevant talent from WCW to the WWF before WCW closed its doors for good, and because two of the four so called "Radicalz" wound up being notable players in WWE -- Eddie Guerrero would eventually be a highly entertaining world champion, and Chris Benoit would eventually and tragically kill his wife, his son, and himself and essentially erase himself from WWE history.
March 26, 2001 - Death of WCW
In the end, WCW, which at its peak made an insane $55 million in annual profit in 1998, was purchased for a mere $3 million, a sum that WWE I'm guessing has easily recouped and then some in DVD sales from the tape library alone over the last ten years. It's a number the WWF would have blown up exponentially if they executed the ready made "invasion" angle properly. More on that in a second, but first, Vince McMahon's touchdown dance on Billionaire Ted.
Ironic that in this clip Vince McMahon is touting to someone on the phone how, on the night he had bought WCW, he had booked a match of Austin and the Rock versus the Undertaker and Kane on RAW, only because it was McMahon who once said WCW was going to ruin the future of the business by putting pay per view main event caliber matches on free television. Yeah, ruin it or set the stage for Vince to take his company public and become a billionaire himself. One or the other.
For me, the golden age ended after the botched Invasion angle in the summer of 2001. Instead of using all of the big stars from WCW like Hogan, Nash, Hall, Goldberg, Ric Flair and even Eric Bischoff in a true compelling and more real NWO storyline, we got a gaggle of WCW and ECW mid carders being led around by the nose by whichever McMahon pulled the long straw for the most TV time that night. This was the one huge angle wrestling fans had waited for forever, one that we thought we'd never get, then stars aligned properly to see it, and we got Booker T and Buff Bagwell. Myself, I felt cheated.
Today, I still watch Monday Night RAW, almost every week. I still enjoy it, I'm still a fan, but I know it will never match the halcyon days of 1996 through 2001. It's like watching The Office after Jim and Pam finally got together; it's still funny, it's still on my DVR every week, but if I have to wait a couple days to see it, then so be it. Monday Night RAW still has "Save Until I Delete" status, it just sits there a lot longer waiting to be watched and subsequently deleted.
The best of times for RAW may be over, but tonight we can at least celebrate those times. Me, I plan on doing so with a few Steveweisers and some pie.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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