What’s the Cause of All This?

By The Columbia Chronicle

Benjamin Trecroci

Managing Editor

The following is a scene played out in living rooms all over the country on Monday nights: “What are we going to watch, Raw or Nitro? On Raw, Stone Cold is about to fight Kane! On Nitro, Goldberg is supposed to take on Kevin Nash!”

This dilemma faces millions of wrestling fans each Monday night. World Championship Wrestling (WCW) has Monday Nitro on TNT from 7-10 p.m., and the World Wrestling Federation shows Monday Night Raw on USA from 8-10 p.m. Professional wrestling has taken over a night once dominated by football. Between the two programs, approximately 40 million people are watching wrestling each week. The combined five hours of the two programs make up the top five watched hours in national cable ratings. While nobody is sure why people are watching wrestling so much, one thing is for sure: Wrestling is definitely back.

For the last two-plus years, professional wrestling has reached a level of popularity unseen since the Hulkmania days of the mid-80s. In the early nineties, wrestling was made up of a bunch of gimmicks and goofs directed towards children. The WWF went so far as to bring in a clown character called Doink to run around the ring with midget replicas called Dink and Blink. WCW eventually landed Hulk Hogan, but even he could not bring wrestling back from the dead.

The fans had become tired of the same Hulk Hogan – the blond locks, the ripping of the t-shirt, the Great American image; something had to be done quick.

Then came WCW’s “Bash at the Beach 1996,” where WCW was taken over by “The Outsiders” (former WWF wrestlers Razor Ramon and Diesel, now known as Scott Hall and Kevin Nash). The two of them took on team WCW in a six-man tag team match. But the Outsiders did not reveal who their partner was. Near the end of the match, Hulk Hogan appeared for the first time in almost a year. Everyone believed that Hogan was going to help WCW, but he didn’t. He turned his back on the fans and WCW and formed the New World Order (NWO).

Nobody thought that Hulk Hogan would ever tell the fans to “go to hell,” but he did, and since that shocking moment wrestling has prospered.

The WWF had experienced a roster raid. Almost all of their big name talent had gone to WCW. They were struggling. To show their displeasure over the loss of Razor Ramon and Diesel, a pair of impostors wrestled for a short time. These two were out of shape and looked nothing like the real “Outsiders.”

For the first year after the inception of NWO, the WCW was dominating the WWF in the ratings. The talent was better, and the action was unbelievable. For the entire show, viewers were on the edge of their seats waiting to see what would happen next. From sneak attacks in the parking lot to gang style, eight-on-one attacks in the ring, Nitro was intense. Raw was just that – a rancid show with no plot or talent.

The star that the WWF waited for was one of their own, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Austin was a lower-billed wrestler who had flashes of greatness, but was never given the push he deserved.

His popularity started to rise during his feud with former Inter-Continental Champion, “The Rock” Rocky Malvia. Austin’s popularity was only beginning. He would eventually capture the gold from “The Rock.” At Wrestlemania this past March, Austin defeated Shawn Michaels to win the WWF World Championship.

The “jaw-jacking,” no respect-having, finger-waving Stone Cold is the most popular wrestler today. His attitude appeals to fans; he doesn’t trust anyone or respect authority.

The Monday Night wars once dominated by WCW are now a toss-up. While Nitro is three hours and has more talent, the show is usually long and boring. Raw has become more adult- orientated and more hard-core. Week after week, the show is a non-stop spectacle of action and subplots.

Each Monday Night the two companies try to outdo each other, which makes for a better show.

So the real winner in the Monday Night wars? The fans.